The past week has been agonizing for Christians who have been unsure of what to do with the hit piece video on Planned Parenthood. To help navigate it, here’s a quick infographic outlining the differences between personal philosophy and public policy.
From the chart, there’s three distinct areas of belief when it comes to abortion and reproductive choices. Here’s how they break down and how people can choose one of each column to represent their beliefs on abortion and reproductive choice.
Personal Philosophy on Abortion
It’s not a simple pro-choice/pro-life divide.
- Pro-Abortion is a label often thrown at Pro-Choice individuals but it more accurately refers to persons who genuinely see abortion as the lesser evil in many situations and desire it to be available without restrictions.
- Pro-Choice supports the right of women to prevent or interrupt a pregnancy as a matter of personal choice. Pro-Choice individuals believe that since there is no scientific or philosophical consensus on when life “begins,” women must have autonomy over this decision (often supported as religious liberty, in fact).
- Pro-Life does not support abortion as a personal philosophy, and this generally has three forms
- Pro-Life, supports death penalty. While this may be taken as negative, it is the experience of many progressives that Pro-Lifers oppose abortion but have no issues with the government taking their lives later through capital punishment.
- Pro-Life, opposes death penalty. This position sees that individuals and societies should not remove life either through abortion or capital punishment.
- Pro-Life, pacifism. This ethic sees all life as sacred and is holistic in opposing government removal of life, including war, and often including physician-assisted suicide as well. The Roman Catholic Church holds this position rather consistently.
- Pro-Natalism refers usually to public policies of governments that promote childbirth and growth. In this case, it refers more to an individual who sees intrinsic to their identity is to have children (ie. Quiverfull movements) and absolutely rejects any forms of family planning or birth control as against God (ie. Catholicism).
On this spectrum, one end values liberty and individual choice, the other end values new life at all costs, and the rest are somewhere on that spectrum.
Public Policy on Abortion
Contrasted with personal philosophy, one’s supported public policy has some hoped-for outcomes that vary and are not necessarily tied to one’s personal philosophy.
- Unfettered access, easily accessible. Reproductive services are available easily to urban and rural women alike and there are no restrictions on obtaining abortions.
- Some restrictions, easily accessible. Reproductive services are available easily to urban and rural women alike, but there are some restrictions (parental notification, no abortion after a particular time span, etc)
- Exceptions for situational causes. Abortions are not available except for situations that merit it, such as maternal/fetal medical issues, incest, rape, and other “how it happened” considerations.
- Exceptions for fetal/maternal health. Abortions are not available except when fetal/maternal health is threatened.
- Exceptions for fetal mortality. Abortions are not available except when a fetus will not survive the birth due to gestational difficulties (ie. choosing to terminate a pregnancy because a fetus likely has mental challenges would not apply)
- No exceptions, no access. Period.
On this spectrum, one end values policies that give liberty to women over their bodies, the other end values policies that do not interrupt pregnancy at all costs, and the rest are somewhere on this spectrum.
Public Policy on Birth Control
Incredibly important is how one’s personal philosophy and supported public policy on abortion is intertwined with birth control.
- Unfettered access, easily accessible. Contraception services available over-the-counter for all persons in urban and rural contexts alike.
- Some restrictions, easily accessible. Contraception services available with restrictions (prescriptions in some cases) for all persons in urban and rural contexts alike.
- All birth control (including surgical). Contraception services available including IUD surgical implants and other hormonal-based remedies. For some, this includes abortion as it is a surgical birth control method.
- No birth control beyond chemical. Contraception services are limited to chemical and drug-based approaches, as well as physical barriers. For some, this includes chemical abortions as they can only be done up to a certain date.
- No birth control after sexual activity. Contraception allowed and available up until sexual activity, but if they fail, then there’s no birth control available.
- No birth control, no exceptions. Period.
On this spectrum, one end values policies that give liberty to women to choose when and how to be pregnant, the other end values policies that do not prevent pregnancy at all costs, and the rest are somewhere on this spectrum.
How does this help the Conversation?
There’s a variety of Progressive stances when it comes to Abortion and other forms of contraception. The three most common forms that I’ve encountered are:
- A Progressive can be pro-choice and support accessible abortion and birth control.
- A Progressive can be pro-life and support accessible abortion and birth control.
- A Progressive can be pro-life, oppose accessible abortion, and support accessible birth control.
In these three areas, we see areas of common belief with those who are conservative/traditional and are likely Pro-Life.
But most importantly, what it means is that the “progressive position” is quite fluid and so individuals should feel like they can speak up on this topic and can offer clarity on the difference between personal philosophy and public policy. We don’t need to apologize for or be pigeonholed by any event, or feel shamed into silence. We can speak with conviction and be clear about what is personal and what is political for us.
Which combination is the most effective?
For many Pro-Life and Pro-Choice persons, reducing the number of abortions requested is a common goal. Colorado recently detailed how providing unfettered access to birth control dropped their teen pregnancy rate by over 40%. Many Pro-Life and Pro-Choice folks find common ground on providing contraception coverage as the effect is that fewer people request abortions. But the lines are drawn when Pro-Choicers remind others that abortion is part of birth control efforts.
But for the most part, there’s a difference between accessible and access. Accessible means that there’s physical locations in proximity to the majority of women. Access means who has permission to obtain those services. While public policy has trumpeted closing down abortion clinics, it’s better for those to remain open and to help women who seek those services find out if they are eligible. Accessibility is highly important–especially when it comes to contraception.
This is the kick-off for a variety of posts on the topic of Progressive Christianity and reproductive choice, so more is coming. But at the outset, how does the graph work for you?