Go on, #praytoendabortion, I dare you.

For the last few days, the hashtag #praytoendabortion has been trending. While I’m definitely pro-informed-choice, though I’d hope I’d be able to choose life if it was me, the fervour with which people have been praying out loud on street corners about this alarms me.

But I believe that God loves everyone He’s made, including pregnant women. But as ever, the world is broken, people are broken, and He’s called the church to be people through whom he can mend things.

I don’t think any woman enjoys making the decision to abort their foetus.

At 27, I’m single, work a part-time job on a temporary contract and have an energy-sapping disability. I’m really not looking to get pregnant. But if I were pregnant, what would my options be, and why might I choose an abortion?

For me, the things that stand in the way of me keeping a foetus, are:

  • The cost of healthcare, supplements etc
  • The impact on my current job, given my short-term contract
  • The stigma of being unmarried and pregnant
  • The impact on my own physical health, given my chronic illness
  • Concerns of the baby’s future if I could not raise it

In addition, if I were to raise my child, I could add in:

  • The need for suitable accommodation, as on my salary I rent a single room
  • The impact on my career and prospects, as I would lose my temporary job
  • The effect on future relationships and strain on family and friends
  • The need for practical support, as raising a child alone is difficult

Hypothetically, I might become pregnant as a result of rape. There’s an easy solution here – it’s for men to stop raping women. Most people would agree it’s potentially traumatic for someone to raise a child that looks like their rapist, so if we want that foetus to be born, we have to provide options like adoption.

I don’t think any woman enjoys making the decision to abort their foetus. But faced with leaving my home, losing my job, becoming more ill, and a lifetime of poverty, the whims of those deciding on what benefits I could claim, social isolation and the constant reminder of rape, I can see why abortion could be the better of my two unpleasant options. There is judgement and prejudice faced by single parent families, by unemployed people, by the poor, and to choose to keep your own child would be to choose that lifestyle for them, as well as you. 

But I can see a church where abortion ends.

I see a church where everybody is welcome, where you go to for support rather than condemnation. A church where older women are there to guide pregnant mums through the ups and downs of pregnancy, where shared meals beat isolation and generous giving covers the cost. A church where to walk in, alone and pregnant, you receive such friendship that you gain a family to call on.

I see a church where unwanted pregnancy doesn’t happen. Where boys and young men are taught to respect and honour the girls and women in their life, and challenge those who don’t. Where there’s no taboo about discussing domestic violence, sexual abuse, or teenage relationships before the child is conceived. Where education doesn’t shy away from discussing contraception, and where youth workers and schools workers can open up the conversation that directs young people to contraceptives that are freely available, because they are trusted. Where there’s always a night pastor to put you safely in a cab home, so you avoid relying on a predator.

I see a church where children and adults are nurtured. If it took a village to raise a child, it could be done by a church. Where girls whose families have rejected them find in the church the birth partners, financial backers, DIY helpers, benefits experts, advocates and peacemakers they need. Where adopted children find the extended family they never had. Where it’s so normal for a Christian family to adopt that a household without adopted children is considered unusual. Where a single mum and her child are right at home, are listened to, and can lead others without fear of stigma. And where a child with additional needs is so loved that their environment doesn’t disable them, and they can learn and grow and dream and laugh, and mothers expecting a child with a disability can see that. Where “I can’t raise this child alone” never has to be a reason to abort.

And I see a church where pregnancy needn’t mean financial instability. Where Christians will fight for the rights of their colleagues, so employers provide adequate maternity leave, adaptable jobs and job shares to fit around parenthood, and a living wage.  Where advocates fight to get adoptive parents and single mums all the benefits they’re entitled to, and pregnant mums, new mums and single mums can work because their church helps with the practicalities. Where Christian households will accommodate a pregnant woman so she can afford a warm, safe, dry home. Where “I can’t afford this baby” never has to be a reason to abort.

To end abortion we have to love the parents and the child, and church members have to expect to act radically and sacrificially. When we pray, God does change things, but by changing us and our attitudes first. I believe there will be a time when abortion for non-medical reasons isn’t needed any more. But that the church has to choose to act so that this can be a reality. Go on, I dare you to pray.

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My Favourite Things

This post is for Jenny. Today Jenny celebrates, though perhaps celebrates is the wrong word, her ninth anniversary. She’s had M.E. for nine years. I have had M.E. for a little over nine months. You can read about her favourite things here.

I’ve just got voice-activated software, so apologies for any mistakes, but it’s much easier for me to chat than type. Here is a list of my favourite things:

TV Shows

As a child, my favourite TV programme was Greenclaws. It featured a 7 foot tall friendly green monster who lived in a potting shed. He and his assistant Daisy would plant a bulb of a different colour every day and wait to see what grew out of it. What I liked best about him was that he ate Spaghetti Bolognese out of a washing-up bowl.

