An article on the abortion issue that I thought was rather well-written:

From The Leader-Post (Regina):

Abortion issue should be personal, not political

Abortion came to the political forefront in the United States recently with President George W. Bush's nominations to the Supreme Court.

The battle was joined again.

Now, more than ever, we need to recognize that there is no single Christian perspective on abortion, no single ideology that passes scriptural muster, no one correct way for people of faith to think about this issue.

Some will try to make it simple, with slogans and shouted Bible verses, but that is just bullying. Like any other significant moral issue, the issue of abortion won't be resolved by demonizing those who hold opposing views, by making it artificially yes or no, or by bowing to the loudest shouter.

In my view, we must separate the decision to have an abortion from the politics of allowing legal abortion to occur.

Abortion is a personal and pastoral matter, more wrenching to the woman or couple involved than outsiders realize. Abortion isn't a casual form of birth control, but a difficult decision made by a variety of women for a variety of reasons, usually under stress.

My wish for any woman considering an abortion: a caring pastor, caring family, accurate information and a competent physician. By politicizing abortion, one sector of organized religion has abandoned its primary role as pastor and caregiver. How many women will seek religion's care when they know to expect the scorpion of judgment and condemnation? When abortion touches your life and your family, you need information, counsel and sound medical advice.

In my opinion, abortion doesn't merit the fury or political centrality being accorded it. Of the many moral issues that could merit our attention, abortion seems less frequent in occurrence than incest and addiction, and less damaging to the human community than, say, racism, systemic poverty and genocide. And yet, on this one issue, people square off angrily, and powerful institutions spend lavishly to sway public opinion and policy.

I think abortion is to our society what wearing the veil has become to Islamic fundamentalists: a way to balance a society's moral ledger by forcing something on women. I urge you to read Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi's poignant account of Islamic fundamentalism in Iran, where morality police forced women to wear the veil and to give up personal freedom, arguing that the future of both religion and state depended on it.

In my opinion, something similar is going on with abortion. The focus is entirely on women (not the men who impregnate them), on denying women a personal freedom, and on punishing women who are poor and vulnerable.

I don't buy the notion that abortion, politically, is about the sanctity of human life. If that sanctity truly mattered to people, then we would hear similar outcries against capital punishment, alcohol and drugs, tobacco, guns, warfare and other known threats to life. I think the abortion issue is about women's freedom, not about theories of life.

Nor do I buy political arguments on behalf of children not born. If we truly cared about children, we wouldn't be reducing health-care benefits, chipping away at government safety nets, exposing children to exploitative entertainment, or allowing children to spend 61/2 hours a day being electronically amused and intellectually deadened.

I don't doubt the sincerity of most people who care about abortion. I do notice, however, that opposition to abortion centres based on improving someone else's morality, a practice that Jesus cautioned against. I wish the same zeal could be applied to larger and less safe issues, such as allocation of wealth.

I also notice that some religious and political leaders use abortion to amass power. They mislead their flocks by making abortion a litmus test on faith and belonging, not to mention distorting the political process by using abortion as a wedge issue to blur the separation of religion and state.

- Tom Ehrich is a writer, consultant and leader of workshops. His book, Just Wondering, Jesus: 100 Questions People Want to Ask, was published by Morehouse Publishing. An Episcopal priest, he lives in Durham, N.C. His Web site is www.onajourney.org

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