Enemy is Us: Evangelical Women and Abortion
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Fri Dec 30, 2005 at 11:04:31 PM EST
Focus on the Family has announced its new target in the culture wars: the many women inside evangelical churches who get abortions. Now that the fake war on Christmas is over, Focus on the Family is returning to its tried and true real war on women.   January is a big month for attacking abortion, and this year all the more so because of Supreme Court nomination hearings. In its first post-holiday release, Focus on the Family slung its first arrow: Focus on the Family Challenges Christians on Abortion in the Church.
Abortion providers have long known that women ignore the official stance of their religion when they need abortion services.  Abortions are not limited by liberal beliefs or religious ones. Based on current trends, one in three women in the U.S. will have an abortion, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute.

Every clinic has a story about a woman who picketed outside until one day she needed an abortion, as often as not asking for her identity to be shielded.  These women may justify their circumstances as different.  But there they are, needing a basic healthcare service, despite religious prescriptions.

This is the truth that Focus on the Family is finally acknowledging. They have looked at the enemy, and a big chunk of it is them.  

Kim Conroy, who bears the title of Sanctity of Human Life Director for Focus on the Family, cites studies by the Guttmacher that show many women of evangelical faith get abortions.  

As churches prepare to celebrate Sanctity of Human Life Week, January 15-22, 2006, Focus on the Family has challenged clergy members to consider recent statistics on abortion in the church when addressing their congregations.

Conroy believes that "it's time for churches to be proactive on this issue" according to a press release.

Focus on the Family refers to Guttmacher research that one in five women who have abortions are "self-identified" as "Evangelical Christians."

I need to take a little detour here.  The study that FOF seems to rely upon dates to 1994-1995. That study, did report that twenty percent of abortion patients are born-again or Evangelical Christians. A Guttmacher release at the time said: "ABORTION COMMON AMONG ALL WOMEN, EVEN THOSE THOUGHT TO OPPOSE ABORTION."

But why Focus on the Family chose this statistic over an updated and lower one published in 2002 is a mystery.  The update on socioeconomic characteristics of women obtaining abortions in 2000-2001 found that 13 percent of women who sought abortions identified themselves as "born-again" or evangelical:

The majority of women older than 17 who obtained an abortion reported a religious affiliation. The highest proportion (43%) identified themselves as Protestant. Twenty-seven percent of women having an abortion identified themselves as Catholic, and 8% as a member of another religion; 22% reported no religious affiliation. Thirteen percent identified themselves as "born-again" or evangelical, three-fourths of whom were Protestant.

Nonetheless, Kim Conroy insists that "it is vital that churches prioritize talking about this growing problem."

Despite the fact that the problem is not growing, and that the overall number of abortions has also decreased, the stats show that from 110,000 to 125,000 evangelical women are getting abortions each year.  The 'they' who get abortions could be in the next pew.

In keeping with the most recent messaging inside the anti-abortion movement, Conroy tells pastors that they should express this "challenge" in terms of concern for the women.  

"Every post-abortive woman sitting in our churches needs to know that there is help and forgiveness available--and it's our hope during this Sanctity Week that pastors and other clergy will extend that to her."

Conroy added that while abortion is always a tough topic to discuss, especially when considering the emotions of someone who has experienced it firsthand, it is vital that churches prioritize talking about this growing problem.  

"Justice, mercy and compassion must be at the forefront of the conversation if we truly desire to extend healing to the women in our churches affected by abortion--both those who've already experienced it and those who are right now contemplating it," Conroy said.

This approach of showing concern for women was honed by David Reardon of The Elliot Institute, a religious right organization. Reardon convinced many in the anti-abortion movement that the general public would be more sympathetic if messaging were presented in the context of concern for women instead of concern for fetuses.

Since the mid-1990s, at Reardon's instigation, rhetoric is consciously used to display "concern" about "damage" to women. Even the dire anti-abortion legislation is falsely portrayed as serving the health and welfare of women.  

I must insert here that abortion does not unduly harm women; it saves lives.  Abortion is physically one of the safest medical procedures.  It is not a procedure that causes inordinate psychological trauma to women.  The American Psychiatric Association has rejected such suggestions.  (But this is a subject for a future post.)

