Hobby Lobby Decision part 2 – Theological and Personal Reflections
Come to think of it, my previous blog post on the subject of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case left out my own personal and theological reflections on the subject of birth control and abortion. So, in the interest of fuller disclosure (What else do we do on the internet but make sure ALL our business is out there?) let me share my thoughts.
I am actually very sympathetic to the view expressed by the owners of Hobby Lobby that life begins at the moment of conception, meaning the moment sperm and egg unite. I personally share that belief. I take that position because I believe that human life is profoundly sacred and deserves to be liberally defined.
Some would say the Bible clearly supports the belief that unborn life is sacred. Those who hold this view have plenty of scriptures to choose from in which God expresses God’s love for humanity, including knowledge of and care for us while we are still in the womb. However, there are also quite a few troubling passages that seem to point in the opposite direction toward a devaluing of both female AND unborn life.
For example, the only time abortion itself is – arguably – mentioned is in Numbers 5 which describes a practice in which a wife suspected of adultery is made to swallow a “water that brings the curse” which ” shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her womb shall discharge, her uterus drop, and the woman shall become an execration among her people. “(Num 5:27 NRS) In other words, at least in this story, unborn life is not so sacred when it comes to controlling women.
The Bible is also not at all univocal in its defense of all human life as equally valuable. For example, Leviticus 17 describes the lives of babies and children as less valuable than the lives of older people and the lives of women as less valuable than the lives of men. We read there that, when it comes to putting a monetary value on human life ” the equivalent for a male shall be: from twenty to sixty years of age the equivalent shall be fifty shekels of silver by the sanctuary shekel. If the person is a female, the equivalent is thirty shekels. If the age is from five to twenty years of age, the equivalent is twenty shekels for a male and ten shekels for a female.(Lev 27:3-5 NRS) Again, the devaluation of women goes hand in hand with the devaluation of children, both born and unborn.
In other words, this business of devaluing the lives of children, both born and unborn, tends to go hand in hand with devaluing the lives of women as well.
That is why I, as a Christian and as a feminist, espousing the values of nonviolence and equality of all persons, cannot take abortion lightly. In all fairness, I doubt many women Christian or otherwise do.
My own personal concern that I not destroy unborn life in my own body led me, during my own childbearing years, to refuse to use those methods of birth control that the owners of Hobby Lobby object to. If, as I reasoned, I believe life begins at conception, then the IUD and forms of the pill that interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg were not OK with me. For me, this was not a morally acceptable choice. When I tried to explain this to my gynecologist, she refused to respect my decision. So I fired her and found another doctor.
I insisted on my right to act in accordance with my own religious convictions. So, in that sense, I am sympathetic with the owners of Hobby Lobby and others in the “pro-life” movement. BUT, and this is a big but, I cannot go along with the idea that it is OK to force these views on others. We simply cannot champion the rights of the unborn by disrespecting the moral agency of women.
Religious freedom means having the right to form and act upon our own religious convictions. It does not include the right to impose those convictions on others.