ABORTION & LIFE ISSUES: A Sanctity of Human Life Perspective PDF Print E-mail

Presbyterians Pro-Life
Posted August 14, 2001

What follows is a presentation by Kathy Banaszak to the Cincinnati Presbytery on July 10, 2001. Kathy was invited to speak as an alternative response to that offered by a representative of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice in a presentation to the Cincinnati Presbytery in May, 2001.

Kathy Banaszak
Cincinnati Presbytery
July 10, 2001

Good Evening, Madam Moderator, Sisters & Brothers in Christ. Our denomination's Policy on Problem Pregnancy & Abortion calls for healthy debate on this difficult issue, and so I’m grateful for the opportunity to offer a different perspective. I’d begin by noting that the "Sanctity of Human Life" ethic, which our policy calls "Position A," is the perspective held by myself and thousands of Presbyterians in the pew today – including thousands of Presbyterian women. It is also the long-standing, historic position of the Presbyterian Church, as well as the larger Christian Church throughout the centuries, up until the early 1970’s when a more contemporary theology was first embraced.

Although our policy notes that Presbyterians hold differing views as to when life begins, it also clearly states that "once life has begun, it is to be cherished and protected," and goes on to say that, "the taking of innocent human life is sin." In 1997, our General Assembly issued a statement expressing "grave moral concern" over the procedure commonly known as "Partial Birth Abortion." Regrettably, this is too often left out by some who represent our church’s position. It is also not surprising that many Presbyterians find it untenable that our denomination funds political advocacy groups that actively lobby in favor of Partial Birth Abortion.

…this is the child we do not see, and cannot hear, and who has no voice but ours to speak for them.

At our recent General Assembly it was heartening to hear Moderator Candidate, Nancy Maffett, affirm our church’s recently ended "Year of the Child." Yet she also underscored the irony of our position in our lack of regard for the developing unborn child in the womb. If ever one could be considered "the very least of these" of which Jesus himself spoke, surely it is that unborn child – this is the child we do not see, and cannot hear, and who has no voice but ours to speak for them.

Since 1984, I’ve had the opportunity to walk alongside many women in the midst of crisis pregnancies, as well as counsel women who’ve been impacted by the tragedy of abortion. I’m also familiar with the dynamics of abortion on a personal level, as my own life was greatly shaped by the impact of an abortion as a young woman less than 2 years after Roe v. Wade.

In talking with women these past 17 years, I've discovered that I represent very much of a norm. I was told that abortion was a good choice for me – a good solution for an unmarried woman just out of college and on her own in the big city. I was in a long-term relationship with a man I expected to marry, but quickly understood that the relationship itself hung in the balance if I did not "choose" abortion. Again, the standard reasons given by pro-choice advocates as to why women get abortions are not close to why they do at all. It’s not primarily about autonomy, about money, about medical reasons, job or career concerns, legal needs, or even about housing loss. Those are actually down on the list. And generally speaking, abortion is also not something that women do either trivially or callously. However, abortion on demand has in fact contributed significantly to the pervasive promiscuity that suffocates our culture.

Nationally syndicated columnist & NPR Commentator, Frederica Mathewes-Green, is a former Pro-Choice advocate who in more recent years has become one of the strongest voices for Life. Frederica conducted a "National Listening Project" several years ago, in conjunction with "The Common Ground Network for Choice and Life" which listened to real women all across our country who’d had abortions. She wrote about this project in her highly acclaimed book, Real Choices. What Frederica discovered surprised her, and her observations coincide with my own. She found that the overwhelming majority of women - 88% - reported coercion in their significant relationships as the primary reason for having an abortion. In most cases, that pressure came from the father of the baby, and to a lesser degree from the woman’s mother, which invariably led to ruptured mother-daughter relationships.

Frederica also notes that, "Abortion grows from a woman’s sense that she is alone and unsupported in her relationships. Abortion-rights rhetoric has attempted to turn this sort of isolation into a virtue by proclaiming the women’s 'autonomy': it’s her right, her body, her decision – ALONE." Yet Frederica notes, "The experience of pregnancy at its very heart is about human interconnectedness at its most profound level. We can only reverse that fall into loneliness when we surround women with circles of support."

I challenge the premise that to be for women, you must also be for abortion.

Abortion has been held out as something liberating and something women "want." I challenge the premise that to be for women, you must also be for abortion. There’s good reason for the explosive growth of secular groups like "Women Exploited by Abortion" and "Feminists for Life." I would further challenge the notion that women really "want" an abortion. When a woman chooses abortion, it’s because it appears – at least initially, and on the very surface – as less bad than other alternatives. Frederica Mathewes-Green captures this truth poignantly:

"There is tremendous sadness and loneliness in the cry, ‘a woman’s right to choose.’ No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg. Abortion is a tragic attempt to escape a desperate situation by an act of violence and self-loss."