This is not to say that women don't experience feelings about abortion, or childbirth, for that matter. But anti-abortion organizations are ready to stigmatize women and stoke any feelings of insecurity about abortion. They insist that women must feel bad. Women are encouraged to repent, and part of repenting is to join the anti-abortion movement.

There is another reason for this approach. Reardon states:

And so there is a tremendous opportunity and I think it is a great evangelization opportunity for the Church.

January 22 marks the 33rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. You can bet you will hear more of this talk in the coming weeks.

This is an example of a "demonisation" trend that, yet again, began in the "word-faith" and "spiritual warfare" branches of dominionism and has expanded to the larger dominionist community.

In pentecostal churches for years (I would even say back in the 1980's) it's been literally preached that having an abortion--or even having had an ancenstor have an abortion--is a "doorway to Satan" and a way people can end up with "generational curses".

(In the "deliverance ministry" community, people can not only be "cursed" by even seemingly innocuous acts--wearing a peace sign, for instance (which they consider a satanic symbol) but even by the actions of ancestors hundreds of years ago.  The latter are termed "generational curses", are blamed for literally all ills that occur that "name it and claim it" and dousing everything in Wesson oil and "mapping territorial spirits" can't solve.  The cure, of course, is further involvement in the group and exorcisms, often on a weekly or even daily basis.)

Dominionist groups into "spiritual warfare" that claim there are such things as "territorial spirits" even go so far as to claim that territorial spirits of abortion exist (and they use this as part of their "dominion mandate" that they must take over the country to drive off "the territorial spirits of baby-killing").

In groups not so much into the "deliverance ministry" angle, they've also claimed that abortion causes cancer (bogus), claimed abortion causes insanity, causes women to be suicidal, etc.  This even extends to the promotion of "post-abortion ministries"--groups whose sole purpose is to further guilt women who have had to have an abortion (often after much consternation, not to mention mandatory 24 hour waiting periods, travel of upwards of 700 miles round-trip to find the one clinic in the state offering abortion services that is only open two days of the week because they have to fly someone in--no OB/GYNs certified to perform abortions exist in the state at all; yes, this is the case in North Dakota right now), harass them into further shame, and alternatively harangue and love-bomb them in the hopes of ultimately recruiting them into a dominionist church as a "poster child for the harm abortion causes" to be paraded on Sunday evening services.

by dogemperor on Sat Dec 31, 2005 at 11:10:39 AM EST

The so-called post abortion ministries are a whole cottage industry of the religious right anti-abortion movement.  They begin with Rachel's Vineyard and extend to dozens of others, with Catholic or fundamentalist influence, that try to convert women.

by cyncooper on Sat Dec 31, 2005 at 01:02:08 PM EST

There are some places where women can talk about abortion without being subjected to religious conversion.

These may be helpful to someone and, so, bear noting:


Abortion Conversations

by cyncooper on Sat Dec 31, 2005 at 01:11:35 PM EST

Unfortunately, this just shows how far along they are when pages such as these are being held up as 'neutral'.

Any organization supportive of utterly nonexistent propagandistic "syndromes" like the (gag) "post abortion stress syndrome"- a term pulled out of thin air, by no means a medical reality, is anything but neutral.

(See Exhale's blatherings on the mythical "PASS" here- http://www.4exhale.org/resources.htm).

As for the "conversation project", any group unwilling to let womyn self select terminology like "unintended" to describe THEIR OWN pregnancies, as stated in the CP's "conversation pieces"-
http://www.abortionconversation.com/conpiece.php is again about putting words in our mouths and silencing womyn's authentic experiences.

Or that makes a point of asking leading questions like "2."WHAT ABOUT ABORTION MAKES YOU UNCOMFORTABLE?" Which never allows for even the POSSIBILITY that one might NOT be "uncomfortable about abortion, well it's a leading question- hardly neutral.

Also note the lack of any 'fair and balanced' question concerning anything about abortion ever being positive.

It's not a 'neutral' space. Nor is it even a space affirming of womyn's own voices and the words they choose, instead telling womyn the language you use is wrong, and that there clearly by implications, must be parts about abortion that make you "uncomfortable" (again putting words in one's mouth.)

