In 1973, I was a freshman in high school. “Pong” was the most popular video game; “All in the Family” was the most popular television show. The average home cost $32,000; gas was 40 cents a gallon. Secretariat won the Triple Crown; Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in a tennis match; barcodes were invented.
How the world has changed since then. But nothing that happened in 1973 has affected our nation nearly so much as an event that occurred on January 22 of that year. On that date, the Supreme Court issued its ruling that the constitutional right to privacy makes it legal for women to obtain an abortion. Since that time, more than 55 million abortions have been performed in the United States.
Every year, 32,000 Americans die on our nation’s highways; every 10 days, that number of abortions is performed in this country. This is an average of 3,322 abortions every day of the year.
What are the facts on this issue? What can you do to make a difference today?
Facts about life
Since 1973, four positions have been taken in the debate about life:
• There can be no abortion, even to save the mother’s life. This has been the Catholic Church’s usual position.
• Therapeutic abortions can be performed to save the mother’s life.
• Extreme case abortions can be permitted in cases of rape, incest, or severe deformation of the fetus.
• Abortion should be available to any woman who chooses it. This is the typical “pro-choice” position.
Since the latter became the law of the land, 1.3 million abortions are performed every year. More babies are aborted every year than the total of America’s war dead across our history. 25% of all pregnancies and 50% of all unplanned pregnancies end in abortion.
Since 1973, more abortions have been performed than the combined populations of Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
What does Scripture say about life? God said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).
David said to the Lord:
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed (Psalm 139:13-16).
God’s word warns us: “Do not kill the innocent and those in the right, for I will not acquit the guilty” (Exodus 23:7).
Arguments about life
We’ve seen the enormity of the issue. Why is abortion the law of the land? Five arguments led to Roe v. Wade and are used by pro-choice advocates today. The first: “No one can say when a fetus becomes a person, so the mother is the best person to make decisions for it.” This was the primary reasoning behind Roe.
However, the fetus carries its parents’ genetic code and is a distinct person. It is not independently viable, but neither is a newborn or young child. It is a scientific fact that every abortion conducted in the United States is performed on a being so fully formed that its heart is beating and its brain activity can be measured on an EEG machine. An unborn child is counted as a homicide if it dies with the mother in a car accident, but not in an abortion.
Theologian Karl Barth described the fetus well: “The embryo has its own autonomy, its own brain, its own nervous system, its own blood circulation. If its life is affected by that of the mother, it also affects hers. It can have its own illnesses in which the mother has no part. Conversely, it may be quite healthy even though the mother is seriously ill. It may die while the mother continues to live. It may also continue to live after its mother’s death, and be eventually saved by a timely operation on her dead body. In short, it is a human being in its own right” (Church Dogmatics 3.4.416).
The second argument: “Abortion must be protected for cases of rape, incest, and to protect the life of the mother.” Note that most pro-life advocates would allow exceptions here, as rape and incest accounts for one percent of abortions; the life of the mother, for three percent; and fetal defects, another three percent; 93 percent of all abortions are elective.
The third argument: “No unwanted child should be brought into the world.” This is the argument most often cited today by pro-choice advocates. Pro-life supporters agree, arguing for adoption as much preferable to abortion. Would an unwanted child rather live or be killed? Could this argument be used for infanticide and euthanasia?
The fourth argument: “The state has no right to legislate personal morality.” However, we do so for a variety of laws, such as murder.
The fifth: “A woman must be permitted to make pregnancy decisions in light of her life circumstances. Of course, once the child is birthed, its rights are equivalent to those of the mother. All that has changed is its location, from inside the womb to outside. It is the same being that it was moments before. Pro-life advocates point to the stress, guilt, and long-term mental anguish reported by many who abort their children, as well as the suffering of the fathers. It is also a fact that abortion before 32 weeks gestation more than doubles the risk of breast cancer.
It is often said that our Constitution does not state when life begins. However, our Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The “inalienable right to life” begins at the moment of creation. If it is wrong to end a baby’s life after its birth, it is also wrong to end that life before its birth.
What can you do about this issue? How can you talk to your children and grandchildren? How can your influence make a difference?
First, encourage abstinence before marriage. If we reserved sex for marriage, as the Bible teaches, we would prevent 93 percent of the abortions performed in this country.
Second, support sonograms before abortion. When women see a sonogram of their unborn child or learn about its present capacities, they are far less likely to choose an abortion.
Third, promote adoption. This was the approach of early Christians to the abortion issue of their day. Since medical abortions were more dangerous then than today, unwanted babies were brought to term and then thrown out with the garbage. Christians would go to the trash heaps every night, rescue the babies, and raise them as their own. What could you do to support adoption in your city? Have you prayed about adoption for your family?
Last, use your influence to defend life. James Davison Hunter, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia and head of the Institute for Advanced Studies of Culture, has published a magnificent treatise titled To Change the World. In it he proves that culture does not change merely by winning elections or building churches. Culture changes when people achieve their highest influence and live there faithfully as salt and light Christians. “Manifest faithful presence” is his statement. When we use our influence for good, we change culture in ways we can see and ways we cannot.
Jesus called us “the salt of the earth.” How can we be salt on this issue?
Connect with your culture. Salt is no good in the saltshaker. How can you use your time, influence and finances to contribute directly to this issue? Can you engage community and cultural leaders in this issue? Can you give of your time and money to help the Council for Life and other pro-life groups defend and support life?
Choose to serve. Salt disappears in the food it seasons. God is looking for selfless servants who are willing to sacrifice of themselves and their resources for children and our future. He is calling us to give more than we can spare in this cause.
Trust that God is using you for good. Salt cannot see its influence. Great people plant trees they’ll never sit under. You cannot measure the eternal significance of present faithfulness. One life saved may change our culture forever for God’s glory.
Abraham Lincoln stated, “Whatever is morally wrong, is not politically correct.” Mother Teresa added: “It is a deep poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”
Would abortion be a moral choice when a family is very, very poor; they have 14 children, and another on the way? That child was John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church. What about a father who is ill and a mother with tuberculosis; their first child is blind, the second is deceased, the third is deaf, and the fourth has tuberculosis. Now she is pregnant again. Her son would be called Beethoven.
A white man rapes a 13-year-old black girl and she becomes pregnant. Her child is the gospel singer, Ethel Waters. A teenage girl is pregnant, but her fiancée is not the father of the baby. Her baby is named Jesus.
I travel frequently to Israel. We always visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. The enormity of the Holocaust is overwhelming—more than six million Jews murdered by Hitler. As I walked through its halls again, the thought occurred to me: nearly ten times that many babies have been killed in our country since 1973.
On one of the walls of the museum there are these words from Martin Niemoller, a German pastor who was imprisoned by the Nazis: “First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist. Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.” Who will speak out for the children?
I was deeply moved by this statement on another wall of the museum: “A country is not just what it does—it is also what it tolerates.”
You are reading this essay by divine appointment. Before God made the first man and woman, he knew he would make you. Before he created the first hour, he knew he would make this hour.
Now, what is he asking of you?