I write this post as a pastor appealing to people’s consciences. I do not write in an attempt to persuade anyone regarding their choice of political parties or how they may choose to vote in an election. This post is simply an attempt to shape the moral sensibilities of the reader’s heart regarding one of the most significant moral issues of our day. So, I write as a pastor (and former lawyer) who has been morally opposed to abortion for more than four decades.
To let readers in on my thinking regarding the reasons for my own moral opposition:
1. I am a committed follower of the God of the Bible who is a God of life.
In a sermon that I recently preached titled “The Courage to Change”, I said this: One reason that I’m pro-life is because 45 years ago I entered a personal life-changing relationship with the living God who is obsessed with life. It says that when God created the waters, they were literally teeming with life. Jesus Christ is called the Bread of Life. He is the resurrection and the life. He is the Word of Life. He calls himself the way, the truth and the life. He offers us a promise of life, a crown of life, the tree of life. For those receive the Prince of Life, Jesus offers eternal life. It says in 2 Timothy that Jesus’ mission was to abolish death, invade our culture of death and to break our agreement with the spirit of death.
Do you know what the last act of history is going to be? What is the last thing that God will do before time ends and we all enter eternity? It says in the book of Revelation that after God judges people and after he judges Satan and the beast, he will throw Satan and the beast into hell. But the very last act of history before heaven comes down and we enter the New Jerusalem is that God is going to take death, the culture of death, the spirit of death, our obsession with death – God is going to take death and throw it into the Lake of Fire. Then he’s going to usher in the age of life where you and I will eat from the Tree of Life and we’ll drink from the fountain that pours forth the water of life.
2. I am a committed follower of the God of the Bible who is a God of Truth.
The three Persons of the Trinity are each said to have the quality of truth about their character.
Concerning God the Father, the Apostle Paul says that “God… does not lie” (Titus 1:2).
Concerning the Son, the Apostle John writes:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
And concerning the Holy Spirit, Jesus said in John 14: 16:-17
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth.
God is so concerned about truth that he commanded us in the Ten Commandments to not lie.
One reason that I have been opposed to abortion is because the pro-abortion position is often supported by lies. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who was the co-founder of the pro-abortion group NARAL, spoke candidly about the tactics used by pro-abortion forces in the years immediately preceding Roe v. Wade. Nathanson stated,
“We aroused sympathy to sell our program of permissive abortion by fabricating the number of illegal abortions done annually in the United States. The actual figure was around 100,000, but the figure we gave to the media repeatedly was 1,000,000.
Repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public. The number of women dying from illegal abortions was around 200-250 annually. The figure we constantly fed to the media was 10,000. These false figures took root in the conscientiousness of America, convincing many that we needed to crack the abortion law. Another myth we fed the public through the media was that legalizing abortion would only mean that abortions taking place illegally would be done legally. In fact, of course, abortion began being used as a primary method of birth control in the United States and the number of abortions has increased by 1500% since legalization.”
Dr. Bernard Nathanson led the fight to legalize abortion. But afterwards, he wrote a powerful book titled Aborting America in which he challenged the arguments he had used. He declared he could no longer support the permissive abortion laws that his organization helped create. He felt that there was too much blood on his hands and too many lies that he had told to continue a practice that, for him, had become morally unconscionable.
3. The Christian church throughout history has been pro-life.
The Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights argues that the Bible does not forbid abortion. It is absolutely true that there are no explicit verses in the Bible opposing abortion. The reason is because during the biblical era, Jews believed that abortion was unthinkable. They regarded abortion as a form of murder and laws against murder were considered to be sufficient to cover abortion.
In the early church, Christians felt that they needed to take a stand because they were in an entirely different cultural situation. In the Greco-Roman world, both abortion and infanticide were widely practiced. The church unanimously and strongly opposed abortion from its earliest days:
• The Didache (likely written in the first century) says, “Do not murder a child by abortion nor kill it at birth.”
• The second century Epistle of Barnabas says, “You shall not slay a child by abortion.”
• Athenagoras, a second century Greek apologist, wrote, “We say that women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder… [for we] regard the very fetus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care.”
• In the early third century the African church father Tertullian wrote, “It does not matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. In both instances, the destruction is murder.”
• In the fourth century, Basil of Caesarea, wrote, “A woman who deliberately destroys a fetus is answerable for murder.”
• In the same century, John Chrysostom, the most esteemed church father in Eastern Orthodoxy said, “Why do you abuse the gift of God… and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder?”
• Jerome called abortion, “The murder of an unborn child.”
There’s an unbroken chain of witness from the earliest days of the Christian church to the 20th century voicing strong countercultural opposition to abortion. If you are interested in reading more of the church’s history of opposition to abortion check out: Third Time Around: A History of the Pro-Life Movement from the First Century to the Present by George Grant.
