The truth about abortion—it’s often coerced | WORLD
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The truth about abortion—it’s often coerced

And Ohio’s Issue 1 tells women they’re just not strong enough to be a mother

Signs for and against Issue 1 in Xenia, Ohio Associated Press/Photo by Julie Carr Smyth

The truth about abortion—it’s often coerced

I once counseled a woman at our neighborhood’s pregnancy resource center who was midway through her pregnancy and newly concerned she’d contracted a sexually transmitted infection. I asked her if she had considered abstaining from sex with her boyfriend, given that it had become even more risky. She looked at me, eyebrows scrunched in confusion, and asked, “But where would I live?”

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in the summer of 2022, many hoped the cultural winds were shifting on abortion. But I don’t think we’ve fully reckoned with what five decades of the government-sanctioned killing of preborn children has done to us. Exhibit A: It gave my client’s boyfriend the impression he could demand sex in exchange for a place to live—because what’s the big deal? She can just get an abortion later. Exhibit B: My client believed this was normal.

On Nov. 7, voters here in Ohio will choose whether to pass a measure known as Issue 1, which would enshrine in our state constitution the legal “right” to abortion, with virtually no restrictions, all the way up until birth.

It used to be that the biggest challenge for the pro-life movement was persuading others that preborn children are human. Decades of passionate advocacy and the dramatic improvement in ultrasound technology have made that nearly impossible to deny. But 50 years of legalized abortion have changed something fundamental. Now, pro-lifers are frequently confronted with an unanticipated follow-up question: So what?

For 50 years, we’ve lived in a nation that presented every newly pregnant couple with a question they had never faced before: Would you like to legally kill this child? This is not subtle. This is propaganda. Putting this option on the table has fundamentally perverted the way we approach sex, marriage, parenthood, and even our own bodies.

The normalization of legal abortion has catechized the Western world in a new religion. We worship “personal autonomy” as the Highest Moral Good, over and above respect for the dignity and worth of every human being. This is the only kind of culture in which “so what” is a plausible rejoinder to “preborn babies are human.” This is the only kind of culture in which “abortion is bad, but I still think women should have that choice” passes for a legitimate, ethical stance.

To be sure, “human autonomy” is an oxymoron. There but for the grace of God go we. But to feel autonomous is the idol of our age. We worship control and “self-expression.” With gods like these, the only real moral “errors” are doing something we don’t want to do, not doing something we do want, or making someone else deny their desires. A culture with this worldview will be willing to sacrifice its children. Because of course it will.

(This isn’t even a hunch; it’s a matter of historical record. Christians know what happens when “everyone does what is right in their own eyes.” Cultures that worship personal autonomy end up violating just about everyone’s. Usually, they start with the children.)

Making the case that legalized abortion doesn’t foster autonomy—but, in fact, destroys it—is not difficult.

Here’s the good news: Making the case that legalized abortion doesn’t foster autonomy—but, in fact, destroys it—is not difficult.

According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, seven out of ten women who seek abortions say they were pressured into having an abortion—or that they would have given birth if they received more support. I saw this when I volunteered at my local pregnancy center. Rarely did I meet a woman who felt free to make her own decision. There was almost always someone else—a boyfriend, dad, husband, boss—pressuring her to get an abortion. Women who say they’re seeking abortions for financial reasons usually means the man with whom she conceived her baby is not taking responsibility. That, too, is a form of coercion.

To be sure, women still have moral responsibility. To conceive a child is to be a mother, and mothers have a spiritual, moral, and physical duty to protect and nurture their children, even in hardship.

Still, this doesn’t exactly sound like “autonomy.” The very fact of legalized abortion and the existence of the abortion industrial complex is its own kind of cultural coercion.

Legalized abortion has enabled men and women to view sex as a relatively low-stakes leisure activity rather than a sacred, deeply consequential act reserved for marriage. It has carried water for men who would pressure women into having sex and for cowards who would abdicate their responsibility for her and her children afterwards. It has gaslit three generations of American women into believing their worst fear—that they just might not be strong enough to be a mother. Otherwise why would the government think they must have this option?

Legal abortion has tricked us into accepting crisis pregnancies as a societal given. It’s deceived us into believing sex outside of marriage, abandoned single mothers, derelict dads, and viewing children as burdens are merely facts of life. These things should be socially, financially, and culturally untenable. We should refuse to accept them.

If Ohioans value autonomy, they should vote no on Issue 1. If Ohioans believe women are strong and capable of caring for their children, even in difficulty—and that women should not be condescended to by their own government, they should vote no on Issue 1.

And if we know that real “autonomy” is a mirage and that laying down our perceived autonomy in sacrificial love for God and others is the highest calling in this life—and the pathway to our fullest joy—we should vote no on Issue 1, and any similar policy proposed anywhere else.

Maria Baer

Maria Baer is a freelance reporter who lives in Columbus, Ohio. She contributes regularly to Christianity Today and other outlets and co-hosts the Breakpoint podcast with The Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

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