I grew up in a Christian family around Christian ideas. I didn’t embrace many of those ideas until I had done quite a bit of reading and studying later in high school and college. There was a turning point for me where I surrendered my life to Christ so it wasn’t like I intellectually ascended to a relationship with God, and it’s been a journey along the way. My parents didn’t talk to me about sex. I remember stumbling across a small book about sex on a bookshelf in our home. It had pencil drawings of the different body parts and explained how sex worked, and I just thought, “Maybe this is my parents’ way of telling me about sex?” When I started seriously dating I remember my dad saying, “If you’re old enough to get her pregnant, you’re old enough to provide for her and live on your own.” And that was it. Good talk.
So, I didn’t have a lot of direction when it came to sex or abortion outside of what I picked up through television, pornography, and any idea carried along by the wind that crossed my path. I didn’t hear about it at church really either. I recall my student pastor talking about sex, condoms, and homosexuality once. When I went to college, I was put on the spot in a large class where I was in the minority defending the pro-life position… only I didn’t really know what the pro-life position was. So, I espoused some idea about it being wrong to kill a baby, but then tried to find some common ground by stating abortion was okay in cases of rape and incest.
In the following years, I waffled between the pro-choice and pro-life positions. Sometimes I thought, “If God gives us free will, who am I to tell a woman she can’t choose?” At other times, I questioned when a preborn human could feel pain, came up with my own definition for when a person is a person, and ultimately just didn’t think too deeply about it. I still considered myself pro-life, because I wasn’t in favor of the general idea of abortion. As a whole though, I had only met one woman who openly shared abortion was part of her story, and I understood little to nothing about the science of human embryology, how hormonal birth control works, or the impact abortion has on women and men. I was pro-life in theory, and because I had worked in child welfare for a decade, where everyone agrees vulnerable children deserve protection, it was easy to lump myself into the pro-life camp. I was a foster parent for years and an adoptive parent of five children as well. I was pro-life, right?
The turning point is when I got a job that included overseeing an after abortion care ministry. It dawned on me early in this role that I would never wait until a child needed to be adopted to begin caring for him or her, so why would I wait until a woman had an abortion to begin caring for her? Regardless, I knew too little to be impactful and just enough to be dangerous. So, I needed to do some more learning and listening. I chose to read Pivot of Civilization by Margaret Sanger and The Case for Life by Scott Klusendorf simultaneously. I still have many books sitting on my shelf that both defend and oppose abortion as I’m given to learn arguments and counter-arguments.
Four fairly major developments took place as I was maturing in my understanding. First, I learned about the history of abortion and the birth control movement. The desire for birth control and abortions stemmed from women’s inequality but was propelled to a degree by eugenicists, a popular social theory starting in the late 1800s promoting favorable genetic characteristics in the human species. This theory fed ideas related to racism, classism, forced sterilization, the Holocaust and more. While abortion is associated with many feminists today, a leading feminist and author of the 19th Amendment, Alice Paul, stated, “Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.” This is not to say abortion has not been around for centuries, just that it hasn’t always been misassociated with being pro-woman.
A critical point in history was in 1959 while Margaret Sanger was raising funds to produce the contraceptive pill, two eugenics organizations, Planned Parenthood and the Population Council, met. There, Dr. Bent Boving stated, “The social advantage of being considered to prevent conception rather than to destroy an established pregnancy could depend on something so simple as a prudent habit of speech.” One year later, “the pill” was invented, and four years after that, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) changed the definition of conception from the point of fertilization to the point of implantation. This effectively solidified the marriage between the medical community and what would become the abortion industry. It also furthered the re-education of the masses to believe we could redefine when human life begins and when human life has value.
To be fair, the exploitation of women involves more than abortion, and the stories of Sanger’s experiences would readily lead any caring person to righteous indignation. The pro-choice advocates just came to the wrong conclusions regarding which solutions would bring about equality and empower women in a way that wouldn’t also further exploit them. And so, compromises were made which opened the door to a flurry of unethical practices doctors are sworn against, specifically to “do no harm” to their patients. The medical community and abortion industry were so tied together that doctors no longer recognized the preborn as patients.
Second, I stumbled upon human embryology through a ministry at our church to serve couples experiencing infertility called Shiloh that I’m connected to as well. This led to learning the Carnegie Stages of human embryology. I had echoed the line, “Life begins at conception.” but had no idea about the change of the definition of conception ACOG made in the 1960s. So I previously supported viability, pain-capable, and heartbeat detection legislation thinking those were sensible pro-life laws, when reason and logic would tell us those ideas are arbitrary. Either human life begins at fertilization and has value from that point forward or it doesn’t. This education came in handy especially when a recent law in Texas (HB896) was proposed for the equal protection of life from fertilization, and I was asked by my representative if I supported the death penalty for women who have abortions at 3 weeks. It was a sensationalized and over-simplified question, but I was able to understand that I could not be pro-life and say, “No.”
