I don’t write public posts about abortion on social media.
This sometimes racks me with guilt. I have strong feelings about abortion. Why don’t I speak out?
This blog is not about my opinion on abortion.
This blog is about WHY I don’t write about abortion.
It’s not just abortion I don’t write about but a range of topics like LGBTQ+ issues or euthanasia. Part of the problem is this: these topics are highly emotive, highly personal in experience and highly unique in experience.
Abortion is the one I’m mostly NOT writing about at the moment, even though it’s the topic most on my mind.
The laws concerning abortion have just been debated and changed in my state parliament. My Facebook feed has been full of emotionally charged posts about the law change. It has been so overwhelming I stopped looking at Facebook.
Then I feel guilty for not participating in a debate I do care about.
Here is my personal dilemma: I hate the idea of an unborn child 22 weeks gestation being aborted because I didn’t speak out. Equally, I would hate for a woman who has had an abortion to feel shamed and condemned because I did speak out.
And right now, I know some of my dear readers are yelling at me in outrage and may have already left this blog.
Those still reading perhaps share the same dilemma as me.
This is my main issue: I have not experienced an abortion.
I have not walked in the shoes of a woman who has had to face the complex reality of an abortion. Neither have I been the sister, mother, partner, or mother of the partner affected by abortion.
Same with LGBTQ+ issues. I am straight and so are my children and immediate family (at least that I know of). So I don’t feel I can speak out with any real credibility.
I do speak out publicly about women’s rights because I have experienced first hand, on multiple occasions, discrimination because I am a woman. I have been disadvantaged, disregarded and abused because I am a woman. I have also researched this topic over many years. On this issue I have cred. I have experience.
It is about now I argue with myself.
So Elissa, does that mean you wouldn’t speak out publicly about slavery or human trafficking because you don’t have first hand experience? This again is my dilemma, I know I would speak out, in fact I have. So how is this different?
This is the difference: While I do not have a personal experience with abortion, I do have ministry experience with abortion. I have prayed with women who have wept primal sounds of grief over an abortion. It often has taken years of wrestling with shame to come to a place where they felt secure enough to even share it with one person. It was such a deep honour that they would share their grief with me.
I have observed their experience with abortion was fraught with complexities, with layers of emotional entanglements, a raw experience that left their souls vulnerable. I fear if I speak out about abortion, their experience will be diminished to a sound bite. I fear entering the political arena of debate will over simplify and diminish the intensity of their experience.
I fear in speaking out publicly, I will inadvertently strip away the dignity and grace these women deserve as they privately heal.
So I stay silent.
I have prayed with a grandmother grieving the loss of a grandchild to abortion.
I also have prayed with women who are in horrific marriages because they married only because she was pregnant.
I have prayed for women who have struggled financially because they are single mum’s.
I have prayed with women who are infertile and would move heaven and earth to be able to adopt.
I have prayed with mothers who secretly helped their Christian unmarried daughter get an abortion.
I have prayed with women who have become pregnant after a rape.
I have prayed with mothers of severely disabled children.
Each of these stories can be connected to the issue of abortion in some way.
And I feel a deep need to protect the dignity of each one of these women.
Then I argue with myself, well Elissa, wouldn’t it be a way to honour them if you did speak out? Perhaps, but I am not confident I could do it with complete grace and dignity. And that fear keeps me quiet. I don’t see that fear as wrong, I see it as a healthy fear.
Just as I see this dilemma- to speak or not to speak – as a healthy discomfort.
So I continue to wrestle with this issue: when do I go public? When do I risk being trolled? When do I risk being accused as judgmental or ignorant or any other harsh criticism?
For I know women who have chosen to speak out and it has cost them personally. Some receive death threats. But they keep speaking out because their conviction is so strong.
What I admire about those women I know, who have gone public with their convictions, is they speak from a place of honour and grace. I have never seen them name call, or be vicious or attack a person. I applaud them.
They challenge me, come on Elissa, can you be courageous, can you be a woman of conviction?
Other times I see vigorous and stimulating public debate degenerate into nothing more that name calling and vicious attacks. No one seems humble or honest enough to examine their opinions. They simply dig in their heels and argue even more violently. I think of Paul’s advice to Timothy, “Do not have anything to do with foolish and stupid discussions, because you know they breed arguments” (2 Timothy 2:23).
I HATE it when it gets ugly.
I am outraged by Christians who blow up abortion clinics or shake hate placards at clinic entrances. I am outraged by pro-choice advocates who yell obscenities and death threats 5 cm from the face of those peacefully and gracefully protesting law changes.
I fear my own righteous passion could deteriorate into dangerous indignities and reckless hate. This fear keeps me silent in the public arena.
However, in my personal arena I do express my beliefs concerning abortion by signing petitions, engaging with lobbyists and by using my vote thoughtfully. I also have face to face conversations about abortion with people, in which I can fully engage honorably not just with their opinions but with their experiences and emotions.
But for speaking out publicly, I still struggle. I’m not sure I have found complete peace over this dilemma. Much as I fear trolling, becoming bitter or hurting someone, I fear apathy more.
So I will keep arguing with myself. I will keep feeling uncomfortable. I will keep wrestling. I will keep changing. I will keep doing this because there are many, many things I am not sure about. That doesn’t freak me out, that’s the challenge of life.
There is one thing however I am sure about: GRACE is always superior to judgement.
So until I’m sure about how to engage publicly with an issue, I will just keep choosing grace.
by Elissa Macpherson
author, speaker (on topics on which she has cred), lover of glitter and laughter.