Pro-Choice and Christian: A Review
(Opinions expressed herein belong to the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Fides Quaerens, its editors, or any associated organization.)
Schlesinger, Kira. Pro-Choice and Christian: Reconciling Faith, Politics, and Justice. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY., 2017. Paperback $14.00
I once heard that “pertness and ignorance may ask a question in three lines, which it will cost learning and ingenuity thirty pages to answer.” Kira Schlesinger’s recent book Pro-Choice and Christian is longer than three lines, but this review will demonstrate that it need not have been. I began reading looking forward to a “compassionate, nuanced, and extremely well-informed conversation about women’s reproductive rights,” as Erin Wathen praises this book on the back cover. Schlesinger suggests that “finding common ground in the principles of our faith and who we believe God to be leads us to more complete and expansive ‘pro-life’ principles that support the flourishing of all people.” She offers the book to those who are looking for “common ground with other Christians amid disagreement,” as well as those who are tired of inflammatory rhetoric and those who are Christians but do not want abortion to be outlawed. However, despite Schlesinger’s obvious desire for clarity, I believe that Pro-Choice and Christian clarifies little and muddies much.
Consider how daunting a task stands before anyone who would like to prove that one can be both Christian and in favor of access to elective abortion. They would have to make the case that procuring or supporting abortion is consistent with Christian ethics. This requires defining a number of terms: namely, what an abortion is, and what the Christian worldview is. This case must then interact with a broad array of sources to demonstrate that abortion is morally permissible for Christians despite the witness of Scripture, ecclesiastical history, and scientific evidence that the preborn are human beings. Moreover, such a case would need to interact with the strongest arguments from opponents of abortion — people like Greg Koukl, Scott Klusendorf, or Robert P. George, for instance. This seems like the route which Schlesinger intended to take. Two critical points are lacking, however: her definitions, and her interaction with pro-life argument. At risk of critiquing a book that was not written, I would like to lay out these two voids and their significance to the book. I will show how filling in these gaps could have saved Schlesinger the trouble of writing the book at all. Then, I will examine Schlesinger’s methodology and argue that she is interested, not in a thoughtful conversation about abortion, but rather in a partisan polemic, scoring cheap points with those progressives who would like to call themselves Christians while celebrating the end of human life.
It seems that the most obvious starting point of a case for being both pro-choice and Christian would be the definition of abortion. What it is, what it accomplishes, how it is performed, the reasons for which women seek it out, and many other questions seem to need answering before ever considering whether abortion could be consistent with Christian ethics. Without a clear definition of what an abortion is, it seems almost impossible to make a case that abortion ought or ought not to be practiced by Christians...
Jonathan Graham lives, works, and studies in Charleston, South Carolina, with his wife and son. He is completing an undergraduate degree in Classics, and minoring in Creative Writing, in preparation for law school. He is the poetry editor for Adversus Press, a magazine of literature against the times; and the general editor of Fight Death, a newsletter for pro-life activists. is essays have appeared at The Federalist, and his poetry has appeared most recently in West Trade Review and The American Journal of Poetry.