Harry Knox, the controversial member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, stirred things up again with his recent Huffington Post piece, “Why Religious People Should Support the Rights of Women in Reproductive Decisions.” Knox writes that since “God’s love encompasses all creation,” God loves women who have abortions. And he’s right. Of course God loves women who have abortions, just as he loves child abusers and serial killers and Osama bin Laden. But loving someone and supporting that person’s choices are two completely different things.
Knox claims that many religious people actually support expanded abortion laws but keep quiet out of fear. He goes on to give six reasons why every religious person should lend support to supposed reproductive rights, including abortion.
The first reason is quite simple. Knox claims that because people of faith value human life, including a woman and her “potential child,” many religious groups support abortion in order to ensure that every child is a wanted child.
Using the word “potential” to describe an unborn human being implies that an embryo or fetus has the potential to grow into something other than a newborn or toddler and, eventually, an adult. There is nothing else the unborn are designed to be except for what they already are: unique, individual human beings. In addition, as Jean Staker Garton, co-founder of Lutherans for Life, said, “[t]o say a child is unwanted says nothing about the child, but it says much about the person who does not want his or her child.”
There is no reason to punish a child with death because her mother doesn’t want or can’t handle the responsibility of caring for her own baby. The life of that child still holds value and should be respected. Any religious group that supports abortion in an effort to give each child a loving family is missing the mark. Being wanted does not necessarily lead to a happy, stable life. And being unwanted by birth parents does not sentence a person to a life of pain and misery. However, when abortion is used as a solution to a concern, the only outcome for that life is a brutal death.
Knox’s second point concerning why religious groups should support abortion is that “[w]e have a sacred responsibility to support the rights of women in this process [reproduction] because women have the responsibility of bearing children.”
While a pregnant woman does have the responsibility of caring for the life of her child for the entire nine months of pregnancy and of giving birth to her child, she is not legally obligated to care for the child after birth if she chooses not to. She can give the child to the father to raise. She can give the child to her parents or another family member to raise. She can give the child up for adoption to a family that she chooses. She can also drop the baby off at a hospital with no questions asked.
Yes, women have the physical responsibility of bearing children, but they are not forced to take responsibility for children once the children are born. Religious groups should not support abortion and deny a child a lifetime of living because a woman is unwilling to give her unborn child a mere nine months of her time and care.
Reason number three, according to Knox, is that religious groups and all religious people have “an obligation to contribute – as other organizations do – to ethically grounded policy on sexuality and reproduction.”
Ethical, as described by Dictionary.com, means “pertaining to or dealing with morals or the principles of morality; pertaining to right and wrong in conduct.” Therefore, ethically grounded policy would be policy that adheres to the main beliefs of a group of people. A truly religious person who believes that abortion is wrong cannot support it because it goes against the main beliefs that there is a God who is the Creator, that God is the only one who can take a life, and that any child who is killed by abortion has a soul that has gone on to be with God. Additionally, to be American means that we value life and that we value our beliefs. To toss beliefs aside and watch innocent lives be destroyed goes against not only what religion is about, but also what the United States is about.
The fourth reason that Knox gives for religious groups to support legal abortion is that “God has endowed women with free will and the ability to make moral decisions. Free will isn’t a matter of politics or ideology and it’s not to be exercised only when it’s convenient.”
Abortion isn’t a matter of politics, either, although it appears that way. It is actually a matter of life and death, of discrimination, of one person’s supposed legal right to end the life of another human being. God gave us free will. Does that therefore mean that we are free to rape, to abuse our children, or to steal? There are consequences to many actions done out of free will. Having free will doesn’t validate those actions. Those who provide abortions, those who receive abortions, and groups who support abortion are exercising their free will bestowed by God – but at the cost of millions of innocent lives. And in the United States, costing a person her life is considered a punishable crime.
In point number five, Knox writes that “[r]eproductive rights are central to the lives of women and girls.” He believes this is especially true for women who are “economically marginalized[,]” because poor women have unintended pregnancy rates four times higher than the average woman. Therefore, without access to abortion, these underprivileged women would be forced to raise a child whom they couldn’t care for. His solution is for religious groups to, rather than help and support the new mother in the care of her child or with adoption services, tell her that her best option is to kill her baby because she obviously doesn’t have the means, and therefore the right, to keep her child.
Religious groups who support abortion over assistance with food, clothing, and medical needs are not doing God’s work. They are allowing an innocent life to be squashed because it’s easier for them to walk away than to donate time or money to actually help.
Finally, Knox’s last reason why religious groups should support abortion is because he says abortion is not just a medical decision, but also a decision of conscience. He argues that, since different religions have differing views on abortion, outlawing it would mean denying religious freedom to those religious groups who do accept abortion.
First, Obama’s health care mandate is all about denying religious freedoms, but since it mainly denies the religious freedoms of the Catholic Church, Knox isn’t concerned. Second, if a religious group believes in beating children, should child abuse be legal in order to support that religious freedom? Should we all turn a blind eye because it is a parent’s “decision of conscience” whether or not to beat her child to death? Christian Fundamentalists Michael and Debi Pearl created the book To Train Up a Child which includes suggestions that parents hit infants.
Once he learns that the reward of a tantrum is a swift, forceful spanking, he will NEVER throw another fit. … If a parent starts at infancy, discouraging the first crying demands, the child will never develop the habit. (page 84)
Free will and decisions of conscience allow us only certain freedoms in this country. They do not allow us to harm or kill other people, which is exactly what abortion does.
Knox is trying hard to win support for abortion by attempting to convince the largest anti-abortion groups – the religious – to become pro-abortion in the name of God. He is exercising the free will God imparted to him to go against God’s teachings. This may gain him the popular vote among liberals, but it won’t win him a spot in Heaven.