Abortion appears to be a quick, easy and simple solution, but it does not keep its promises - it is a short-term and short-sighted solution that only compounds and creates longer-term problems. The Book of Proverbs says it best: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end, it leads to death." Abortion is always and only about death – not just physical death, but emotional and spiritual death as well. I came to understand well what King David meant when he wrote, "My sin is ever before me."

I know one thing: abortion hurts women. It hurts them deeply and it breaks their hearts.

In working with women these 17 years, I know one thing: abortion hurts women. It hurts them deeply and it breaks their hearts.

In his work as both a Psychiatrist and as an OB/Gyn, Dr. Julius Fogel offered this candid observation which is especially striking given that he performed over 20,000 abortions himself. Here’s what he says: "There is no question about the emotional grief and mourning following an abortion. It shows up in various forms. There is no question in my mind that we are disturbing a life process…often the trauma may sink into the unconscious…but a psychological price is paid…something happens on the deeper levels of a woman’s consciousness when she destroys a pregnancy. I know that as a psychiatrist." (Washington Post. Feb., 1989)

The premise that pits a woman’s rights against a baby’s rights is also a fallacy from the start. As Frederica Mathewes-Green points out, "God puts together the mother and the child in a union more profound than any in nature – a union that each of us knew in the earliest moments and the earliest days of our lives. That’s something we know in our bones, that unity. It’s meant to stay together." (Quote from a presentation made in the "Building a Bipartisan Majority for Life" educational conference in 1998 in Chicago, IL.)

When it comes to "choice," the simple and obvious truth is that from the beginning we’ve always had choice. And we’ve always likewise exercised that choice.

When it comes to "choice," the simple and obvious truth is that from the beginning we’ve always had choice. And we’ve always likewise exercised that choice. And since the beginning, our choices have always had consequences. The choice of abortion is no different – it holds many tragic consequences for women. In addition to the emotional and spiritual consequences, abortion radically disrupts a woman’s natural body ecology and brings with it increased health risks which include significantly greater risk for miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, sterility, and breast cancer, as demonstrated in numerous comprehensive, well-documented studies. This is not good a good choice for women!

What women in those Listening Groups actually said - and are still saying, is: "What I needed was someone to stand by me," "I needed someone to go through the pregnancy with me," "I needed a sister, I needed a friend." Even in the most horrific circumstances, those women still said, "If I would have had just one person to stand by me, it would have made all the difference, and I would have had that baby."

In my experience, I’ve also learned that it only takes one person to bear witness to that inner witness within the heart of every women that knows it is a good thing to nurture life! It only takes one person to come alongside a woman in a strong and compassionate and committed way. It only takes one person to demonstrate the grace and mercy of Jesus to a hurting woman who needs a safe place to mourn and heal. Surely, the church of Jesus Christ should be that place!

When it comes right down to it, the most compelling reason to oppose abortion is that it is completely contrary to the very character and nature of our God. We serve a life-giving God! To say that we have a "God of the Impossible" is not just empty rhetoric, but rather it’s the hallmark of faith! Nothing is too hard for God and that includes problem pregnancy. Jesus said, "I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly." It is the "Enemy of our Soul" that is about Death, and it is Death that Christ came to conquer!

…be the hands, the feet, the very Body of Christ to women in crisis pregnancy.

The late Francis Schaeffer said that the most corrosive effect of abortion on all of us as a people and a society is our passive acceptance and toleration of it. And so that is my exhortation for all of us this evening – that we would "count the cost," and that we would be the Church! That we’d be the hands, the feet, the very Body of Christ to women in crisis pregnancy. Not only do we have "Good News" to bring, but we have REAL CHOICES to offer. We need to begin showing a watching world how to live without abortion. My passionate prayer and hope is that this great Presbyterian Church would be that life-giving, life-affirming, life-protecting church that Jesus Himself came and gave his own life for!

Kathy Banaszak is a member of College Hill’s Renewal Network Team as well as their General Assembly Team. She also currently serves on the Board of Presbyterians Pro-Life. Professionally, Kathy is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor & Diplomate with the American Psychotherapy Association. Since 1984 she has volunteered at Pregnancy Care of Cincinnati. Pregnancy Care is an umbrella over several pregnancy help centers throughout metropolitan Cincinnati, where Kathy has worked as a counselor, hot-line counselor, trainer, and been trained as an Abstinence Educator. In more recent years, she’s led Post-Abortion counseling groups at College Hill Presbyterian Church in partnership with Pregnancy Care.



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