On Friday, June 24, at 10:10 AM the Supreme Court of the United States struck down Row vs. Wade, reversing the legalization of abortion on demand across the United States. The issue of abortion is now the legal responsibility of our state legislatures. If you were alive on September 11, 2001, you remember where you were when the planes struck the towers. That was a bad day. The striking down of Roe marks a good day and a one to remember.
While this topic has our attention, I want to spend that attention in a particular way. Others have done a good job celebrating this legal victory and I heartily concur. As one friend put it, this decision may not lead to an unmitigatedly good world, nevertheless the overturning of Roe vs. Wade is an unmitigatedly good decision and a reason to celebrate. Hats off to those who have labored in the trenches of counseling, picketing, campaigning, persuading, and praying for this day.
While I have your attention, though, I want to write something evergreen for our church that we need both now and down the road. I want to answer the question, “why are we against abortion?”
Isn’t that obvious for a church that confesses that all humans are made in God’s image? Yes. Still, I’m convinced that if we do not self-consciously rehearse the deepest reasons for our opposition to abortion, we will grow vulnerable to bad arguments, unimpassioned indifference, and even quieted embarrassment for our position. In fact, because of how pervasive worldly philosophies are, some of us may have already adopted these bad arguments. (1Tim. 6:20, Col. 2:8). Without working hard to think in clear ethical and strategic terms rooted in Scripture, we may even fall to “nuanced” false moral equivalencies between the legal protection of the unborn and affordable healthcare or criminal justice reform. There is a term coined to describe those with pro-life convictions who have grown weary of speaking and acting for the unborn: “fetus fatigue.”
One leg of the marathon is over with the reversal of Roe. Another leg begins with our work at the state level. Lest we get tired or buy the trope popular among some in the Christian leadership class that abolishing abortion is a pipe dream, let us answer the question “Why are we against abortion?”
There are at least four reasons.
First, abortion is the murder of a human being.
Abortion is a legally complicated topic. Yet abortion is frequently pitched as a morally complicated topic. What is the point of viability? What were the circumstances of the conception? It’s true that we care about all the people involved, including the mother and father. Two questions, however, make the ethics of abortion surprisingly simple.
The first question is this: when do human beings begin? The answer is straightforward from the Bible, and it is clear in nature. In Psalm 139, David reflected on God’s intimate knowledge of every part of his life, even his life in the womb. With David each of us can say, God “knit me together in my mother’s womb” (139:13). Biology teaches us that Homo sapiens begin at the meeting of egg and sperm with the creation of an entirely new organism, unique with its own DNA. Given a proper environment and time, that organism contains within itself all that is needed to direct its own growth from that moment until death. In other words, embryos are not a part of the woman’s body or a parasite. Rather, an embryo is a distinct human being. Standard biology textbooks agree. Many in the pro-choice community are happy to grant this view of human life, though we don’t hear that position much in popular media.
But if many in the pro-choice community are happy to grant the basic humanity of unborn life, then how can they also be for abortion?
For this reason, we need to answer a second question: what makes human beings special? We step on ants, and we eat cows. Why not human beings? One view says that human beings are valuable for the kind of thing we are as human beings. This is what Christians hold, and we believe it to be so because, as Genesis 1:27 reads, “God created man in his own image.” A two-year-old girl, a handicapped boy, and an accomplished violinist share the same humanity and, thus, the same human dignity.
To understand the alternative view, the acronym, “SLED,” comes in handy. This view holds that human beings are more or less valuable depending on their size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency. When an argument for abortion is made based on viability, the logic of dependence is at work. An argument for partial birth abortion assumes an argument from environment. Where the human being is determines whether the human being is worthy of life. Princeton Professor of Bioethics, Peter Singer, recognizes the superficial difference that environment makes and so he advocates for infanticide, the killing young children. Humans, in this view, are not valuable for the kind of thing they are but for the kind of human they are.
But not only is abortion the murder of an infinitely valuable human being, abortion is the violent murder of a defenseless human being. Differences in size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency are reasons for a special measure of care.
We are against abortion because we are for human life, and especially human life in its most vulnerable stage.
