Currently KY HB 184 (a.k.a. the ultrasound bill) is making its way through the Kentucky legislature. The bill would amend previous legislation concerning the practice of abortion and the issue of appropriate information given to a woman seeking an abortion. The added features of this bill is to add the requirement of a face-to-face consultation with physician who will perform the abortion at least 24 hours before the procedure. Additionally, the bill would require the physician to give the woman an opportunity to view "an active ultrasound image of her fetus, hear the heartbeat of the fetus if the heartbeat is audible, and receive a physical picture of the ultrasound image of the fetus."
Abortion rights activists certainly view this bill as unfair and manipulative. They see it as a means by which to dissuade women seeking an abortion form getting the abortion. Well, I hope so! All human beings are designed with a conscience, including scared, pregnant women and fathers. If an ultrasound image and a little more time to reflect on the decision can help clear the head and prompt a more conscientious decision, then I'm all for it.
Two items have prompted me to write about abortion here. First, is this ongoing moral/political battle in our culture, evidence by HB 184 in my own state of Kentucky. I think it is important for the church to wrestle with the issue and apply consistently and faithfully the Bible to the issue. Second, a recent conversation I had with a high school senior boy reminded me that we have a generation of young people, even in the church, that do not think logically about ethical issues. They are captive to the individualist and pragmatic driven culture.
First, a little history of the path of the legalization of abortion in the United States:
The movement for a right to birth control preceded the push for abortion rights. In Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) the Supreme Court applied the concept of a constitutional "right to privacy" to birth control. This case legalized all forms of birth control for married couples.
Before 1973 states had made laws that made abortion illegal. However, the women's rights movement in conjunction with the loosening of restrictions on contraceptives eventually led to abortion rights activists pushing a case in Texas all the way to the Supreme Court. The suit claimed that Texas state law violated a woman's constitutional right. Of course, the big question was exactly which constitutional right was being denied to women by the Texas law that made abortion illegal.
The Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade relied on the earlier Griswold v. Connecticut in which the court upheld a person's right to privacy in contexts in which the state had no compelling interest. The specific part of the constitution that the Texas state law violated was the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. The court reasoned that a woman's right to privacy in regards to getting an abortion was protected by the due process clause, therefore the Texas law was a violation of her constitutional rights. The precedent laid down in regards to access to birth control was applied to abortion. In other words, it seems the Supreme Court essentially viewed abortion as a form of birth control, at least in legal application. However, the obvious difference between preventing pregnancy and terminating pregnancy brought up serious ethical concerns.
From beginning to end the discussion and legal arguments centered on the rights of the pregnant woman and how the constitution might be applied to her decision to terminate her pregnancy. Absent from the courtroom drama was any serious discussion about the unborn themselves. The question of whether an unborn fetus constituted human life was not addressed, which would seem to be the most pertinent question. Ironically, this was not the issue for the court.
However, the moral debate rages on. And it seems that in the moral discussion there are two key questions that must be posed and answered. First, is human life valuable and worth protecting? Second, when does human life most logically begin? The answers to these questions should determine how you feel about the issue of abortion and consequently the legality of the practice. I think anyone, regardless of religious views, must answer these questions. However, for the Bible-believing Christian, another layer is added. What principles does the Bible present as guidance on this hot political issue which is also a huge moral issue?
In regards to the first question, I believe it is safe to assume that the vast majority of people believe that human life is valuable and worth protecting. Our laws aimed at protecting ourselves and others and the consequences for violating those laws clearly evidence this. However, there are some who might conclude that some human life is more valuable than other human life. I'll come back to this at the end.
In regards to the second question, logic alone would seem to dictate that the most reasonable time on which to place the beginning of an individual human life is at the moment of conception. We can talk about heartbeats, viability and other items, but these are all related to development not origin. If I were to ask you, when did your physical existence logically begin, I think you would be hard pressed not to concede that all that went into making you was present at conception. After that moment you simply developed. Declaring any other place on the continuum of in utero human development as the beginning of an individual's life seems arbitrary.
The Bible doesn't address abortion directly. However, it certainly underscores the value of human life. The Christian worldview holds that humans are a special creation of God, created in God's image. We read about God's love for humanity. We read about God's condemnation of murder and the exploitation of the poor. We are told to love others and do them good, not harm. You get the idea. All throughout the Scripture is the grand implication that human life is special and valuable. In addition, there are many implications that God considers the unborn human. The Psalmist wrote, "Thou didst weave me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made...(Ps. 139). There is biblical evidence that God in His omniscience knew of our existence even before our physical conception. The Lord told Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." The Bible speaks to God's children being chosen "before the foundations of the earth"(Eph. 1). From a divine point of view, my existence was foreknown by God. What does all this mean? For the Christian, the debate about abortion should gravitate toward the work and character of God. In other words, forget political party allegiance and legal arguments. The Bible clearly tells us that God created humans special with value and that in the mind of God our life is in Him even before conception. But since we live in this finite, physical existence maybe we should just stick to physical life, which again logically begins at conception.
Most people who want to support "reproductive rights" or "choice" want to squirm around the issue of when life begins. It's easy to see why that would be unsettling. Because even those who argue for abortion rights value human life. This is a vexing contradiction. So, to sooth the conscience we need to rationalize that real life begins at viability or even birth. Now I can feel better about the unborn who are terminated at 8 weeks or 12 weeks - they're not real humans yet. But wait, now there are those who boldly declare that human life does indeed begin at conception, but so what. Some human life is more valuable than other human life. You might think I'm making this up, but I'm not. Check out an article by Mary Elizabeth Williams in the online news site Salon from January 2013 entitled, "So What if Abortion Ends Life?" I won't spoil the whole disgusting read for you, but I'll quote you her concluding words: "I would put the life of the mother over the life of the fetus every single time - even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing." And when she refers to the life of the mother, she means the choice of the mother. All I can say is about Mrs. Williams, is thank you for your honesty as ghastly as it is.
I'm wondering if our American collective conscience is gravitating towards Mrs. Williams' combination of brutal honesty and callousness. Are we moving now into a culture in which we finally acknowledge that the unborn are indeed human, but we view them now as the expendable humans. Since the abortion-rights crowd is tiring of the absurd verbal gymnastics that nobody really buys, have they decided it's time to just speak the truth - that what they want is the right to kill in utero human life at their own discretion? As much as Mrs. Williams disgusts me, at least she is logically consistent.
Church, we need to be on the right side of this moral argument. If you are a Christian, you need to use your brain on this one and your heart. You need to seek God and the counsel of His Word. You need to sweep aside the cultural and political pressures and consider deeply where our country is headed on this issue. I can remember the passion in people in the wake of Roe v. Wade when I was a teenager. For teenagers today, abortion is a normal part of their existence. As far as they are concerned, that's just the way it is and always has been. To them, 1973 is ancient history!
Church, we have to teach our young people to think biblically and logically on ethical issues. America is collectively developing a frightening callous conscience in regards to the worth of the unborn. Don't be so foolish to think it will end there. Don't be ashamed to stand boldly and defend the lives of those who cannot defend themselves.
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