The plane from Seattle to Redmond was mostly empty. “Sit in your assigned seat so that the weight in distributed,” said the steward as I walked down the narrow aisle to my window seat.
A woman reading on her iPhone was in the aisle seat already. She kindly stood aside while I took my seat. “We just came in from Sacramento,” the pilot announced. “We expect another turbulent ride. I’m going to ask the stewards to stay seated throughout the flight. If you need the restroom use it now. I don’t anticipate that you’ll have that opportunity once we are airborne.”
We were five minutes into takeoff when both of us put our reading materials away. Much too bumpy of a ride to read. So I turned to the woman and asked if Central Oregon was her home. It is, and has been for the past 40 years. She and her husband raised their children in Bend. Her son now lives in Virginia, which is where she was traveling from. She goes every few months to visit her grandchild. She had to hurry back though because she works part-time for an accountant here in town. She’s retired from the IRS where she worked as an auditor.
During our conversation, we discovered we had attended the same church in Corvallis, Oregon – First Baptist – many years ago. It was my home church during my college years at OSU. She attended there as a young girl grown up in a nearby town. She is still a Baptist. I am not. We talked about the pastors we enjoyed. Dr. Anderson took over right after she left.
“Was his first name Herb?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said.
I have had the good fortune of being under the leadership of thoughtful pastors. Not always, but Dr. Anderson was such a man. He could recite the most beautiful poetry from memory. And he had faced hard, hard things. The accident that led to his young son’s brain damage.
We spoke a little about Virginia. I had a son and daughter who lived there. I’ve spent a goodly amount of time in Virginia over the years. She mentioned that she didn’t like the politics of the state, especially not their “abortion bill.” “Killing babies right up until the moment they are born,” she said.
“That’s not exactly what that bill says,” I noted.
“Oh?” she said.
I didn’t want to wade too deeply into the mud over the details of a bill that has been misrepresented so badly.
“I’m a journalist by trade,” I said. “Media thrives off stirring the waters sometimes. Haven’t you ever read an article because you were outraged by the headline only to find out that the story didn’t fit the headline?”
“Why yes,” she said.
“It’s the same thing,” I said. “Look, no doctor is going in a day before a baby’s due date and using cutterage and suction to extract a full-term baby via an abortion. When you are dealing with late-term babies, it’s only the rarest of cases. Most states don’t allow abortion past 24 weeks. Only 1 percent occur after that point and almost always for the health of the mother or the child. Such decisions should be left up to the family don’t you think?”
She remarked that she hoped no doctor would be killing a child moments before it is born. I explained that such thinking is caused by inflammatory rhetoric used to gain political power.
“Remember when that gal in Florida was put on life support and her husband wanted to remove her and her parents fought him for the right to keep her alive?”
“Yes,” she said. “That was awful.”
“Yes,” I replied. “Don’t you think that when to leave a person on life support should be a decision made by the family?”
“You wouldn’t want to take that right away from them, or judge someone during such a difficult time, would you? Certainly if a 10-year old child was on life-support due to an accident or something, surely you wouldn’t think less of those parents if they removed that child from life-support, would you?”
“No,” she agreed.
“Well, those are personal decisions best left up to the parents and the doctors. It’s no different with the bill passed in Virginia. These are decisions best left up to the parents and the medical professionals. No one is having abortions at 9 months as a means of birth control. When the life of a mother or a child is at risk, doctors induce labor or perform C-sections. Partial-birth abortion is a rhetorical term designed for political purposes. We don’t call stillborns a partial birth simply because they died in utero. Yet, if we are to employ the language of the politically-motivated, one wonders whether even a stillborn would qualify under their definition of a late-term abortion.
People talk about these things without ever really asking: “What does that even mean?” This is how we, the public, get entrapped by those seeking to have power over us, those seeking to exploit us. By those who seek to define our faith for us, and those who use our faith as a battering ram against us. They do it with the rhetoric of reproduction. They do it with the rhetoric of war.
Mostly they want to keep us afraid, very afraid, mortified even.
For the best way they can make us dependent upon them is through the scary stories they tell us, that they get us to repeat to one another.
“For God has not given us the spirit of fear…”
Karen Spears Zacharias is the author of numerous books. Please support the work of artists everywhere. We need their voices now more than ever.