When the issue of abortion comes up, we want to jump straight to the question of whether to criminalize abortions. We don’t do this with other issues. For example, Bishops serve communion to politicians who vote to reduce welfare spending despite Jesus’ clear and unambiguous teaching to help the poor. In the case of helping the poor, the Catholic Church is able to find more nuance suggesting that one can be faithful and oppose government aid for the poor.
Of course, not only do we accept a more nuanced understanding of the poverty issue than we do on abortion, but we base our extreme positions on abortion on very, very little in the way of Hebrew or Early Church tradition. True, there is a scripture praising God’s love that says God made the psalmist in the womb (Psalm 139:13), but there is another scripture describing God’s role in our lives that claims life begins with breath (Gen. 2:7). We play the translation game Exodus 21:22, which treats a certain crime as less than murder–translating “causing the baby to come out of her” as either miscarriage (pro-choice) or premature birth (pro-life). There are others, but with the exception of Exodus 21:22, which was in fact a part of the legal code, they are not really on point. It is disingenuous to take the Genesis scripture out of context to address the abortion issue and the same is true of most other scriptural citations on the issue.
What if we back away from the issue of criminalization for a minute and consider the necessary precursor to an abortion–an unwanted pregnancy? Does our faith give us any help there? I think our faith should counsel us against meaningless sex. That is not necessarily a precursor to an unwanted pregnancy but it can be. I’m open to hear a principled reason to take a stance on contraception. It seems to me that the poverty that results from over population and the destruction of the planet threatened by the same is a good reason to favor birth control.
Of course, one reason for unwanted pregnancies is people not being able to care for a new child. Helping the poor, being there for the family after the child is born, that is a no-brainer. And, I think adequately funding the public assistance that would allow someone to want to bring a child into the world is probably not a bad idea.
It is just a complex issue, it is a whole suite of complex issues.