The recent swell of anti-abortion legislation is infuriating. What Alabama has signed into law — denying access to abortion even in cases of rape and incest — lacks both compassion and common sense. This legislation is fueled by anger and misogyny. It is intended to punish women by removing their agency from them. The people behind this legislation have political ends in mind. They don’t care a whit about the women it will negatively affect.
I will not be silent because I have skin in this game. One of the major themes in my memoir RUINED is that my recovery after being raped at gunpoint hinged on my ability to exercise my agency. It angers me that many people — often identifying as Christian — seem hell-bent on taking women’s agency away from them, even around this intensely personal and private matter.
To me, this matter is not a political abstraction. I have experienced the inflexibility of evangelicalism’s black-and-white thinking on the subject. While my memoir was in the editing process, one of the later chapters was pulled, one that I felt was crucial to the flow of the book. In it I described a church service I attended five years after being raped. It happened to be “Right to Life Sunday” and the preacher’s sermon was a harangue against the evils of abortion. The day is etched in my memory. I was trapped in my seat, sobbing. I could too easily imagine what my life would have been if I had gotten pregnant from that rape, and if I had been forced to carry that pregnancy to term. The man behind the pulpit had no idea what he was saying. He had zero skin in the game. All he had was an idea between his ears — and likely no willingness to recognize the real motivation behind that idea.
Pulling that chapter was devastating to me for two reasons. The events I described in that chapter not only crystallized the ways I changed during the process of recovery, but also led directly to my leaving the Christian Reformed denomination (where I’d grown up) and finding the larger embrace of the Presbyterian Church. This was a crucial development and I feared that pulling the chapter would leave a plot hole. Besides, I didn’t know how else to convey how God used the events of two consecutive Sundays — two very different church services — to guide me into a new future, one in a new church home.
But the publisher was adamant. Any whiff of tolerance for abortion — even in cases of rape — and even though I hadn’t actually had an abortion — would ruin my book’s chance for success. Bloggers would denounce it, unread. Their audience would boycott it. My work and words would be wasted.
I was grateful for the opportunity to publish the memoir, so I rewrote a different sort of bridge to explain why I left one church for the other. And the finished product was, by any objective measure, a good book — it won a 2017 Book of the Year award from Christianity Today Women, which is an evangelical hub. It also received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.
But after all was said and done, I still felt feisty about the changes I’d been forced to make. After all, someone from the outside had tinkered with my story. So within a few months of the memoir’s publication (and with the blessing of the publisher) I rewrote the pulled chapter as a stand-alone piece and submitted it to Sojourners. The article ended up winning an Honorable Mention from the Associated Church Press.
Women are children of God, made in the Image of God, with free will. A woman’s ability to act as her own agent is essential. I dislike abortion as much as any thinking person does, but I will fight for a women’s right to make that decision for herself.
A person can be a Christian without opposing abortion in all cases. Don’t let the fear of being branded a heretic keep you silent. Speak out against this legislative violence against women.