Archive | May 2012

Is Abortion Empowering? The Suppressing Effects of Abortion on Biblical Feminism

The legalization of abortion is widely cited as a breakthrough for the feminist goal of overcoming male dominance.  It allows women, like men, to find sexual fulfillment without the risk of having a child.  But can women find a true sense of fulfillment in changing themselves to become more like men?  In this piece, I argue that women are instead empowered when they embrace their natural femininity and reject abortion as the easy way out of an unwanted pregnancy.  I approach this idea from a Christian perspective, but also reference practical social perspectives to which my secular readers can relate.  I am not making a case for the relative rights of the human fetus and adult; for this argument it is sufficient to assume that the fetus, as a potential for human life, deserves at least some level of respect.

I will begin this discussion with an introduction to the argument supporting abortion as a means of bringing women to social equality with men.  I will then discuss the woman’s identity struggle and the solution of Biblical Femininity (her identity as decreed by God): the path by which she finds fulfillment, and what it actually means for her to reach equality with man.  Finally, I will explore ways in which prohibiting abortion can empower the woman to reach her full potential.

It has often been argued that legalized abortion has helped to liberate the woman from male dominance.  Now that she has the option of abortion as a fallback should contraception fail, the modern woman can find full sexual fulfillment without worrying about the consequences.  If conception does occur, she simply makes a responsible judgment as to whether she is equipped, willing and able to support a child.  Whether she is a victim of rape or simply unwilling to postpone her career for a few months, the woman has the option of easily escaping her unwanted pregnancy.  Abortion is also useful to the woman who wants children, as a planning tool to ensure that she does not have children at inconvenient times or with serious genetic defects.  For these reasons, many advocate abortion as a way of giving women the freedom and peace of mind that men always had.

However, is becoming like men the key to women’s quest for equality with them?  Men and women are obviously very different, physically, emotionally, and psychologically.  Thus if womankind, in general, tries to emulate mankind’s strength to rival him in the ways that men are strong, she will always fail. She was made to be a woman, with specific strengths unique to women and she will never be able to be a man as fully as he himself can be.  This is not a negative truth; actually it is a liberating one.  Women reach equality with men by embracing their natural differences from men.  For example, in the Old Testament, we read about a woman named Abigail who accomplished with kindness and peace, natural female tendencies, what David and his mighty warriors could not win by their swords (1 Samuel 25).  Only by embracing their femininity as different and not inferior to masculinity do women reach full potential.

Biblical femininity is special in its distinction from masculinity.  In the creation narrative recorded in Genesis 1, we are told that God created man and woman “in his own image” (Genesis 1:27).  Man and woman are so different, yet each represents dimensions of God’s character that the other cannot effectively portray.  For example, while man serves as a physical representation of God’s might, woman exemplifies his compassionate love.  Woman, then, has strengths unique to her, purposely bestowed on her by God.  Through growth in these traits, rather than attempts to become more masculine, she will become truly empowered.  Here, I focus on two such aspects: her nurturing devotion and her desire for commitment in her relationships.  For both cases, however, abortion prevents her from reaching her full potential of Biblical Femininity.

Women have a compassionate instinct to nurture and protect those incapable of protecting themselves (Isaiah 49:15).  When confronted by an unwanted pregnancy, a woman can find fulfillment by making voluntarily sacrifices for this life entirely dependent on her.  By rejecting abortion as the easy way out, she is refuting the demeaning stereotype that she is weak and unable to cope with the unexpected twists in life (Callahan, Sidney. “Abortion and the Sexual Agenda: A Case for Prolife Feminism.”).   She realizes that her “pregnancy is not like the growth of cancer or infestation by a biological parasite; it is the way every human being enters the world” (Callahan).  Rather than regarding it as a curse, she embraces the fact that unlike man she can give birth to new life.  Because it is entirely unnatural for a woman to want to cut off this new life within her, by opposing abortion she is also embracing her identity as a woman.  To again quote Callahan, “Pitting women against their own offspring is not only morally offensive, it is psychologically and politically destructive.  Women will never climb to equality and social empowerment over mounds of dead fetuses, numbering now in the millions.”  In these ways, by rejecting abortion and instead embracing the ability to give and nurture life, women find fulfillment in who they were made to be, rather than disappointment as they try and fail to match and rival men.

God also created woman to yearn for commitment in their relationships.  This desire is obvious even in very young girls who love any fairytale about a princess who falls in love with the prince that she is fated to live happily ever after with.  A grown woman has that same desire.  She wants to be emotionally close to someone who will stick by her through everything, not a man who may leave her on a whim.  She wants to be a valued half of a serious relationship, not below man but with him, her strengths complimenting him and his complimenting hers.  This desire was placed in woman from her beginning.  Eve, the first woman, was called man’s “ezer kenegdo,” roughly translated as “helper,” for he was not complete without her (Eldredge, John and Stacy. Captivating. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010, pp. 32-33).  This Hebrew word “ezer kenegdo” appears twenty other times in the Old Testament, always referring to God’s powerful, relieving support when we are most desperate (Deuteronomy 33:29).  This absolutely essential supporting role in a relationship is the one that woman was created to fill, but to be such a “ezer kenegdo” she needs a man committed to her.  Unfortunately, abortion allows men to be less committed to the long-term aspect of their relationships.

