The Ethical, Spiritual, and Moral Foundation of the Abortion-Provider Community


Those who provide access to abortions have ethical, spiritual, and religious wisdom that this world needs, and this community needs to claim and celebrate its power, goodness, morality, and justice.

Those who provide access to abortions have ethical, spiritual, and religious wisdom that this world needs.

I say this because of my own involvement with a part of this community and the absolutely incredible people that are involved in it. These people, mostly women, get something about life. They, in my experience, are more able than the average-joe to look at human suffering and remain engaged with it honestly. They don’t dismiss or trivialize human suffering, they don’t say “hey, it all happens for some mysterious reason.” Instead, they say “let me listen to you and do what you say you need me to do because I trust you…”

I do not mean to romanticize here. I was talking to somebody within the abortion-providing community, somebody who spends each day dealing with the realities of getting women abortion services. As she put it: “I’m not thinking ‘wahoo reproductive justice’ each day.” Because of lack of resources and the urgency to meet the needs of women, working in the abortion provision field is often hectic and stressful (like many other non-profit contexts). However, many who work in providing women access to abortions stick with it for awhile…there is something about it that draws them (and me). There is something special within these communities, something important and wise. Focusing on what these “something specials” are is I want to do.

I want to focus on these “something specials” because I think there is significant moral and theological wisdom within abortion-providing communities. Dr. Beverly Harrison wrote Our Right to Choose: Toward a New Ethic of Abortion, where she says:

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When through courageous moral action, we anticipate an alternative, historically liberating mode of being in the world, a new sense of God’s living presence unfolds. Out of a moral struggle to embody deeper patterns of human community, freshly empowering visions of God are born.

Now, Harrison is a Christian social ethicist and she uses the word “God” more easily than I do. What she, you, or me understands the word “God” to mean is a tricky matter and there are bazillions of definitions. In my faith tradition, which is the spiritual home of many humanists and atheists, we just avoided the word altogether, preferring “Spirit of Life,” “Great Mystery”, “Source of being”,  etc, etc.  I personally like Gandhi’s definition: “God is Truth.”

But why that word “God” is important, particularly for the abortion-providing community, is that this word God invokes meanings of power, goodness, morality, and justice. Regardless of whether you “believe” or not, I do think the abortion-providing community does need to claim and celebrate its power, goodness, morality, and justice. I believe liberal religious and secular communities need to claim and celebrate the goodness, morality, and justice of the abortion providing community.

Harrison suggests that in broader culture (perhaps even within the abortion-providing community itself) there is a myth than anti-abortion advocates are somehow morally superior, that “religion” and “morality” are somehow on their side. According to Harrison:

Moral legitimacy seems to adhere to their [anti-choice/pro-life] position in part because traditionalists have an array of religio-moral terminology at their command that the sometimes more secular proponents of choice lack…We must do our homework if we are to dispel this myth of moral superiority.

I want to do this homework.  For, if there is something like what I think we might mean when we use the word “God,” then it’s working through the hands and hearts of those who get and give women abortions.

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