(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 thoseguys 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.
Only a month late (when I originally wrote the bulk of this - now it’s more like 8 months late), this is the 8th annual “Sanctity of Human Life” post. It’s going to be a long one; please don’t TL;DR it. There’s too much to this topic to do it justice in 5 paragraphs, and putting it out in parts would invite debate and assumptions about the parts I’d left out. This post is free of my typical snark, and also free of (atypical for me) hyperbole; I am completely serious, and have reviewed my words to ensure they are the ones I intended to use. The premise is simply this - abortion is morally wrong (which we now know, given advances in medical science), and as such, should not be legal nor easy to obtain.
Let’s start with the framework within which I view the issue. I believe that man was created by God and placed here on this planet to live for His glory, and that He has given us the earth for our pleasure and enjoyment. I believe that evil exists in this world, that bad things happen, and that actions have consequences. I generally believe (though not always) in erring on the side of caution. I believe that, as God’s creation, all life is sacred. I believe that God has enabled man to discover many beneficial things in the area of medicine and health care, and I believe that He expects us to use this knowledge within the framework and principles laid out in His Word.
(I fully realize that many of you reading this may not agree with that framework. Feel free to debate about what appears below, but the above paragraph contains things that, for me, are past debate. I’ve heard the arguments against it, and I’m simply unconvinced.)
In looking back through my archives, the post entitied “Abortion: A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Passed” was my 5th post on this blog. In this post from 2003, I mentioned (without citing) the medical advances that had happened since 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision. This page has a good description of what happens day-by-day. At 21 days (3 weeks), the heart begins beating. With ovulation occurring 14 days after menstruation starts, and another 14 until it’s due to start again, a woman would likely not even realize she’s late before her baby’s heart is beating. 9 days later, at 30 days, this heart is circulating its own blood supply, completely separate from the mother’s, thanks to the placenta. Day 35, we’ve got a 5-fingered hand, and on day 40, we have brain waves. By one and one-half menstrual cycles, we’ve gone from nothing to a beating heart and brain waves.
Let’s look at what happens up to 12 weeks, which is when pretty much anyone who approves of abortion thinks it’s OK. The liver starts making blood cells, and the brain is controlling the limbs in week 6. Week 7 brings the jaw, tooth buds, and eyelids. Week 8, and I quote, “the fetus has everything found in a fully developed adult,” including stomach acid and a complete nervous system. Fingerprints, fingernails, and hair appear in week 9. In week 10, “the fetus can bend, stretch, make fists, open hands, lift its head, squint, swallow and wrinkle its forehead.” Week 11 brings urination, and in week 12, the baby is breathing amniotic fluid, has sleep/awake cycles, and does exercises. All this knowledge has been gained due to ultrasound technology and other study.
Now, God, morality, and everything else aside - read those descriptions again. Does that sound like an unviable tissue mass? Sure, it’s dependent upon its mother for sustenance, but how is that different from a newborn baby? It isn’t - and that’s what we’ve learned. It’s not a blob of cells that represent an inconvenience, it’s a new creation that has been entrusted to the mother. Even without counting abortion, an estimated 25-33% of pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth (according to HopeXchange, an organization that help people cope with these types of losses). With numbers that high, it would seem to me that the tissue masses that are unviable are taking care of things themselves.
Respect for life is one of this country’s core principles; “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are inalienable rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. Laws against murder are nearly universal, even in countries that cannot claim the God-seeking history that ours can. It is simple human nature that reasonable humans understand - it is wrong to take the life of another without cause. (This is not to imply that I am anti-death penalty or anti-military; there are limited times when life-taking can happen in a moral way.) With science again backing up Scripture, we see that the developing fetus is simply a pre-born baby that is being knit together in its mother’s womb.
So now, let’s look at the whole “safe, legal, and rare” thing, a phrase used by many pro-choice supporters to describe their desired state of abortion. It’s a given that “safe” doesn’t apply to the unborn baby - they suffer near 100% fatalities. (Yes, near.) But is abortion as we know it today safe for the mother?
A recent study in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that abortion accounts one in ten of every adverse mental health issue women face as a whole, correlating to greater-than-double risks for alcohol abuse and suicide, and triple risks for marijuana use. Melissa Clouthier has a great summary of this study, as well as some commentary.
Recent medial studies have found that there is an increase in breast cancer risk for those who have had abortions, similar to those who have given birth prematurely (before 32 weeks). The reason is that the cells that the body produces during the early stages of pregnancy are immature, cancer-prone cells, which mature during the final two months of pregnancy.
There are many risks to the uterus as well. Risks of uterine perforation, cervical lacerations, and placenta previa all increase due to the trauma on the internal lining of the uterus.
Now, childbirth brings its own complications, to be sure; I don’t mean to imply that birth is completely safe. However, birth does have the advantage of being how our bodies are designed to work. Given the risks, I believe abortion is unsafe for both mother and baby.