As a teenager, my brother my sister and I would watch Star Trek. I can’t say it’s my favourite programme, but it was a happy compromise between what all of us wanted to watch. It grew on me, and now I’m a fan.

At the moment, my favourite TV show is Only Connect. The combination of Victoria Coren Mitchell’s sparkling wit, brilliant putdowns, and the difficulty of the questions is perfect. I like it most when I win 5 point questions, which is hardly ever, but sometimes.

The soap I’m a little bit addicted to is Holby City. I’ve watched it every week since I was 20. Despite moving house about 15 times, it’s the one thing that stayed consistent. It is awful. However, it’s good company, and you can always predict the storylines. At the moment, I watch it on Tuesday evenings, which is my rest night. As I lie propped up on pillows, the cat lies on my legs stop me from getting up.

Radio

I spend a lot of time listening to the radio. In particular, I love radio four comedy. Things that always make me laugh include Cabin Pressure, Count Arthur Strong’s radio show, and I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again. I also enjoy the unlikely sitcoms of The Quest, Old Harry’s Game, Sneakipeeks, and others based in comedic situations. In addition I enjoy classics such as Just a Minute and I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.

Films

My favourite film is a little-known film called Paradise Road. It centres around the life of bourgeoisie English and foreign colonialists at the start of the Second World War. In fleeing from Shanghai, a boatload of women are arrested and taken to a concentration camp. The film follows how they make friends with each other by learning to sing together and in doing so save their own lives.

More importantly, I absolutely love the Muppets. A very important part of Christmas me, is when I sit down in front of the television, with my brother and sister, and sing along to a Muppet Christmas Carol. We know all the words. In general I play the part of Gonzo the Great, and my brother the part of Rizzo the Rat. I enjoyed the new Muppet movie and I’m looking forward to the next Muppet movie coming out in the spring.

Books

My favourite children’s books are Winnie the Pooh, the House at Pooh Corner, Wind in the Willows, and Matilda by Roald Dahl. You can’t believe how happy I am that my voice-activated software knows how to spell Roald Dahl!

When I was about 16, I started enjoying Russian classics. These include The Idiot and Anna Karenina. I find Dickens quite hard work but it’s worth it. Last summer I read Daniel Deronda by George Eliot. I also enjoy light fiction, one of my favourite authors is Jane Gardam.

The majority of my bookcase is taken up with theology books. I’m exploring a calling to the permanent diaconate. One of my favourite living theologians is Michael Lloyd, who wrote cafe theology. He’s got a great sense of humour and I enjoy the practical nature of his questions.

Music

I’m a radio two girl at heart, and listen to Chris Evans in the mornings. But my musical tastes are quite diverse, and I enjoy among others Palestrina, folk music including Show of Hands, Bruckner, staying, and anything with a good bassline.

Sports

I’m a massive fan of the England dodgeball squad. This is only because my brother is a player-coach for them. Otherwise I’m not that into sports, apart from trampolining and gymnastics which I know Jenny also enjoys. In my dreams I can still turn somersaults, which is fun and far less dangerous! My sister likes running. I am quite good at watching and getting her tea by the time she finishes.

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Hobbies

I used to enjoy going to the countryside walks, but that’s a bit too demanding at the moment. I’ve recently been Companion Cycling, which is where you’re putting a bike next to another bike with someone who can cycle in it, and they do all the pedalling. It’s an easy way to get around without having to put any effort in. I went with my mum in the local park.

companioncycling

I’ve also started swimming a little bit, which in my case means sitting around on the floor of the learner pool whilst children look at you strangely! It’s good to have a stretch and cheaper than hydrotherapy.

I’m quite an introvert, which means I enjoy meeting up with friends but only one-on-one. As a result I quite enjoy going for coffee, chatting on the phone, or having long and sometimes aggressive debates with close friends who won’t be offended. It’s not so much winning the argument but the joy of making the argument in the first place.

Other things which I enjoy a lot but don’t really fit into a category

  • This feeling of crisp clean bedding to sleep in when you’ve been resting all day.
  • The apple tree in my back garden, which changes and shows me what season it is.
  • At this time of year, pink frosty sunsets and orange glowing leaves.
  • Colleagues who will laugh with me at my disability rather than laughing at what I can’t do. This includes the person who offered to buy me an inflatable parrot when I started using crutches because I looked like a pirate.
  • Cake. My favourite cake is Bakewell tart, the little ones that come in tins with thick white icing on the top and a cherry. But I also like Waitrose ginger cake and anything where the chocolate goes melty when you dip it in your tea.