Friday, May 17, 2019
Daniel J. Summers
I'm a big fan of what's going on in Alabama. They recently passed the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, a “clean” abortion ban (auto-play warning on that link) that only contains an exception for the life of the mother; no rape exception, no incest exception, no “health of the mother” exception. The people who passed it have said that they are presenting it as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that discovered this then-previously-unknown right.
I probably should qualify what I mean by being a “big fan” of it. It clearly articulates the value of human life from the moment of conception, and provides severe penalties for doctors who perform the procedure contrary to the law. Would I have written the law this way? Possibly; it's easier to add exceptions to a clean bill than try to remove them, when they were part of the bill the way the legislature voted on it. Do I think it has a chance that it will take effect? Not one little bit; there will be an injunction while the bill travels through the courts.
However, the people decrying this as an “absolutist” bill were the same ones cheering when New York passed their Reproductive Health Act back in January, which, among other things, removed any consideration of personhood from unborn children. These are also the people who see Georgia's Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act, which does have rape and incest exceptions, as so bad… (How bad is it?) It's so bad that they're refusing to act there or have marital relations with their spouses! (Weird flex, but OK… glad to see the latter part only lasted a day or so.)
Personally, I believe that rape and incest are horrible, terrible crimes, that are not improved by committing another violent act. I also realize that, as a government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” a law will probably end up having those exceptions in it. We don't have to imagine any exception being exploited; I'm sure Georgia doctors can and will ultrasound not quite right, so the heartbeat isn't found. I believe their police reporting requirement for invoking the rape and incest exceptions is an excellent step; many people who commit these terrible crimes don't just commit them once, and getting these criminals off the street will prevent further victims.
A common argument against those who wear the “pro life” label is that we seem to only care about unborn life. That couldn't be further from the truth; and, in reality, that characterization is often made by political groups trying to marginalize us when we've just made a good point. Most “pro life” people I know also support fostering and adoption (when they're allowed to), work programs, and end of life care as well. What they do not seem to get is this - the key to being truly pro-life is valuing life from womb to tomb. Re-read the last sentence of the previous paragraph; that's a statement that values life! Until we can figure out a way to un-rape someone, preventing future rapes by the same perpetrator is something we can actually do. If you want to move beyond “thoughts and prayers,” there's something concrete.
Life begins at conception; the closer we get to protecting all human life from that point forward, the better off we will be.
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Daniel J. Summers
(Each year, the Sunday closest to January 22, the date of the passing of Roe v. Wade, is observed as “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” in many churches.)
Ten years have brought us a long way. The 7th post on this blog observed 2004's Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. This year brings us to the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand in the United States.
As America has become more politically polarized, her views on abortion have as well. However, there is a growing trend against abortion, particularly the more barbaric late-term procedures, which are now only approved by those blinded by their insistence on how much of a “right” it is. A recent Time cover read “40 Years Ago, Abortion Rights Activists Won an Epic Battle with Roe v. Wade: They've Been Losing Ever Since,” and Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, thoroughly dissected that article. And, there are some truly heartening statistics for those who value life:
- Four states have only one abortion provider in the entire state
- 24 states have passed 90 laws restricting abortion since 2010
- Some states require parental notification for minors seeking abortion
- Some states impose waiting periods and/or counseling before an abortion can be obtained
- 30 states do not fund abortions via Medicare
- The number of those who self-identify as “pro choice” is down to 41%
However, as Dr. Mohler so adeptly points out, abortion is far from the “rare” its proponents claim they want to see. 50 million abortions have been performed since Roe passed, and we are at the point where 1 in 3 women have had an abortion by the time they make 45.
Science is helping the pro-life cause. I covered a good bit of this about a year and a half ago. Ultrasound has given us a window into prenatal development, and psychology and psychiatry have identified post-abortion depression as much more common than postpartum depression per incident.
Interestingly enough, the most damage to the pro-life cause in the past year came from two pro-life national office candidates. I covered both those guys at the time (the latter also citing Dr. Mohler - what can I say, he agrees with me a lot!), and since that is where our movement faltered this year, I believe this is where our focus should be. Our participation in the debate should keep the following Scripture in mind:
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world…” - Matthew 5:13-14a (ESV)
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ…” - Ephesians 4:15 (ESV)
As Christians advocating for God's way of handling His creation, we must remember who we are. Salt can make a meal pop; however, salt can also overpower, and can be painful when ground into an open wound. Akin and Mourdock were the latter, coming off as callous and uncaring, much like those who still support “partial-birth” abortion come across to us. Light illuminates, but it can also blind. I left the entirety of Ephesians 4:15 there to show it in its context, but the first part of that verse is the key. We know this works; the “crisis pregnancy center” didn't even exist before Roe v. Wade, and now they outnumber abortion providers. Their popularity is due to the care that pregnant and scared women can receive from these organizations. They don't beat the women over the head with their “mistakes” of pregnancy or of seeking an abortion; they offer counseling, ultrasound, and support through pregnancy, childbirth, and the first few months of motherhood. They show a better way, and many women are choosing that path.
