For a Mother and Her Baby: It’s bigger than Roe v. Wade
A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a friend asking me to talk about politics—publicly.
To be clear, I do not consider myself a particularly political person. I do believe it’s a privilege to be an American, and I seek to live into that privilege with knowledge and intentionality.
I carry a deep sense of gratitude to my grandfather and the men and women like him who have served in times of war to preserve the freedom of our country.
I also feel a responsibility based on my Christian faith for the orphan, the widow, the foreigner, and the oppressed.
I try to challenge power respectfully when I believe it’s harming humanity, and I seek to trust power sacrificially when I see it furthering causes that serve the whole of humanity well.
I think the vast majority of us would articulate similar sentiments—each shaped by our own contexts, families, and convictions, but all deeply cherished.
However, talking about those convictions seems to get messy quickly. And most of us dread the mess, including me.
Still, in our current context of a supreme court justice nomination, my friend’s ask felt earned and significant; if not now, when?
The truth is, I have dear friends and loved ones who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 for precisely this moment: the chance for a more conservative justice, specifically on the issue of abortion.
I cherish these voices in my world; I respect them. I, like them, am pro-life. And, I did not join them in their vote. Nor do I feel the pro-life issue can drive the nomination and approval of the next justice.
But to tell you why, I need to take you back to the first birth I ever witnessed. During the fall of my first year of college, I was working at the OB/GYN clinic of The MED, the region’s premier emergency hospital. The women whom I served were almost exclusively uninsured—from Sudanese refugees who had fled the violence of their homeland to scared sixteen-year-old girls who came in with their mothers. We cared for Memphis’ poorest residents; and as an 18-year-old pre-med student, I learned a lot of things.
I remember that first birth happening so fast. The mother was hissing and groaning, the doctor was firmly commanding, and medical students were crowded around close. I remember looking for the mother’s family and friends so I wouldn’t get in their way, and I remember the way my stomach tightened when I realized this mother was here all on her own.
“Keep pushing!” The doctor yelled. I watched as Mother pushed and screamed. I then watched as her cries of pain were answered with her daughter’s cries of life. Baby came with rich cappuccino colored skin and thick, curly cue hair. She wailed and flexed her tense little muscles as the doctor passed her to the orderly, who passed her over to me—precious cargo I was instructed to rub dry. Wiry, strong, and breakable. I smiled at her.
We weighed her and swaddled her quickly, handing her back to the doctor so Mother could hold her for the first time. I watched Baby as she was carried across the room and the doctor leaned down so Mother could draw Baby close. And then I watched as her mother turned away. She turned away and started sobbing soundless, aching, ugly sobs. I watched the pain and loneliness all return to her face. And I watched the doctor lean back, still holding Baby, as if she was accustomed to such behavior, as if it were to be expected.
That scene forever changed me. To watch a woman grieve in such deep isolation, overwhelmed and abandoned; it changed my perspective on what it sometimes takes to birth a baby. It also challenged my understanding of how to value all life. That baby’s life—it was precious. And so was her mother’s. That day, both experienced wounds. Both craved attachment and love.
Many do not realize the abortion rate in our country has a strong correlation with poverty. Nor do we read the research: Rather than overturning Roe v. Wade and returning abortion’s legality to a state issue, upholding laws that offer equal opportunities to education and employment for those below the poverty line yields a more pronounced shift in abortion rates.
A month ago, I joined Lisa Sharon Harper in issuing a statement calling for Christ Followers to press pause on the Culture War we have been nursing for decades against Roe v. Wade:
“Bearing our own deep longing to protect the rights of unborn children, we must also acknowledge abortion’s place in a larger, multifaceted narrative: the poverty cycle. To love the unborn well, we must first love their mothers and communities. We must invest in women who have been forgotten and flooded by a sea of oppression. This is the everyday work of the gospel. As people of faith, it’s time to hit pause on America’s Culture War, spend time in prayer and fasting, and listen for the Spirit’s invitation to act.”
The next week, I signed the #PledgeToPause campaign with evangelical voices like Jen Hatmaker, Rachel Held Evans, Shane Claiborne and Mark Labberton. I’d like to invite you to the same. Together, we can shift the poverty narrative in America. We can engage our communities and senators in conversations that bring the marginalized to center stage.
Because there are babies, and mothers, and families who need us. And I am committed to standing with all of them. I would be honored to have you standing next to me.
And, if you need a conversation partner before you can make that stand, I’d be honored to sit with you at Jesus’ table, where He bids all come.