|A mom and newborn baby sleeping. Image source.|
I was taught that I always needed to pray and ask God what to do if I had to make a big decision. I needed to read the bible and see if it had any advice about my situation. I needed to listen to Christian leaders and find out what the "right" decision was.
Choosing where to go to college? Pray about it. What to major in? Pray about it. Should I go to grad school? Should I accept this job offer or that one? Should I quit my job? Does God want me to become a missionary? Should I move to a different city? Should I buy a house? Should I buy a new car or not? Which apartment should I rent? Should I start dating this person? Should I get married? Should I have kids? Is God okay with divorce? What city should I raise my kids in? What kind of school should I send them to?
And on and on and on. All major life decisions must be prayed about. You have to listen to God. You have to figure out what God wants you to do- that's the "correct" answer. The idea that I could decide to do something just because I wanted to- without asking God's advice- was just unthinkable.
Of course, this causes a lot of anxiety. When you're making a big decision, you have to spend so much time agonizing over whether you're "hearing God." You believe there's a right answer and a wrong answer, and you can't figure out which is which just by using your own brain; no, it has to be God telling you. What if you choose the wrong one? What if you accidentally veer off "God's plan for your life"? Then you're just totally screwed.
So on the question of abortion, of course people can't make their own decisions about it, according to this ideology. Because no one can ever make their own decisions about anything. You have to do what God wants, and obviously God wants no one to have abortions ever, so... that's that. There's no reason personal choice would ever come into the picture.
Back when I was evangelical and "pro-life," I totally didn't get why the pro-choice side said "pro-life" ideology was sexist. From my point of view, there wasn't a double standard- no one is allowed to make major life decisions about anything, regardless of their gender. If I believed "yes, everyone totally has the right to control their own life and make their own decisions about what kind of life they want to have, EXCEPT for pregnant people," then yeah, I can understand why there would be accusations of sexism. But that's not what I believed. No one should make their own choices about anything- they should do what God wants. Why would pregnancy be any different?
(Even though in theory there's no double standard, in practice this whole "you aren't allowed to make your own choices" gets applied to women much more harshly than men.)
Evangelical ideology believes there's one "right" choice for any major decision, one "God's plan for your life," and it's your responsibility to determine- though prayer, through bible-reading, through getting advice from other Christians- which option is the "right" one. The pro-choice movement completely disagrees. We believe people are capable of making their own choices. They know their own situation. Yes, it's good for them to ask people for advice, to do research before making a decision, but the point of that isn't to figure out the "right" answer ordained by God; no, it's because we believe people are fully capable of weighing the information themselves and can be trusted to make their own decisions.
Sometimes you hear of a pro-choice activist who got pregnant and had a baby, and the "pro-life" people are SUPER CONFUSED. They're like "wait, but you're pro-abortion! Doesn't that mean you think pregnancy and babies are BAD?" Because in that ideology, it's all about figuring out what the "right" answer is, what people "should" do. (And conveniently, the answer is always the same: never have an abortion.) They don't understand that pro-choice people don't believe in a "should." Pro-choice people believe in CHOICE.
The "pro-life" movement is about making rules for other people's lives because they believe people aren't capable of making those decisions themselves. The pro-choice movement is about providing resources so that there are many possible options available and each person can choose the one that they feel is right for their situation. If they want to have an abortion, they can choose that. If they want to have a baby, they can choose that. There's no "should." There's no "the right answer." The "pro-life" movement is about coercing people into choosing what "pro-lifers" already know is the "right" answer. The pro-choice movement does not try to coerce or force people- of course not, that goes against the whole concept of choice. But evangelicals can't understand that because they never believed in choice in the first place.
Furthermore, evangelicals believe that all people are deeply sinful. If they're allowed to make their own choices, they'll choose evil things. They'd choose murder if they could get away with it. Of course they would. We're all so incredibly sinful, selfish, rebellious against God- we're all, on some level, the kind of people who would commit murder for "convenience" reasons. We can't be trusted to make our own decisions. We need God's laws or else we'll all do terrible, evil things.
So when pro-choicers say "trust women," it makes no sense to evangelical pro-lifers. How on earth could anyone be trusted with a life-and-death decision, without a clear "right" answer from God and a threat of punishment? That's completely unimaginable, in evangelical ideology.
The church never taught me I was able to make my own choices. No, they told me I always had to figure out what God wanted me to do. The idea that people are able to decide what's best for themselves was totally foreign to me. So of course I was anti-choice on abortion too.