While progress against abortion is good, there is an the assault on the sanctity of human life from the other flank. “Assisted suicide” has been making the news already this year. In late 2012, two brothers in Belgium asked to be euthanized and eventually found a doctor who agreed, despite their condition not being consistent with even a liberal interpretation of the “unbearable pain” that law requires. North of our borders, Quebec looks to become the first Canadian province to legalize assisted suicide, not through legal changes, but through medical characterization of the procedure.
Both the Belgium law and the Canadian guideline revisions have advocates claiming that they will be applied narrowly; it sounds like they want it to be “safe, legal, and rare.” Where have we heard that before? Belgium and Canada both have government-run health care systems, so the government has a financial interest to maximize its investments in the system. Right now, it's a long jump to allow someone to be euthanized because they have no hope of recovery, and keeping them alive is expensive. With the Belgian brothers, and this change in health guidelines in Canada, that jump became half as long. I'm certainly not accusing the advocates of these laws of wanting to kill people; I'm sure to them, this is just them trying to help people in pain. I can guarantee, though, that in 30 years, very few of these people will still be around, and the next generation will have been reared in a society where it's perfectly normal to choose when you die. At that point, faced with looming deficits, it's a very small leap to see mandatory euthanasia based on medical evaluation. The slope isn't terribly slippery, but it's a slope nonetheless.
This illustrates the root of the disagreements many of us pro-lifers have with these laws, guidelines, and procedures. The disagreement is one of worldview. We see human life as precious, from the moment of conception through natural death, being conferred that status by God's declaration and unique grace to us within His creation. Human life alone is described as being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14); its offspring described as a “reward” and having many as a “blessing” (Psalm 127:3-5); prohibited from being killed (Exodus 20:13); offered salvation from our fallen state (John 3:16); and promised reuniting with God (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) or judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). God has made it pretty clear how He views the part of His creation that was made “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27).
If we lived in a society that agreed with this worldview - well, I probably wouldn't be writing this. However, we do not, and the society in which we do live has an answer to each of those points.
- Creation? No, we just evolved - somehow - big bang, amoeba, something - and there definitely was not intelligent design!
- Lots of children are a good thing? No, that would interfere with our careers; let's delay that, scrape their beginnings off our womb if they're not convenient; there will be time for that later, right?
- Murder? Don't try to force your religion on u… wait, if there aren't any laws against murder, then I could be murdered… OK, you can have that one.
- Salvation? I'm a good person (hey, I don't murder!), why would I need to be saved?
- Judgment? But wait, doesn't your own Bible say “Judge not, that you be not judged?”
- We're made in God's image? Well, now you're on to something - if God is in each one of us, doesn't that make us all God? Then, what I want to do must be God's will, because it's my will!
This brings us back to the Akin/Mourdock problem. Simply asserting our views (then asserting them more loudly) is not going to be a very effective way of convincing others. We should keep in mind that not only does our society hold those conflicting views, they also claim to value tolerance above all else - except for tolerating us, interestingly; they have been raised to believe that we are hateful people who just want to control people's lives and force our religion down everyone's throats. Compounding the issue, some of our forebears actually did go about things this way, particularly over race.
So, is it just futile? Of course not. I believe the answer is three-fold.
- We must advocate with words. We must choose those words wisely, but we must use words. These words should be loving, condemning the practice of abortion while offering love, compassion, and forgiveness to those who have had them, realizing that it is but by the grace of God that we have not made (or are not still making) the same decisions. Use words honestly - where science supports an argument, use it; where it doesn't apply, don't try to shoe-horn it into applying.
- We must back up these words with actions. Crisis pregnancy centers, as mentioned above, have been hugely effective in not only preventing abortions, but for education and support. The film To Save a Life showed another angle of being pro-life, taking an interest in others to prevent suicide; though I didn't mention it above, suicides are also up this past year. Be involved with food banks, shelters, or other organizations that show we care for life when those lives are going through rough times. Be involved with senior's activities. Pick a place and plug-in; put feet to your words.
- We must be vigilant. We must not give up the fight against legislation or policies simply because we haven't had time for the first 2 points above to be effective. We must continue to pray; we have the Creator of human life on our side.
Changing the culture seems like an overwhelming task, and it truly is a monumental one. However, the size of the task does not relieve us of our responsibility to be salt and light, and to work towards making it a place where all life is valued, from the moment of conception through natural death.