Forgive the length, but this is heavy on my heart this week.
I was in high school the year that five powerful old white men found something hidden in the US Constitution that no one in almost two centuries had realized was there. They found a supposed constitutional right to take the life of a human being. To terminate a pregnancy.
It isn’t the first time the US Supreme Court has made a serious mistake. It’s clear to most people today that in 1857, the court’s 7-2 decision in the case of Dred Scott vs. Sandford was wrongly decided. In that decision, the court ruled that black people “are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States.” Later courts had to undo that decision, and we’re all glad they did.
I didn’t think much about the now famous Row vs. Wade court decision when it was handed down in 1973. Several states had already decriminalized abortion at that point. I had what was a pretty common opinion of abortion at the time, something I’d heard other people say. “I wouldn’t want my sister to have one, but I can’t tell other people it’s wrong.”
The “I wouldn’t want my sister to have one” half of that sentence should have been a tip off to me that there was something that troubled my conscience about abortion, even if I couldn’t articulate exactly what it was. But as a teen-aged boy, I wasn’t spending a lot of time thinking or worrying about abortion.
But five years later, in one evening, my thoughts about abortion changed dramatically.
Mary Ann and I saw a video that was being shown in a local church. It was the first of a five part series produced by Francis Schaffer called Whatever Happened To The Human Race. And it was about abortion.
The video featured Dr. C. Everett Koop, before he became the Surgeon General during the Reagan administration. And it ended with Francis Schaffer on a beach that is covered with lifeless baby dolls. The image was riveting. And Mary Ann and I left the church that night, looked at each other and said to ourselves “how could we have not seen this for what it really is?”
In our politically and culturally divided country, the battle over abortion is heating up.
In January, peopled cheered and celebrated when legislators in New York expanded state abortion laws by removing some protections that had existed for babies born alive during a botched abortion.
In February, the Governor of Virginia defended proposed legislation that would allow a doctor and his patient to determine whether or not to sustain the life of a baby that survived a late term abortion.
Meanwhile, other states moved in the opposite direction. This spring, legislators in Georgia did what other states had already done. They outlawed any abortion once a fetal heartbeat could be detected (typically at six weeks). And last week, the legislature in Alabama went a step farther, virtually outlawing any abortion in the state.
The Alabama law has touched off a firestorm among those who are advocates of what is ironically referred to as “reproductive health.” Almost as soon as the Alabama law was passed, USA Today posted an op-ed entitled “I was 12 years old and pregnant. Alabama’s abortion ban bill would punish girls like me.” Saturday Night Live gave four minutes to cast member Leslie Jones to rail against the Alabama law. National Public Radio featured a montage of people sharing their abortion stories – people like Lindsey Godfrey who said “I had an abortion. I just simply wasn’t in a place – emotionally or financially – to take that on. And I was and still am glad that I had that choice because that’s exactly what it was. It was my choice, my body.”
It may have been Lindsey’s choice. But it wasn’t her body that was removed from her womb during her abortion. It was her child. Her baby. Someone with different DNA than Lindsey. It was not a cyst or a tumor. Not a growth of some sort. It was a living human being growing inside her.
Until it wasn’t anymore.
The Irish novelist Sally Rooney says that laws against abortion give unborn children the right to “make free, non-consensual use of another living person’s uterus and blood supply, and cause permanent, unwanted changes to another person’s body.” A woman, she believes, should have the right to refuse to harbor this unwelcome intruder and to do away with the invader altogether. Her logic is “this is my uterus – you have no right to be there without my permission.”
Of course, Sally misses the point that in almost every pregnancy, permission to inhabit the uterus was granted de facto in the hours before the child was conceived. But in our day, to suggest such a puritanical idea is to be quickly dismissed as out of touch or old fashioned.
In the days ahead, we can expect to hear stories of women in desperate circumstances who had abortions. Indeed, there are desperate stories that should not be simply waved way. Our hearts should go out to women who are pregnant and afraid.
But the stories we will hear in coming days will not represent the majority of women who have abortions each day. We’ll hear stories designed to play on our emotions in an attempt to weaken our own convictions about protecting innocent human life.
In addition to hearing heart wrenching stories, we will also hear calls to a “consistent pro-life ethic.” People will change the subject from abortion to the death penalty or free contraception or government mandated maternity and paternity leave. The subtext will be “unless you advocate for all these things, you’re not allowed to have an opinion on abortion. You’re a hypocrite.”
The stories we won’t hear are the stories that support the pro-life position. You won’t hear about the couple in Ireland who desperately wanted a baby but who chose to abort when their doctor reported fetal abnormalities. As it turned out, the baby didn’t have Trisomy18 as the medical tests had indicated. The final analysis was that the baby boy had been healthy when he was aborted.
You won’t see profiles of people like Rebecca Kiessling, the women whose mother decided not to abort after having been raped at knife point by a serial rapist.
But honestly, at the end of the day, the issue ought not be decided by which side can tell the most emotionally charged stories. There are complex issues that surround the abortion debate, but the core issue is not complex. The question we are grappling with in our culture right now is under what circumstances should a pregnant woman have the right to end a pregnancy – a pregnancy that will result in the birth of a fellow human being created in the image of God?
