Choice can be Christian
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed legislation that forces doctors to tell patients that it may be possible to reverse abortion by pill.
The ACLU and others have sued and Senate Bill 1318 is currently held up in the courts. But could take effect by this fall.
The legislation was borne out of a purported protection of women. Yet, one would think that legislation to protect women would be based on science, evidence and testimony that would empirically prove women would indeed be safer.
To me, there is nothing Christian about damaging a woman’s body, about emotionally bullying her, about not protecting her. I’m not alone in my view.
Catholics for Choice was founded in 1973 “to serve as a voice for Catholics who believe that the Catholic tradition supports a woman’s moral and legal right to follow her conscience in matters of sexuality and reproductive health.”
Here in Tucson, a former Planned Parenthood Arizona (PPAZ) board member, the Rev. Michael Smith, spoke with me about his experiences counseling women who were seeking abortions. Ordained in 1966, Rev. Smith is no stranger to scripture or the good that can come from being an example of Christ’s love.
He served as a campus minister for 11 years counseling women, and became a member of the Clergy Counseling Service for Planned Parenthood in Tucson in 1972.
According to Rev. Smith, “God created woman and man. Faith requires not a top down perspective but one of I stand beside you. Therefore, God creates everyone with moral agency. All humans have capacity to use moral agency. Since women have moral agency, they have a right to chose.”
Additionally, in 1994, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Clergy Advocacy Board (CAB) was formed. Its members are clergy and faith leaders from different denominations and communities in the U.S. who work with Planned Parenthood at national and state levels to further the goal of reproductive justice freedom for all women and men.
S.B. 1318 would amend Arizona’s informed consent law to require a physician to inform a patient of the following: “It may be possible to reverse the effects of a medication abortion if the woman changes her mind, but that time is of the essence.”
An abortion by pill process involves administering the first pill and the second pill is taken either at the physicians’ office or women can elect to take the pill in the privacy of their home.
Testimony was provided by one physician who claimed he had “reversed” an abortion by pill midway through the process. Arizona physicians Ilana Addis, MD chairwoman of the Arizona Section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and Julie Kwatra, MD legislative chair of the Arizona Section of ACOG testified the bill is “tantamount to quackery” and “bad medicine” precisely due to the lack of evidence presented regarding the so- called reversal.
Nonetheless, tenuous testimony created Arizona law, which now leaves women vulnerable. Abortion is a difficult enough decision, that women don’t need extra layers of emotional agony hoisted upon them. Women need to be safe in their physician’s office, and doctors need to be able to provide care based on scientifically sound, rational, and thoughtful methods of treatment.
As a first grader in Catholic school, I learned the song “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love.” I was learning English at the time, so even though I could repeat the lyrics, I really didn’t know what the song meant. When I asked the nuns what the words meant, they told me it was a song about holding hands with one another as a sign of unity, a sign of love. Even as a six year old I was imprinted by the concept of unity and togetherness.
As I got older, my Catholicism grew out of that very idea of unity and what I grew to understand as inclusiveness. For me that also means not the firebrand, judgmental, rot-in-hell type of faith. Quite to the contrary, my faith calls me to be the best version of myself precisely by not investing in judgment, but in love. Even on my most draining and challenging days when I simply cannot comprehend the vitriol that the world can sometimes offer, even on those days I’m called to respond out of love.
This punitive lawmaking is bad science and it has no place in modern healthcare. Just as importantly SB 1318 has no place in my heart or in my life if I am to call myself any kind of Christian.
Aguirre, J.D., is a graduate of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. She is regional associate development director with Planned Parenthood Arizona and is a public voices fellow with The OpEd Project.