It’s rare to find a new angle on the disingenuous arguments that get recycled by abortion activists. Leave it to edgy pop star Madonna to put a new spin one of the most divisive and counterfactual claims of abortion supporters.
In an interview with Andrew Denton while promoting her new album, Madonna said she wanted to meet with Pope Francis to encourage him to change the teaching of the Catholic Church on abortion and other issues. She told Denton she would say to Pope Francis, “Let’s talk about Jesus’ point of view about women. Let’s talk about it.”
She continued, “What do you really think he thought of women? And don’t you think Jesus would agree that a woman has the right to choose what to do with her body?”
In her questions, Madonna is not so subtly suggesting that Jesus would support abortion. This argument has been made before; for example, pro-abortion commentators the Young Turks claimed it’s “a fact” that the Bible encourages abortion (it doesn’t). There are many scripture passages and Christian teachings one could point to showing that Jesus does not, in fact, support the violent destruction of a defenseless child in the womb, but these are, frankly, beside the point. Madonna is not advancing a legitimate religious argument, and Christians should not respond as though she is.
Madonna’s argument involves several erroneous assumptions that are becoming more and more widespread in our culture, and these are what need to be examined and responded to. First, Madonna assumes that abortion is solely a religious issue, that Pope Francis or any other faith leader could arbitrarily change the teaching without reference to what abortion actually is.
This is false. Opposition to abortion need not be based on religious teaching, because there is a biological reality corroborating religious teaching on abortion. Namely, there is a rapidly developing human being in the womb with a beating heart. Ending that life, through starvation, suction, or dismemberment, is not an ethically neutral act, and people do not need to share the Christian faith to recognize this. The existence of groups like Secular Pro-Life confirm this.
Second, Madonna uses the false idea that women are only free if they can legally end the lives of their preborn children. In recent years, abortion activists are more often referring to abortion as a woman “choosing what to do with her body.” There are countless pro-life responses to this false claim and pointing out the obvious fact that there is another body involved in an abortion, the body of a person who has no say in his or her death.
Contrary to Madonna’s suggestion, people who are pro-life are not oppressing women and denying them freedom; they are defending the right to life of vulnerable human beings. While pregnancy can be extraordinarily difficult and crisis situations can make it even more so, pro-lifers rightly argue that addressing the mother’s distress cannot include the option of killing another human being.
Pro-lifers have not stood by idly moralizing to mothers in crisis situations. There is a network of thousands of pregnancy resource centers that assist mothers and their families during difficult circumstances. Without truly having the option to choose life, abortion appears necessary, not an expression of freedom or autonomy.
Despite the errors in her position, Madonna is confident that she may have the opportunity to discuss with Pope Francis, telling her interviewer, “One day he might invite me. I think this one might… I think he would be open to having that conversation with me.”
Madonna, who was raised Catholic, has been excommunicated multiple time for her disrespectful use of religious imagery in her music videos and on stage. Despite this, she continues to claim that she is influenced by Catholic images and symbols. It’s not clear that her attraction to religious imagery is sincere as many of her incorporations of religious elements appear to be a mockery, for example using a cross as a stripper pole and claiming she wanted to be a nun for the sex appeal.
Madonna’s personal religious motives aside, her argument is a distraction from the real issues—issues of life and death—surrounding abortion.