Juno, abortion, pro-life/pro-choice
March 28, 2008
Went to see Juno on Tuesday and I cried laughing while still getting the feeling that this film is getting me to think, is spreading a message, that the story is opening a window onto real-life questions. Things I seldom seem to find in typical comedies. The film tell the story of a 16 year old girl that become pregnant, consider abortion, but then decide to carry the child through pregnancy and give it up for adoption. Although some have critiqued this as pro-life, Ellen Page, playing the role of Juno, deny this. Nonetheless, I think the film do open up the conversation, and also open up the possibility that teenagers can carry on with a pregnancy.
I grew up with the concept that abortion was wrong, and that was the beginning and the end of the conversation. A lot of my ideas on things have changed over the years, but in general I am still very much against it. A few weeks ago I did an exercise with some of the Engineering students in my class: After giving them a certain moral dilemma, I asked them what their gutt-feel is about how we should think about this. This was at about week 3 or 4 of an introductory course in ethics. I then let them argue their point, but they had to use utilitarianism or deontology, with the various sub-forms we taught them to make the case. The purpose of the exercise was to shoe them how they actually are using certain ways of thinking unconsciously already, and how their gutt-feel fit into the approach they would choose in the end. I guess what I’m writing is a similar exercise.
Somehow the pro-life/pro-choice argument don’t seem to work for me. Also, it seems to be an American conversation, since I haven’t found these categories working that strongly in South Africa, and we’ve also been through the whole process of legalizing abortion. Furthermore, and for once in my life I need to protect the conservatives, I’ve found it strange how documentaries such as Jesus Camp or Baby Bible Bashers portray the fight against abortion as one of the worst things Evangelicals can do. Am I missing something? What’s the big deal? OK, I don’t like the whole “you’re sinning and going the hell because the Bible tell us so” language that sometimes get used myself, but is it so wrong to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves? Isn’t that something we find with the historical Jesus as well? Isn’t one of the most outstanding features of the historical Jesus his approach to children (see for example Andries van Aarde’s Fatherless in Galilee – not for the faint of heart)? On Parchment and Pen a while ago. Micheal Paton wrote this post on a theological understanding of abortion, also saying that we cannot defend abortion theologically in any way.
Back to Juno. This movie paints a beautiful picture of teenage sex. It paints a picture of teenagers going into casual sex, but also of teenage relations that can actually be really serious. I’m not going into this controversial question today, but rather, I think the movie does something that Christians need to do to get past the pro-life/pro-choice argument. Juno opens up possibilities for pregnant teenagers. It open up the possibility that there is teenage life after pregnancy, while still living with the reality that people at school will be looking weirdly at you. It open up the possibility that there is good adoption parents out there, even if they do have mistakes and get divorced and are somewhat weird.
I guess the question is not an easy one. What do we make of a girl that gets pregnant because of rape? And with rape being such a reality in South Africa, this is the problematic part of the conversation we are being confronted with. And from a pastoral perspective, I can really understand some girls choice for abortion. The task of the church is also to fight for the defenseless parts of creation. This would also include the unborn baby. But we also have the task of fighting for the mothers who cannot see light in the dark tunnel of pregnancy, to point out new possibilities, and help them to carry it through. Hopefully this would be a little different than those standing outside abortions clinics with posters with guilt-laden messages.
I leave you with some questions:
Why is abortion considered pro-choice? Is it not more pro-adult? Saying that the needs of the adult human being are more important than that of the infant human being?
Shouldn’t the church maybe be blamed for abortion being so popular, since we have made it so difficult for girls who got pregnant, and helped create a society that really give pregnant teenagers little hope and a lot of despair?