southern gospel, kermit gosnell, & holistic care for women

When I was young, I wanted to sing in a Southern Gospel group. For those of you who know me now, this probably seems a little … off. Yeah, it does to me, too. But growing up in a Southern family and in a Southern Christian tradition, there was a fair amount of Southern Gospel to be heard. My father was, and remains, a Southern Gospel lover. I remember when I was a child he especially loved a group called Gold City. He had a casette tape that we listened to over and over in the car. I sat in the back seat singing along to the mostly hopeful, looking-forward-to-heaven type songs. But there was one song that always made my mom cry, and when she gave me a brief, child-friendly explanation of what the song was about, I was distraught. After that, every time the song came on I would cry, too. It was about abortion – something that my six-year-old mind couldn’t understand.

My reaction hasn’t changed to this issue since I was six. When I remembered the song and looked it up, I cried again (even though it is admittedly cheesy). When I heard about the Kermit Gosnell case, I was horrified. When I watched the ongoing documentary covering the case, I wept. The descriptions of what went on in that clinic were terrible enough, but I was not prepared for the images. I still can’t forget it.

Now, do I know that what went on in that clinic was illegal and is (hopefully) not the norm in abortion practices? Yes. Do I know that before abortion was made legal women were getting abortions anyway, with dire consequences for both mothers and babies? Yes. Do I think that these arguments are excuses for ending a human life? Absolutely not. However, I also am not naive enough to think that this issue is black and white, and that there aren’t dozens of factors that contribute to the problem. In fact, I struggle to write this remembering that this is a blog post and not a dissertation. There is just too much to say. I think both sides can agree that the best option for dealing with abortion issues is education and prevention of unwanted pregnancies.

Just one issue that leads mothers to choose abortion is poverty. I had a baby last year. It was not planned, and it has not been easy (although it has been wonderful!). My husband and I are both graduate students and had only been married for six months when we found out we were pregnant. We both only had one year left to finish our master’s degrees. We both come from white middle- to upper-class families, but as a family unit we are poor. When we shopped for our health insurance policy (which we pay WAY too much money for, and have to have help paying), we were told that pregnancy would not be covered unless we purchased a maternity rider. But even if we purchased said rider, at $50 extra per month, we would still not be covered for 18 months. Because pregnancy is a “preexisting condition.” So with no other healthcare options for me and our baby, we applied for Medicaid. The process was difficult and humiliating. I didn’t get to have my first doctor’s appointment until the end of my first trimester because it took so long to get coverage. While Medicaid was definitely helpful, there were still huge bills that we couldn’t pay on our own when all was said and done. Out daughter has Turner Syndrome (there will likely be more about that in another post), and tests related to her health only made the pile of bills higher since our insurance does not cover diagnostic testing. Thanks to a wonderfully supportive family, and a generous and gracious church family, our bills so far have been taken care of.

This kind of support is not the norm for women in poverty who find themselves with an unexpected pregnancy. Imagine being poor with no hope for financial support from family members. Imagine not having enough money to feed yourself or pay your rent. Imagine waiting at a bus stop to go to a job that offers you no benefits, and that pays so little you know the money will run out before the month does. Imagine waiting in crowded rooms to get onto Medicaid or food stamps, and being herded through system like cattle with no sympathy or understanding. Imagine never being able to get in touch with your case worker because the system is so overloaded that personal contact is a joke. Now imagine that you find out you are pregnant. Do you pay a one-time fee to have an abortion, do you have the child and incur many more costs for the long haul, or do you give the child up for adoption?

Maybe as Christians our efforts shouldn’t be so focused on trying to make abortion illegal. It has become so embedded in our culture that to take it away now would be “taking away women’s rights.” Maybe instead of protesting the legality of abortion we should get behind other women’s issues. For example, better and more affordable healthcare and birth control*. More education about sex, abstinence  and birth control in the family, school, and church setting (and not in a shaming, sex-is-bad way). More programs that will counsel young women (and men) on pregnancy and parenting. Legislation making it easier and more affordable for prospective adoptive parents to get children into their homes.

As Christians, we should choose our words and our actions wisely to make women feel valued rather than condemned because of their choices. We should actually do something to love them, rather than run our mouths about the horrors of abortion (which are undeniable and many). I believe that the only way to prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions is through love in action. How can we do that? I’d like to hear your thoughts.**

*This is also a touchy subject in the Christian community, as some birth control options are suspected to be abortive.

**I urge you to keep comments kind. Before you post anything, pray. Anything offensive will be removed.