I have a 5 foot 3 friend who was repeatedly raped by a 6 foot 7 man who told her over and over that when he was done with her, he would kill her. Others intervened and she was saved. The police detective who “saved” her then used her as his sex slave. She became pregnant. She privately had an abortion. She is a devout woman, and was in church the day her elderly, rosy-cheeked priest, a man she adored, preached strongly against abortion. She said to him at the door, “But women who need abortions will go to the back alleys if abortion is illegal, and some will die.” “As well they should,” her beloved priest told her. [I heard her tell this story in a public setting.]
I thought about this when the Susan G. Komen Foundation [SGK] made the decision to stop its funding for Planned Parenthood’s [PP] breast cancer program. Supporters of PP said the defunding was a political decision because PP also provides abortion services. When backlash caused SGK to put PP back into its budget, people against PP said it was a political decision. It WAS a political decision. Both times.
Komen made the mistake of losing its central vision. Komen is about one thing, breast cancer. When it began to look through the lens of abortion and politics and fund raising and “investigations,” it lost its focus.
It had pressures, of course. Folks who see only through one lens want everyone else to look through that exclusive lens, too. “Pro-life” forces saw the chance to defund PP abortion programs by getting SGK to stop funding PP’s breast cancer programs. “Pro-choice” advocates pushed back.
Abortion is an important issue. It needs to be debated and discussed. There are appropriate venues for doing that. Breast cancer is not one of them.
“Now that I have cancer…” that was the way I started every sentence after my 53rd birthday, because everything was different. Cancer was the hinge that closed the door on my former life and opened a door into a very scary future. Cancer gave me a new lens for looking at life, and that new lens gave me a chance to get back into myself, to see myself whole, to recapture my central vision.
People who look through a single lens see everything through that lens. That is okay. That may be their central vision. But because I look at life through a specific lens doesn’t mean you have to.
Not everything can best be viewed through the lens of abortion rights, or gun rights, or gay rights. Not everything is about taxes or national security.
I’m a cancer survivor. I’m the father and brother-in-law of breast cancer survivors. I’m the son and brother of cancer victims. I’m the brother and grandfather and husband of cancer survivors. I don’t want the vision of folks whose primary mission, who look through the lens of cancer cure, to have their vision distorted. But that does not need to be the vision lens for everyone.
Sen. John Kyl famously stated on the Senate floor that abortion “…is well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does.” PP says abortion is about 3% of its services. Independent estimates put it at between 3 and 10%. Kyl later said his statement “…was not meant to be factual.”
When Donald Trump weighed in on abortion while a presidential candidate, he was excoriated for being unprepared. He said that women who get abortions should be punished. The pro-birth forces have always said publicly that the goal is to make abortion criminal, to criminalize only abortion providers, not abortion recipients, while fully intending to get to the point that abortion recipients would be criminalized, too. The Donald did not understand that political forces don’t want some goals revealed publicly.
Which lens you use makes all the difference. Pro-birth folks start by saying abortion is murder. Pro-choice folk start by saying women have a right to control their own bodies. Theologically, if you start with the power of
God, you get predestination. If you start with the love of God, you get grace.
When Christians consider a matter such as abortion, it is important to look through the central lens—God—and not through some more narrow, secondary lens stuck in front of our eyes by some political force.
I’m not at all satisfied with this little essay. I have not said what needs to be said very clearly at all, but it’s the best I can do. Sorry.
I tweet as yooper1721.
My book, NOW THAT I HAVE CANCER I AM WHOLE: Reflections on Life and Healing for Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them is published by AndrewsMcmeel. It is available in paperback, ebook, audio, Czech, and Japanese.