Roe v. Wade and I were born in the same year. I have never known America without the ubiquitous ability to kill one’s own child. To date, some 63 million lives have been lost, and a whole society scarred with the pain of killing children and searing consciences. As of June 24, 2022, the barbary of Roe is over. Yet the cause of life remains.
There is a lot to read on this subject, and I’ll try to add just a bit that I think will benefit the reader. My greatest instruction, though, is to eschew media coverage and read the court opinions themselves. This takes time and exposes the reader to legal jargon, but just skip it–you will understand enough. Start with Dobbs and the concurrences/dissents. Contrast the rational basis of the writing. Ask yourself, “Do I want to live in the society of the concurrences or the dissents?” Read Roe. Read Doe. Read Casey. Look up a term or two in your favorite search engine. Don’t let media outlets do the chewing and digestion–or especially the thinking.
Not much has changed
Abortion is still available, and most people think it should be, but should be regulated somehow. Despite media coverage to the contrary (e. g. “Court Decision at Odds with Public Opinion” written in doomsday font on the front page of the Sunday, June 26, 2022 Minneapolis Star-Tribune), most people really don’t disagree. If you ask “Should states have the ability to provide some limits on abortion?” nearly two-thirds say yes.
It’s all a matter of how you ask the question. Most say they agree with Roe, but they haven’t read it and don’t know what the Roe/Doe/Casey complex allows. Most don’t think abortion should be allowed simply for birth control, or gender selection purposes, or to eliminate Down’s Syndrome from our gene pool, but such has been allowed in our society with little or no justification.
The standing of human life has never been based on public opinion. We go to God’s Word to understand the character of the Creator and the nature of the unborn.* God created man in His own image, distinct from other animals or the rest of creation. Man, as Francis Schaeffer said, is neither God, nor non-man. He is human, and exceptionally so, created by God, redeemed from the fall by Christ the Son, and called to God Himself by the means of grace through the agency of the Holy Spirit. Or, in C. S. Lewis terms, “You have never met a mere mortal.” Everyone you meet is a precious, eternal human soul.
At the moment of fertilization, a genetically unique human organism is formed. Any success the pro-life movement has sustained is because of our focus on the object of abortion. If the unborn is a human life, then no justification for abortion is possible; If the unborn is not human life, then no justification for abortion is necessary.** The case we make is not a matter of power, politics, or popularity, but a fundamental, theological, anthropological confession.
But a whole lot has changed
About half of all states now have more restrictive positions than they were allowed to have under Roe/Doe. But that’s not saying much–Roe/Doe allowed very little in the way of restrictions on abortion, providing a danger to the unborn rarely equaled around the globe. For about half of states–and most of the nation’s population–absolutely nothing has changed.
But a lot HAS changed. It’s palpable. For example (thank you to Albert Mohler’s Daily Briefing for pointing this out on Wednesday, June 29, 2022), Henry Olson, a prominent pro-choice opinion writer for the pro-abortion Washington Post opened a recent op-ed with this: That the unborn child is a human being “is the only reason abortion is and ought to be an issue of political discussion. No rational person today believes that one human being ought to take the life of another only because they want to. Abortion on demand can be morally justified only if the entity whose life is extinguished is not a human being worthy of the legal protection of any decent society.”
When was the last time you heard that? Dobbs removed a government monopoly on bioethical consideration. For my entire life, every argument in favor of protecting the unborn could be dismissed by “it’s the law of the land…” Various government entities have gone so far as to arrest peaceful protestors praying in silence and charge them under racketeering laws designed to curtail organized crime. Culture has the power to catechize a populace as to what is normal, good, and acceptable. For a long time, abortion has been deemed so. But no longer.
The pro-abortion politician or philosopher must now make an argument. For decades they have not had to do so. You may notice now that there is no more pretending. Jurisprudence doesn’t matter. Theology or metaphysics doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what the “it” is that is being aborted. It doesn’t matter that the unborn human is genetically distinct from the mother. Nothing can be allowed to stand in the way of abortion for any or no reason at all.
This has led arguers to assert that the pro-life position connects sexual activity to procreation and that such activity should be confined to marriage, and that fathers of children conceived out of wedlock should be financially responsible to support the mother and their child. This is indeed our position. We see this as a good flowing from both Scripture and natural law.
This changes everything
Dobbs doesn’t solve everything and doesn’t even end most abortions. But everything has changed. It is now legal to enact controls on abortion. It is now more culturally acceptable to discuss a pro-life position and demand arguments in favor of abortion.
We see more clearly now who was for or against life and their reasons for being so. Some who hid behind “I disagree, but it’s the law of the land” now must admit that maybe they didn’t agree after all. Some who have exploited the pro-life cause for political gain will have to recalibrate. Others who have fallen along the more moderate lines of “safe, legal, and rare” have had to choose sides between “some restrictions on abortion are good” and “abortion should be legal, free, and accessible in any circumstance.” It’s all being laid bare.
The collective conscience of our nation has been pricked. Someone now has added reason to pause: “Maybe there is a reason that this is illegal . . . someplace.” An unplanned pregnancy creates trauma in many hearts, including in some Christians and within the bounds of marriage. Our culture has catechized us to think that “maybe I should just get rid of it” is an acceptable–even a default–answer. This thinking has been challenged, and the hearts of some will be changed.
