A Christian Perspective on Roe v. Wade
One week ago yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the Roe v. Wade ruling which had made abortion legal in all 50 states. The effect of this ruling is that it will now be placed upon each of the 50 states to decide what to allow or not regarding abortion. How should a Christian respond? I do not claim to have the all-encompassing answer to that question, but I will offer some thoughts here.
Not a Time for Gloating
First, this is not a time for gloating. It is, in the first place, unbecoming of a Christian to gloat. Secondly, gloating assumes a victory, and a victory assumes that overturning Roe v. Wade was the goal. I do not think it is. To be sure, a key purpose of government and laws is to protect the vulnerable, and the unborn are the most vulnerable members of our society. Therefore, overturning the Roe v. Wade ruling is good.
The goal is not a world in which abortion is illegal, but a world in which there are no abortions because no one would even have circumstances which lead them to consider abortion as an answer. A world free from rape. A world free from poverty. A world free from diseased and deformed children. A world in which life was considered and experienced as a joyous gift from God. Anything short of that means our work is not done.
The goal is not a world in which abortion is illegal, but a world in which there are no abortions because no one would even have circumstances which lead them to consider abortion as an answer.
About 5 years ago or so (or do we need to add a year on account of the pandemic?), I was at a breakfast meeting in Tampa sitting next to the now late Sol Pitchon, then the president of New Life Solutions, a God honoring ministry which ministers to pregnant women in vulnerable life circumstances, as well as to women who wrestle with the pain of having had an abortion.
During that breakfast, I said, “Sol, while I believe it would be good to overturn Roe v. Wade, I am not sure that it couldn’t also be bad.” He looked at me puzzled. I explained my point, “Abortions were happening in large quantity prior to Roe v. Wade, but the church was largely unaware because they were done in hiding, and therefore the church was asleep. Roe v. Wade woke the church up and pregnancy centers like New Life began popping up and Christians began generously donating to the cause and getting involved. I am afraid that if it is overturned, many will think that the goal has been reached and the job is over, and the church might go back to sleep.”
The job of the church has just increased and now the very people we need to serve may be harder to see. Harder to see because they will go under the radar. Increased because many who would have otherwise considered abortion will not, so they will need care and some babies will need adoption.
A Christian Perspective on Abortion
The long tradition of the Christian faith is that we are called to care for the weakest members of society. In biblical terms they are called widows, orphans, and strangers (immigrants). These were the ones most vulnerable to the system, as it were, to abuse and oppression. In parabolic terms, it is the unidentified man on the side of the road dying. This belief that we are called to care for the weakest members of society led to caring for the sick who had otherwise been discarded by society. Today many hospitals still bear names associating them with the work of Christians.
The most vulnerable members of our society today are infants in the womb. They have no rights afforded them by our constitution or legal system. They have no voice of their own or power over anyone. As a Christian I have no desire to tell a woman what to do with her body, but I must speak up about the harm she may decide to inflict on another body that’s inside her womb with its own unique DNA. While that baby is a dependent life, it is both distinct and alive.
The long tradition of the Christian faith is that we are called to care for the weakest members of society.
The earliest extant Christian writing is the Didache, which many estimate to be written as early as 70 A.D. meaning it was written by those the apostles taught personally. It explicitly condemns abortion. “Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not corrupt youth; thou shalt not commit fornication; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not use soothsaying; thou shalt not practise sorcery; thou shalt not kill a child by abortion, neither shalt thou slay it when born; thou shalt not covet the goods of thy neighbour…” (Charles H. Hoole Translation, 1894).
The church has always stood against abortion because it is taking a life. People argue over whether the baby in the womb is a human, but no one will argue that it is not human life. Never has a pregnant woman been surprised that they were carrying a zebra. It is not zebra life, or cat life, or any other kind of life than human. That it is human life means it must be protected. Richard B. Hays comments in a similar vain.
The prologue of John’s Gospel asserts that all life comes into being through the creative agency of the Logos: “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (JOHN 1:3–5) Wherever new life begins to develop in any pregnancy, the creative power of God is at work, and Jesus Christ, who was the original agent of creation, has already died for the redemption of the incipient life in utero. That is why Barth can say, “The true light of the world shines already in the darkness of the mother’s womb.” We are privileged to participate in the creative work of God through begetting and bearing and birthing children, but there can be no new life without the generative power of God.… To terminate a pregnancy is not only to commit an act of violence but also to assume responsibility for destroying a work of God, “from whom are all things and for whom we exist” (1 Cor. 8:6). To put the matter in these terms does not presume any particular decision about when the fetus becomes a “person.” Whether we accord “personhood” to the unborn child or not, he or she is a manifestation of new life that has come forth from God.… We neither create ourselves nor belong to ourselves. Within this worldview, abortion—whether it be “murder” or not—is wrong for the same reason that murder and suicide are wrong: it presumptuously assumes authority to dispose of life that does not belong to us. (The Moral Vision of the New Testament, 450.)
Think of that. Every life in the womb was created by and for Jesus Christ. He came to bring life to His creation, therefore He died for that life in the womb.
A Time to Act
A Christian, however, must also recognize that many women find themselves with difficult decisions to make in very grievous circumstances. While I don’t believe the solution to a life conceived through rape is to kill it, I cannot imagine the pain this experience causes the woman. I rejoice for the testimonies of moms who have borne such children and consider that child one of their greatest joys, or others who were adopted out of such circumstances and are grateful for their life. But I grieve over the horror of having to wrestle with such a dilemma.
The consequences for a woman having what they thought of as casual sex are far greater than for a man. Additionally, it is usually the guy who is pressuring for sex but has little stake in the game. No doubt there is an inequity in that. Once again, I grieve over the fact that young women are often left to deal with the consequences by themselves or are pressured by their boyfriends or husbands to abort the child and the sense that they would be alone in raising the child.
Hopefully this ruling will result in more babies born and less aborted. If so, there will be greater need to support pregnancy centers such as The Next Stepp Center or New Life Solutions. There will be a greater need to adopt or foster children who are born into broken homes. A great need to bring an unwed pregnant teen into one’s home, and that mother and child once born to help them get a start. All of this creates an even greater opportunity for the church to become a hermeneutic of the Gospel—to live in such a way that the world will be able to interpret the message of the Gospel by observing our lives.