By rejecting abortion, women force men away from their oppressive desire for irresponsible, uncommitted sexual relations.  As things are now, the woman bears legal responsibility for the choice of whether or not to terminate a pregnancy, and the man, who may well have played no role in the decision, cannot be reasonably forced to help support and raise any children not aborted.  Further, the increased acceptance of abortion has led to the dominant rationalization that “if she refuses to get rid of it, it’s her problem” (Callahan).  This can be very detrimental the woman’s natural desire for a committed relationship.  As long as abortion is not an option, however, the man is pushed by responsibility to help deal with the problem instead of leaving or coercing the woman into terminating her pregnancy.

What is fulfillment?  What does it mean to be empowered?  How does feminism fit in with religion?  In this essay I argue that they are closely connected by the identity which God gave to woman when he created her.  This identity is unique to her, distinct from man’s identity, and in pursuing it, she finds fulfillment.  One way in which she can do so is in resisting abortion, which does not empower women but pushes her into the futile race to equal man by being like him.  Actions like the active resistance of abortion are necessary because only through fulfillment and contentment in their differences can the balance between men and women ceases to be a power struggle and become a beautiful expression of who God is.

Freed from Grief

One year ago, I lost a close friend. Those months were really hard for me and I mostly just wanted to fly far, far away from everything and everyone until I had time to heal. Now, 365 days later, I wanted to share the testimony of my firsthand experience of God’s faithfulness and love. His plan is perfect even when it seems absolutely wrong.

~~I never wanted to go to an ivy league. Going to a school with such high demands on my academic and spiritual life seemed too risky. Although I would miss out on experiences because of my insistence on playing life safe, I was willing to sacrifice for control over my life.

Less than a year ago, I hoped to go to Grove City. Today I am thriving at Princeton, convinced that this is where I belong. What happened to so drastically change my mindset? What happened to so drastically change me?

During my senior year of high school, a lot happened that I had definitely not planned for. One of my close relationships was shattered. A friend was shot. Finally, one weekend, every perception of my ability to control my life was ripped away.

That year, soccer was a huge part of my life. I captained the team with my two best friends and embraced my role as a big sister to the younger players. As for Coach—he was so much more than my coach! He was that one special adult that I could talk to about anything. He was proud of who I was and gave good advice as often as I asked. Whether I was a mess over some little trauma in my life or just felt like a laugh, whether it was during his work hours or one, two, three o’clock in the morning, I could always count on Coach to be there for me. He beat me in Shakespeare quoting contests, bought me Belgian chocolate to beat me in a bet, and really just adopted me as an extra daughter. He was my extra dad.

One Saturday, minutes after our game started, Coach went down, clutching his side. From the distance to which some adult pushed me, I hugged my teammates and cried for Coach’s pain and for my own helplessness, but it never crossed my mind that I was watching him die. I don’t care to remember the details; I just remember everything happening so slowly. The long wait for the ambulance. The long wait at the hospital. Then my world shattered, erupting in tears from deep inside me.

I had never cried like that before. Over the next weeks, I became numb in my feelings of loss and hurt and anger. I was afraid to sleep and dream; I didn’t want to anything except run away from everyone who insisted on asking if I was okay. I needed to figure out why God would let something go so wrong. Could God make a mistake?

I was upset for what I now see as self-centered reasons. I had confidence from the beginning that Coach was far better off in heaven than he could ever be on earth. Still, I was angry that he could not be there with and for me anymore. Coach had helped me grow even in my faith—so why would God take him from me?

Ironically enough, as I questioned God over the next months, I became increasingly impressed by Him. Although I hated to think of anything good coming from Coach’s death, I had to acknowledge that my non-Christian teammates were becoming open to God as we grieved together. I witnessed radical changes in the way I myself understood the world. God was working, even through our loss.

Eventually I began to realize that I had never had any real control over my life. I too could die at any moment. No longer able to place trust in my own plan, there was only God to turn to. As I brokenly searched the scriptures for answers, He impressed me by His power and foresight and promise to always watch out for me. Isaiah 43 became my favorite passage: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God.”

As I witnessed the truth of these words firsthand, they obtained powerful new meaning. God promised that His plan for me was perfect, and I came to believe Him in a way that I never had. I truly had nothing at all to fear. I did not have to play life on the safe side. I could be passionate about life, I could jump at every opportunity, I could take risks. I could live full of life for God because I trusted Him to guide me through it.

It took me awhile to discover all this, as my eyes were only gradually opened to the peace and truth in God’s promises, a “slow falling-into-place of previously disconnected elements” (Hine). Neither was I was not direct and sure as I traded insecurity for confidence. As Whitaker Chambers wrote, “We are cripples…[until] the soul’s new proportions are defined.” I was crippled, but it was only through this that I learned to see the world from a whole new perspective.

I still miss Coach and I never could bring myself to take his number out of my phone. I think of him every time I see a blue jeep, go out for pizza, or hear someone call me “Emmers”. But now I can smile at the memories, and thank God for the perfect plan He has. A plan that once I questioned, and now trust in a way that has radically changed my worldview. I don’t have to play life on the safe side to ensure that I get the life that I want. I can leap outside my comfort zone, confident that no matter where I end up, that God is guiding me through a plan to prosper and not to harm me, to give me a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).