By Matt Horan
I way too often make the mistake of watching election coverage on TV. I tune in because I love American history, and enjoy taking the opportunities that present themselves to watch history unfold in our time. So I watch election coverage with renewed hope each time, but thus far that hope has been extinguished daily. So then I flip over to ESPN for news about my sports teams from Philadelphia, and my hope wanes even further.
I heard an argument made the other day about how important this election is when it comes to the Roe v. Wade decision being either upheld or overturned by the Court, thus affecting a woman’s right to have an abortion.
The first baptism I ever did was when I was interning in seminary as a hospital chaplain. I had not yet been given sacramental authority by my bishop, but when I was paged to come to the room of a mother who had just had a late term miscarriage, the traumatized young parents asked if I would baptize their baby.
They didn’t need a theological explanation about how a baptism wasn’t necessary, and how their baby’s soul was safely at home in the arms of God. They needed what Augustine called an “outward, visible sign of an inward, spiritual grace.” With apologies to my United Methodist brothers and sisters who keep a copy of the Book of Discipline on their bedside table; when a nurse put this tiny, tiny, little kid in my hands, my first baptism was soon underway.
It was one of the most profoundly sad moments of my life. I’d known this family for all of about three minutes before I was holding their 2 lb. baby. The tragedy was so fresh that, it was while I was holding the child when the mom asked the nurse whether it was a boy or girl. I kept looking at him or her, with completely formed facial features, and all I could think over and over was, “This kid never had a chance.” There should have been a first word, a first step, a first day of Kindergarten, dance recitals, and tee-ball games. But the kid never had a chance.
(I regretted that, at that point, his or her only name was “Baby G,” and so I would not be able to use the person’s name in their own baptism. When I left, they still hadn’t checked, so to this day, 10 years later, I still don’t know the name–or even the gender–of this kid who affected me so profoundly.)
My brief meeting with Baby G vastly shapes my views on abortion. He or she was not aborted, and so on some level I could be accused of comparing apples and oranges. That said, my desire for kids to have a chance to be kids is pretty well entrenched in my head and my heart.
As I have visited them in hospitals on the day they were born, or baptized them in their long white gowns, or sang with them in my preschool chapel class, or helped them learn about Jesus at Vacation Bible School, or helped them learn how God does not want them to wait their turn, but be a part of changing the world now during Confirmation classes, or taught them in middle school or high school English class, or coached them in soccer, or carpooled them everywhere, or chaperoned them on field trips, or just gasped as I watch them astonish us all when they show us their amazing potential in music concerts or science fairs or worship services, or in volunteering to offer selfless service to others in times of need; I have wanted kids to have the chance to be kids.
As I have visited kids in hospitals, counseled kids who were mourning the loss of a loved one, visited behavioral health floors at hospitals with kids who were mentally ill, guided kids with addictions, reassured kids who don’t think they matter, comforted kids who were scared, took deep questions from kids about the souls of their pets, visited kids in jail, listened to kids tell me about their parents’ divorce, waited out tantrums from kids who had been through trauma, played games with kids who are terminally ill, or led funerals for kids who died; I have just wanted kids to have the chance to be kids.
I know that abortion is a nuanced issue that affects many different people in many different ways. It is an issue that, sadly, has been hijacked by political operators as one more way to profit by making us all hate each other. I definitely want no part of taking sides in something so poisoned by our ability to dehumanize each other so that it’s becomes easier on our consciences when we destroy each other.
That said, abortions sadden me, and I am driven to remain hopeful that, someday, they will not happen anymore.
I don’t know exactly what to hope for. Perhaps someday medical science will develop a way to transplant an unborn child from one mother to another. Perhaps we will develop better birth control methods, and perhaps even find ways to make them more available to people across the socioeconomic spectrum.
What I do not hope for is a political solution. I find any reasoning that a Supreme Court will do something that will allow more kids to just be kids to be seriously flawed. While I don’t want to be a part of a poisoned process, I don’t want to be a part of an ineffective one either.
Of course the nomination and confirmation of Supreme Court Justices is incredibly important, and they must be the most gifted students of the laws of our nation, because they will make important decisions every day that affect millions of people, and they hold our government in check to keep it what it was designed to be.
It’s not that I think the Supreme Court isn’t important. The flaw is this: abortions don’t happen because they’re legal.
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