The Shiloh leaders wrote an extensive paper outlining best practices when addressing in vitro fertilization (IVF) which further informed my understanding regarding how adults have commodified preborn children to be property. All this is to say, human life begins at fertilization when a man’s sperm joins with a woman’s egg. This is the first cell of a new human being and not a moment before but every moment after. At the moment of fertilization, a spark can be observed, which is a chemical reaction of zinc fluorescence. It’s as if God is visibly saying, “Look! Life!” Every moment after fertilization this new human being deserves the right to life in as far as it is in our control to not take it from them. Not a single human has ever jumped this developmental stage, nor can we say prior to implantation the primordial embryo is something other than a unique, whole human being. This is true for an infant, child, teenager, young adult, adult, and senior adult. Every human at each stage is a unique, whole human.
All of this was eye-opening to me, and the third development was my journey into the mechanisms of birth control and the embryocidal, or abortifacient nature, of hormonal birth control. I had always understood the contraceptive pill, intrauterine devices (IUDs), the shot, and the arm implant prevented a woman from getting pregnant. I thought Plan B, or Morning After Pill, was for couples who were irresponsible and it was somehow worse, but I didn’t understand how any of it worked. I read some medical articles and did some more reading through research by the American Association for Pro-Life OB-GYNs (AAPLOG). I learned the aforementioned Dr. Bent Boving and the eugenics organizations were successful in re-educating the masses to just change how we talked about pregnancy. Every single hormonal contraceptive method works to prevent ovulation by releasing hormones to fool the woman’s body into thinking she’s already pregnant so an egg isn’t released. Only the body isn’t always fooled. So IUDs and other hormonal contraceptives also thicken the mucus in the cervix to make it more difficult for sperm to get to the egg in the fallopian tubes and prevent fertilization. But when that doesn’t work, these hormonal methods lastly thin the lining of the uterus so that when an embryo (read: new human being) travels from the fallopian tubes to the uterus to implant, the uterus acts like a slide and doesn’t catch the embryo preventing implantation. So before a woman ever knows she is pregnant, she has created an environment hostile to her embryo. It felt like the entire burden had been placed on women, and then I realized that male contraceptives are less invasive and just as successful at preventing pregnancy. All the while, the medical community hasn’t been hiding the fact that these methods prevent implantation. They’ve just redefined the term “conception” as post-implantation. Needless to say, I learned more about follicular rupture, corpus luteum, and other parts of the female anatomy than I could have ever imagined.
The last development, although I must admit that I continue to learn more the more I study the Hebrew, was what the Bible said. I knew Genesis 1:26-28 and Psalm 139:13-16, or at least I could find those passages and reference them. I didn’t realize Exodus 21:22-25 existed and hadn’t really applied the Incarnation or Mary’s trip to visit her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:44) to God’s value for preborn life or concern for unexpected pregnancies. Come to find out there are some problematic passages as well due to poor translations with the New International Version (NIV) in Numbers 5:27 (the idea of miscarriage is given rather than infertility) and the passages which speak to blood and breath being the start to life in virtually every translation of Scripture. Proverbs 24:11 was possibly the most applicable passage I learned in becoming pro-life.
Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. - Proverbs 24:11 (ESV)
What I am left with is a sense of gravity towards all of this both for others and myself. I realized I hadn’t put the work in to come to informed conclusions. I have since engaged with a number of pro-choice advocates who feel equally informed in their conclusions and have not refined my ability to converse in such a way that everyone is swayed immediately to my position, assuming that ability exists. I have learned that before I can hope to speak to the accountability of women and men who choose abortion or a state or federal government which upholds it, I have to be more than outraged at the latest social media post. I cannot take a legislator’s word that they are pro-life until they have voted to abolish abortion with a thoughtfulness for the needs of vulnerable women who will continue to be objectified by men. Nor can I take a pastor’s word they are pro-life until they have stood in the pulpit and compassionately welcomed women and men with past abortions to come out of the shadows while courageously speaking to the evil of abortion in our communities. This isn’t an issue that goes away when Roe v. Wade is overturned either. It’s changed as we talk to our children and friends about sex and abortion. It’s changed when we greet the woman with an unexpected pregnancy with compassion rather than shame. These are steps I’ve taken in becoming pro-life, and my hope is you will join me in learning and asking more questions because every life is worth more.