The Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade: Dr. Jim Denison weighs in on abortion

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The Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade: Dr. Jim Denison weighs in on abortion

May 4, 2022 -

Summary: Dr. Mark Turman and Dr. Jim Denison discuss the breaking news that suggests the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade, taking this special episode to consider the implications, as well as the arguments for and against abortion from a biblical perspective.

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Show notes: Dr. Mark Turman and Dr. Jim Denison discuss the morally defining issue of our age: abortion. They address the breaking news that a draft of the Supreme Court’s majority opinion shows that they plan to overturn Roe v. Wade in an upcoming decision. They discuss the details of this breaking news (0:23). They talk about the history of abortion becoming legal, how this decision affects America, and where this initial report came from (10:05). They discuss in-depth arguments for pro-life and for pro-choice positions, which are often complex. Dr. Denison considers all of the strongest arguments for abortion and responds to them (13:33). He also considers all spectrums of positions, and how some, like Peter Singer, are even advocating for the utilitarian killing of some infants after pregnancy (29:28). They then discuss the Bible’s position, why the Bible doesn’t ever say: “thou shalt not abort a pregnancy,” and what the Bible does say (43:41). Then, Dr. Denison discusses the practical implications of these ideas in the States, about how you may be able to help, how you can pray, and how you can love people who have had abortions, who are thinking about getting one, and what the government’s role should be (48:02).

“This is not a war on women. This is actually as you said earlier, a spiritual war for the abundant life that the flourishing God intends for every human being.” – Dr. Jim Denison

Resources and further reading:

About the hosts

Dr. Jim Denison is CEO and co-founder of Denison Forum and a cultural scholar. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy and Master’s in Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Dr. Mark Turman is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church.



Transcribed by


Mark Turman  00:07

Welcome to the Denison Forum Podcast. I’m Dr. Mark Turman, Executive Director of Denison forum sitting down again with Dr. Jim Dennison, the CEO of Denison ministries and cultural apologist here with us at Denison forum. Good morning, Jim, how are you?


Jim Denison  00:21

Good to see you today. Mark, how are you doing? Great.


Mark Turman  00:23

This is a special edition of the Denison Forum Podcast. Based on breaking news, just to give a little bit of context I was about to go to sleep last night, usually turn the television off just after listening to the first couple of headlines and what the weather is going to be. I know you just go a little bit go to bed a little bit earlier than that. But the news broke with a story that the news source politico had gained a brief an early draft brief written apparently in February from the Supreme Court, indicating that the court was possibly going to or likely to overturn Roe vs. Wade, when it delivers its official decision later this summer. I didn’t catch you I sent you a text just in case you didn’t catch it, but you were up earlier than I was. And so that’s really what the context of this podcast is all about. Obviously, a very, very important issue. We want to point our listeners to a very significant resource that you put out on the web about two years ago, they can find it at Denison If you simply put in the title, what does the Bible say about abortion, you will get this white paper, part of which we’ll talk about today in this context, but you started that paper off two years ago, you said in other places as well, that abortion is the defining issue of our day. What do you mean by that?


Jim Denison  01:54

Yeah, thank you for that mark. And thank you for this conversation as well. I typically write a draft of the daily article the day before. And then when I got up this morning, at four o’clock, everything changed. So we obviously started over wrote an article specifically on this. And that’s what this conversation is about, as well. I’m sure I’ll be writing about this in days to come as well. But back to your specific question. I believe it is the defining issue, because this is life and death. On a level that really very few other things. We’re discussing art, we could talk about same sex marriage, we could talk about right and left issues in the context of political spectrum, there are a variety of things that are very divisive partisanship, generally, in general, yeah, I could talk about post modernism on a variety of levels, but none of those have to do with life itself. Abortion, I believe is the taking of a human life. I believe life begins at conception. I believe abortion is therefore in principle wrong. I believe that from 1973. Until today, the United States has legally ended more than 60 million lives. I go to Israel multiple times a year raise, you know, we typically go to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, I weep every time I go. But in tragic terms, more than 10 times more babies have been aborted in the United States than were murdered in the Holocaust,


