What’s God got to do with childlessness?

Since I tiptoed into a tricky topic by writing about abortion last week, let’s take it a step farther and talk about religion. I know you all have different beliefs, and that’s good. This post will not challenge what you believe, just perhaps how we all apply our beliefs.

We know that Catholics believe abortion is a mortal sin, grounds for excommunication. But do you also know that when couples get married in the Catholic Church they promise to accept the gift of children from God? To refuse could mean not being allowed to marry in the church.

The church maintains that sex should only happen between people who are married and that its only purpose is procreation—making babies. Birth control is not allowed. Do millions of Catholics break these rules? All the time. So did I. It’s hard to ignore the fact that if I had followed the rules of the church back when I could have gotten pregnant, I would probably have children now. And grandchildren. My whole life would have been different. I would still have gotten divorced from my first husband and God knows how I would have supported myself and the kids, but I would be a mom.

So you could say religion, or ignoring my religion, is a factor in why I’m childless. But when people ask me why I don’t have kids, I rarely mention my religion or God or the church. And neither do most of the people I talk to, even though most religions see children as a blessing if not a requirement. I can’t name one faith that suggests we don’t have babies. Not one. And yet, it doesn’t seem to be part of the decision.

With all the people I interviewed for my Childless by Marriage book and the countless folks who have joined the discussion here at the blog, any mention of religion is rare. Why is that? Is it that our culture seems to make fun of people who are visibly religious? Try bringing it up with somebody you meet today and watch for the uncomfortable reaction.

Or is it that our faith doesn’t factor at all into our decisions about having children? I get comments every day about what he wants and what she wants, what I need and what he needs, will I regret it in my old age, and who will take care of me, but not a word about what God wants us to do. If you don’t believe in God, that makes sense. But a July 2016 Gallup poll shows that 89 percent of Americans claim to believe in God or a higher power. So where does God fit into our decisions about children? Do we consult Him/Her/It at all? If we don’t, why not? And if we do, why don’t we talk about it?

Are we afraid of being mocked? Afraid we don’t want what God wants? Do we figure it’s none of God’s business, part of our right to free will? When I was using birth control with my first husband or the men who followed; when I married a man who had a vasectomy and didn’t want more children; when I was feeling bad because I didn’t get to be a mom, did I think about God? Not much. Oh, I’d shake my fist and ask how He could let this happen to me, but that’s  not the same thing.

How about you? I know religion is an itchy uncomfortable subject for lots of people, but let’s try to talk about it. How does/did your belief in God or a higher power fit into your decisions about having children?

I promise to write about something easy, like puppies, next week. Tomorrow’s my dog Annie’s ninth birthday! But we need to look at the big issues sometimes. And maybe sending up a prayer will help someone who’s trying to figure things out.

‘He forced me to have an abortion’

“I was forced into several abortions and wish now that I was still running in fear. At least I wouldn’t be childless.”

A woman calling herself Mary included this sentence in a comment sent in earlier this week. It was a long paragraph full of information about how she had always wanted to be a mother, and she tossed this in like oh yeah, probably should mention this. Dear God, what was she running from?

It’s not the first time I have heard this. Although women cannot be forced by law into aborting a pregnancy, they frequently feel forced into it by disapproving family or partners who threaten everything from abandonment to physical harm if they keep the baby.

I was already shocked by this comment, and then I was shocked again by the statistics on abortions. The numbers vary, with anti-abortion groups reporting far more than government groups that I hope are unbiased. The U.S. Center for Disease Control’s most recent report says there were 664,435 legal abortions in 2013 in the United States, that there are approximately 200 abortions per 1,000 live births every year, and that 91.6 percent take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. National Right to Life reports over a million abortions in the same period. 

Let’s just say there are a lot and get back to the question of forced abortions.

Abortion, always a touchy subject, is particularly volatile right now, with the new president looking to topple Roe v. Wade and people marching both for and against a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body. I’ll say right now that I am Catholic and I’m not keen on abortion. But I believe governments should keep their hands out of our vaginas.

I was even more shocked when I read this article, “The Reality of Forced Abortion in America” by Kristi Burton Brown. Take a moment to read it, if you want, knowing that toward the end it gets a little anti-abortion preachy.

Okay, now. Why would a woman let anyone tell her what to do with the baby that is in HER BODY? Why wouldn’t she holler, “No!” if she really doesn’t want an abortion, if she always wanted to be a mother, and she wants this baby?

Think about the many situations we see here at Childless by Marriage where a person, usually the woman, does not have children because her partner says no. So many readers are struggling to decide whether to let their partner make that decision for them. This week, I got a comment from a woman whose husband was fine with kids until two weeks after their wedding. Suddenly he didn’t want any. Grrr.

But when there’s already an actual baby being created, maybe only the size of a grape now, but still a baby, isn’t a forced abortion the same thing at a more intense level?

I understand that the woman may be afraid to lose the guy and perhaps end up broke and homeless with a baby. Perhaps she’s afraid of a scandal or of raising a child alone. But does she want to stay with a man who would force her to have an abortion? Isn’t that some kind of abuse?

There are some situations where abortion seems almost necessary: when the mother is too young, when she has been raped, or when the pregnancy threatens her health, but when it’s just a partner who doesn’t want a baby, I cry bullshit. How can he do this to someone he allegedly loves? And where was his condom if he was so set on not having kids?

Perhaps my Catholicness is showing here, but I think the right to choose includes the right to choose to have the baby rather than ending its life and regretting it forever. If you both agree that you need to have an abortion, then that’s between you and God, but don’t let anybody force you into an abortion if you don’t want it.

And please don’t stop reading this blog because you disagree with me or hate Catholics. We’re all just trying to figure this out together.

So let’s have your comments.