As consciences are pricked, many will be convicted. I have met women who aborted their children in the 1970’s because they really believed what they were told: It’s not a child, but a product of conception or a mass of cells. Had there been ultrasound like today they would have made a different decision. Guilt and condemnation abide, and they dare not speak for fear of the ridicule of the saints. One of our opportunities is to extend grace to the brokenhearted. “Where is death’s sting, O grave, thy victory; I triumph still of Thou abide with me . . . ”
Such encounters are opportunities, but there are also current and ongoing threats to the cause of life. Some are outside our control, but several of them concern our own attitudes, actions, and reactions. I’ll start with the one that is outside of our control.
Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs) contain some of the most genuine, hard-working, sacrificial people I have ever known. I served on the board of one for some time, and my wife counseled those considering abortion. I’ve spent a lot of time (barely any compared to some dear souls) on sidewalks praying silently for those considering aborting their child. I’ve observed some bad behavior on the pro-life side; we all have things from which to repent. But the clamoring you hear over “why don’t you do something to help women . . . ” is vacuous. Such help is available and offered free of charge and without reservation. And yet today some who have charged pro-life advocates with not caring about women are advocating for shutting down or violently attacking the very places where that care is provided. This is telling, and should drive us to prayer, advocacy, and financial support of these centers.
But other threats are internal. Pro-life arguers may be tempted to over-reach. I don’t think any abortion should be legal anywhere, except for the exceptionally rare case where a mother’s physical life is threatened.*** Most mothers choose to risk their lives to give their baby a chance, but in my opinion that rare decision should not be forced on a mother. It is tempting to “swing for the fences” and try to outlaw all abortion everywhere. That aim is more noble than possible. Not every law in a society is as just as one would like.
Self-righteousness is another danger. There will be a lot of pro-life people in hell. Being pro-life is not the “one thing you can do” to be right with God. It is not the only matter on the heart of God. God gives us his commandments not to help us establish our own righteousness, but to convince us of our unrighteousness and our need for Christ’s righteousness. When we hear the fifth**** commandment our response should not be “at least I’ve never aborted a baby,” but “how have I disregarded human life?” and “Woe is me, for I am undone!”
But this is not to say one should be complacent with where matters stand today. Complacency is a real danger. This is a gut check for pro-lifers, too: Are we against abortion only when the unborn child involved looks like a cute little baby? Or are we willing to protect life at its earliest stages, considering also contraceptive methods that are abortifacient, or fertility treatments that create, select, and destroy embryos? We are right to oppose abortion, even if we do so while acknowledging our own inconsistencies. An inconsistency acknowledged is one step closer to being remedied. Our response to inconsistency should be repentance rather than self-righteousness.
Since the time of Roman persecution, Christians have been known as people who are for life in all its ages and stages. Christians would rescue and raise babies left to exposure at the will of their Roman fathers, and thus became known as people for life. Christians were mocked at one point for being the religion of slaves and women.
This day, like every day, is a day of opportunity. We have opportunity in the congregation to believe, teach, and confess together what we hold to be true. This is not limited to Biblical teaching on the nature of human life, in all its ages and stages, but this teaching is certainly included, and foundational. Our congregations can continue to serve those who are in any time of need, whether they agree with us or not. It’s never a mistake to love a child, or the mother carrying that child, or the father trying his best to figure out life apart from sufficient modeling.
We have opportunities in our homes to teach the value of human life. Non-Christians are not our enemies; they are precious, eternal human souls for whom Christ died. Pro-abortion politicians are not our enemies; our children need not hear us spout invectives. Family members who disagree with us are not our enemies; they are our closest neighbors. And the next-door neighbor who won’t rake his leaves, or has the dog that keeps barking, or parks his RV in front of his house? Codes are codes and laws are laws, and as frustrating as that might be . . . they aren’t your enemy, either.
Every Christian is also a citizen of the kingdom of earth, and most who read this are fortunate enough to live in the United States. We have our issues, to be sure, but we are thankful for what we have here. Something that we have is the ability to take part in government at various levels. Frustration with the “left-hand kingdom” has led some to withdraw, saying that civic engagement doesn’t matter. But this is a mistake. The magistrate does not have the gospel; it’s not his job to forgive sin. That is the job of the “right-hand” kingdom of God, and it is exercised publicly through the ministry of the congregation.
But the state has its role, and in the United States we have a part in that role. If you’re a pro-life voter where I live, it may not feel significant. But it is significant. And we dare not let the likelihood of a desired outcome affect the faithfulness of our public testimony.
With Christ, God’s best is yet ahead.
*God’s Word is the source for our theology, but I don’t mean to imply that arguments for the value of human life dwell only in Scripture. Beware those theologians who have a low view of Scripture but are willing to make an argument from Scripture in favor of abortion. There are embryological, genetic, and philosophical arguments that can be made from an entirely secular viewpoint– and I could do so at length. It is not the job, though, of the Christian theologian to do so.
**I’ve just given you a primer from Apologetics and Christian Thought at FLBC, which covers bioethical topics like abortion, euthanasia, transhumanism, assistive reproductive technology, and gender reassignment surgery. If you want, look up the names Scott Klusendorf, Greg Koukl, and Nancy Pearcey. Their writings are helpful.
***I became aware of a recently popular trope last semester, one that claimed a high percentage of pregnancies result in ectopic pregnancies or similar conditions that necessitate an abortion. I’ve seen it circulating on Twitter recently, and it is simply not true. Further, I don’t know of anybody advocating for making such procedures illegal.
****I’m Lutheran. It’s number six if you’re Reformed or Zwinglian.
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