Mark Turman  03:08

which is just such a huge number. It’s just even hard to really get your mind around it. It really, it’s staggering when, when we talk about when we talk about the Holocaust, we talk about all of World War Two or other wars such as Vietnam, we talk about deaths to COVID, obviously very much on our mind. The numbers for me have always been this has been a very significant issue for me since the earliest days when I became a Christian and back in the early 80s, and just where this conversation and where this struggle, and what you could even call spiritual warfare, in some ways, has been a part of my experience my whole life, and certainly my whole Christian life. My church, when I was young Christian was trying to help us understand this help us to pray through this help us to respond to this. And it became a very significant issue for me, even from those early days, and I’ve had the opportunity to work in this space to be apart to lead a board in a crisis pregnancy center in my community, to be involved in that way for a number of years to lead our church, to be involved, and to be supportive of those that we’re trying to help people in the midst of unplanned pregnancy to choose life, either to parent that child or to place that child in a loving adoption, to do all that we could in the midst of this incredible battle. But today’s in this week’s experience relative to this story, obviously is a very big pivot point, potentially on several fronts. So let’s see if we can take our time and and frame this for our listeners and also again, point them to other resources. The article All the white paper that we have and other things that are on our website, as well as other things that you’ve written, let’s kind of back up a moment, because you’re a cultural apologist, because you’re trying to pay very close attention to what’s moving in the world. And helping us to understand it in a biblical lens. Tell us just a briefly, what is the source political. Some of us hear that name, particularly if you’re listening to politics carefully. The first kind of question that seemed to come out of the newscasters last night as I listened was, well, we’re not sure if this is a credible thing or not. Help us understand it. From that standpoint, is this sound credible to you? And then related to that, this very interesting, if not disturbing reality, that we’ve never seen something like this leaked out of the Supreme Court before they’re ready to make their opinion known.


Jim Denison  05:56

Yeah, that really is unprecedented. You’re right, exactly. So so first of all, let’s do political. Political was a news organization, a news outlet. It was founded in 2007. In Virginia, although it’s international in its scope, but as the name would imply, it focuses primarily on political stories, focuses on politics, on policy issues, issues such as strives to be the first to break news in that context. That’s its wheelhouse is to be at the leading edge, it would say, of political stories of consequence and significance. That’s what it exists to do. And so what it did last night is consistent with what it would see as that mission. Now for those who might be interested, it is typically considered to be a left leaning organization, in terms of its particular bias relative to the stories it covers, and the way in which it covers the stories for whatever that is worth. As regards the legitimacy of what it has reported here. From everything I can tell from everybody that has read the actual report, I’ve read through it myself. This certainly appears to be an actual document written by Samuel Alito, one of the Supreme Court justices in February, as a draft document relative to the upcoming decision that should be announced this coming June. So the background here is last December, the Court heard a case that could overturn Roe v. Wade, in terms of the nature of the course of the case from Mississippi itself. And so shortly after the court hears oral arguments, typically they will gather together in a conference and they’ll take a vote as to where they are on this issue, they’ll get to a majority of minority position. At that point, if the Chief Justice is in the majority, he will typically select one person in the majority himself or somebody else to write a draft report a draft opinion for the majority, and those that are in the minority can begin making decisions as to whether they will write dissenting opinions or not. And so apparently, that would have happened back in December. Apparently, Justice Alito, was the person selected to write the majority opinion, which causes him to think that Justice Chief Justice Roberts was not in the majority. If that’s the case, if he’s not in the majority, then the senior justice in the majority makes that decision. This case it would have been Clarence Thomas, would have perhaps, if we connect the dots properly, would then have been the person to select Justice Alito, to write this majority draft. But however it came about, it does appear to be legitimate. And so it would have written it less February, it would be circulated among the justices, as a starting point, as they make their own decisions. In this case, they apparently from the report, and again, it’s unnamed sources, they voted again this past week and came to the same apparent position that the report seems to indicate that there are five justices that are for overturning Roe v. Wade, there are three that are opposed. And we’re not certain where Chief Justice Roberts is. At last report, it seems that he was willing to uphold the dobs position of December that would limit abortion rights, but was not willing to overturn Roe v. Wade completely, it seems, perhaps could be the case as regrets where he himself isn’t this. But because this was leaked in an unprecedented fashion. We have shortcut the process here. It’s typically the case that these justices will look at these reports, they’ll consider these things, they’ll have further discussions, they sometimes change the votes. I read just today that back in 1992, when Casey was decided, which upheld Roe v. Wade, early votes were that it would overturn Roe v. Wade. And then toward the very end of the process, some of the votes changed, as the justice as discussed these things among themselves, which is what they’re supposed to do.


