The Supreme Court will listen again to another anti-abortion niggle -- and therefore, It is time to positively repeat the moral argument in favor of what the Court has already decided. I write with great weariness. We have done this before. It is painful to have to fight for what is already won, even more painful for one Christian to have to argue with another one about the freedom of the human to make choices. It is sad as well to see the constant struggle -- now initiated by a toy and hobby company -- about women being choice making human beings. What is it about women that the religious right can't tolerate? Is it that important for us to be sub-human? Do that many people really think of women as toys or hobbies or second-class citizens? Apparently, yes. The core argument needs to be made again, no matter how hoarse we are in making it.
Abortion can be a highly moral choice for a woman. The distortion of our faiths to anti-woman and anti-scientific and anti-medical rhetoric proves catastrophic for women and children and their families. This argument demeans the sexuality of women and treats them like children with adult bodies.
There is a pragmatic argument that sneakily demeans women as moral agents. Unwanted pregnancies cause poverty and release unprepared children into a world that increasingly refuses to sustain them. But that "practical" argument is not why women can have morally good abortions. We can have morally good abortions because we are human beings, with God-given rights to human agency, just like men.
Women are moral agents. Women are capable of making soulful, moral decisions about their own bodies. Assuming that a woman cannot decide for herself if and when to bear a child demeans women. Mandatory childbearing makes the woman a hostage to the will of others -- those unfamiliar with her story, her life experience and her needs, and may have disastrous consequences for the children. Medical choices, like terminating a pregnancy, are medically available. Other life sustaining medical procedures are not considered immoral. Why the complaint against abortion?
Our faith tradition teaches soul competency, a Baptist principle that is violated in restricting the right to choose an abortion. Our forebears suffered greatly, even to the point of death, to express their conviction that no one stands between the individual and God.
Furthermore, it is a it is God-given right to hold your own belief and to reject state-sponsored religion. This is the core Baptist principle of soul competency -- belief in the ability of each person to "rightly divide the word of God" (2 Timothy 2: 15) and act accordingly. Each person and each community of believers has the right to follow the dictates of their conscience, without compulsion from authoritative structures. Therefore, current legislation restricting women's reproductive choice also restricts moral choice. To restrict a woman's choice is to refuse her soul freedom.
Our faith tradition teaches freedom for religion and freedom from religion. As powerful as the U.S. Constitution must have seemed at its inception, Baptists were not satisfied that it would protect their most deeply held principles. "We, as a society," they wrote President Washington, "feared that the liberty of conscience, dearer to us than property or life, was not sufficiently secured." The pressure they brought helped in the adoption of the Bill of Rights, in which the very first amendment defines two critical tenets of our society: the separation of church and state and the free exercise of religion. To privilege one spiritual belief over another violates religious freedom. Theocratic legislation is neither Baptist nor, fundamentally, American.
Our foundation of Baptist principles and our Christian call to advocate for justice provide a powerful theological grounding for our unwavering support for a woman's individual freedom to choose whether and how to bear children.
Sexual relations are holy, spiritual exchanges, and as such, should be entered into with consent, respect, and a joyous heart. Consenting adults are free to decide whether or not to have sex. Consenting adults are free to have sex that is not procreative. The state should not dictate reproductive decisions, either in favor of or in opposition to carrying a child to term.
As Christians, as Baptists, we wearily say, the right to choose a medical procedure is also a woman's right. It has to do fundamentally with the freedom of our souls to practice our religion and morality in our own ways.