Second, we fear God and praise his life-knitting glory revealed in the womb.
Listen to how David felt about the scope of God’s sovereignty over his life:
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
Meditation on God’s pervasive knowledge and care for us is a reason for wonder and praise. For that reason, it should be no surprise that our Bibles are filled with the violent death of children, for God’s enemy, the Devil. We can’t help but think of Pharaoh’s order for the Hebrew sons to be thrown into the Nile (Ex. 1:22). Yet, as the story goes, “the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them” (Ex. 1:17).
What happens in the womb of a woman is not really about what happens in the womb but in heaven. It’s about a woman and her baby and the life-knitting hand of God. When our hearts are in the right place, we revel at God’s masterpiece in humanity and revile the assault of abortion on his handiwork.
We are against abortion because we fear God, and we are for the display of his life-knitting glory.
Third, we believe in the societal good of male and female bodies, of marriage, of sex, and of children.
These things are good, they are good for society, and they are integral. They go together and they are designed to go in that order. That’s what we learn from the first two chapters of the Bible.
Here’s my favorite tweet after the fall of Roe: “Women will begin making pre-sex demands. Legally binding agreements with economic safeguards built in. Probably even expecting expensive jewelry and diamonds!”
Abortion has occupied an essential place in the moral matrix of American life for many years. Advocates for abortion speak about abortion as a “choice.” Human autonomy is one principle driving the ideology of abortion. Yet, an even stronger driver is equality. That is, the equality of the sexes. Bracketing for a moment the present confusion over what constitutes a woman, there are real life consequences to the biological fact that women have a uterus and men do not. When a man and a woman come together, a man impregnates, and a woman gets pregnant.
Abortion has been a way for men and women to engage in marital or extramarital sex without the natural consequence of bearing a human life. Abortion, with its denial of the goodness of the female body has been bad for all of us, but especially for women and children. Abortion has contributed to the pulling apart of children from sex, of sex from marriage, and of children from their parents.
We are against abortion because we are for the blessings that flow from the proper enjoyment of God’s good gifts.
Finally, we love our neighbors and long for sinners to come to repentance.
This reason is not peripheral.
Heaven will be populated with abortionists, with those who aborted their children, and every other kind of sinner who looked to Christ for forgiveness and for righteousness. But no one will be there who did not first see and confess the reality their sin and guilt before God. Feelings of guilt are good, a sign that our consciences are sensitive to eternity. Telling the truth about abortion is telling the truth about God and humanity and sin. Telling the truth about sin is one hard step on the way to the blessing of repentance and faith and eternal life.
We do not love our unbelieving neighbors by speaking only of sins most decent people are comfortable denouncing: lying, cheating, spousal abuse, and child trafficking, for example. Just read some of the stories of 26 women who committed abortions, published a few years back in New York Magazine. Some of these women have been hardened. Many of them are haunted. All of them, we know, need the grace of God—grace which is greater than all of our sin. Satan assaults the glory of God through abortion. He manipulates and uncritically affirms our felt needs and tortures those whom he has enslaved. Being honest about the evil of abortion is an important first step toward knowing the love of Christ for those who would commit an abortion.
Yes, speaking against abortion and acting on behalf of the unborn means that some—even many—harden in their opposition to our cause for the unborn, and even our Savior. But such is the case with any sin, no matter how gracious our presentation. Jesus’ own preaching blinded some while it gave sight to others. That’s how the Word works.
We are against abortion because we are for babies, we are for the glory of God, we are for the good of our neighbors, and we are for the salvation of sinners.
Keep up the good works
The expression, “Keep up the good work,” is a way of doing two things: celebrating good work and cheering on more of the same.
Brothers and sisters, good work. You have prayed. You have counseled in crisis pregnancy centers and campaigned for laws and leaders that advanced this cause. You have read and studied and taught one another about life. You have promoted marriage. You have adopted children. You have persuaded mothers to keep their children with tenderness, truth, and practical help. You have done the good work of caring for the vulnerable, just as Christians have always done. You have advocated for life in many ways over many years. In all of this, you have walked in the good works prepared beforehand by our Father.
Good work. Praise the Lord! Keep it up.