Thursday, July 23, 2009

What Would I Do?

I hate when I call a client to a counseling session and the first thing I notice is the cross around her neck or the church logo T-shirt she's wearing. I hate it because of what I think and what I'm supposed to think and what some of Them made me think. Of course, I don't fear terrorism when I counsel a client wearing hijab, but my gut reaction is to fear Christianity.

If I had a religion, it would probably be Christianity. My religious experience and exposure was half-hearted, at best, but the majority of it revolved around Jesus Loves Me and Christmas trees because that's what my ancestry was down with. I stopped identifying with it, though, when I realized that it wasn't required and especially when I realized that I couldn't claim a religion that was based on salvation of its followers and its followers only. And yes, that's a characteristic of most religions--so I don't have one. It surprises people that I believe in a God and I pray because I think I give off the activist/athiest vibe. And because I'm an abortioneer.

The God I believe in is a pro-choice God. But the God that Christians stereotypically believe in is one who knows and loves babies from the moment of conception and who damns to hell mothers who abort, right? That's what we know from the majority of the antis who attack our clinics and our providers. If it's in God's name and it's a Christian belief, THAT'S the terrorism that I fear.

When I counsel women who have religious reservations about their decisions, those women are almost always Christians. I can get by with some pseudo-amateur-pastoral counseling with my Christian/Unitarian/Pagan/Jewish/Buddhist world view. I see the women opening up to me. I like being able to talk about a God without pretending it's something I believe in. But still, I fear those women's judgement of me and I fear what will come out of their mouths. I've heard, "Abortion is wrong, I don't believe in it, but I need to do it, and then I'm going to forget it happened." (Those sessions are long.)

But recently, I counseled a woman who was wearing a church group T-shirt who said, "Some of my friends have come out to me and told me they had abortions, but they were afraid to tell me at the time because they know I'm so involved in my church. But I told them, 'I'm involved because I love it, but your life is your life, and I'm your friend, and my job as a Christian is not to judge anybody.' An now that I'm here, I know that God knew this. He knew this was going to happen, He knew what decision I would make, He will get me through it, and He brought me here." My heart swelled to hear the best and only affirmation of the Christian faith I've ever been exposed to.

Unlike that client, I'm still learning not to judge. This story of mine doesn't have a succinct point because I don' think I've reached it yet in my abortioneer experience. It's a constant battle to understand a religion so complex and so maligned and so good. I sometimes struggle with hearing derogatory words about faith, and then I turn around and say the same things. When abortioneers talk about religion and spirituality, it's so often in the context of morality and ethics. That isn't a question for me because we all know I have no qualms with abortion. My talk is about prejudices--theirs AND mine.


  1. Yeah, I definitely had those little anxiety attacks whenever a patient brought up religion. How could I possibly relate/respond to those questions? Even if I were a religious person I still don't think I'd ever consider abortion in a spiritual context; I'm quite hard-headed about the abortions.

  2. I get a little unsettled too. For someone who abandoned religion a long time ago, it can really tear you in two directions: do what you can to pass on the spiritual perspectives that other clients have shared with you, and risk sounding insincere, or step clear of the subject and risk falling short of what the client needs and deserves? The third option is to have a better-equipped colleague address that need, but that can be rather abrupt depending on when in the professional relationship the subject arises.

  3. Thank you for opening your heart on such a complex topic. I feel you--right on.

    When I started counseling, I read every little bit of information I could on every single religion and abortion. I think it's really important to consider that religious leaders managed safe abortions after they were outlawed and before they were again made legal in the US.

    Just as with misinformation regarding the actual surgery, the women who have the surgery, the people who provide the surgery and the blessings Abortion's existence bestows on every society, our patients often misconstrue the core creeds of their chosen religions. Often, don't they mean to contemplate the morality of their decisions while harboring guilt to honor their imposed doctrine--as you highlighted, Desembarazarme?

    And of course--we know abortion is GOOD. Give yourselves more credit, Abortioneers!

    It will always be difficult to address patriarchal religions as women embark upon a sacred matriarchal ritual. But certainly WE can dissect that.

    Also, check out: Sacred Choices by Daniel Maguire if you have not...

  4. It will always be difficult to address patriarchal religions as women embark upon a sacred matriarchal ritual.
    I love this way of putting it, thank you. What I've never figured out how to do is express this to a client who is doubting herself, because I don't want her to feel defensive about her religious environment even though I do desperately want her to know that there is value to her wellbeing outside of what her religion might dictate...

  5. R: I think I mean to suggest that most religions are actually pro-choice or free will-based at their core and that women and men often think their religion is against abortion if they are Christian or Catholic because misogynist leaders of these churches, as well as the anti-abortion movement at large, have done a bang-up job at shadowing the truth for their own selfish gain.

    When a woman is genuinely concerned about how she'll feel in church on Sunday after her abortion, I understand I can't necessarily change the pompous BS coming from her sanctuary's pulpit, so I rely on abortion statistics:

    An example from the RCRC: Catholic women are about as likely as all women to have an abortion. Catholic women account for 27.4% of abortion patients and Protestant women have 42.8% of all abortions. Born-again Protestants have 13% of all abortions.

    So in other words, I ask her to consider that she is not alone. Then I ask her if SHE will break the silence so others might not have to feel as alone as she does...(I understand this is simpler said than done.)

    As Abortioneers, I believe it is our duty to deconstruct ALL of the lies surrounding abortion--while we are not all medical experts, we certainly feel comfortable busting myths about the safety and long-term effects of abortion. We are not religious leaders either, but we know abortion is holy because we know the hearts of the women we serve...

  6. Very interesting. I know that it is *god* inside of me that compels me to provide abortion care.

  7. This breaks my heart as a pro-choice person of faith who belongs to one of many denominations that fully supports a woman's right to choose--and has for decades. I was a pastoral counselor for Planned Parenthood while studying for my Masters of Divinity degree, and much of my work was attempting to undo the harm done by people who call themselves "Christians"--whom I believe have highjacked the faith(nothing makes me more angry than this).

    Please visit and to see the many progressive people of faith who stand up and fight for women's reproductive health and justice.

  8. Seeking Gratitude, you remind me of a dear friend of mine--the only person who came to support me, the only counter-protester at a horrifying anti-choice event. And he is an Episcopal priest who constantly stands up for women and for choice. I owe my open mind to him, ad I thank you for being who you are. I will make use of those sites and i want to help you to get the religion back. <3


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