Saturday, November 1, 2008

My Thoughts on the Abortion Discussion

One of the issues I’ve been following in recent months is the discussion about abortion as it relates to our current political season. I have been surprised to learn that there is growing divergence of views among Christian people and leaders. There is growing emphasis among certain segments of the Christian community that has abandoned the traditional “pro-life” views and has adopted a “pro-reduced abortion” view. What I have been reading has motivated me to put my own thoughts out there. So for those who are interested, here they are.

As a pastor, I’ve talked with broken-hearted women who have had an abortion. One lady came and talked to me 25 years after the fact. Besides her doctor and her then husband, I was the only other person she had told. At the time of her abortion, she was in a difficult life situation and she made a choice she has regretted ever since. It is conversations like these that have made me have utmost compassion for women who have made similar decisions.

Unfortunately, the historically uncompassionate reaction to unwed pregnancy from the Christian community has fueled many young women to seek abortions so as not to be rejected or punished by their families, friends, and church. This is not to condone the actions that lead to unwed pregnancy; it is simply to say that those of us in the Christian community should respond with mercy and compassion and support for a young girl thrust into motherhood by poor choices.

When I was in high school a girl in my church became pregnant by her boyfriend. She decided to go away to a home for pregnant teenagers to avoid the embarrassment she thought she would receive. I was thankful that she changed her mind and stayed at home with her parents and remained an active part of our youth group. Because of her pregnancy she couldn’t get a date to prom. So I asked her to go with me. We had a lot of fun. I’m sure people “talked” about us going to prom together, but I really didn’t care. She was a friend. By the way, she had a beautiful baby boy and eventually married a pastor. She and her family now live in Indiana and we remain friends to this day.

With all of that said, I believe abortion should be ban with limited exceptions: one example is to save the life of the mother. I wish all Christians and pro-lifers could agree at least at this level. Unfortunately the current law and Court ruling on this is inclusive of the mother’s “health” and therefore is accepting of abortion on demand for basically any argued reason. Some in the “pro-reduced abortion” group have suggested that laws do not change hearts and that only Christ can change the heart. I suppose they are willing to give up on the overturn of Roe v Wade as a result. My question is: Since only Christ can change the heart does that mean we should strike all laws from our books and have a law-less society?

It seems to be trendy for those who support abortion to place a heavy emphasis upon “reducing the number of abortions.” If memory serves me correctly, it was Bill Clinton who, in the 90's, popularized this growing trend we see today. I simply don’t understand the logic behind the “fewer abortions” argument. If you really want fewer abortions, how is lifting ALL restrictions on abortion, as some elected officials want to do, going to reduce the number of abortions? How does the Freedom of Choice Act, which some elected officials would like to pass, reduce the number of abortions? How does letting the Hyde Amendment expire, as some elected officials would like to do, reduce the number of abortions (the Hyde Amendment has blocked nearly all federally funded abortions since 1976)? How would ending the federal funding of pregnancy crisis centers, as some elected officials would like to do, reduce the number of abortions? How can those who support Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton legitimately claim that their pro-abortion policies are going to drastically reduce the number of abortions? Seriously, how would a fiercely pro-abortion executive branch teamed with a pro-abortion congress drastically reduce the number of abortions? I'm concerned that under our fiercely pro-abortion executive branch we will see a push toward the federal funding of abortions and we will have judicial appointments that would ignore the right to life of the unborn. How do these realities drastically reduce the number of abortions?

If you want to really reduce the number of abortions, then you must do the things that actually restrict and limit abortions. Is it really in doubt that the single greatest thing to “limit the number of abortions” is to over-turn Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton? It is true that reversing these Court decisions is not the only thing that can and must be done to “reduce the number of abortions” but reversing these decisions would be the single most effective thing.

It should be noted that a president does not write the laws; that’s the job of congress. The only thing a president can do is to sign bills or veto them. The president can’t interpret laws or determine legal precedents; the judicial branch does that. Among the most important things a president can do to limit the number of abortions is appoint judges who value the right to life of the unborn. Sometimes I think people forget these realities and limitations of the presidency.

And let’s be honest about the so-called Litmus Test issue for judicial appointments. Every president has a litmus test for the appointment of judges; they just can't admit to it publicly. Pro-abortion people WANT their pro-abortion president having a pro-abortion litmus test for any potential judicial appointees. And pro-life people WANT the same kind of thing from a pro-life president.

Some have expressed concern that if we ban abortion as we know it now, that women would go to “back-alley clinics” and that the rate of botched abortions would severely increase the risk to the health and life of the woman. My question is: What about concern for the life of the unborn child? Are we saying we don’t mind taking the life of the unborn baby, but we wouldn’t dare want to harm the mother’s health or infringe on her “rights” as defined in Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton? That’s a difficult argument for me to understand.

