Abortions, Disability and Lutheran Theology



Quick:  what is your first thought when seeing this headline:  Ohio Bill Would Ban Abortion if Down Syndrome is the Reason?  I don't know about you, but honestly, my first impulse was to think--oh, of course--I don't want to live in a world where people with disabilities aren't valued as much as other people.  It makes sense, doesn't it--let's just prohibit it.

But, that was only my first impulse, and it almost immediately gave way to other thoughts--like, for example, even though I don't want to live in that kind of world, the fact is, I do.  I live in a world where people are valued differently based on their gender, ethnicity, wealth and yes, physical/mental abilities.  And this is true not only for individuals, but also for our government, our monetary system, our educational system, and our justice system.  But that's complicated, right?  If we were going tackle those injustices, we would have to radically reform the prison system, improve universal insurance and social supports for single mothers and underemployed adults, improve special education in public schools, and do a better job of funding higher education. How daunting is that?! How much easier to simply make pregnant women bear the brunt of society's moral failings; that way, the rest of us can pat ourselves on the back for our moral rectitude and virtue.

This is why I'm Lutheran--among other reasons, of course.  As a Lutheran, I have been formed by a theology that faces head on the depth of human sinfulness, and the corruption and cruelty that lurk in all human actions--even those motivated by the best of intentions.  This means that I am not fooled by human efforts to separate the wheat from the chaff--the "good" people from the evil ones.  God alone can do that.  So, instead, I believe that what we are called to do is live as best we can in the ambiguity, keeping our own sinfulness always in mind before we judge others; and holding onto our forgiveness and redemption to inspire us to be forgiving as well--even as we also work for justice and peace.

But back to abortion.  I wish I didn't live in a world where fetuses are aborted not only because they aren't "perfect," but because they aren't male (like happens repeated in India and China, for example). But I do.  However, I also wish I didn't live in a world where too many women, especially poor women, don't have access to good, free birth control, where women are raped by family members, and where young girls are prostituted and sold into slavery.  But I do.  And until those things change, don't talk to me about prohibiting safe abortions.

The world we live in is a world of saints and sinners--lots of Christians probably can agree that's true.  But here's what Lutherans know is the key to understanding the truth of that statement:  those aren't two different groups of people--they are the same people.  It's just us--all of us, together.