By Noel Paul Stookey
As the builders of the American Constitution forbade the creation of a state religion while guaranteeing the freedom of worship, the resultant balance produced by this simultaneous restriction and privilege draws us as American citizens into a situation not unlike what courts might refer to as personal recognizance – that is, the encouragement of individual faith by the inhibition of state religion.
And this delicate balance between the competing concerns of faith and society is also found in us as individuals. Given the complexity of the multi-leveled concerns that make up the abortion issue, it seems to me that the original Roe vs. Wade decision was not a ruling about the rightness or wrongness of abortion but more particularly a high court’s considered opinion as to whether, and to what degree, a person’s moral accountability is to God or to the state.
In a country, as diverse in its ethnic base as America, some concerns of the individual cultures will blend and some will not. For instance, I hold as true that the uniqueness of personhood is present at conception even though it is a fact that a child in the womb is not physically separate from the mother. However, while I may feel spiritually certain that a mother and child are each known uniquely in the Mind of God, it is after all my certainty and possibly not that of the woman actually bearing the child.
Therefore, it seems that what is understood as true for one of us may not be necessarily understood as true for another until or depending upon such time as another’s faith might allow. And while pregnancy may represent a joy and a promise to one, it very well may be an overwhelming responsibility and danger to another.
Then, of course, there is the matter of the “mandated baby.” If the mother is forced to bring the pregnancy to full term, who then bears the responsibility for the infant should the mother still not want the child after birthing? Will the child become a ward of the state? There’s something very Orwellian about the concept of several million babies per year becoming orphans of the state.
Though many of us have learned that hardships bring growth, maturity and wisdom, there is no temporal law that commands us to face hardships with nobility and trust and faith; that is rather for us to discover. If we “render unto Caesar” our moral accountability, we will inevitably find that we have sacrificed the personal freedoms of future generations.
It is truly lamentable that “unborn” die daily, victims of a battle that began before their conception. But similarly, coercion, violence, selfishness, manipulation and ignorance will not cease simply because we pass a law forbidding them. One cannot engender within another heart, by the passage of a law, the understanding of the preciousness of life or a vision of pregnancy in its miraculous nature any more than the granting of a marriage license can ensure the desire to make a marriage work.
Some things we must learn for ourselves … in Love.
Singer/songwriter Noel Paul Stookey of Blue Hill originally wrote this piece in 1992, “as a result of marching in a pro-choice rally and challenged by those who saw my participation as a sign of my ‘falling away’ from the Christian faith.”