Mark Turman  09:26

That’s the kind of deliberation that’s not simply that they listen to the moral arguments coming from the opposing sides that are in front of them. They have conversation, discussion debate even among themselves. And


Jim Denison  09:40

that is even more formative, right, typically, because they’re going to do the deep dive. I mean, this is a very extensive 118 footnotes, extremely well researched, and it’s written not only to express a majority opinion, but perhaps to persuade others. And so they very much attempt to persuade each other in the context of the nine justices. And all of this is intended to be an intern All discussion relative to an actual finding that wasn’t supposed to be released until June.


Mark Turman  10:05

So if we, if I hear you, right, we’re just looking at the credibility of the source politico, to what we can know about that. But then if you look at the timing of it, and we’re trying to do what probably the reporters that political we’re doing, which is okay, December, February, and now we’re at the first of May, okay, well, if all of this process of discussion, deliberation, determining who’s in what camp and the the initial formation of like set a document of this size with this many footnotes, that kind of thing this thoroughly, you can kind of see that okay, well, at least from that standpoint, it looks credible, very much so that it has lined up this way. Talk a little bit about what you’ve discovered and gained so far about this, this whole reality of this potential leak.


Jim Denison  10:58

It’s massive, and it’s horrific. It’s absolutely horrific. I’m seeing language about this in some of the reporting that’s causing it not only unprecedented, but an earthquake, some are calling it a crisis for the Supreme Court itself. And it’s really on three levels. The first level has to do with the degree to which somebody that had access to this actually chose to leak it, they’re being called right now that if that was a clerk, they should be fired. If that was an attorney, they should be disbarred. If it was a justice, they should be impeached, that it’s on that level of violating the sanctity of the process, as it worked for whatever purpose. And you can argue both sides of them. Some that would say they’re trying to get one of the justices to change their position. Others that are saying no, they’re trying to get the justices to solidify their position now that it’s public.


Mark Turman  11:42

Is there a political wrangling going in, in some way?


Jim Denison  11:45

All of those questions, yeah. And then you’ve got midterm elections that are some that are already saying this will dominate the midterm elections. Some will say this will help the Democrats because now there’s a belief that now, because if this, in fact, does become the courts position, it’ll return the abortion rights issues to the states. And so now you’ve gotten midterm elections, and now we’ve got to elect Democrats to support abortion, there’s an argument to overturn the filibuster so that we could federalize abortion, and make it something that Congress passes as opposed to the courts. There’s all sorts of politics inside this and all that’s just being gassed out right now. But the first answer to your question is that this is devastating relative to the nature of the court itself. Second, it’s going to be devastating relative to the protection of the court. As soon as this leak became public barricades went up around the Supreme Court


Mark Turman  12:31

building, right, you can see photographs of that on every news source right now,


Jim Denison  12:35

again, already, there are demonstrations outside the court, there are already horrific calls, on the part, especially of those on the left those that are upset about this ruling to burn down the court to attack the justices, at least rhetorically, if not personally, there’s already concerned about the safety of the Supreme Court justices between now and June, in light of all of this, and so there’s actually a security issue inside all of this. And then the third piece inside this is the degree to which whoever released this believes in a post truth culture, that they themselves can take an essence, the entire process into their hands, that is indicative of a culture, which is deciding I have my truth, you have your truth, I can do what I want to do. And truth is what I believe it to be morality is whatever works for me. And this expresses that kind of absolute rejection of objective truth, which is the basis for the way that we do governance in this country. It’s terrifying on several levels. Right?


