By Chuck Robison
This week, as you listen to our Texas Legislature debate shutting down statewide medical services for women, ask yourself a few simple questions: Do Texas women have too much freedom? Isn’t it clearly the responsibility of real Texas men to protect our women folk from making decisions about their own bodies? Can women be trusted, in the privacy of their doctor’s offices, to make decisions about their bodies we men instinctively know are right for our women? Do we need to enact stricter controls on our women folk than we do on our own use and registration of guns? And finally, of course, should the churches lead the way in restricting women’s health freedoms?
Eleanor Wasson, my famous California aunt, died in 2008 at 100. During her later years, she told me a lot about her life and times and then she wrote it all down in her remarkable autobiography, 28,000 Martinis and Counting! She told me that from her earliest memories through the 60’s it was common for a woman to have an abortion if she was faced with a complex or otherwise unwanted pregnancy. Rich women, and Eleanor was certainly well off, could simply go to their Beverly Hills doctors and have the procedure on their own without anyone’s permission. Most did tell their husbands, boy friends or parents. It was how things were done. Others were not so fortunate. We recently heard of a woman whose baby died in utero after five months gestation, but she was forced to carry this dead baby to the full nine-month term because the laws in her state prohibited abortion….in any situation. Imagine spending four months with a baby inside your body only to go through the birth process for a dead baby.
The general concern before the 70’s was for the poor women who did not have money for a medical abortion or access to open clinics where it could safely be performed. These poor women went instead to neighborhood “doctors” for the famous coat hanger abortion, that more often than not ended in death for the mother or total mutilation.
So the women who instinctively knew they had a right to decide what was best for their bodies and lives celebrated the arrival of the birth control pill and the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that women have a right to make their own health decisions, especially abortions. And this all happened right here in Freedom-loving Texas.
Many people, especially women, applauded this decision and today many others feel it is state-sponsored killing. (Interestingly enough state-sponsored killing is literally cheered by us Texans when the issue is putting someone to death as “retribution”.) It is also interesting that, according to popular Texas sentiment, once you are born you are on your own….as witnessed by our decision to cease medical services to families who cannot afford medical services on their own for newly arrived children.
Should the churches unite in leading the way to shut down women’s health freedoms? Do the churches and religions of Texas have a God-given responsibility to keep women in their place? After all, Eve started all of this and Adam was not strong enough to stop her.
My religion says that nobody’s church should tell the members of any other church how to exercise their religion or their life and morals. Clearly managing our own individual lives is a hard enough task without taking on responsibility for managing the life of another. Even Jesus said something about taking the log out of your own eye before you worry about the splinter in mine.
We are increasingly less free in America, to decide these issues for ourselves….and that includes women. But some people are still not satisfied with allowing freedom for others. No wonder these real men who represent us in the Texas Legislature feel morally superior in seeking to protect our women from exercising their freedom.
From the highest spiritual point, we are not here to judge or restrict others according to our understanding of things. If you are in a church that instructs you not to have an abortion, then don’t have one. Period. If you are in a church that sees no problem with abortion or women having freedom to make their own health decisions, then follow the authority of your own conscience.
But don’t play like you have the right to tell me I must live by the rules of your religion.
Now look at those questions in the first paragraph again. These are silly questions because there is no spiritual understanding in them. How could we sophisticated Texans let poorly informed politicians (follow the money) tell church people how to deal with our personal lives? Are these politicians going to tell us how to run our religions? Not in my church, not at this time, not in Texas.
Of course, ten years from now, when the morning after pill is available almost everywhere, people will have a hard time understanding what all the fuss was about in 2013…….assuming the politicians don’t wind up running the churches.
Chuck Robison is the former Adjunct Protestant Chaplain at The Church Center of The United Nations in New York. He and his wife Karen now produce a weekly Internet TV show at their website www.whatifitreallyworks.com where they interview students of Consciousness, New Science and Spirituality. Chuck is a graduate of Austin College and Princeton Seminary. Please address comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org Photo: David Saenz