Don't think for one minute I don't face a dilemma bringing this up. In the longstanding tradition of the Lutheran Church, it is our practice to leave politics at the door in favor of building unity. This lighting rod issue transcends politics and faith, but both are at the center. But it's unity I have in mind that compels me to engage in a new conversation about abortion. There, I said it. Stay with me, please.
It isn't easy to type that word. Or say it. It is likely to evoke a visceral reaction in you one way or another. But this issue, for me, is just not a black and white one. Pro-life? Pro-choice? Neither describes my position. As usual, I fall squarely in the middle of the extremes.
In college, I bought into the rhetoric of one side. I believed abortion was a basic right, that a fetus was a mass of cells, not yet viable. But a maturing faith, along with the birth of my own three babies, led me to Psalm 139:13's proclamation, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." I believe God is the author of life; but also, I believe life is full of shades of gray. I can't imagine a scenario in which I would choose abortion, but I feel compassion toward those who have.
I am dismayed to find we are still mired in this debate without having achieved more common ground, especially because the most vocal against abortion rights are Christians. The issue was thrust back into the forefront here in Arizona, when Bishop Thomas Olmsted chose to strip St. Joseph's Hospital of its Catholic status after doctors performed an abortion on an 11-week-old fetus to save the mother's life. My heart aches for her, and for the baby for the devastating decision her family and doctors had to make. What choice would our family have made had my third pregnancy endured such a complication, with two children at home?
Last week, legislation was introduced to prohibit federal funding for programs such as Planned Parenthood, which offers birth control, education and basic health care to women with no alternative. The tired rhetoric dominates; one side claims to ensure "no taxpayer money funding abortions," while the other side decries the "war on women." But neither message is exactly truthful; and left to their own devices, neither camp can deliver what we can all agree on ... fewer abortions.
I admire the passion of my brothers and sisters protecting the most innocent of God's children, and I believe their intentions are earnest. But I can't attach myself to the traditional pro-life position without asking some tough questions. How can we justify - and not protest tax dollars to fund - war? If life is precious and sacred, why don't we fight harder to raise money for those who depend on public health care in desperate need of life-saving transplants? And how does it make sense to sanctify fetuses, but slash spending for programs to help feed, educate and lift up children born into lives of poverty? We need to expand life's cause beyond unborn children.
Conversely, I believe that abortion not only takes away an innocent life, but also leaves a lasting scar on a fragile, vulnerable girl or woman. It is a tragic decision, and a procedure that grieves us as a society. But instead of protesting by way of bumper sticker rhetoric, we could instead search for common ground, acknowledge the gray areas and in the process, heed our call to "do justice, walk humbly, and love mercy" (Micah 6:8).
Diane Meehl is a mother of three, an independent writer and longtime resident in Ahwatukee Foothills. Reach her with candid feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.