The battle over the South Dakota law banning all abortions except to save a woman's life--being put up for a vote on November 7--is focused on the law's lack of exceptions for rape, incest and health of the mother. Those are crucial exceptions. The pro-choice advocates are right to fight for them. They are also right to hold the anti-choice campaign accountable for spreading misinformation that the law allows for abortions in these desperate circumstances, which it does not.
But unfortunatley, that's the extent of the current conversation. The question is: What about the rest of us? In fact, women who have abortions for more ordinary reasons are literally invisible.
The advocates of the ban brag that it will outlaw the 96% of abortions done "for birth control." Their message is clear: all abortions, except when the woman will die if she delivers, are the actions of selfish, narcissistic, uninformed, and shallow individuals, taken, as those advocates insist, "for convenience."
You park the car in the garage so it's easier to bring the groceries up for convenience. You work near home for convenience.
You do not decide to end a pregnancy because having a child would be "inconvenient." Pregnancy demands the maximum from a woman physically, biologically, and emotionally for nine months, a willingness to take the risks to health and life, and a lifelong, consuming and complete commitment of love and energy to another human being.
Women make the abortion decision for deeply felt personal and ethical reasons. They make the decision because their survival, or the survival of their families, depend on it. They make that decision because they are sentient beings with a uterus and a brain, a combination God had no problem bestowing on them. They make that decision because they have a moral right to do so.
I once interviewed a Presbyterian minister, Christine Grimbol, who bravely spoke out about her decision to have an abortion. She had been physically abused and sexually molested by family members, in her own home, a very religious home. As a young woman, she acted out sexually and became pregnant. Abortion had just become legal, but it was a frightening experience for her. She was a young teacher, estranged from her family, on her own financially, not in a relationship, and unable to even think about bringing a child into the world.
Later, she went to Princeton Theological Seminary. While studying, she thought and talked a lot about abortion. As I quote her in my book, THE CHOICES WE MADE, she said: "Everyone was bringing up these horror stories about abortion, saying things like: What if you're a 12-year-old? What if you're 14? What if you were raped? And I'm thinking, what if you're just 25, and you're a teacher, and you'll lose your job, and you have nothing else you can do and no one to fall back on? I kept bringing up what I thought were more usual situations and said: That's enough of a reason."
Rev. Grimbol also did a lot of thinking about Jesus and abortion, thinking that left her frustrated, but with a very different image of Jesus than we hear from pro-life leaders. She said. "I can't get any of these Bible-thumping, anti-abortion people to show me any place in all Scripture where Jesus ever says, 'You made your bed, now lie in it. Too bad. Tough.'
She went on: "I see Jesus being outrageously gracious, outrageously forgiving. If Jesus were right here today, I think he would say, 'I'm sad that anyone has to have an abortion. I'm sad that that has to be a choice. But you've been created as human beings...You're going to make mistakes. Yes, I do value life, I do value babies, but I don't use babies for punishment. And you've had a lot of babies born that you haven't taken care of very well. I want you to find homes for these children that have been battered and abused. I want you to get these people off the streets. I want you to take care of what you've already got.'"
Sadly, Rev. Grimbol has left us, but her spirit lives on in those words--words we might do well to ponder right about now.