Some people believe that it is impossible to be a practicing Christian and be pro-choice on the issue of abortion; step into any Roman Catholic Church and you are bound to see Pro-Life posters and leaflets at the back of the church. While it is true that a lot of Christians are pro-life, all are not: many of Ireland’s most militant pro-lifers are of course Roman Catholics, but other Christian denominations often get associated with them.
Historically it is worth noting that in 1982 the Irish Council of Churches – who represented the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the Moravian Church in Ireland, and the Salvation Army in Ireland, – voiced concerns over the 8th Amendment. While all of them did oppose ‘abortion on demand‘ or “indiscriminate abortion”, they foresaw reasons why an abortion should be an option, such as if there is a grave risk to the life of the mother, cases of rape or incest, and ‘gross abnormality detected in the foetus.’
This was repeated at the hearings in front of the Oireachtas Health Committee on Abortion.
So how can you be a Christian and Pro-Choice?
A few years ago I found this quote from Victor Griffin, the Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, in 1982:
Abortion is morally wrong. However, at some time there may be rare unfortunate cases in which it is resorted to as the lesser of two evils. It is wrong to enshrine the Catholic view of this in the constitution
While for some abortion will always be morally wrong, who are we say to say it is morally right for a child to be born no matter what? As a result of rape or incest for example? Or if it will only live for a few hours?
Morals, to me, are a personal thing; while there are very big moral positions that we all share (we should not steal, we should not kill, etc) when abortion comes into the question everything becomes a little grey. There is no hard-and-fast rule that we can apply as many on the Pro-Life side believe. We cannot impose our morals on others as we are not in their shoes. We are not in their position. If we were, would we not like a choice? I know I would. Wouldn’t you?
Have we the right?
In researching this subject I came across an article on the website for the Association of Catholic Priests. The title caught my eye – “have we the right to insist no woman can ever have an abortion in Ireland?” That is the crux of the argument for me.
Why should anyone decide that a medical treatment cannot be given to you because of their religious beliefs? At the end of the day, that is why abortion is illegal in this country: it is because we decided way back in 1983 to enshrine that “Catholic view” of conception into our constitution. How is that right for those who are not Catholic? Or those who do not subscribe to all of the Church’s teachings? There’s plenty of those Catholics around.
Does it mean that if we had a Jehovah Witness majority in this country that we would have voted to ban blood transfusions? I have the greatest respect for Jehovah Witnesses, and Jews & Muslims who do not try to make those around them obey the same religious laws as them, and live their own lives by their rules and morals. It is time the Roman Catholic Church (and other Christian Churches) did the same.
We, as Christians, should be looking inwards and ensuring we live our lives right, as that is what we are asked to do in the Bible. We should not be stopping women from choosing what they do with their bodies when it will have no effect on us. It is ridiculous that some Christians in this country want to prevent women of other faiths (and of no faith) from having an abortion.
Stephen Spillane is a Staff Writer for the UCC Express, but also writes for his own blog, StephenSpillane.com, and is a co-founder of Spirituality Ireland. For updates on Stephen’s writing, blogging & live-blogging of events you can follow him on Twitter, @Spiller2, or you can find him on Facebook here.