Author Rachel Held Evans has gained notoriety in Christian circles in recent years as a “progressive Christian.” Now she’s making waves on Facebook by asserting that we can’t suddenly strip Planned Parenthood of its funding.
Progressive Christianity is a liberal religion that leans more toward social justice, saving the earth, and even multiple views of Jesus’ purpose. A website devoted to progressive Christianity says it:
Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey
Progressive Christianity includes churches that are part of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a pro-abortion advocacy organization that includes the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian USA, Evangelical Lutherans and Episcopal Church.
Thus, it was not a surprise when Evans posted a status on Facebook that was mixed on the pro-life issue, saying she was pro-life but also doesn’t think defunding Planned Parenthood is the best idea; in fact, she says, that might actually increase abortions. Her rant was more a laundry list of all that is wrong with the pro-life movement in her view.
Many problems exist with the statements Evans makes here. First, there is no halfway on issues of life and death, so her opening, “I’m pro-life but…” is problematic in itself. The saying goes “when you say but, you cancel everything you just said before it,” and that’s what Evans does. Essentially, she says that by getting rid of the funding that supports the place that does 40 percent of all the abortions in the nation, where 94 percent of its services go to abortion, that we will actually increase abortion because we just haven’t thought this through enough to do it.
When babies are being shredded from the womb and picked apart in the lab and sold to researchers, we don’t stop and think about a plan to ease out of it happening; if we are pro-life, we stop it. Period.
However, a bigger problem with her post is ignorance. She says:
[C]ompletely defunding Planned Parenthood with no plan to replace its other services (like offering affordable contraception, gynecological services, and prenatal care to underprivileged women), could actually lead to more abortions.
This is simply not true. There are more clinics in the nation that provide every one of the services she mentions to underprivileged women than there are Planned Parenthood facilities. Additionally, Evans seems to think that services like prenatal care are dominant at Planned Parenthood when quite the opposite is true. Consider the numbers: According to Planned Parenthood’s own annual report, its prenatal services served 18,684 women, while its abortion total for the same report was 327,653. Evans has Planned Parenthood’s priorities reversed, but is using her public platform and the “Christian” label to do it.
But Evans’ own words show she is divided on the issue of abortion anyway. In a blog she wrote in 2013 entitled, “Why Progressive Christians Should Care About Abortion,” Evans says:
As I advocated for the election (and re-election) of President Obama, I confess I grew somewhat embarrassed by the pro-life cause.… Sometimes it seemed like abortion was the only social justice issue my evangelical friends cared about, so they turned a blind eye to the ways in which Republican politics might hurt other disadvantaged groups, or turned my advocacy on behalf of other causes (like gender equality, trafficking, peace, healthcare reform, gun control, etc.) as an opportunity to make a statement about the horrors of abortion in comparison.
Evans gets caught up in the lie that because we have other important social issues, as well as flaws, which merit our concern (true) we can’t passionately advocate for the end of abortion (false). Her reasoning resembles that of Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards who declared that fetal tissue research was “laudable” because researchers were working on an Ebola vaccine, as if the death of a baby is the only way to develop a vaccine, so that death cancels out the moral wrong of abortion. Evans departs from biblical Christianity to defend a social justice cause that is apart from the Bible. This is also not surprising since she says she doesn’t know when life begins. In the same blog, she writes:
And when I was honest with myself, I had to admit that I don’t know exactly when life begins (at fertilization? at the first heartbeat? at the existence of brain waves?). Does the Bible, or Christian tradition, really make this abundantly clear? There is even disagreement among Christians about this, (and historically, even among evangelicals), so was it really my place to deny a woman who has been raped, for example, access to a morning-after pill?
It’s always wrong.
When the life or health of the mother is at stake?
In the case of rape or incest?
When a woman’s body naturally disposes of a zygote?
Perhaps this is why she supports some abortion, why she advocates for contraception and puts down those who oppose it—making no distinction between abortifacient contraception and their pro-life counterparts. No wonder she thinks we can’t just defund the abortion provider.
Ironically, Evans uses her “pro-life” post from 2013 to condemn the acts of Kermit Gosnell who crushed the skulls of babies born alive in his abortion clinic, just as it seems Planned Parenthood may be doing. She condemns Gosnell for tearing apart babies, but the comments she makes in light of the Planned Parenthood scandal suggest she isn’t quite sure that we can defund a place that might be doing the same now. Instead, Evans uses the “but they do so much good” argument mixed with a dose of “we need more social programs.”
More social programs are good, but defunding Planned Parenthood should be a non-negotiable. To Evans, it’s not even a good idea. Her progressive Christian flavor is actually a step backwards into darkness.