I am pro-life. I have been for as long as I can remember. I went to crisis pregnancy center events with my parents when I was a kid. I remember painting pro-life signs with my mom. I believe that every life is precious and every human being is created in the image of God. I believe it because it’s a core tenet of my faith, and it says so in black and white in the Bible. I believe that God has a plan and purpose for each life, that he can utilize unintended beginnings for greatness.

I have never wavered, but I have often wrestled with how to bridge the gap on this emotional, divisive and heart-wrenching issue. I have friends and a family member who have had abortions. I have friends who work for Planned Parenthood and friends who work in the pro-life movement. No one I know takes this issue — or the decision to have an abortion — lightly.

There are those on the right who have demonized women for having abortions; the current GOP candidate has even suggested punishing women for having one. But those on the left often cast anyone who is pro-life as anti-woman and anti-feminist. They fail to respect the deep moral and religious convictions that drive the belief.

But the caricature the right paints of “abortions on demand” is far from the norm. There are many consequences and circumstances that lead a woman to make such a weighty choice. In fact, I did my grad school thesis on the question “Can you be a pro-life feminist?” because it is a label I had used that was met with skepticism. I surveyed more than 100 women and was surprised by what I found. While many were pro-choice, they told me they would not personally choose abortion. But they did not want to make that decision for others. I don’t agree with their view, but I can understand it.

My faith dictates that it is important we care for and respect all people, born and unborn. And that is one of the undercurrents of our political climate that is most concerning, that only some lives have value and worth. This is not a Christian value. I believe that immigrants (undocumented or otherwise) and refugees are created in God’s image. That Muslims, Jews and Hindus all have God’s imprint. Again, I believe this because it says so in black and white in the Bible.

I believe it is the height of hypocrisy when we scream from the top of our lungs about protecting a baby in utero, yet neglect to provide basic resources for those same children once born.

Aside from providing a safety net for children born into need, I believe we are focused on the wrong problem. The problem isn’t abortion. The root of the problem is unintended pregnancies. Until we are willing and able to have honest conversations, and do everything we can from a public policy standpoint to address the root cause, overturning Roe vs. Wade is a moot point. Until we offer sex education that is scientifically sound and teaches more than abstinence (which data and common sense tell us don’t work), until birth control is widely available and health insurers are required to offer it, until adoption is simple and affordable, the demand for abortion will persist, regardless of legality.

I do not agree with Hillary Clinton’s position on this issue. My support for her does not extend to all of her policy positions — in fact, I disagree with many of them. Were Donald Trump not at the top of the Republican ticket, I would be proudly supporting any number of the qualified candidates who ran against him. But, as a wise woman and mentor of mine often says: “Every election is a choice, and perfect is never on the ballot.”

Given the options we have, I have made the conscious and deliberate choice to support the more substantive, stable and experienced candidate. (And, given the fact that Trump was pro-choice until it was politically expedient to be pro-life, his stated views on this issue, as with many other recent roadside conversions of his, are meaningless to me.)

I am disheartened by how many in the Christian industrial complex yell and spew hate toward Democrats, immigrants, gays and anyone else whose world view doesn’t comport with theirs. The Bible has strong words for those who claim to love God but fail to love their neighbors.

So, for those who question my faith, and ask how I can support a pro-choice candidate while being personally pro-life, I offer you this: You are not the judge and jury. You cannot peer into the soul of another human being. My relationship with my savior is personal, and I sleep soundly at night knowing it’s a strong one. I challenge you to spend just as much energy fighting for the voiceless children and families in our society who live among us, homeless, jobless, living in poverty, battling addiction and threatened by violence, as you do the unborn.

We should not use our faith as a political tool or a bludgeon. We should use it to extend mercy and grace to those around us. We could all use an extra dose of each these days.

 

Jenifer Sarver is the founder of Sarver Strategies, a strategic communications consulting firm in Austin, Texas. She wrote this article for the Dallas Morning News.