I did something that most women didn’t do back in the 70s: I kept my baby when I became pregnant at the age of 17.
Looking back, I realize that my mother and father gave me a great gift: they did not teach me religious shame and guilt. Although one family member pressured me to have an abortion, I didn’t even consider that an option for ME. This had nothing to do with religious conviction or shame. It would have been easier to have an abortion, to hide the existence of a pregnancy, than to announce to the world: “I had sex! and I’m not married.”
I also realize that leaving the Baptist church a few years earlier was a gift. Yes, a gift. I was spared a LOT of judgment from that group.
The truth of the matter is that unplanned pregnancies occur at about the same rates by those who profess to be Christians as those who don’t. Both groups avail themselves of abortion services, too.
For me, I am pro-life. But I am also pro-choice. I would never, ever want the world to be a place where a woman does not have the option to end an early pregnancy. As tragic as abortion is (yes, it ends a life forever and should not be done without much consideration), what has resulted from unplanned, and often unwanted, pregnancies over the past 100 years poses the question: is abortion worse than infanticide and honor killings?
Take, for instance, how the Catholic Church treated women who found themselves pregnant and unmarried in Ireland 70 years ago. Stephanie Lord’s blog post, “No country for young women: Honour crimes and infanticide in Ireland” details a horrendous discovery in Ireland. Suffice it to say that those who claim “sanctity of life” showed their true colors when a septic tank with the remains of nearly 800 children was found in Galway.
The attitude that women who became pregnant outside of the institution of marriage brought shame on themselves, their families and their communities is misogyny personified. While the attitude is misogynistic, what they did with these poor women and their babies and children is beyond misogyny. It is unimaginable.
Anyone who claims that the “Church” believes in the sanctity of life needs to really think about what this means. If it is shameful to be pregnant and unmarried, is it not more shameful to judge the source of that new life, to treat that woman like she is disgusting, ungodly, to be reviled?
And this touches on the core issue here: who decides what is shameful and what isn’t? Religious men who withdrew from the real world to the safety and isolation of the religious life? Religious men who read the entire New Testament but seem to miss the verses about a man who doesn’t care for his family being worse than an infidel, miss Jesus’ entreaty that the man without sin should cast that first stone, and especially miss the idea of a loving God who cares about people so much that He sent his own Son to die for them? There is some serious disconnect between what these religious people are preaching and how they treated unmarried mothers and their offspring in Ireland and other Catholic-ruled countries. Those who point their fingers the most are those who have the most to hide, I tell you. I think these religious men are casting stones so that no one has time to cast any at them (we won’t talk about the rampant pedophilia and sexual abuse in church settings).
Where are the loving believers? Where are those who supposedly represent God on earth now? Are they caring for the sick, hungry and destitute? Are they providing clothing and shelter for those who have none?
Gosh, no! They are building $132 million dollar church buildings so they can be very comfortable while they pat one another on their oh-so-righteous backs.
They have been found out: the Catholic Church enslaved women and children as a source of free labor in Ireland. They allowed babies and children to starve out of some twisted sense of honor. Honor?
There is no honor in how women and children have been treated by religious men (and women) over the years, decades, centuries and millenia. None at all.
When religious dogma creates such guilt and shame that women are denigrated, enslaved, feel they must have abortions, or are told that they bring dishonor to their families, churches and communities, such dogma must be challenged.
Modern American culture remains misogynistic because it is still steeped in religious tradition and attitudes. Women who have children and want or need to work have no social support system at all. Where are the affordable daycare programs? Where are the flexible hours and benefits that help working women provide for their children and themselves? Is it any wonder that so many women choose abortion?
Religious tradition insists that women must be mothers first and foremost, that their motherhood IS their identity, and may pursue other things only when every maternal duty, accomplished single-handedly, is completed. A woman feels guilty if she leaves her child to go to work. Oh, and she must be married. If she isn’t married she is full of shame and dishonor. Yes, this has lessened over the past 10-25 years, but it is still the common attitude toward unmarried mothers, and I fear a revival of religious fundamentalism could re-establish this as the prevailing attitude.
Is it any wonder that the current generation is rejecting religious ideology in droves? They are not stupid. They are sophisticated critical thinkers. They know when someone is bullshitting them, and I tell you, faith without works is DEAD, words without actions is meaningless, and conviction without compassion is hypocrisy.
Claiming the “sanctity of life” while despising, hating, denigrating, marginalizing, judging, and isolating the vessels of that life is the epitome of misogyny.
P.S. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I have a deep and abiding faith in a loving God. I have, however, abandoned hope in religion. And don’t think for a second that I believe sexual abuse is found only within the Catholic Church; it is found everywhere that women and children are required to “submit” to male authority that is supposedly established by “God.” Power = Abuse.