Mark Turman  13:33

Well, I know that yeah, that’s just something that is just outstanding, just astounding, really, and I know something that you’re thinking and working in writing on more. So I would encourage folks to stay with us to keep following daily articles and other things on our website, because there’ll be more to come on that issue as well as many of these issues, but want to come back around to just the whole essence of the conversation itself, which is what you and I’ve talked about, we’ll get down to this point, which is is this a child or not, but even before 1973, abortion existed, and in in various forms going back not just hundreds of years, but even 1000s of years about the way people looked at children and looked at pregnancy and looked at what their rights and responsibilities might be in those kinds of situations. What I love about your work in this area in this, particularly this white paper that you wrote, is is not just simple. It’s not something that can be boiled down to something you can put on a poster board. That there’s a lot more here to consider a lot more to understand. And as I just heard somebody you and I both respect say if if the issue is important enough for you to have an opinion, you need to do your homework on both sides. So let’s talk about that a minute. How you know it’s wrongly as you and I believe in the right to life, we believe that life begins at the moment of conception. We do have others that we know and that we would care for and respect who would have opposing opinions. The moral arguments for abortion, walk us through that and how we who take a pro life position would respond to those arguments.


Jim Denison  15:26

Yeah, thank you. The first thing to understand is that really, it’s not just pro life and pro choice. As you know, there really are four different positions that have been taken here over the years. One is that there should be no right to an abortion at all, not even to save the life of the mother. Purely simple, full stop. No, right. And that’s typically the Roman Catholic position. That has been typically the case. You know, that’s not always the case. It’s not entirely uniform. But that’s been typically the case, at least on a doctrinal level, maybe not so much in Catholic hospitals when it comes to the actual moment of the decision. But that’s been more the doctrinal position, the doctrinal position is no right to abortion at all. A second position is called therapeutic abortion, which would be the allowance for abortion to save a mother’s life, specifically to save her life, not relative to her mental health, not relative to her financial health. That would be more how Roe v. Wade argued, but her actual physical life, if she’s going to die, if she gives birth to this child, perhaps she has cancer, and she needs cancer treatments. So perhaps the actual birth process itself is going to create a bleeding that can’t be stopped something like that. And we


Mark Turman  16:27

know we have that idea, because we now have medical advances that tell us that there’s a high probability or possibility that that could happen,


Jim Denison  16:35

that she actually can’t bear the child itself, that can be breached, that can be things such as that. And so if the, if the mother will die, then this is called a therapeutic abortion. And there are many that would consider that to be a moral position. A third would be what’s called extreme case, abortions. In here, you’re thinking about rape, you’re thinking about incest, you’re thinking about severe deformity, incompatible with life. And even inside that there are positions, there are some that would allow for abortion in the case of fetal deformity incompatible with life, if the baby is simply not going to survive, right anyway, that would not allow for abortion of the cape a case of rape and incest, others that would allow for abortion, in the case of all three, and so there are various positions, even inside all that. And then of course, the fourth position is that abortion should be available to any woman who chooses it, that would be the pro choice, position. And even there, there’s nuance, there’s somebody that would say that there should be abortion allowed prior to viability, whatever viability is considered to be. And that can be when the baby could live outside the womb, the prior to that abortion should be legal, but if the baby would survive the abortion, then the abortion not not be performed. There would others the heartbeat Bill bills that you’ve heard about that abortion not not be allowed, once a heartbeat can be detected? Well, that’s typically as six to eight weeks depending. And oftentimes, the mother doesn’t even know she’s pregnant, at that point, so called heartbeat bills. And so there are nuances inside all of that right to make the point.


Mark Turman  17:57

And as we’ve talked about, just to set a little bit of a wider context, before we get into some of the more specific moral arguments for abortion, is to help our listeners understand what is a relatively what in my mind is short history of not only abortion and pregnancy, and sexuality rights and all that, but just to even if you just kind of set 100 year or so framework around the acceleration of pornography, going back to Hugh Hefner, as we talked about, in your tsunami book, back in the 50s, the arrival of birth control in pill form in the 60s, you can kind of see that all rising tide of of conversation, debate and discussion that leads to the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision and, and takes this kind of in what you might call a nuclear argument in terms of how the magnitude of it and has stayed with us all of these 50 years. And has has brought us to a day like today that this is an unprecedented time in history where all of that has kind of coalesced together


