Over the last few days, I have been struggling to understand how to move forward in a post-Roe vs. Wade society. Don’t worry, I’m not one to raise the banner for Pro-Choice or Pro-Life. I don’t feel like either perspective takes into consideration the complexity of abortion. Instead, I would argue that our stance, especially as Christians, should be Pro-Love. Being Pro-Love looks beyond a woman’s choice and the sanctity of life and looks into the underlying issues that some of us either ignore or do not understand. I cannot help but think about this issue in light of some of the practical and ethical things that must change in our society in order to try to move toward a world without a need for abortion.
Like many other evils in our world, I would love to live in a world where abortion is not a necessity for some women. But this would mean that rape does not exist. This would mean that women are provided with the healthcare they need to address physical concerns that may complicate their pregnancy and jeopardize their health or the health of the baby. This would mean that the medical, psychological, financial, and social needs of every child would be provided for without question. This would mean that women would not have to live in fear of bringing a child into an abusive environment. This would mean that we would actually see one another as children of God, fully loved and fully worthy of being loved.
Sadly, we do not live in this world. I am not a pessimist when it comes to the way that I view the world. In fact, I do believe that “The whole earth is filled with his [God’s] glory” (Isaiah 6:3 New Living Translation). Satan does not have dominion over the world. We are called to be God’s light in our world so that people can see God’s glory. I also believe that we are called to have compassion toward one another. Henri Nouwen says that “Compassion is daring to acknowledge our mutual destiny so that we might all move forward all together into the land which God is showing us” (Nouwen 57). We are called to live in community with one another – those who are followers of Jesus Christ and those who are not. In order to show God’s light in our world, our call is to love. I am not sure if this decision about Roe vs. Wade is completely about love. It might be about something much different.
There are several issues that I am concerned about when it comes to banning abortions in states across the U.S. The first is the fact that several states that have banned abortions either completely or mostly also have state mandated abstinence only sex education for middle and high school students. The second issue is the crisis that we are facing as a country in our foster care system. In order to move toward a society where abortion is not necessary or is very rare, we must first address these two issues along with countless others. Roe vs. Wade has been overturned, but the work is far from being over.
As a public school teacher, I walk the balance between living my life as a Christian and respecting the autonomy of my students and their families. It is clear that we are beginning to live in a post-Christian world. This means that the increase of atheists in our communities is rising. According to Pew Research, the highest numbers of third generation atheists are 18-49 years of age. This suggests that since more people of child-bearing age are atheists than those past child-bearing age that the children of atheists will more than likely become atheists themselves. In public schools, many children do not adhere to Judeo-Christian beliefs or any religious beliefs at all. However, instead of focusing on medically proven methods of pregnancy and STD prevention, some states are requiring abstinence only programs in middle and high school settings. Abstinence is not just a religious value; many who are nonreligious also encourage their children to remain abstinent until adulthood. Yet, it seems that the view of abstinence amongst Christian teens is not as staunch as it once was. In conversations with teens in former youth groups, I heard that many of them did not value “waiting until marriage” as teens from Christian homes once did.
I agree that abstinence is the most effective way of preventing pregnancy and STDs. I agree that the following criteria should also be taught in a comprehensive sex education course in middle and high schools across the United States:
|Federal Statutory Definition of Abstinence Education|
|A. has as its exclusive purpose teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity|
|B. teaches abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard for all school-age children|
|C. teaches that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems|
|D. teaches that a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of sexual activity|
|E. teaches that sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects|
|F. teaches that bearing children out-of-wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child’s parents, and society|
|G. teaches young people how to reject sexual advances and how alcohol and drug use increase vulnerability to sexual advances|
|H. teaches the importance of attaining self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activity|
I do not believe that education on human sexuality should end here, especially in public schools. Comprehensive sex education should include medically accurate and age-appropriate information along with information about contraceptives, especially the use of condoms. Again, I would love to live in a world where teens do not have sex because I do believe that sex before marriage or before being in a committed relationship can have potentially negative life long effects. But as I said earlier, we do not live in that world. Since we do not live in that world, I believe that it is ethical and appropriate to teach students ways to prevent pregnancy and STDs outside of abstinence.
Sadly, many of the states that have recently banned abortion in most cases and many states that will shortly ban abortions in most cases also have abstinence only sex education in public schools. The following is a list as of today, June 28, 2022:
States with abstinence only education who have banned abortion:
- North Dakota
As I conducted research today in preparing to write this blog, I also found that many schools receive federal grant money specifically to provide for their sex education courses. This includes programs that teach comprehensive sex education along with schools that teach abstinence only. In 2017, $299 million in grant money was distributed to schools to provide for sex education programs. Almost 1/3 of the funding went to schools that began abstinence only programs, equalling a total of $90 million. Since 2017, an additional $10 million has been added to support abstinence only sex education courses in the Unites States. However, the numbers do not show that abstinence only actually prevents teen pregnancy or teens beginning sexual activity. Along with this, states that teach abstinence only have higher teen pregnancy rates than states that allow for more comprehensive sex education for teens.
In looking at the figure that shows teen pregnancy rates across the nation and comparing it to the list of states that teach abstinence only and have recently or will shortly ban abortions, we can see that many of these states have higher teen pregnancy rates than states that allow for comprehensive sex education. For example, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi have the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation, but they do not allow for comprehensive sex education. Texas and Tennessee have high teen pregnancy rates and also teach abstinence only. In my opinion, this is irresponsible and unethical. We have to do better.
If we want to live in a world where abortion is not a necessity for some women, then one way that we can start is by mandating comprehensive sex education across the nation, especially in states that have banned abortions in most circumstances. We may not want to live in a world where people have sex when they are unprepared to have a child, but we don’t. We live in a world where people make decisions that some of us would not make ourselves. However, I believe that the responsible thing to do is to at least start by teaching our teens about abstinence along with safe sex practices. Let’s be honest, some of them will have sex before they are prepared for the consequences. Education is the key to helping them make informed decisions. And more than anything, let’s do this out of love.
In my next blog, I will address the issue of the foster care system in America, an issue that as an adoptive mother and former foster mother is near to my heart.
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
― John Wesley
Bibliography (sources not linked above)
Nouwen, Henri. With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life. Ave Maria Press, 1972.