Furthermore, if "CP" wants womyn to avoid "battle bound language", then how in the heck to do they intend to address genuine aspects of what clinics and providers are going through? When providers are being shot and killed, when clinics are torched in the dead of night, and when the violence IS a one sided 'war'- one we who just care about getting womyn access to health care never wanted, but found ourselves in the middle of, how with their language constraints, do they intend to deal with REALITIES that providers ARE under attack? And that only one side is doing the shooting?

It's not "neutrality" to forbid calling that which quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and has a yellow bill and white feathers a DUCK!

Are we now, in some mythic name of 'neutrality' only going to tsk tsk and go on 'conversationing' with self identified 'pro-lifers' (see point 8 here- http://www.publicconversations.org/pcp/uploadDocs/SampleGroundrules.pdf
(certainly NOT 'anti-abortion' people, as that would be 'you' language not "I" language)?

This has all the derailing elements of the 'seamless garment' nonsense from a few years back, which for those you who might remember, had folks like Monica Miller as signatories. (Shake hands one day, blockcade clinics the proverbial next).

The entire page is chock full of leading questions followed by accepting the false premises, then going on to answer such after accepting the false premise, take for example from FAQ (http://www.abortionconversation.com/faq.php)-

"7. Isn't abortion murder?
"... Certainly providers, and the women they serve, know that something is alive and then isn't after an abortion...."

Randall Terry would be so proud.

Focus on the fetus- little spacemen floating around in space, never mind that womyn whose body you're talking about- or walking over.

If this is current state of 'neutrality', well, then maybe all those of you so DESPERATE for some 'middle ground' need to come to cold hard realization, when it comes to abortion you're not going to find one. You may find people who call themselves 'pro-choice' who begin projects like these, but both of these have accepted a fundamental projections onto womyn who have had abortions, that after an abortion they are 'unhealthy' or need of 'counseling' or 'processing' or other such crap.

Womyn who have had abortions are not sick, they do not 'need help to be restored (to health, to god, to whatever). The primary reason womyn might think such is purely due to the fact that the anti-abortion industry has been telling them such lies for more than 30 years now- and they're so far along, they've even got clinics and providers buying into their paradigm.

Now even clinics and programs like these point to complete loads of crap like the dreadful "pregnancy options workbook" (you can see CP linking to it here- http://www.abortionconversation.com/faq.php) . The workbook like so many programs mushes all times into one and all decisions into one such that abortion/ adoption/ and birth all end up as 'alternatives' to one another.

Adoption is not an 'alternative' to abortion. That's compulsory pregnancy propaganda. These are actually two SEQUENTIAL decisions being mushed into the same time and space- the decision as to whether or not to bear (i.e. abortion or maintain the pregnancy to the extent nature allows) followed chronologically by the SECOND decision, should I parent or should I give birth THEN legally relinquish custody to the state and then HOPE the child gets adopted, of course, once relinquished, the kid may also face a life of foster care etc, but once legally relinquished, that's beyond the natural parent's control.

The only 'alternative' to abortion is continued pregnancy (or potentially miscarriage). To call POSSIBLE adoption (what they're really selling is permanent relinquishment of all parental rights) an 'alternative' is propaganda- period. It's not "Adoption" from the natural parent's point of view, it's legal relinquishment. All these cute notions of 'picking the parents' and 'open adoptions' while cute, are usually legally unenforceable. And as for post relinquishment 'counseling' don't worry, churches are working that market too- they gotcha coming and going.

As for those of us who are actually supportive of access to abortion services, and who support providers giving medical care (not propaganda referrals) when we're finished being revolted that is, we will, deep sigh, YET AGAIN, sit here and point out just how much you've bought their lies if for one instant you dare call any of this nonsense "neutral".  

by Lauren Sabina Kneisly on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 03:22:26 AM EST

How far we have come, indeed ...

I believe that a pro-choice perspective covers every woman, as it permits each to determine whether and when to have children, if at all.  You are very right that there is only one decision when a woman is pregnant -- whether to bear a child or to terminate the pregnancy.  So I have a difficult time, as you do, with middle ground because it inevitably shrinks women's reproductive options and eliminates access.

But the anti-abortion rhethoric has been extensive.  It is, borrowing a term from the late Neil Postman, media guru, like red dye in water.  It has colored the perspections of many, including those in the mainstream media.  The efforts by the religious right to stigmatize women, as Focus on the Family and the Elliot Insitute are intent on doing, is incredible.

