Nov 082021 1 Response

Don’t Clown Around About Abortion

Goober the Clown. The name doesn’t scream an intellectual heavyweight. Yet Saturday night on Saturday Night Live, Cecily Strong appeared as “Goober the Clown Who Had an Abortion at Age 23” and gave a passionate, satirical defense for the pro-choice movement. Her spot quickly won widespread acclaim from multiple media outlets. While her approach was skillful, her argument was troublesome.

The Strength of Goober the Clown

It wouldn’t surprise me if Goober the Clown joins the ranks of one of the most memorable sketches in SNL history. While it lacked the hilarity of “More Cowbell” or “Living in a van down by the river,” it was a brilliant approach at a very difficult topic. By joining the innocence of a clown with the most hotly debated political topic of the last fifty years, Strong was able to communicate her angst over the topic.

She made her point well. But it is her point that I disagree with.

Yet before discussing that, let me notate something she got right. When Strong laments many women having to keep this secret and encourages a society in which they can find community in their story, I totally agree. Secrets make us sick and everyone needs a community of love and support in which they can freely tell their story.

The difference is that Strong believes the abortion story should be told with pride, but I think it should be told with sorrow.

The Sorrow of Goober the Clown

In the sketch, Cecily Strong made two major arguments for abortion: 1. Since abortions are so common, they must be right. 2. Since she is successful, her decision must have been right.

Obviously the frequency of something doesn’t make it right. Basically Strong argued, “we can’t all be wrong” since she claims 1 in 3 women have had abortions. But obviously, we can all be wrong. No one is arguing since sexual harassment in the workplace was so common in Hollywood that it was right or that the #MeToo movement is wrong since it happened so much.

But it was her second point that reveals the true issue at hand. “I wouldn’t be on TV if it weren’t for the abortion I had when I was 23,” Strong proclaimed. Her argument–if it wasn’t for abortion, she wouldn’t be rich, famous, and successful.

In our society, who can argue against that? In a culture that values fame, riches, and autonomy more than any other value, Strong’s argument makes perfect sense.

Yet with some different values, Strong’s case makes very little sense.

What Do We Value

When we value life, Goober the Clown makes us want to weep. We hurt not only for the women suffering in silence, but also for a culture that sees a child as a burden, motherhood as a loss compared to a career, and personal autonomy as a better path to success than an interdependent relationship between a woman, man, and child.

Whether or not Strong meant to, she basically said, “I have money, fame, and power, obviously my life is better than what it would have been.” But is that true? While many envy fame, being famous has in no way proven to be something to be envied. Fame and riches seem more correlated with unhappiness than joy. It’s why I regularly remind people they don’t want to win the lottery. Society might value fame, power, and money, but none of those things lead to a life people desire. Instead, they are often correlated with more fear, unhappiness, and sorrow.

So what does lead to a life we all desire? The answer is love. Not the syrupy I do whatever feels good thing we often describe as love, but genuine care about others more than self, a willingness to submit my desire to something bigger than me, and a trust in God (and others) that empowers me to travel a road which otherwise I never would have traveled on my own. For Strong that might have included motherhood at 23. For me and Jenny, it has been the joy of parenting a child with special needs.

While clowning around about abortion was a powerful satirical approach on Saturday night, to me it is a sorrow-filled mirror into our sin-filled world. It shows how much we value ourselves over all other things, even the most vulnerable among us. Strong’s argument was the most American argument one could make. And that shows the problem with America. We value power, fame, and money over all things. And those values are killing us. (See Fearless Families where I argue those values are a result of fear.)

Us, Not Them

A problem with many abortion-related discussions is we immediately pick sides and begin to demonize those that disagree with us. Cecily Strong is not my opponent. I oppose her view on this one issue, but I’m not against her. I’m for her and others. But I do think she is wrong on this topic.

I don’t know what her life would look like if she made different choices at 23, but I do know that motherhood is not a second-rate life. I also know that just because she has power, fame, and money doesn’t mean she is living a life any of us should envy. Part of me wonders if the line “I wouldn’t be here if not for the abortion I had” might actually be a statement of her own regret.

Either way, we need to do better.

Those who are pro-life need to create a more loving, accepting space for those who have had abortions. We must stop using the issue to score political points and start valuing the lives of those who have had abortions as much as the baby’s they have aborted. We must make sure we are pro-life in every area of our lives, not just on the issue of abortion.

Those who are pro-choice need to consider where the pro-choice movement is going. It’s moved well beyond abortion being a regrettable outcome in a few cases, to becoming something that some now argue is the “righteous” choice as we elevate self above all things. That’s a dangerous road.

In the end, abortion is something that should break our hearts and not be something we clown around about.

An Extra Note

One thing of which SNL’s skit reminds me, is how true an opening statement in a recent sermon was. While preaching about a Biblical view of sex, I said, “If all sexual activity was saved for a consensual act between a man and a woman in the confines of a commitment, imagine how many problems in the world would immediately disappear?” It’s true. And abortion would be one of those things. For the rest of the sermon, watch here:

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