Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Liberty and Justice For All podcast. Today I want to talk about women’s role in our society. I am reminded of Éowyn in “Lord of the Rings,” who dutifully takes care of her Uncle Théoden, King of Rohan. When under a spell, his mind clouds for a time, and she courageously advocates for his interests. Éowyn is also needed to direct the women and children to safety at the Helms Deep fortress when they come under attack and are driven from their homes. But Éowyn is determined to fight and later disguises herself as a man to join the soldiers into battle. And, spoiler alert, it is she who ultimately confronts and kills the Lord of the Nazgǔl, a shriekingly fierce and evil former king who is under the control of Sauron, the All-Seeing Eye.
Women can do amazing things; traditionally most are not recognized publicly for their contributions in raising children and keeping house. Those roles may be seen today as unimportant or trivial, but mothers and women are what keep our society functioning at the grassroots level. What makes Éowyn unique in “Lord of the Rings” is the fact that she is, in every sense, a feminine, graceful, beautiful woman. And yet, she knows her way around a sword and can match any master swordsman. She is her army’s secret weapon. When she kills the Lord of the Nazgǔl, she does so in the name of all women, as well as men. Éowyn is totally my hero!
Not all women are called to be tough physically. Some of us contribute using our unique knowledge, skills and talents. Women are often valued in business because of their unique perspectives, and not just for their fashion sense or ability to make good coffee – I sound old-fashioned even suggesting that. Women are often great at multi-tasking and global thinking, and as these talents have become more sought after, men with these skills are valued also. As a group, women are considered a minority – in a very similar way to racial and religious minorities. And, unfortunately, women still face the stigma of being considered the weaker gender. I believe that if society valued the contributions of women as much as men, our culture would be more balanced and healthy.
A friend of mine who I have spoken to on this subject suggested that instead of gender roles, I am actually talking about the masculine and feminine – roles which have traditionally been assigned to men or women can be fulfilled by either gender today in a hetero or LGBTQ relationship. In my marriage, for example, I prefer to weed and mow the lawn more than my husband, and my husband prefers to cook more than me. What is important in any fulfilling relationship is that we, as co-equals, complement each other, that we each offer our knowledge and skills towards the whole and can build on each other’s strengths. Despite these roles, though, the biological differences of men and women are also significant and important.
I respect the traditional role of men as fathers, husbands and patriarchs, and the role of women as mothers, wives and matriarchs, but I believe that those roles, although beautiful in an ideal world, are often used to manipulate and hurt. In our imperfect society, there are far too many family situations where both women and men are not valued, where there is abuse and neglect. Our society has largely forgotten the yin-yang role of men and women working together as co-equals to build families and communities. In a perfect world, both men and women would play essential roles in our communities, but without their equal recognition, our society is out of balance.
So let’s talk about women, and being a woman in a society that is still dominated by men. Even in our progressive society, women still bear the burden (literally) when intercourse occurs, nature takes its course, and she gets pregnant. She is the one who gets blamed and shamed, when clearly, there is also a man involved.
I believe that beyond what a girl is told in Sunday School, she has an innate understanding of her purpose as a vessel to bring forth life. And I believe that a woman is fulfilled when she is able to carry out that purpose in the way that she desires. But life is rarely perfect, and sometimes life brings unplanned challenges.
The stance of many religions, including my own, is that abortion is wrong. Although I agree with this on a personal, moral and spiritual level, I differ from a civic standpoint. I believe that abortion should be legal. I understand the view that this country, being Christian-based, should promote laws that have Christian values – but what community has the right to ridicule, belittle and even damn a woman or a doctor for choosing to take care of a problem – even if it is in an undesirable way – if the community does not offer an alternate, viable solution? The last I checked, free agency is also a Christian value, and I take it very seriously when laws infringe on people’s freedoms and privacy.
Let’s just get this straight – and I am speaking to my pro-life friends out there – regardless of what you may have been told, no one out there is pro-abortion. It’s not like women choose to get pregnant just so they can have an abortion. I mean, anyone who has ever been or has tried to get pregnant will tell you that your body takes a serious toll physically, hormonally, emotionally, etc. And I think we all agree that most women who have ever had an abortion, regardless of the circumstances, may not offer you their personal feelings on the subject, but it is a decision, no matter how necessary they felt it was, that they will never forget and will likely regret for the rest of their lives. Abortion is never a happy, celebrated thing.
