Christians, We Can Do Better Than “Keep Your Legs Closed”
It never ceases to amaze me that comments such as “keep your legs closed” or “keep it in your pants” still pop up under articles about abortion in this day and age. Last week’s article by Richard Grant about Tanya Plibersek, and her calls for uniform laws to make abortion more readily available, attracted many comments like this.
Obviously, I can see the hypocrisy and share the outrage of our readers, but honestly, can’t we come up with more constructive comments that express the reality of the situation, and not just one crudely-worded aspect related to unplanned pregnancies?
[The same goes for such comments as “They (abortion advocates) should be aborted” or calls for ‘retrospective’ abortions.]
Here are five reasons why such comments are extremely unhelpful:
The baby is already here.
It’s a little late to talk about the circumstances of a baby’s conception once he or she has already been conceived. That conversation may come later, but when a woman discovers that she is unexpectedly pregnant, she needs to be lovingly guided into motherhood.
A vulnerable and stressed woman, who is frantically searching the internet looking for advice, needs to read messages of hope and support, not comments that suggest she is condemned or judged. Such comments are more likely to push her down the path to abortion than to choose life for her child. The words of judgement could make her feel that her fate is sealed.
There’s a lot more to chastity than “keeping your legs closed.”
At its crudest, chastity is about keeping sex inside marriage. But there is so much more to it than that. Human sexuality covers a whole range of topics, including all relationships, both plutonic and sexual, as well as self-identity and awareness, vocations and roles in society, motherhood and fatherhood – and yes, the idea that chastity is the most healthy expression of human sexuality outside of marriage.
Pope John Paul II, in his landmark book, “Theology of the Body” wrote of the Scriptural basis of human sexuality: that men and women are made in the image of God. Our human dignity flows from this fundamental fact and serves to set sexual activity in its correct place: as a potentially life-giving act between two committed and loving spouses.
“The human body includes right from the beginning… the capacity of expressing love, that love in which the person becomes a gift – and by means of this gift – fulfills the meaning of his being and existence.”
Pope John Paul II and others like him correctly offer a view of sexuality that flies in the face of the sexual revolutionaries’ cry of selfish lust and self-gratification. It is far more than simply “keeping one’s pants on.”
We are ignoring the complexities behind an abortion decision.
While the primary concern of pro-lifers is the human rights of unborn children, the plight of mothers is also high on our list. And in fact, this can’t even be separated from the baby’s destiny.
Many women find themselves in layers and layers of complicated problems, which are the cumulation of years of poor decision-making. To hone in on just one of those consequences – the unplanned pregnancy – is to ignore the many other problems that exist and to minimise their impact on a mother’s life.
As post-abortion counsellor, Anne Lastman, has said: “The journey to the abortion clinic began long before the day she arrived there.”
A myriad of possible circumstances may need to be addressed in order to support a women through her crisis pregnancy: domestic violence, homelessness, drug dependance, a previous abortion, coercion by a partner, parent, employer or other person, cultural problems, immigration/visa problems, financial problems, health problems and many more.
If we are really serious about promoting motherhood, and not only about saving babies, then we need to be constantly mindful of all these possibilities when commenting about abortion publicly.
Some women who chose abortion have extremely traumatic backgrounds.
Tis follows from the previous point, and, it goes without saying, that I’m not trying to condone abortion. It is the worst possible solution to one or more temporary problem, apart form being a grave sin. But for some women, it seems like the only choice available at that crucial time, and her background may decrease her personal responsibility in some cases.
For example, it has been found that there is a link between childhood sexual abuse and abortion later in life. A mother may not realise that her early trauma is driving her decision to abort. It is only through sympathetic counselling that a woman in this situation can be assured that she has the ability to bring a child into the world. These women need ongoing therapy to reshape their idea of relationships, since they frequently see all relationships as sexual ones.
The idea of chastity is foreign to victims of sexual abuse. The boundaries which should have been set early in life don’t exist: they were violated by an adult and a perverse idea of relationships was set up in its stead. Thus to hear that they should ‘keep their legs closed’ does little to educate them of their own self-worth and dignity. It would more likely serve to reinforce an already negative self-image.
Not all women consented to sex.
This one is pretty obvious. Some women are raped and sometimes this results in pregnancy. MOST rapes don’t produce a child and MANY rape victims (about half) choose life, but if a women chooses to abort, she doesn’t need judgment from the Facebook tribunal. She needs help and hope and healing – and a lot of it.
Christians, We Can Do Better Than “Keep Your Legs Closed” – can’t we?
As Christians, we are called to love. We’re also called to judge – not people – but their sin. And it isn’t hard to see the difference, if we really try. St. Paul tells us all about this Christ-like love:
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
(1 Cor. 13: 4-7)
It isn’t loving to write unkind comments from the safety of our armchairs. It isn’t building a culture of life to tell people what they already know – when it’s too late to do anything about it.
The kind of love that St. Paul writes about, Jesus’ kind of love is radical and involves self-sacrifice. It may mean restraining ourselves when we want to write something mean. It may mean taking a few moments longer before responding online to consider a more charitable response. It may mean getting offline altogether and getting down to our local pregnancy help centre to do some concrete work. It may mean a thousand things other than writing something rude that makes the author and all Christians/pro-lifers by extension seem cold-hearted.
Because we’re not cold-hearted. And I’m sure the authors of those comments aren’t either. I’m sure they’re good people who, as we all do from time to time, thought more about a snappy comeback than about building a culture of life.
The internet is a great tool which we can use to change our death-dealing culture. Let’s use it wisely to persuade, to support, to show Christ’s love.
The mind of the wise makes their speech judicious,
and adds persuasiveness to their lips.
Pleasant words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health to the body. (Proverbs 16: 23-24)
Editor, The Freedoms ProjectClick here to find out more about Kathy