As Supreme Court weighs abortion, Christians challenge what it means to be 'pro-life'

Jaweed Kaleem, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Religious News

It was an uncompromising world, she said, "with little room for nuance." For a child, the "simplicity was easy to embrace."

Her passion for stopping abortions led her to study political science at Calvin University in nearby Grand Rapids. After graduating in 1999, at a time when more states were moving to restrict abortions, she joined the office of Republican Rep. Peter Hoekstra in Washington, D.C.

"I wanted to push these laws that would make abortion illegal because I wanted to protect the unborn," Berghoef said.

But in the nation's capital, she saw homelessness and poverty on her walks to work. She reflected on the parables and teachings of her youth and wondered how her focus on abortion was helping those that Jesus described as "the least of these." In conversations with members of Congress, she said, she was shocked to hear talk of abortion as a political issue instead of a moral one. While responding to constituent letters, Berghoef researched data on abortion.

She felt herself changing. She wondered whether she had been naive in believing that her fight saved souls and lives. Such questions were a challenge to her faith and identity.

"I started to realize that the thing that's actually going to bring down this abortion rate is all these things that my party, the Republicans, were working against: affordable health care, access to contraceptives, expanded availability of child care and better educational opportunities for women.


"I felt like I could no longer be a Republican. I didn't want to be a Democrat," Berghoef said, remembering that pivotal moment years before casting her first vote as the latter. "I became a political nomad."

She returned to Michigan and enrolled at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, where she met her now-husband, Bryan, an aspiring pastor on a similar journey.

Over two decades, they launched small churches in Traverse City, Michigan, and Washington, D.C. She found a part-time job at the Faith and Politics Institute, a group whose mission is to bring together politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Her spirituality remained the same. Her politics veered leftward.


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