As a rule, I don’t blog about religion. Ever. Partly because my relationship with the Church is ambivalent at best, and partly because it lays me open to ridicule from secular feminists and abuse (murderer, baby killer, etc.) from the types of Christians I’m going to write about. But last night, unable to attend the pro-choice protest in London, I sat watching the action on Twitter, feeling hugely inspired and grateful to everyone there fighting for my right to bodily autonomy. But I also felt deeply ashamed because the group on the other side, the anti-choicers so frequently described generically as “Christians”, bear no resemblance to the Christianity I know.
I grew up in a Christian family and, for the first 16 years of my life, went to church every week. Many of the Christians I know are amongst the most loving, compassionate and tolerant people I have ever met. Although it’s no longer such a significant part of my life, it played a huge role in the shaping of who I am, and the forming of my politics – not least my firm believe in equality and justice.
At a relatively young age I realised that the problem with religion – as with so many things – is the politics. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a faith, providing you don’t use it to harm others. But too often people get in the way – a small minority of people, who use their religion to justify their own bigotry and prejudice and to – even, sometimes, with the best of intentions – seriously hurt others. Which brings me to 40 Days For Life…
For me, there’s nothing Christ-like about harassing or intimidating other human beings who are about to undergo a surgical procedure. Honestly, I just can’t imagine Jesus doing or condoning it. This is the guy who befriended the most hated and marginalised members of his society, who was despised by religious leaders because he was less concerned with their laws than with people. The Jesus that I spent 16 years learning about, week in, week out, would be the one escorting women past those bullies. He more than anyone would know their personal situation and understand. He certainly wouldn’t want to watch women die in backstreet abortion clinics, which is what happens when abortion isn’t available safely, legally and on demand.
40 Days For Life have tweeted recently about “turnarounds” at the BPAS clinic where they’ve been holding their vigil. Honestly, is it surprising? I’d turn around and find a clinic where I wouldn’t face the horrible intimidation of anti-choicers with cameras. The Christianity I know is about compassion, not about political point-scoring. Even if you personally believe abortion is wrong and would never have one yourself, you have no right to block others’ access to their human rights. I am enormously grateful to live in a country where abortion is my right; where, should I ever need to, I can access abortion legally and safely. And if I ever need to make that choice, it’ll be between me and God. If you really want to end abortion, try praying to end unwanted pregnancy. Pray to end rape, domestic violence, abusive relationships. Pray for better education about and access to contraception, pray for contraception that’s 100% effective every time. And, while you’re at it, pray about whether it’s really a good idea for a movement about women‘s reproductive choice to be made up of such a high proportion of men. My God trusts women.
As an aside, can we rise above this ugly pro-choice rhetoric of religion-bashing please? I saw tweets last night celebrating that there were pro-choice Christians at the protest, that Christians were openly speaking out against the anti-choicers and their attack on abortion rights. I also saw tweets with a tone of “haha your God doesn’t exist.” Let’s not alienate the progressive, pro-choice Christians who are already on our side.
- Sam Ambreen: Why Do We Abort?
- Stavvers: Pro-Choicers have more fun
- HarpyMarx: A woman’s right to choose
- Too Much To Say For Myself: “I asked God: she’s pro-choice”
- A really very excellent pro-choice comic
- New Statesman: The compassionate case for legal abortion
- From Hate to Love: Why “40 Days of Prayer” is Under Attack by the Christian Right
- In Defence of: The 1967 Abortion Act