Jim Denison  19:12

now. That’s right. And that’s the context to put around it. Why 73 As opposed to 53 or 33. Those that wrote the majority opinion, I would say discovered a right to privacy in the 14th amendment that they used as the basis for allowing for arguing for a federally protected right to abortion. Well, a lot of the struggle inside this and a lot of what the court appears to be deciding the majority right now is that that was horrific legal logic, that this should always have been something not for the courts, but for the Congress to make decisions that we should elect lawmakers to make these decisions. And these unelected justices. In essence, we’re doing what the Congress is in position to do that there is no right to abortion in the Constitution, either literally or implied. And more and more people are saying that’s actually true. that the Supreme Court back in 73 made this enormous reach when it discovered this right that doesn’t exist in the Constitution. And so to your point, why in 73, why would they do that? Well, that’s the larger context, right you’re describing, there really are two ways to see the Constitution. One is to say, I want to be an originalist. I want to be a textualist. I want to interpret the Constitution according to the intended meaning of the Constitution. That would be more conservative position, you might think you would think about a number of justices that in recent years have been seen as textualist originalist. The other approach is the living document idea, the idea that the Constitution can’t really be understood in its original context. And that doesn’t matter so much anyway, what does it mean for us today? And so in 73, you’re in the middle of the so called Sexual Revolution. You’re in today, as you said, where you’re seeing enormous kind of activism around LGBTQ rights around pornography, all of that. And


Mark Turman  20:55

you’re also seeing a growing, there has always always been some concern. But there was also just the concern for health of women getting back alley abortions and all kinds of horror stories coming out of that that’s an additional part of the conversation as we


Jim Denison  21:11

use more politically than I would think they were used and that in reality, there were some of those stories, not to the degree that they I think were probably portrayed, but nonetheless an issue. You’re right. And so all that kind of comes together to congeal in this moment in 73. Well, there was a Roman Catholic Bishop couple years ago who made I thought, a very profound point. He said, The reason the civil rights movement of the 60s codified into popular consensus is because it was aligned with biblical truth. The Bible is very clear in saying racism is wrong in saying that God loves each of us as if there’s only one of us, as Augustine said, There’s neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. And so that was aligned with biblical truth. And that’s why that’s settled public policy, not that we don’t still have racism, we still have progress to make. But the civil rights legislation 1964 is not controversial today, the removal of Jim Crow laws is not controversial. By contrast, we are more divided on abortion they were we were in 1973. And his point was that the abortion finding of 73 is in direct conflict with what we know inherently to be true, which is that it’s a baby. And that ending the life of the unborn is egregious ly wrong. And that’s why we’re in this conflict. 50 years later, in one of our last public statements before her death, she just have not achieved justice. But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made the point that she thought Roe v. Wade was an overreach, even though she certainly agreed with its tragically agreed with its basic position, she felt it was an overreach because the divisive pneus that it has produced, and that continues forward demonstrates that it was not itself a therapeutic for the culture, that it wasn’t a good step forward for the culture. And so because it is so in conflict with what we know to be true, it’s divisive today, on a level that demonstrates I think, that foundational facts,


Mark Turman  22:57

and so yeah, so just from that, that standpoint, that kind of stepped back from that and say, well, in some ways, Roe v. Wade didn’t settle anything. It changed some things but it didn’t settle anything I said, in this deep visceral reaction that many of us have to inherently knowing that the taking of, of an unborn life is the taking of a life. And then you’d like said you can go down so many different trails, you can go down the political trail of this, you can go down the league, just a pure legal trail of, of many lawyers who just point out the weaknesses of the Roe v Wade case on a legal basis, irregardless of how you feel about it morally, or spiritually or anything like that. So many different roads that you can go down and that the court is being confronted with. But let’s get into this question for a moment that sometimes I’ve found myself saying, How could you be a Christian and also be pro choice in our culture? And I find myself trying to get really simplistic in that. But, but there are Christians who would who would claim a very clear and strong relationship with Christ who would also say that they are pro choice. How do they get to that position? In your opinion?


