Feminism, Social Issues

Ordeal of the Bitter Waters

mother and baby

I have gotten several comments and letters this week from readers who’ve indicated they would like to share my series on how I slowly changed my mind on the pro-life/pro-choice debate. I realize that sharing a series that’s six posts long can be difficult, so I’ve put links to them all in this post.

Thank you again for all the support you’ve shown me in the last couple of weeks.

Part One

Over the next few years, my views began developing. My perspective developed nuance. I accepted the confusion I felt about all these ideas as something I would struggle with; I decided I could live with the tension, the uncomfortable gray.

But, even through all of these subtle changes, I remained staunchly pro-life. I began thinking that maybe it wasn’t my place to campaign against what another woman wanted to do, but for me– well, I couldn’t budge on that. I believed that a zygote was a baby, and removing it was murder.

Part Two

But then I came staggering, bewildered, into the gray place. Because, at the time, I didn’t have the word rape for what had happened to me. The only thing I knew was that the thought of having my fiancé’s baby terrified me for reasons I couldn’t explain. I could not have his baby. I could not. And I didn’t understand why. But, in those weeks, before I either miscarried (most pregnancies fail in the first few weeks) or was merely late, I came to understand that there were probably thousands of girls who were so frightened they could barely breathe or eat or sleep, and I could no longer judge them– because I was one. It took me years to understand that one of the reasons why the thought of carrying my abuser’s baby frightened me beyond reason was that he was also my rapist.

And that’s when I understood that being pro-life and advocating for the rape exception was wrong.

Part Three

It bothered me that we could argue that conception was the moment of ensoulment, but that all these souls– all these billions and billions of fully human people– were dying in a matter of hours or days, and no one in the pro-life movement seemed to mind that it was happening. And it hit me: I didn’t value a zygote. I didn’t really see it as a person, with life. I believed that a zygote was a person in a rhetorical, philosophical sense– it was merely a logical place to draw the line.

Part Four

And none of these verses talked about identity, or personhood, or being-ness, but about what God knows. I realized that the fact David had chosen this metaphor was significant. He chose something so deeply mystery, a miracle beyond the comprehension of ancient civilization, to talk about what God understands, but he did not. The miracle of life being created in the womb has been one of the constant images in ancient religion; it was a process held as sacred and enshrined in idols, altars . . . He didn’t understand it anymore than I did, and that was why the metaphor was so poignant, why it mattered. It was beautiful, this metaphor, because of the not-knowing; David was trusting God with what he knew he couldn’t understand.

Part Five

But, as I read, something struck me. When they described the horrific plight of these women, they described these woman as surrounded by shame and ostracism– because their thighs are literally rotting away. For the women who survive, they are shunned by their families and communities because of this. It is not an image that I, as a modern American, am at all familiar with. I’m barely even aware of maternal mortality (although America’s rate is the same as Iran, Bahrain, and Hungary, and close to Saudi Arabia and Turkey)– but, it is an image that would have been common in the ancient middle East– and in 1611 England, when the translators chose the phrase “thigh to rot” for yarak naphal.

Part Six

In August, I finally came to terms with the concept of potential life, and that is when it finally, finally hit me: through most of my thoughts, my explorations, my research, I was almost exclusively focused on whether or not the zygote, the conceptus, and ultimately the fetus had fully endowed, inalienable human rights . . . and I realized that what I’d been reading from pro-choice women was absolutely, undeniably right in my own life– pro-life beliefs view women almost entirely as a vessel instead of as a person.

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  • I am glad I read your series. I had not bothered till this last post. Thank you. It is true. Your comment that you slept on a concordance really moved me. We are not to worship the words though indeed it is good to study them in detail. They are a marvel – and they enable our full participation in the work of God – who surely does wonders. Bless you and keep you. Incidentally, I have had a long journey too – I could not tell it as well as you have told yours. Very moved I am.

  • simply. brilliant. shared long ago.

  • simply. brilliant. shared long ago.

  • I’ve posted a link to this summary on my blog. Thank you for an excellent discussion of the issues.

  • This link summary is an excellent idea!

  • Jackie C.

    Beautiful written! Thank you for doing the research I was too lazy to do though I had arrived at the same conclusions. The whole idea that so many zygotes die and no one ever mentions that was also my first step. Just seems such a contradiction if that is when human life truly begins.

  • Pingback: Suggestion Saturday: October 26, 2013 | On The Other Hand()

  • Reblogged this on Consider the Tea Cosy and commented:
    My day today is full of real-life things, so instead of a post by me, have this reblog from Defeating the Dragons. Samantha is an ex-fundamentalist, still christian, talking here in depth about her journey from extreme antichoice to supporting Wendy Davis this summer. She’s a brilliant writer and her experiences are fascinating.

  • Thank you for sharing your story.

    I moved from pro-life to pro-choice myself, not out of personal experience like yours but because I realized that making abortion illegal doesn’t stop it. It just causes more death. Because desperate women try to abort themselves or go to back alley abortionists.

    Plus I came to see that the pro-life leaders were actually not pro-life after birth.

    In fact, they were more interested in controlling women and their bodies than saving lives.

    And whenever I ask someone “If a fire broke out at a stem cell clinic and you had to choose between saving one child and saving thousands of “people” (stem cells) no one has chosen to save the “thousands of people” –which gets to your point about them not actually being fully human.

  • Pingback: the day I became pro-choice | a little dose of keelium()

  • It’s interesting that you speak of the moment of ensoulment. Here’s an article you might like to take a look at. It presents a completely different perspective, from the guilt inducing, fear based dogma used to interfere with women’s God given free will choices.

    Why God Supports a Woman’s Right to Abortion http://www.merkaba.org/articlesnew.html#Abortion

  • Something that bothers me about a lot of these types of debates is that Christians tend to leave God out of the equation, like we don’t need Him to figure this stuff out. The truth is we really know very little about how God binds the soul with the body, and to me, how He creates life is still a mystery. Yes, we know quite a bit about the biological process that He uses, but we are honestly in the dark about the connection between the body and the soul. All we know is that the soul lives on, even after the body dies. God weaves together body and soul in a bond that can only be separated by death, and in doing so, creates life as we know it. I would rather not try to disrupt His work at any stage. But let me make one thing clear, no matter what, you still have the right to choose. That freedom was given to you by God and no one can take it away. But whether or not God approves of the choice is a different matter.