Despite what you may think, pregnancy and starting families is a family affair – like the whole family. Husbands, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, close friends, etc. I am not a psychologist, but I have a family, and I have a lot of friends whose families I am acquainted with. Some families and cultures willingly bring a child into their fold despite unorthodox circumstances, but lots of religiously conservative cultures in the United States do not have a place socially for such challenges.
No matter what has been ingrained in your mind about the wickedness of abortion, you cannot begin to judge someone unless you put yourself in their shoes. If you had a girlfriend or close friend, sister or daughter, cousin or wife who had gotten pregnant by accident, and they came to you for help, what would you do? Would you judge them harshly, kick them out of the house and never speak to them again, or would you help them? I mean, if you oppose abortion, would you be willing and able to provide them with food, board, privacy and a shoulder to lean on for nine months until they could have the baby, or would abortion be the only feasible path from a financial, logistical, or social perspective? I will state the obvious and say that there is a difference between idealism and the reality of an imperfect society.
Let me put this a different way: Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan – when a man is mugged and left for dead on the road, both a priest and a Levite who worked in the temple avoid the man, citing all kinds of excuses why they could not help him. But it was the Samaritan, a person who was a Gentile and of a lower caste, who tended to the man, provided board for him an inn at a great expense, where he was fed and looked after. How is a woman with an unwanted pregnancy any different than that?
Despite anti-abortion laws on the books, women and girls are still going to have unwanted pregnancies in our communities, regardless of their religion or lack of religion. Did you know that 60 percent of women who have abortions have already had at least one child, and that they pursue an abortion often for economic reasons? Economics is a major factor in abortion cases. Wealthy women, regardless of the laws, will still have access to safe, discreet abortions if they find themselves in such a situation. But it is the less fortunate, poor women who are left without assistance in an unwanted pregnancy, and if they become desperate in places where abortion is illegal, women will find other methods of taking care of the situation – coat hangers in alleys are the path that some will take, and we will lose women’s lives in the process.
I realize that it may be a new concept for some of you to consider abortion as an act of love, but I believe a large majority of pro-choice advocates base their viewpoint on compassion. Democrats don’t want more abortions. They want to prevent the unwanted pregnancy to begin with by providing comprehensive sex ed and free contraception. Moreover, they want to lift people out of poverty so that women who get pregnant unexpectedly will be more able to keep the baby or, if they choose, bring it to full term and give it up for adoption.
Keep in mind that we are a country of 330 million people with numerous religious beliefs, cultures, and sexual preferences. But certain evangelical groups, especially those who are hostile towards abortion clinics, impose their beliefs on others, and those religious beliefs spill over into politics. Many of these groups promote single-issue voting – with abortion as the most important issue they consider when selecting a candidate.
Red states, in particular, have been coordinating efforts in recent years to formulate anti-abortion laws for the purpose of getting challenged at the Supreme Court level, and ultimately having the chance of weakening or even reversing Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion up to about 24 weeks into a pregnancy.
To set up this anti-abortion coalition, many religiously conservative communities endorsed political candidates a few years ago on the state and federal level, including President Trump, with the understanding that when elected, they would heavily promote anti-abortion legislation and select pro-life judges. Thanks to the recently appointed Justice Kavanaugh, we have a conservative majority in the High Court now.
Several states, including Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia, have recently pursued what are being called “heartbeat” bills, which ban an abortion as soon as a heartbeat can be detected. Alabama’s law would establish that a doctor performing an abortion can be charged with homicide and face a two-year jail sentence. Alabama and Missouri provide an exception if an abortion is necessary to prevent death of the mother or if death of the baby is imminent, but Missouri would not permit abortion in cases of rape or incest.
Mississippi’s heartbeat law is even more strict by prohibiting abortions after six weeks and only makes exceptions for preserving the life of the mother and not for rape or incest, and Ohio’s law is similar to that.
Several of the anti-abortion laws passed by states in 2019 have been stayed, or put on hold, while they go through the courts, but if enacted, this country could see a pre-Roe v. Wade world again. During the Covid-19 pandemic the Supreme Court has been hearing cases remotely through the internet, and an opinion from the High Court could be delivered this month. Most of us don’t even remember what that world was like before Roe v. Wade, and those of us who do might think twice about returning. Do you really want to go back to coat hangers in alleys?
