A Hope and a Future
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. … For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 1:5a and 29:11 (NIV)
In a scripture often used to justify criminalizing abortion, God tells Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” That word speaks to life even before conception. But it doesn’t indicate when precisely that life enters the womb—when a person becomes a person. Since there is nothing other than totally subjective spiritual belief to go on, it could as easily be at the viability of the fetus—22ish weeks—as conception. Or even at a born-baby’s first breath, as our Jewish siblings believe.
I had two miscarriages between the full-term, healthy (but dangerous for me, both times) births of my two living children. During both of those early miscarriages, I had a mystical encounter with those never-to-be children. Their souls, not yet inhabiting the ball of cells that could not ultimately sustain life, told me their names. They told me they couldn’t come. And they told me not to worry—they were Home.
I believe my never-fully-made babies: they are Home, and where they belong. I also believe the people who have confided their abortion stories to me: that their pregnancies, if allowed to continue, would have done manifest harm to many more lives than one, including the life brought to term.
God also tells Jeremiah, “I have plans to give you a hope and a future.” The Supreme Court has its pen poised to rob reproductive choice—a hope and a future—from millions of teenagers and adults. The court is foisting a subjective religious belief on people of all faiths and no faith. It is also denying the agency of other Christians who believe that God has known and loved them since pre-conception. Them, and not just their someday-maybe-babies. And God longs to give them a future.
Mother God, you know when and where we belong, and what we must do to be free. Throw off the yoke of patriarchy, that kills and robs us all of the lives we might have. Amen.
Rev. Molly Baskette is the lead pastor of First Church Berkeley UCC and the author of a number of books about church renewal, parenting, spiritual growth and more. For her author newsletter and book information, visit mollybaskette.com.