So I especially value your speaking out on this issue.  Your perspective is very much needed.

I also appreciate the efforts of Abortion Conversations to break the silence around abortion experiences -- their words.  I think that is very necessary.  I think Abortion Conversations is about helping people express their prochoice views, which have become increasingly silenced.  I work with a prochoice theatrical program to open up conversations, too, in Words of Choice.  Otherwise, many people, especially those who are in high school and college now or are in more remote locations, simply do not hear anything but the one-sided perspective of the religious right.

And the reason why ALL voices and varied prochoice approaches are necessary is that we are very close to losing all of our reproductive rights.  We don't even need another Supreme Court justice, as I tried to describe in this article about the Ayotte case: Follow the Yellow Legal Pad

by cyncooper on Tue Jan 03, 2006 at 01:40:37 PM EST

Interesting story, and shows how futile legislating morality is.

Banning abortions will only drive them underground. Those who have the money and the connections will continue to have abortions at almost the same rate, and that includes women of the religious right. Only the poor and needy will be denied access to abortion.

Of course, if the church continues to preach how evil people are to have abortions, the women in their congregations who have had them are going to need therapy and counselling!

by tacitus on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 12:24:14 PM EST

Your comment --

... if the church continues to preach how evil people are to have abortions, the women in their congregations who have had them are going to need therapy and counselling!

is too true!  It's funny, but when you think about it, no joke.

by cyncooper on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 04:14:19 PM EST

The post-abortive are the largest demographic in our culture.  An estimated 43% of women will have at least 1 abortion by the time they are 45 years old.  In contrast, only one to three percent of the population could be considered exclusively homosexual.  While you would think that the gay community is the largest people group in our culture, the post-abortive are really one of the largest subsets of people of our times.  

Unfortunately, the Evangelical Christian community has not escaped the abortion choice.  According to the recent survey, at least one in six women sitting in Evangelical Christian churches have had abortions.  

Over 200,000 or 18% of Christians each year choose abortion as the answer to an unplanned pregnancy.
Actually, pro-lifers do a lot in the area of caring for unwed mothers and their children already. I would like to see them do more.

Isn't it a true saying that our society is judged by how it treats the weakest and most vulnerable amongst us?

The Democrats, by taking an extreme position on this issue and refusing to compromise even one iota, have given the Republicans a strategic advantage. Abortion has taken more lives than the holocaust of WWII.

I do not see a fetus as a human being until after it is born. Until then, it is a fetus, living off of and reliant on its mother. If the mother chooses to terminate the pregnancy, that is her decision. It is not an easy decision, and our priority must be to protect women from being in situations where they end up needing abortions in the first place. But even for one who believes abortion is wrong, I believe that we can not stand idly by knowing that women are seeking abortions even when they are illegal, even when their only access to an abortion is a wire hanger in a dingy apartment. Providing medical standards for a medical procedure is a human rights issue.

If abortion is legal, that still allows you to not get an abortion because you believe it to be morally wrong. If abortion is illegal, then I do not have access to one, even if I do not believe it to be morally wrong.

by dogbert on Thu Jan 05, 2006 at 08:47:09 AM EST

You write:

If abortion is legal, that still allows you to not get an abortion because you believe it to be morally wrong. If abortion is illegal, then I do not have access to one, even if I do not believe it to be morally wrong.

That's exactly the essence of the pro-choice position.  So I can't agree with you that the Democrats are wrong to support it.  It's not an "extreme position," as you say, it's a mainstream position -- and the majority opinion -- and supports all perspectives on this issue.  

It's the Republican Party, which has a platform opposing abortion under all circumstances, that is extreme.  In fact, less than 20% of the population supports that position, and that's been consistent for 30 years.

Also, just want to point out that based on current abortion rates , one in three women in the US will have an abortion in her lifetime.  That's changed in the past two or three  years -- it used to be the 43% figure you cite, but changed when the number of abortions in the US dropped.

Also, 70 percent of the women who get abortions describe themselves as Christian (Catholic -- 28 percent; Protestant -- 43%).  

That's fairly comparable to all women of childbearing years (who are 28% Catholic, 51% Protestant) -- all according to stats of the Guttmacher Institute

by cyncooper on Thu Jan 05, 2006 at 09:58:34 AM EST

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