As I headed home for spring break last week, I thought I would return with an impeccable junior paper, a rested body, and settled summer plans. Needless to say, none of these things happened. I spent time with my parents and dog, enjoyed the outdoors, and found great nostalgic treasures in my childhood room. But whenever I opened my computer I was dismayed to read a seemingly endless string of reports detailing the increasing threats to resources for women’s health, access to contraception, and protection against violence. I scrolled through each article in disbelief that these discussions could happen in 2012.
Here are some articles that that caught my eye over the past week:
- “A Doctor Speaks: ‘Horrific’ Arizona Law Would Allow Doctors to Practice Bad Medicine Without Accountability” RH Reality Check March 10, 2012 http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/03/09/az-allowing-doctors-to-practice-bad-medicine
- “Senate judiciary committee endorses controversial contraceptive bill” Statepress.com March 12, 2012 http://www.statepress.com/2012/03/12/senate-judiciary-committee-endorses-controversial-contraceptive-bill/
- “Mitt Romney On Planned Parenthood: We Will ‘Get Rid’ Of it” Huffington Post March 13, 2012 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/13/mitt-romney-planned-parenthood_n_1343450.html
- “Goodbye, Texas Women’s Health Program,” RH Reality Check March 13, 2012 http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/03/13/goodbye-texas-womens-health-program
- “Women Figure Anew in Senate’s Latest Battle,” New York Times. March 14, 2012 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/15/us/politics/violence-against-women-act-divides-senate.html?scp=6&sq=women&st=cse
To be honest, I’m still processing my thoughts on how to respond to all of these issues. It seems like those who attack contraception, abortion, etc. base their claims on the belief that such practices threaten the church and the American family. This confuses me. I’ve attended church pretty consistently since I was eight (first, a Lutheran church in Maryland–now at Memorial Church here in Harvard Yard). I received my first communion, was confirmed as a voting member of my church, and was heavily involved in our youth group. I’ve learned both implicitly and explicitly that individuals and their decisions deserve respect, that people of all genders can be excellent leaders, and people with different political and religious beliefs can still form a supportive community. For example, many of my childhood church leaders were women who either ran my confirmation class, conducted the church choir, or served the congregation as associate pastors. I’ve stood by them during service trips, chili cook-offs, and making sure that our church was prepared for the Jewish reform community that on Saturdays shared our sanctuary. They have shown me how a Christian community could be inclusive and positive. Admittedly, I’ve never had a conversation with any of my pastors about sex, abortion, or birth control. Instead, I’ve had countless discussions regarding the power of tolerance, compassion, respect, and most importantly love. I consider these lessons (as well as the ones that my parents have instilled) to be the basis of the moral and ethical code that I frequently employ in my gender equity work. My church and my family (composed of liberals, conservatives, and apathetics) have taught me to accept rather than to reject.
Today, my ability to accept dissent is challenged by hateful words and alarming actions. Usually I am a really positive person. Not quite skipping-in-a–meadow–with–singing–birds positive but I’m pretty high on the upbeat scale. Reading these reports, however, has really challenged my belief that differences can be tolerated with grace in the 21st century.
But after this initial reflection, I think it’s safe to say that I believe that women should have access to safe abortions, that all genders should be safe from domestic violence, and that taking the Pill is not a reflection of the moral standing of any individual. I accept that women have the ability to make judgments regarding their own bodies and I respect their decisions. I have compassion for those who face violence in their own homes and am in awe of their strength to endure. I acknowledge that sex should not be a concept that we fear and loathe, but a tool that brings people together in powerfully intimate ways.
I believe that these conclusions are not in conflict with my experience in the Christian church. Instead, my beliefs surrounding women’s reproductive health are immersed in the same lessons that I was taught as a child—tolerance, compassion, respect, love. If policy surrounding women’s health must be dominated by Christian themes, I wish that it would return to these first Sunday School lessons. Differences will always exist, but hopefully we can reinstate a common commitment to positive and respectful progress.