I grew up believing that voting as a Christian meant voting for the pro-life candidate. But that’s not nearly as clear cut for me as it once was.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Texas’ law that bans abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy and deputizes citizens to sue anyone they know who has provided an abortion or assisted in one.
In an extraordinary move last month, the court declined to grant a temporary stay of the law as requested by the Justice Department, but the justices took up the case on an expedited timeline. With hearings already scheduled for Dec. 1 in a separate case challenging a Mississippi abortion ban, this will make two cases in the span of a month with the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade, marking the closest the anti-abortion movement has come to achieving its decades-long ambition.
I am a Christian who was raised in Texas in an evangelical church. I grew up believing that voting as a Christian meant voting for the pro-life candidate. But the prospect of outlawing abortion is not nearly as clear cut for me as it once was.
How I changed my mind
My first opportunity to vote in a presidential election came in 2004, when I was 18 and a student in college. I skipped over to a voting booth between classes and voted as I thought all Christians should. By the time my second voting election came up, however, I couldn’t phone it in as easily. I was 22 and living overseas. It seemed everyone around me was directly asking that taboo question: Who are you voting for?
For the first time, I needed to know why I was voting for a particular candidate, and reducing my vote to a single issue felt overly simplistic. I decided on the candidate whom I hoped would improve international relations, focus on ending the war in Iraq and would give a voice to marginalized communities. This was not the candidate who wanted to overturn Roe.
In retrospect, I realize this was the start of a journey that has led me to seriously question the ways in which we have politicized abortion and dehumanized each other. While at times this journey has grated against what I was taught and observed in my church upbringing, it is also a product of that upbringing.
Being a Christian means I look to Jesus for the framework by which to live my life. Jesus was an excellent humanizer, and he often humanized the other – the person we are tempted to stereotype rather than understand. He did this by sharing proximity, and even at times a meal, with people his community would have considered unclean or unfit: sinners, tax collectors who served the oppressive empire, sex workers, and those ridden with disease, including a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years.
In this story, the woman approached Jesus believing if she could just touch the hem of his garment, he could make her well. When Jesus noticed someone had touched him and asked who it was, the woman “knowing she was the one, stepped up in fear and trembling, knelt before him, and gave him the whole story.”
She gave him her whole story. Jesus listened to her and then said, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole.”
Her story was heard and, in that, she was seen as whole.
Don’t assume a woman’s story
The problem with abortion bans like the Texas law is they assume the story rather than listen to it. They follow a formula of dehumanization all too familiar in a culture in which we pass laws on “issues” while completely neglecting the people involved.
In isolation, abortion bans assume a woman has a supportive family who will help her raise the baby. They assume that adoption would be a viable option, and that she could carry to term while working a full-time job. They assume that she will be given maternity leave, that she isn’t worried about finances, work or an abusive partner. That she doesn’t need the procedure as a result of a miscarriage. That the baby will survive birth. That the mother is not a minor. That she is healthy.
I have many pro-life friends who do have compassion for women and the details of their stories and genuinely want to support them. The problem is abortion bans like the Texas law do not reflect the same empathy. The effect of these laws is to dehumanize, regardless of the hearts of their supporters.
Who knows when I first heard the story of the bleeding woman. When I was 3 or 4, sitting in my Sunday school classroom, learning in the most rudimentary of ways – on felt boards, in coloring books – about Jesus and the people he encountered in the Gospels? But I was learning something much more profound than I knew. I was learning to humanize the other. I was learning how to listen to women’s stories. I was learning to see myself as healed and whole.
Abortion can be such a cold topic. An issue. A law. A court case. A distant, fragmented image of a woman you don’t know. What if that woman were humanized? What if her full story was told and listened to? What if she was seen as whole? Abortion bans like the Texas law do not do this.
I did not have to reject my faith to change the way I voted so many years ago. In fact, I did the opposite. I see that decision now as a step toward discovering a more whole Christ, a more loving faith, and a religion that calls its followers to listen to women and their whole stories.
Andrea Lucado is an author and freelance writer living in Austin, Texas.