4. Abortion is premised on the idea that all human beings are not persons.
Virtually every bioethicist in the world agrees that human life begins at conception. However, in the last 50 years, there are many bioethicists as well as judges, philosophers and ordinary people who have created a new category – the human non-person. So Princeton ethicist Peter Singer wrote, “The life of a human organism begins at conception, but the life of a person… a being with some level of self-awareness – does not begin so early”. In Roe v. Wade, Justice Blackmun the author of the decision wrote, “the word “person” as used in the Fourteenth Amendment does not include the unborn.” He acknowledged that if the fetus were recognized as a “person” then abortion would necessarily be illegal saying, “If the suggestion of personhood is established… the fetus’s right to life would then be guaranteed.” But according to Blackmun, a fetus is not a person.
The importance of the distinction between being “merely” human and being a person is that only persons, according to the United States Supreme Court, are entitled to the right to life. Humans can be disposed of.
So, if a human being is not equated with being a person, what is a person? Bioethicists and courts come up with widely different answers. Nancy Pearcey, in her wonderful book titled Love Thy Body, says this:
“Some propose that personhood emerges when the developing organism begins to exhibit neural activity, feels pain, achieves a certain level of cognitive function or consciousness or intelligence or even has a sense of the future. Fletcher proposes 15 qualities to define one’s human life as worthy of respect and protection (such as intelligence, self-awareness, self-control, a sense of time, concern for others, communication, curiosity and neocortical function). Score too low on any measure and for Fletcher you do not qualify as a person. You are a mere biological life.”
The danger of separating human life from personhood is that instead of grounding the protection of human beings in a transcendent ethic such as God’s inalienable gift of the right to life, governments or doctors or bioethicists or a pregnant woman gets to decide when another human being’s personhood begins and when it ends.
John Wyatt wrote about the difference between the perspectives of those who would distinguish between human beings and persons and the Christian worldview. He wrote:
“In Christian thinking, whatever happens to you in the future, whatever disease or accident may befall your central nervous system, even if you were struck down by dementia or enter a persistent vegetative state, you will still be you: a unique and wonderful person known and loved by God.”
In other words, you do not have to prove your worth to someone else to protect your right to life.
5. Abortion is frequently NOT the preferred choice of the women who obtain abortions.
According to the Medical Science Monitor, 64% of post-abortive women in America said they felt “pressured by others” to have the abortion. Regarding themselves, 54% said “They were not sure about the decision at the time” and 50% felt “abortion was morally wrong” at the time they obtained the abortion.
We hear a tremendous amount in the culture war surrounding abortion about a woman’s right to choose. At Vineyard Columbus, we have come alongside of more than 5,000 women who were facing unintended pregnancies in the past 10 years. These women have come from every conceivable background – religious, irreligious, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, atheist, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, native born, immigrant, rich, poor and everything in between. With very, very few exceptions almost every woman who has encountered our Value Life ministry has chosen to give birth and not abort because she was supported and helped and was not left to fend for herself and face her pregnancy alone. Moms choose life for their babies when they are supported and loved by people who care!
6. Being pro-life is being pro-woman.
Rodney Stark, professor of Sociology and Comparative Religions at the University of Washington, wrote a groundbreaking book in 1996 titled The Rise of Christianity. In it, he said it was women in the Greco-Roman world who fueled the explosive growth of Christianity in its early centuries. Women did not flock to Christianity despite the church’s opposition to abortion and infanticide. Rather, women flocked to Christianity precisely because of the church’s opposition to abortion and infanticide. The Greco-Roman world, according to Stark, was a male-dominated culture, which held marriage in low esteem, held women in low esteem, and especially held girl babies in low esteem. Infant girls were the primary subjects of infanticide. In fact, according to Stark, “it was rare for a Roman family to have more than one daughter.”
Nancy Pearcey explains the reason why women were so attracted to Christianity:
“A culture that practices abortion and infanticide is a culture that demeans women and disrespects their unique contribution to the task of reproduction. It does not treat women’s ability to gestate and bear children as a wondrous and awesome capacity, but as a liability, a disadvantage, a disability. It does not value and protect women in their child-bearing capacity, but seeks to suppress women’s bodily functions, using chemicals and deadly devices to violently destroy the life inside her.”
It is helpful to remember that it was men like Hugh Hefner and other male advocates of sexual libertinism who were the strongest early advocates of permissive abortion laws so they could have sex without any consequences.
7. While some argue that pro-life people only care about the unborn fetus and not women giving birth, hundreds of ministries like Vineyard Columbus’ Value Life Ministry demonstrate consistent care to both mothers and their babies.
Do you know someone who is facing an unintended pregnancy? Please have them contact our Value Life Ministry at: www.vineyardcolumbus.org/ministries/value-life
They will receive completely non-judgmental spiritual, emotional and material support. We help women with things like: maternity clothes, baby clothes, blankets, bottles, diapers, and formula. There are opportunities to connect with classes at our Community Center for job training, managing finances, GED classes and addiction recovery. Vineyard Columbus is a church that rejects the culture war’s either/or approach to the subject of abortion - either you’re for the woman and against the baby or you’re for the baby and you neglect the woman and her needs. Vineyard Columbus has said for 25 years, why can’t we do both? Why can’t we support women AND their unborn children? That’s what Value Life ministry is all about.