Jim Denison  24:17

Yeah, thank you. There are five arguments that they’ll make and some they’ll hold more than others, depending on the individual. But this is the moral case for abortion as I understand it, the first argument is that the fetus is not legally a person. They would agree with the Supreme Court’s finding in 73 that the Constitution nowhere grants legal standing to preborn life, they would point out that only 40 to 50% of fetuses actually survived to become persons in the full sense. They would see a fetus therefore belongs to the mother until it attains personhood, and it’s morally subject to any action that she wishes to take with it. And so, in their view, this isn’t yet a person now it’s potentially a life of course, but they would say it is not yet a person. And so the mother has the right To decide on this, and many that would say their pro choice would also say they’re not pro abortion. They’re not hoping she’ll choose abortion. They’re not wishing she would choose abortion, they just believe she should be the one to make the decision, not the courts.


Mark Turman  25:11

Right. And that’s an even right there, you can see where many times the conversation goes a field, right? That there will be many who would say under this position, we still passionately hope she doesn’t choose abortion. Because there’s even some evidence and statistics these days recently that abortions just overall are going down and the number. So there is some feeling within the culture apparently that we’ve even 50 years later, we’ve come to this general understanding, perhaps abortion on the face of it is just not a good thing, even if there is the right to have one.


Jim Denison  25:48

And that’s their argument. Their argument is that I want the mother to make the decision, not the courts. Right, I heard somebody recently say that there is not room in the hospital room for the Supreme Court, as a mother’s making this decision. And so that’s essentially an argument that in many ways allows a person to look tolerant and yet biblical. I agree biblically, that life it gets a conception but who am I to force my position on somebody else? It’s a very postmodern kind of position, isn’t it? I have my truth. You have your truth, my truth would say, laughing. It’s a consumption. My truth was, I would never choose an abortion for myself. I would never want my daughter granddaughter to choose an abortion. But I don’t think I have the legal right to tell you that you can’t do this. I heard a recent analogy to adultery. I certainly think Adultery is wrong. I think it’s immoral, but it’s not illegal. And I’m not sure I want the courts making adultery, illegal, taking the issue out of an individual’s decisions within their family units, and making it something the court decides. And so that’s by far the most prevalent argument that you’ll hear out there is that that’s it, we’re a secular democracy, right. We’re governed by a constitution, not by the Bible. And at the end of the day, we don’t get to impose biblical values on these decisions. The Constitution doesn’t specify, when life begins, it does obviously say the mother is a person. And so therefore, the mother ought to be the one to make the decision, not the courts.


Mark Turman  27:07

And yeah, and we can go through these one at a time or in summary, fashion, however you choose. But we would obviously say that adultery and abortion are not the same. There are different issues at play, that you cannot put those as being the same kind of category. That’s right. That’s exactly right. And that the interests, particularly interested in this case, of the government, and of the state, are different relative to the issue of life fundamentally than they are of marriage and marriage sanctity.


Jim Denison  27:39

That’s right. And one of the places where just to respond to that first place, which I guess would be a good way to do this, rather than just list them, then come back, let’s just kind of deal with them as we go through the response to that, essentially, and this is where science has been so helpful since 1973, is now that we know more and more about the so called fetus than ever before. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that this is a human life.


Mark Turman  27:58

So yeah, you talked about the medical technology that’s available to us. I know in my work with the crisis pregnancy center, that’s where sonograms became so significant in this conversation about verifying, clarifying and affirming that this is in fact, a human being from its very earliest days.


Jim Denison  28:18

That’s right. And science has more and more teaching us that theologian Carl Bart described the fetus this way, 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. Sciences, teaching us that more and more to be the case. Now the only argument you can really make against this has to do with viability. The idea that you really you can decide a human isn’t a human until it’s a viable, and at this point, it would be outside the womb. But if you’ve ever been around a newborn, you understand how not viable a newborn is either. Yes, it can breathe on its own, but he can’t feed itself it can’t protect itself. That’s one of the arguments for infanticide that tragically is starting to gain some traction in the culture.


Mark Turman  29:18

Okay, stop right there for a moment and define that word because many people just don’t come across the word infanticide the way they do the word abortion. Help us understand that distinction.


Jim Denison  29:28

You bet this Peter Singer and others are moving to a functionalist sort of ethic that would say, We ought to prioritize those people who contribute to society. It’s almost a utilitarian kind of idea. And so if somebody is terminally ill, we are not give them the kind of health support that they receive right now. It saps our limited health resources on a level that is not paying back to society. They’re not contributing any more to society. They’re simply taking from us. He makes the same argument for newborns, especially those that might have some challenges some physical handicaps or child lunches that they’re never going to contribute to society on some significant level productive level. So why are we sacrificing so many of our resources in their behalf.