Is the death of that person acceptable if conception included violence or trauma?
In his book Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice(Cambridge University Press), Roman Catholic theologian Francis Beckwith makes a compelling and rational case for why abortion in the case of rape or incest is still a moral evil:
“If the unborn is fully human (which is the real question), to request that its life be forfeited for the alleged benefit of another is to violate a basic institution of ethical judgment: ‘we may never kill innocent person B to save person A.’ For example, ‘we cannot kill John by removing a vital organ in order to save Mary, who needs it. This is not a lack of compassion for Mary; it is the refusal to commit murder, even for a good cause. John has a right not to be killed to benefit Mary, even to save her life. Mary has the same right. We could not kill the woman to benefit the child. Equally, we cannot kill the child to benefit the woman.’ In abortion, ‘the child is being sacrificed for the benefit of another. He has no duty to do this; it is not right to force him. Would those who favor abortion for rape volunteer their lives so that another might be benefitted in a similar way? If not, is it right to force this on another person? If yes, at least they have the opportunity to make a choice. The unborn child does not.’ Simply because some people believe that an unborn child’s death may result in the happiness of another does not mean that the child has a duty to die.”
But what if a child in the womb is diagnosed with Spina Bifida? Or Down’s Syndrome? Is abortion justified in those cases?
Or what if medical tests indicate something even more serious like hydrocephalus or some other condition that will almost certainly be fatal? Is the poisoning or dismembering of that baby in utero more humane to the child or the mother than to allow death to occur soon after birth?
No doubt some who are reading this have made the choice to have an abortion at some point. One in four women in our country have had the procedure. I know that speaking out against abortion can bring pain and guilt and condemnation to those who once made that choice.
For you – and for all of us who have made decisions that we deeply regret – there is good news. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. As we sometime sing together:
My sin, o the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part, but the whole
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!
From the opening pages of scripture, God declares the dignity and worth given to all human beings. Unlike any other created thing in the entire universe, we bear His image. The angels marvel at His love for human beings.
As Christians, we should uphold that same ethic. We should marvel and find joy in the creation of new life – even new life that is the size of a pomegranate seed!
Because that fearfully and wonderfully made little pomegranate seed sized person is an image bearer of the Almighty.
May God have mercy on us all.
It’s time for a night at Dickey Stephens Park! A night with the Travs! Check this out:
This year we’re going all out. We have a party room reserved. It’s air conditioned and has its own private bathroom! Your ticket price is a little higher than in previous years ($16) but includes all you can eat hamburgers, hot dogs, popcorn, chips, iced tea and water from 5:00 – 7:00! And we’ll have seats together behind home plate.
Here’s the catch. We need you to decide that you’re coming. Like in advance. Like now. Or at least by Monday.
You can secure your tickets and pay for them on line using Event Brite. Once you buy your ticket, we’ll either have someone handing them out by the ticket window on Saturday night. Or we’ll see if we can get them held for you at the will call window. Either way, we’ll let you know.
So, are you coming? Bringing the whole family? Then click here and get your tickets today!
Now, who’s ready for some theology! The Summer Study starts in a week and a half. Here again are details.
If you’re planning to attend, and you haven’t yet purchased your copy of Everyone’s A Theologian, can order it online from Amazon here.
And if you have your book, here’s the assignment for session one. Read Part One: The Introduction. Ask yourself two questions as you read. 1) What is one thing that jumped out at me as I read that I hadn’t considered or thought of or understood before? And 2) What is one idea presented here that the average person might disagree with?
Remember, the study is open to anyone, including friends you know who don’t attend RCC. The more, the merrier!
Do you think you might be interested in attending a morning women’s Bible study at Redeemer in the Fall? You may have already received an email with a quick survey that will help our women’s ministry know how to best make plans. The survey will take just a couple of minutes to complete. You ‘ll find it here.
Make sure to take a minute to check out the church summer calendar to make plans now for the Kid’s Summer Fest days, the all church pool party and other events in June.
There’s one special event that’s not on the calendar that we’d like you to plan for. On Sunday night June 30, we’re planning a night of Hymns and Prayers at our new church building. We’ll have more info soon. But for now, add the event to your calendar and plan to be part of a very special evening of praying for how God might work in our new church home.
Speaking of the new church home, we’ll have an update for you soon on our coming move and the items that are at the top of our list to purchase as soon as funds are available. We’re grateful that there has been enough given in the past two months to cover the cost of new audio equipment, new projectors, new video equipment and stage lighting for the worship center. Please continue to pray for the construction, and join us in asking God to enable us to move it ready to serve the new folks we expect will be visiting us very soon!
As we’ve been studying 1 John, have you found yourself wondering if your
life is in sync with how John describes a genuine follower of Christ?
The standard laid out for us in 1 John is pretty steep! But as we’ll
see this week, John understands how we might be feeling. And as we’ll
see Sunday, he has some encouraging, comforting words for us
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!