And contrary to the charge that pro-life people only care about babies until the time they are born, Vineyard Columbus’ Value Life Ministry commits to help mother and baby through the entire first year of the baby’s life.
8. Being pro-life is NOT a political position.
A lot of people struggle with being pro-life because of contemporary politics. They say, “Well, I’m not going to be pro-life because that would mean I’d have to become a conservative or a Republican and I consider myself politically progressive or a Democrat. I don’t want to align myself with those people. So, I guess I can’t be pro-life.”
Daniel Williams is an associate professor of History at the University of West Georgia. He wrote a book just a couple of years ago titled Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement before Roe v. Wade. He points out that the pro-life movement in the 20th century had its origins not in the conservative wing of the Republican party, but rather in the liberal wing of the Democratic party. Pro-life was viewed as a human rights cause. People tied the pro-life perspective onto President Johnson’s war on poverty, protests against the Vietnam War, militarization of American life, and being anti-capital punishment. These were all seen as pro-life causes. The most famous liberal senator in Washington at the time, Sen. Ted Kennedy, was pro-life before Roe v. Wade.
Senator Ted Kennedy said this in 1971:
“Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, have certain rights which must be recognized – the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old. When history looks back to this era, it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.”
Other progressives like Jesse Jackson, Eunice Kennedy Shriver (the sister of John Kennedy), and a host of others were pro-life. In the early 1970’s it was mostly Republicans who were pro-abortion. Nelson Rockefeller in New York vetoed a pro-life bill passed by the New York legislature. Senator Barry Goldwater was an early supporter of abortion rights. Ronald Reagan signed a very liberal abortion bill into law in California in 1976.
You don’t have to be politically conservative to be pro-life. Political lines have shifted in history. They could shift again. There’s a very strong feminist contingent among pro-lifers. In fact, a recent survey of pro-lifers discovered that a majority of women who are pro-life are decidedly egalitarian in their views of marriage and work.
9. If you are not convinced about when human life begins, you still should oppose abortion.
Virtually no professional bioethicist today denies that human life begins at conception. But if you were discussing with another person the issue of abortion and they said, “You know, no one knows when life begins.” You might ask in response, “Even if that were the case, upon whom should the burden of proof be concerning the presence of human life?”
Let me illustrate what I’m getting at. Let’s say you are a hunter and you are in the woods with a shotgun when you hear something rustling in the brush. You think that the rustling might indicate the presence of a deer, but you aren’t sure because the brush is so thick. You can’t see who or what was rustling in the brush. In fact, you suspect that there are other hunters in the area. What would a reasonable person do if they weren’t sure whether human life is present in the brush? Would they fire their gun because they say, “You know, I can’t be certain that what I’m killing is a person”? Or would they say, “The only moral thing to do would be to presume that whatever is rustling in the brush may be a person. I’m going to hold my fire. I’m going to withhold killing until I’m certain that it’s not a person.”
For those who argue that no one can be sure that a fetus in a womb is a person, I would say if there is any doubt at all, we ought to award the benefit of the doubt to the fetus and not kill what may, in fact, be a person entitled to the right to life.
10. Abortion support is often premised upon a non-Christian utilitarian philosophy rather than a Christian view of life.
Daniel Williams, in his history of the 20th century pro-life movement, wrote that abortion proponents often argued that abortion was a way to reduce the number of people in poverty and, ultimately, save the government money that would otherwise have to be used in child support. As technology developed which made it easier to detect fetal abnormalities, abortion proponents commonly argued that women should have the option of terminating their pregnancies if doctors saw irregularities. Williams wrote,
“It was a wide spread belief among abortion-liberalization advocates… that society would be better off if fewer severely deformed babies were born. On the other hand, those who opposed abortion saw the destruction of “abnormal fetuses” to be a very utilitarian perspective. If you believe that the fetus was a human being, the life would be destroyed for someone else’s quality of life, and they saw this as a very dangerous way of thinking.”
For much of the 20th century there was also a tragic racial component to pro-abortion rhetoric. Williams wrote, “In the early 20th century there was substantial support in some areas of the country for the eugenic use of birth control to limit the reproductive capabilities of poor, sexually promiscuous, or mentally disabled women – especially those who were African American.”
Decades later, this same kind of racism entered the abortion debate. Alabama Governor and noted racist George Wallace was an early supporter of abortion because he said, “African American women were breeding children as a cash crop.”
Human beings – ALL human beings – able-bodied or born with disabilities, wealthy or poor, wanted or unwanted, dark-skinned or light-skinned – all human beings deserve the right to life. Which is why today I continue to be morally opposed to abortion, like I have been for almost forty-five years.