Mark Turman  30:09

And even as we just talked about that you can hear so many families who have a special needs child and just immediately alerting as they should.


Jim Denison  30:18

That’s right and protesting as they should, right. I’ve done numbers of families over the years, for instance, with Down syndrome children that while they certainly wouldn’t have chosen to have a baby with Down, they’re so grateful they do. So grateful for all the good that’s come from and all the ways that God has blessed them through. And so yeah, it’s a horrific argument, it’s, I think, an incredibly immoral argument to make. And my point right now would be that if we say that the unborn child is not a human being, because it’s not yet viable, you can make exactly that same argument on the other side of birth, and especially if they’re physical challenges, whatever the age, the person might be, a viability is going to be your standard. And that’s the only way really scientifically, medically right now. So we can argue that the child is not a child. So the first argument that’s out there that we don’t know when life begins, and so the mother should be the only one to make the decision is, is really falling in relative relative to scientific evidence, it’s there, if you want to make that argument, then the mother also ought to be able to make the decisions about her newborn child, about her one year old, about her two year old, that she alone should decide whether the child lives or dies. That was something that ancient Roman Empire believe they have poetry of the taste as the power of the Father, that the Father had the right to life and death for the child, as long as the Father live, do we want to go there again, do we want to be at that place where we really do believe that we have categories of viability categories of value, and then until you can produce on some level that we grade, you are therefore not a viable human being. But that’s ultimately where some are going with all this today. So that’s the first argument is we can’t decide when life begins. So the mother should make the decision, science is proving that not to be true


Mark Turman  31:55

viability and value connecting exactly there. Alright, second argument, the idea of protecting a woman in the case of something extreme, like rape or incest,


Jim Denison  32:06

right, and that’s an argument that is much more rhetorical than it is in real, it’s estimated that 93% of abortions in America are elective, that only 7% are fetal deformity, rape, incest, or the life of the mother. So it’s a very, very small percentage that we’re thinking about here, as regards raping, incest. In this conversation, there are really two positions that the pro life sort of response can take. One is to say, All right, I’ll do a carve out for that. If I can delegitimize 93% of abortions, I’ll take that, and a lot on kind of a practical level, we’ll go there and not try to fight the battle. There are some that would say, Well, look, life begins at conception, regardless of how the baby was conceived. And they’ll tell stories of people like Ethel Waters, who was herself I believe, the product of a rape and, and stories of people that have lived remarkably valuable lives whose conception was very, very difficult. And so you can make some argument that even rape and incest is not a moral argument, but some of the pro life position will take that some will take the other side. But the bottom line is that that’s a very small percentage, and does not justify the 93% that are themselves elective abortions,


Mark Turman  33:13

and very helpful to get to that kind of clarity. Because, again, you start seeing where people pick up arguments, particularly for political reasons, or whatever the case might be just to try to get give weight to their position, when the numbers really are not significant in that way.


Jim Denison  33:32

And do it for an emotional reason. If nothing else, if your daughter was raped, if your granddaughter sure was right, would you still want abortion to be illegal, this kind of the way that this moves, and it’s really moving it from the argument based on scripture, or based on logic based on jurisprudence, really, to kind of an emotional sort of an approach, and you can see how that could be popular?


Mark Turman  33:49

Sure. Well, a third reason that a pro choice person might have is that no child should be brought into the world that’s unwanted on the face of it. Yeah, that kind of makes sense. But where does that kind of fall apart in terms of a more biblical perspective,