We’ve established unsafe; how about legal? We know that Roe v. Wade “legalized” abortion, but there are still laws regarding its practice. Different states have different laws; nearly all states permit abortion through the first trimester, and some allow it through the second trimester. Few permit it in the third trimester, and there is now a Federal law against “partial-birth abortion,” a practice so abhorrent I’m not even going to describe it here. But, do its practitioners follow these laws? Some do; others, like Kermit Gosnell (link gone) do not, and Lila Rose has made a career exposing the unethical and often illegal practices at the nation’s #1 abortion provider, Planned Parenthood.
Hmm - we’re 0 for 2.
How about rare? Well, let’s look at the statistics. In 2008, there were 1.2M, down a little from the previous year; however, births were also down 2%, to 4.2M births. So, we prevented 22% of the pregnancies from resulting in births. I would not consider something that happens between a fifth and a quarter of the time rare, and I don’t think anyone else would define it that way either. What it comes down to is this: if it’s safe and legal (as we’ve been told, and those who question are ridiculed), it won’t be rare.
Now, let’s contrast this with the opening paragraphs. Abortion is not safe; it kills the baby, and causes health problems from the ex-mother. It’s not rare; it occurs in over 1 out of 5 conceptions. As a person with the beliefs I laid out above, this is an absolute no-brainer. God created our bodies to reproduce; it’s a natural consequence of the act that leads to conception. The easiest way to avoid conception is to avoid intercourse (also advocated in Scripture for those who are not married), and the fruits of that intercourse are, time and time again, referred to as gifts from God.
As an American, I see 20% of two generations now cut down before they breathed their first breath. I see counselors having a very easy time convincing people not to have abortions, simply by using ultrasound to show these ladies the life that is living inside them. I hear of post-abortion counseling groups with waiting lists. Have we aborted the person who was to find the cure for cancer? The scientist who was to determine how to produce food in desolate regions? The person who was to invent the flying car? Who can say what the long-term consequences have been for our folly of convenience.
It’s not safe. If it’s made illegal, only then can we hope to make it rare.
(OK - that’s counting years I missed it. Not missing it this year…)
This year, Sanctity of Human Life Sunday has been expanded to Sanctity of Human Life Week, beginning 17 Jan 10. The image you see to the left will be my profile picture on Facebook for the duration of this week. These days, with medical technology being what it is, the argument against abortion is really quite simple. Back in 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided, ultrasound was in its infancy (pardon the pun). We had no clue, comparatively, to what goes on inside a womb the way we do today. Most babies’ hearts are beating before their mothers realizes they are pregnant. All the activity that goes on in there is amazing, and 3-D and 4-D ultrasounds have opened up this world to us.
What’s the difference if the baby is drinking through a tube or through its mouth? We don’t euthanize preemies that have to have feeding tubes; and even after birth, the mother has the responsibility of feeding her baby. There are periods during pregnancy now when, depending on what the mother wants, she can either have a preemie (who, though challenged, will probably make it), or an abortion. Is that the “choice” that the pro-choice crowd is for? Why is it that, during this most precarious time, when they need protecting the most, people feel entitled to snuff out that life? There’s a reason that I call my abortion category “Prenatal Murder” - that’s exactly what it is.
And the numbers - these numbers are staggering! Current Red Cross estimates put the Haiti earthquake casualty count at 45,000-50,000. Around the world, there are 1,206,000 abortions a month; divide that by 30, you get 40,200 a day. In the United States alone, we’re running at 1,206,200 a year, which means we take about two weeks to kill that many babies just in this country.
There’s a Haiti-a-day going on in the wombs of women around the world. These precious babies’ voices are too soft to be heard - will you speak up for them?
First up is the sanctity of human life. Dictionary.com defines sanctity (definition 2) as “The quality or condition of being considered sacred; inviolability.” What this means is that human life is sacred - something that is to be valued, and not to be taken lightly. It also means that life is not ours to create (ever, outside of the God-given means) or to destroy (save for the Biblically-based governmental duties of defense and punishment). There is encouraging news on the abortion front - Norma McCorvey, “Roe” in the (in)famous Roe v. Wade case, has entered a petition to the Supreme Court to review her case in light of new medical evidence of the effects of abortion on the women who have them. Together with Operation Outcry, which has compiled quite an array of statistics on medical issues with abortion, she hopes to get that ruling reversed. As an original petitioner in the case, she is in the unique position of being able to do this, and more details, including the briefs that were filed, can be found here.
There are others who have recently written about abortion as well. Chuck Colson’s recent article entitled Destroying Abortion Myths demonstrates that they hysterical “dangerous back-ally abortion” crowd actually made up their statistics. (And they say Bush lied and people died? How about “NOW lied, babies died”?) Marvin Olasky compares two tidal waves: the tsunami and abortion. (Did you know that as many people as died in that tsunami are killed every few months before they breathe their first breath?) Another site is Right Thinking Girl’s entry A Woman’s Right to Choose - it illustrates the absurdity of the “fetus as property” argument. I’ve also been active in the comments for this entry, in which folks have been debating the issue from pretty much all sides - my entries are the ones from “Daniel”. (Be warned, some comments may contain strong language.) And finally, this isn’t recent, but my entry about abortion being a bad idea whose time has passed still lays out, from a non-religious perspective, why abortion is wrong.
