11/06/2012 11:04 am ET Updated Jan 06, 2013

Choosing Lives: A Pastoral View on What Is at Stake in This Election

If you are a woman or a man who loves a woman or a girl -- a sister, a spouse, a niece, or a child of your own -- do not be deceived into thinking that Romney and Ryan, just because they seem like nice white guys who love their families, could possibly understand God's will for all of us. The choice this nation makes today will have an enormous impact upon the freedom, health and safety of American women and girls. As a teacher of pastoral theology and care, I urge readers to consider the well-being of women when you cast your vote for president on Tuesday. Women's medical care, right to bodily integrity and freedom to choose will hang in the balance.

The recent Republican comments on rape, pregnancy and the will of God constitute an affront to our humanity and signal the pain and hardship to come should there be such thing as a Romney administration. Todd Aken, Richard Mourdock and their ilk represent the most extreme voices. With their talk of "forced rape" (as if there is any other kind), the idea of making a woman "prove rape" before she could get an abortion, and the notion that God wills a woman to carry a pregnancy caused by a rape, they show their callous disregard for real women who have been raped. Romney's unwillingness to distance himself from these extreme voices is disturbing, to say the least. Does he understand the nature of the crime that is rape? Does he think it is OK for leaders in his party to add insult to survivors of this real and shockingly common and destructive criminal injury?

Mitt Romney has already made it clear that he has no commitment to maintaining freedom of choice for the rest of women who seek safe, legal abortions for unwanted pregnancies. He has said on more than one occasion that he would like to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade. If elected, he will likely have the chance to nominate one or more Supreme Court justices. If Romney chooses right-leaning justices like Scalia, Thomas or Alito (as he has pledged to do), the Roberts court might very well succeed in overturning the law of the land that gives women a right to choose.

Seeing what is at stake here, voters need to make a choice while we still can. I urge you to choose to guard the moral agency of women seeking to make personal health care decisions. Choose to protect the privacy of women's health care by keeping legislators out of the doctor's office, with their invasive and unnecessary medical procedures that include trans-vaginal ultrasounds. In a moral society, women are entitled to care, not coercion.

There are many conservative Christians and others who will disagree, seeing the protection of the life of the embryo or fetus as paramount in the "right" moral choice about abortion. However, those of us who work in care-giving fields see the other faces of life that need protection: the face of the woman who was raped, contorted in pain that lasts a lifetime; the face of poverty, when there are not enough resources to support another child, and where the social safety net is continually being diminished; and the face of the unwanted child, whose well-being is often forgotten once the logic of the anti-abortion lobby takes over. I invite my co-religionists who feel such a strong motivation to care for unborn embryos to consider as well the needs and dignity of the fully formed human beings who already walk with us on this earth.

My faith holds that women are full human beings, moral agents, made in the image and likeness of God. Our dignity and freedom, and our capacity to make caring, ethical decisions about our own lives, are matters of critical importance. The current Republican platform not only restricts a woman's right to choose, but it also limits poor women's access to basic medical care and contraceptives. A caring and just society must do the opposite: insure that health care and birth control are widely available, thereby preventing unwanted pregnancies, reducing the need for abortions and helping to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, a caring society should address the heinous crime of rape by punishing rapists, instead of impugning the rights and dignity of their victims.

If you are a woman or a man who loves a woman or a girl -- a sister, a spouse, a niece, or a child of your own -- do not be deceived by the pious-sounding but deeply misguided men on the Republican ticket. Today, cast your ballot to protect the basic freedom and dignity of women. Exercise your right to choose a just and caring leader who has already used legislative power to support freedom and equality for women. Choose to support women's lives. Vote for Barack Obama.