Others make a comparison between a ban on abortion and the prohibition against alcohol. In my opinion, this is not a very good argument. That comparison is between the life of the unborn and a non-essential drinking beverage. Are they really the same? In my opinion, they're not even close.

It is true that our educational system in America is doing poorly. Some argue that the reason it is doing poorly is largely because of a lack of funding from the terrible Republicans. This is untrue. We spend more money on education than ANY nation on earth! And the charge that pro-life Republicans, as some make, really don’t care about children after they're born (i.e. really aren’t pro-life) because they supposedly “underfund” education and do not mandate health care is an equally untrue and, dare I say, unfair charge. Lack of money is not the problem in our educational system. Our broken education system, in my humble opinion, is a parenting and family issue. To date, no federal politician (Republican or Democrat) has been able to make significant headway with policies and educational funding alone. Could targeted educational funding significantly improve our educational system? No, not significantly. Significant improvements in our educational system won't occur until we effectively address the breakdown of the family unit. It sounds compassionate to want to give unlimited amounts of money to the educational system but to date it hasn’t produced the positive, educational results we all desire.

It is troubling to me that some national religious leaders are trying to redefine “pro-life” by saying that the REAL pro-life people are those that 1) say they believe there should be fewer abortions, 2) desire taxpayer funded, government mandated universal health care for underprivileged children, 3) are anti-war, 4) support virtually unlimited funding of our broken educational system, 5) are concerned about global poverty and disease. This effort from some national figures threatens to dilute the definition of pro-life to include these other things and will have the unwitting result of muzzling those defending the silent voices of the unborn.

To me, pro-life is about defending the right to life of the unborn. Practically speaking, pro-choice is about silencing the right to life of the unborn in deference to the will of the mother. As a pro-lifer, I cannot separate the right to life of a baby in the womb and the right to life of a birthed child. Just because a baby is unborn should not give the mother the choice to end the life of the child pre-birth. The right to life of the unborn should be protected just like every other person’s right to life. Life is equally sacred in and outside of the womb.

Just for the record, there are 42,000,000 abortions worldwide each year. Think about that staggering number. There are 1,370,000 abortions in the U.S. each year. What other cause of death among children comes close to that in America? Let’s have a healthy discussion about war, education, poverty, and disease (by the way, who is for more wars, bad education, increasing poverty and disease?). But equating those issues with the issue of abortion weakens the traditional pro-life stance and undermines their efforts. Remember, we’re actually talking about 1,370,000 unborn children in the U.S. who could live if we protected their lives. They are, without a doubt, the most innocent and defenseless among us and as such deserve laws that protect their right to life.

Let’s find solutions to our educational woes, but let’s not mix those issues with the right to life of the unborn. Let’s find ways to assist the health-care issue of underprivileged children, but let’s not mix those issues with the right to life of the unborn. Let’s pray for peace and work toward peace, but let’s not mix those issues with the obligation of government to fight (when necessary) just wars and the right to life of the unborn. Let’s come together to fight global poverty and disease, but let’s not mix those causes with the right to life of the unborn.

Every year, there are 1,370,000 unborn children in the U.S. who are depending on us to defend their right to life. Let’s not lump them in with every other noble cause. If we do their voices will be silenced forever.


Andy May said...

Well said!

bhc71757 said...

Let me be the first to say "Right on, brother"! I was having this very same discussion earlier with someone on FB - she was bashing the GOP VP candidate - and as I said to you the other day I said to her "What if YOUR mother "chose" abortion? Did she not CHOOSE life when she got the pregnancy results? Are you at least a tiny bit grateful that she did? I am - and I don't even know you". I have yet to get a response but I can only pray that she is rational enough to at least consider an alternate point of view. What baffles me the most are the women who are MOTHERS and still strongly support the right to choose. Do they feel it's OK to pick and choose when life begins? Because when "chose" to carry their baby to term, were they not "choosing" life? I'm confused. Anyway, look forward to seeing you tomorrow!

Lori said...

Great post, James! By the way, I have a few friends who were pro-choice... until they had abortions. For the three of them, it was the most devastating decision of their lives and they have regretted them ever since. Maybe if more women who had abortions spoke out concerning the aftermath, fewer women would make that choice.

S. Jennings said...

Thanks for the insight, James. You bring up some important and valid points. I appreciate the info. Also, thanks for the great sermon today. I particularly liked how you addressed this political season at the start of worship with respect, class, and emphasized that only Jesus can save this country and world. Well done. Thanks again for how well you lead Journey. My wife and I comment on a regular basis how blessed we are to have such a wonderful church led by a great servant as you.

By the way, here's a link I found on why one Christian in particuar votes Democrat (written about 4 years ago). Although I consider myself a centrist and typically vote on the more conservative side, this is an interesting point of view.