By Dave Andrusko
Keli Goff ‘s essay at the Daily Beast was headlined “A Christian Case for Abortion Rights?” Does that not sound like the vegetarian’s case for meat, Barack Obama’s case for decisive leadership, or the devout atheist—contrary at its core?
This oldie but badie argument merits a rebuttal, not because it is so original but because it is like the 700th iteration of a Xerox.
So what IS the Christian case for abortion rights, you ask? It’s really more like how Goff has concluded that a pro-life position, for Christians, at least, is problematic because of “four primary complications.” These are so old, you have to wipe cobwebs off of them.
First, Goff tells us, “the unresolved debate within Christianity regarding the extent to which our modern-day actions should be governed by Old Testament law.” So, by Goff’s logic, if the Old Testament talks “about sacrificing bulls and turtledoves,” which “are no longer held to ironclad interpretation and practice by 21st-century Christians and clergy,” therefore the application of Old Testament scripture such as Exodus 21:22 to abortion is no longer “ironclad” either.
I assume we are supposed to take this seriously. I won’t and I assume no one else who can count to 66 will either.
Since this is a brief post we’ll not talk about the many, many passages which emphasize how God is in communion with us before we are born and the continuity between life before and after birth. To take one example, in the Psalms. As Peter Saunders has observed, “The baby in the womb is the Psalmist, the same person, not a different person and not a non-person.”
What else? “The next complication is the lack of scientific and religious clarity over how to define when life begins.” There is no lack of scientific clarity over when life begins. Life begins at conception. Period. Whether you protect that life—whether that life has “meaning” or “significance”—is a separate question.
Religious “clarity”? How about “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful…My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place…your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
The Bible is also crystal clear that there are no separate categories of human beings. We are all—each one of us—unique and of infinite value because we are made in God’s image.
“The third issue for debate among devout Christians regarding abortion rights, and one of the most important,” Goff writes, “is determining whether something that one may believe morally to be wrong or even a sin should be legislated.”
What is that supposed to mean? Whether you believe it is “morally” wrong to knock your fiancé out cold and someone else says it’s just wrong (or a “private matter”) is not the issue. The law is intended to protect the weak from the strong, to say some behavior is out of bounds and will be punished, and that you can’t get away with something by pretending someone—aka the law–is foisting their “morality” on you.
Goff’s concluding point—reduced to its essence—is that even if someone (presumably a Christian) concludes that something (in this case having an abortion) is a sin, who gets to decide whether having an abortion is the more “humane” choice?
As we have discussed countless times, there are difficult cases. No pro-lifer denies that. How would or could we when so many of us have experienced the hardest of the hard cases in our own lives?
Two things we’ve learned. First, if you go all the way back to the abortion “reform” movement of the 1960s, a narrow band of proposed “exceptions” had, by 1973, swallowed the rule. Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton essentially gave us abortion on demand throughout pregnancy. These decisions’ progeny, so to speak, is softness on infanticide and assisted suicide.
Second, with the rarest of situations—ectopic pregnancies and a threat to the life of the mother—the hard cases are manageable cases where the choice can and should be for life.
Does that require courage and resolution and character? Absolutely. But is not the life of a wholly dependent, helpless baby worth that?
If you are Goff and talking about Christianity and abortion with much about the Bible, the answer is that that baby is most assuredly worth that to the Author of Life, as He has made clear in His word, the Bible.