By John D. Pierce

shallowNo topic of discussion creates more heat and less light than abortion. In fact, those who most passionately express their opinions on the matter are usually those who offer the least insight — instead pushing code words and catch phrases that suggest the matter can be settled so easily.

Last night’s presidential debate was yet another example of how the highly-controversial issue rarely moves to the level of discussion it deserves.

Simple political posturing on both sides does not address the complex realities — medically and socially — often faced.

On one side is the cavalier view that abortion is merely birth control tied to a woman’s choice. On the other is the naïve assumption that abortion can be simply outlawed and thereby eliminated.

Abortion is a legitimate ethical issue — without easy answers — that deserves the best thinking of medical experts and ethicists and others willing to delve into the complexities at play. And politicians of no stripe can make those go away by simply aligning with a desired constituency.

Hostility often fans the flames. Assigning the “murderer” title to those who choose abortion is neither helpful nor compassionate. Neither is shrugging off the procedure as if it’s a root canal — or dismissing the legitimate concerns raised by those who seek to reduce abortions.

Between these oversimplified positions that involve no second-level thinking is a harsh reality faced by individuals who weigh serious and often unclear options. They need the best resources of family, faith leaders and medical experts — not a detached government force or distant critic with sound-bite shallowness.

Such complex and compassionate struggling is evident, for example, in this brave telling of one couple’s experience. Thanks to Jarrett Banks for sharing this painful story so that we might learn from it.

Politically, the issue is not solved by loading the Supreme Court with justices committed to overturning Roe v. Wade. First, it is highly unlikely that the court would ever do such a thing — and if the justices did, it would not solve anything.

Therefore, it is even more amazing how many self-identified Christians are driven politically by this one issue to the point of ignoring almost everything else.

Second, even proponents, as we heard last night, note that the unlikely reversal of the earlier court decision would send the issue of legal abortion to the states. So, what would happen then and there?

It is not hard to imagine the outcome based on the political makeup of the states. For example, a more politically progressive state like Massachusetts would surely make abortion legal. A more traditional, church-laden state like Mississippi would likely outlaw the procedure.

Then what? Keep thinking about how this might play out — in reality.

A Mississippi college student facing an unplanned and perhaps risky pregnancy has the option of being whisked off to Boston by her family. There, highly-skilled medical personnel provide the chosen (and perhaps needed) procedure.

A poor woman in the Delta with the same concerns has fewer and even dangerous choices. Has the issue really been resolved? I’ll answer that question: no.

Abortion is a complex moral and medical issue that deserves more than over-simplified political and religious rhetoric. It calls for serious thinking and discussion beyond the shallowness and callousness it so often receives on both ends of the political spectrum.

To simply tag oneself as pro-life or pro-choice ignores more than it addresses.

John Pierce

About John Pierce

John D. Pierce is editor of Nurturing Faith Journal — the signature publication of Baptists Today, Inc. He is also publisher of Nurturing Faith Books and Resources. Previously he served as managing editor of The Christian Index and as Baptist campus minister at Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State University. A native of Ringgold, Ga., he is a graduate of Berry College (B.A.), Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and Columbia Theological Seminary (D.Min.). He speaks frequently in churches, consults with congregations concerning communications and holds interim pastorates.