President Trump’s base continues to support him because of his commitment to make abortion illegal, but can anyone else detect the dripping irony? I mean, can we even count the number of accusations he has received of sexual assault, harassment and even rape? And the pay-offs given to two of Trump’s extra-marital porn stars? Don’t forget the Access Hollywood video where Trump brags about how he grabs women by the um-um, and there is plenty of evidence of Trump’s wild parties with accused child rapist Jeffrey Epstein. And Trump’s misogynistic behavior is not just in the past – his verbal attacks against prominent congresswomen, governors and foreign heads of state are practically commonplace these days. And while we are on the subject, Justice Kavanaugh is not exactly a pillar of society for the drunken parties in his youth and his accused violent treatment of women.
The Republicans have their approach to stopping abortion turned upside down. If they would get down from their judicial high horses and show a bit of mercy, love and respect for women, perhaps there would not be as big of a need for abortion in the first place. Mothers and fathers unwilling to accept that their daughters may have gotten into trouble create such a double standard – while appearing to be pious, they leave their daughters in the dust when it is their job, and the job of society by extension, to embrace them.
That is why I have given my best effort in preparing this podcast. I feel that so many political conservatives are deeply misguided in their intolerance for abortion. In a perfect world, there would not be a need for it, but until we can lift people out of poverty, prevent abuse and enmity between loved ones – and until we can restore the yin-yang relationship of men and women, society will still have a need for abortion.
Despite my church’s belief that abortion is immoral, the policy for years of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been that abortion may be necessary in times of incest, rape, or if the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother. But a lot of the legislation passing in individual states in the last few years does not even align with this, so I can further justify my opposition to the strict laws getting passed throughout the country. And don’t even get me started on the most recent actions of states like Texas that have attempted (but failed) to classify abortions as “elective surgeries” during Covid-19.
Don’t misunderstand me – I will advocate all the way for carrying an unwanted baby to full term and then pursuing adoption. But there are circumstances when carrying a baby to full term is not possible. Obviously in cases of rape or incest, a woman could be traumatized and she may be emotionally incapable of carrying the baby, especially if she is a child herself or her pregnancy creates a medical danger for her.
But there are also endlessly numerous, more subtle circumstances where a woman may consider an abortion, usually when there are social or economic constraints. Going back home with a “problem” will be seen as a failure, and she may be blacklisted by her community. If her family is unable or unwilling to assist, what will she be able to do?
Further, laws should not be designed to increase births at the cost of reducing a woman’s freedom. I believe it is the job of society to support and facilitate whatever decision a woman makes regarding the needs of her body. After all, a woman, a trusted partner if she has one, and her doctor are really the only ones who know what the best choice is for a given situation.
Although I personally believe that abortion should only be used as a last resort and after much contemplation, I do not believe that abortion should be considered murder. Things get sticky when you have a life inside another life that is capable of creating other lives.
Personally – and I will get religious here – as a member of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, I believe that all people are God’s children and that He wants the souls still waiting in heaven to have a chance to be born. Abortion inhibits, or at least delays, God’s plan for these souls, but you must remember that we, who are already alive, are also souls and God loves us all equally. God has given us free agency to make choices, right or wrong – better or best – that ultimately set the course for our lives and often the lives of those around us. God has also given us the ability to be forgiven of our wrongdoings. When a woman doesn’t have access to a safe abortion, it often limits her ability to have children down the road when she is able to start a family. Further, there is so much we don’t know about God’s work and the nature of souls. I would like to think that souls who were unable to be born once get a second chance to be born at another time.
The Declaration of Independence states that we are all equal and eligible for the same freedoms. The legal standpoint must take priority over our personal morals regarding abortion. Bottom line: what happens inside a woman’s body is about as personal as you can get, and I do not think the government has any business regulating it. OK – there are my two cents.
As a middle-aged woman who doesn’t have any children, I wish to offer some maternal advice to any young people who seek it: when you are my age, I hope you can look back on things and be satisfied with your life choices. When I have made difficult choices related to having a family – oh, I sound so much like a mom when I say it like that – but I had to really sort out my goals, and situation at hand, and my feelings. Sometimes I had to revisit those feelings and reiterate my goals later when my heart panged regarding a medical need or a love lost. I think it is important to live life – breathe it in, make good friends that you enjoy being around, respect others, learn about lots of things, and develop useful skills. But beyond all else, know that you are beautiful and important and that there are people who love you no matter what. I believe in marriage and in families, and I admire those who make sacrifices in their lives to strive towards the goal of having a family.
The things we have been taking for granted for decades just may be shifting. Now is the time to pay attention to national politics so that we may continue to have Liberty and Justice For All.
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