The numbers of abortions that have been performed is staggering - the latest numbers from Census 2000 show blacks as 11.4% of the population, but the CDC’s “Abortion Facts” website’s numbers show blacks have 33.9% of the abortions in this country. That means that blacks are overrepresented in abortion by 200%. This is not good, and (as we segue into the MLK portion of this entry) it’s something I think Dr. King would have worked to end. So much of his dream has been fufilled, but I believe he would be horrified at these statistics. The people for whom Dr. King gave his life working for (and, lost his life as part of that work) aren’t being killed and suppressed by the “white man” anymore. Take this abortion statistic together with gang and prostitution statistics, and you see that they’re suppressing and killing off themselves!
Dr. King’s legacy has been hijacked by the pseudo-civil-rights activists of our day. His was a message of peace, and of equality; not of opression, not of violence, and not of reversing the inequality. Though he was taken from us much too soon, his work endures - and to hear gay marriage proponents use his words in support of their agenda must make him look down on us and shake his head. His dream of equality in all areas, but especially economically, is beginning to be realized.
However, popular black culture does not encourage activities that lead to prosperity. When was the last time you heard a rapper rap about his mutual funds, 401K, or real estate investments? How about consumable goods (cars, electronics, etc.)? I’ll give you a hint - one of those is a lot better at building long-term wealth than the other. Bill Cosby is taking a lot of flak for his comments that have been critical of the culture. I’m glad he’s saying these things, because he has a lot of respect from folks in the black community. Maybe if the message comes from someone who is so respected, it will sink in. Children who are trying hard to achieve shouldn’t be ostracized from their peers and accused of “acting white.” Learning to speak the language properly isn’t selling out, it’s setting yourself up for success. (Now, since I’m not black, I guess I should interject here that I know plenty of white people who are foolish with their money, and whose grasp of the English language is less than it should be. I also know plenty of black people, some my very good friends, who do not conform to the pop culture image with which they’re bombarded on a daily basis.)
By realizing how precious life is, defending those who are defenseless, and empowering people to make their own destiny, we will honor not only Dr. King, but all those who follow after us. May the next generation look at us and say, “You know, they figured it out, and they lived it the way they should.”
I received an interesting piece of mail the other day, and I thought I’d comment about it here. The mail was from AAA Women’s Services (now known as Choices Chattanooga) in Chattanooga, TN. They were talking about a new clinic they’ve set up. The history of this organization is pretty impressive - they opened up across the street from the only walk-in abortion clinic in town, began ministering to hurting women in a way that most didn’t expect, and over time, were able to raise enough money to buy out the clinic across the street. That clinic now houses the National Memorial for the Unborn, a site that allows the parents of aborted children a place to memorialize them.
But that brings me back to the new clinic, which is yet another very creative ministry that this organization has put together. For years, AAA’s biggest tool in convincing mothers to keep their children has been the ultrasound - the numbers are in the 90% range of women who, once they see that precious life moving and breathing inside them, decide to keep their child alive. AAA has now opened this clinic in the downtown area, and offer not only “crisis pregnancy” counseling services, but prenatal care as well, along with more ultrasound equipment. In the first month of operation, 5 of the 6 women who came there seeking an abortion left with a changed mind.
As an aside, one great thing AAA does is that they don’t abandon the mothers they help - they provide maternity clothes and baby clothes, can help with transportation to prenatal and well-baby checks, and are there to help train the new mothers or support them as they allow an adoptive family to love their child.
I’ve felt for years that abortion was wrong on all kinds of levels, and this belief was reinforced as I watched my two precious children grow in my wife. There’s also a growing trend of young women who are keeping children rather than killing them. I heard one person say “you can’t kill an entire generation of folks, and expect to have them grow up to be pro-choice.”
I’m wondering, though, if Roe v. Wade didn’t miss the boat. 30 years or so ago when it was decided by the Supreme Court, there was nowhere near the body of medical research and history that we now have on the process. Moral obligations aside for the moment, consider the trauma to the woman’s reproductive organs, the complications from these “routine procedures,” and the mental anguish many, many mothers of aborted children feel. Are abortions too dangerous to be performed?
Bringing morality back into the discussion - what about all we now know about “viability” and stages of development? Using technology we didn’t have back then, we can see a heart beat begin before most women even know they’re expecting. We can detect brain waves far earlier than anyone back in the early 1970’s would have ever dreamed. If this is, in fact, a life (as those with common sense have been saying for years), is it right to allow the taking of this human life by another human?
Kathleen Parker wrote back in August about the two plaintiffs in the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion, and their attempts to get those decisions vacated. This article, along with the various links off the other sites I’ve linked here, should give you plenty of reading on how abortion hurts not only the unborn children, but the women who kill them as well; and that, given our new awareness of the medical facts, this barbaric practice should be banned altogether.