Jim Denison  34:06

right? It’s on two levels. The first level is to say, Well, absolutely, if that’s your position, then you want to be an adoption advocate. There are so many couples who desperately want to be parents who desperately want to raise children. And so every person who thinks that an unwanted child ought not exist, should therefore be a supporter for adoption at that point. A second argument would be to say, if you could ask the unborn child, would you rather die or live? Your mother doesn’t really want you to live she’d rather abort you? Would you rather be aborted because you’re not wanted? Or would you rather be given life and then perhaps adoption, or even if the mother doesn’t give you up for adoption? Would your worst life not be better than having been aborted? And then you have to factor in the fact that so many mothers as their back and forth on this spectrum, might today be thinking I just can’t raise another child. I don’t have the financial means to do it. It’s going to impede my life. It’s going to impede my job. I’m understand In the pressure, there’s all the reasons why women choose abortion, that might change in a week. But abortion is a permanent decision. Right? Once that decision has been made. So then we get need to measure what do we mean by unwanted? Is that the mothers decision alone to make? What about the Father? What about the grandparents? What about the larger family system? And again, the adoptive parents who would so much want that child to exist. And so the response is to argue for for adoption, and to also argue against the finality of abortion to give them another opportunity. And again, understand if you were the fetus, which would you choose? Ronald Reagan made the point he said, I’ve noticed that everybody that argues for abortion has already been born. Right. And I remember that statement. You know,


Mark Turman  35:39

I think that applies to this conversation. And I remember in again, just my my experience of working in this space, some that a significant amount of ministry that we did touched upon this issue with working with women, and sometimes with couples and with men in post post abortive situations, that this whole question of, well, I didn’t want to bring a child into the world that I wasn’t prepared for, or that I didn’t want. And then having to work through some of the emotional, spiritual, mental challenges of having made that decision, this very, obviously, permanent decision for this unborn child and how they struggle with that. And something that maybe we’ll come back to if we have time. I remember it wasn’t just so many years ago that I came as a pastor to understand that some of these women and couples were sitting in my church, yes. And that when you come to something like Mother’s Day that will celebrate this weekend, for this year. And that did that brings up a whole other area of pain and challenge and and history that you probably won’t see it as they walk by you on Sunday morning at your church, but it’s there.


Jim Denison  36:54

And absolutely as some years ago, we every year in Baptist life and knew what we had sanctity of life Sunday, typically in January. So I was pastoring first Baptist middlin. It was my first son, January to do that. I preached a strong pro life message afterwards, our counseling minister who had been on the staff for years and years, and now we’re talking he thanked me for the message. He said he certainly agreed with it. But he said something just to know, is there a number of women who heard you say that today who have had abortions? And he would know that being the longtime counseling minister there in the church in a way that I wouldn’t have done? I hadn’t thought of that I should have, but I hadn’t. And you’re right Mother’s Day, whatever the conversation, even though is hearing this conversation right now, the odds are, there’s a pretty good chance that somebody that’s going to hear this conversation has chosen at abortion at some point along the way. And they will know the guilt that comes from that they’ll know the grief that comes from that they’ll know the long term pain that’s on the other side of that that doesn’t typically get in the conversation. If somebody is simply arguing that no unwanted child should exist in the world, there can be so much grief on the other side of deciding that the mother didn’t want that child, right now knows that. That was a decision that was obviously horrific for the child and it’s going to be paying they’ll carry the rest of their lives as well.


Mark Turman  38:02

Right? Couple more of these arguments of for abortion and abortion rights, the state should not have the right to legislate personal morality, what you were referring to a minute ago that what is the state’s interest here, obviously in person’s


Jim Denison  38:19

chart, and that’s again, one of the arguments that you’ll see on the other side, well, we obviously have an interest for the sake of the Mother, the unborn child has no constitutional status as an independent individual. And so the state has no relationship with the unborn child has no governance jurisprudence, there in that sense, would be an argument that’s made here. It’s categorically false on a number of logical levels. First of all, because we do understand life to begin at conception, we do understand this to be an unborn life and unborn human, that the state has absolutely a compelling interest in protecting that child, especially the most innocent among us, especially the most, on some level, the those that can least defend themselves, or those that the state most has a moral obligation to protect, to defend. That’s why the state leans so far in the direction of caring for children when their divorce proceedings and what will be best for the child as opposed to what would the parents wishes be. That’s why the state has a compelling interest to protect its own citizens, you could argue that’s its most basic obligation and you


Mark Turman  39:20

see it on the side of almost every police car and public vehicle right to protect in the start, and we would just kind of logically extend that out to protect and to serve the least in and most vulnerable among us children and in what you and I believe unborn children exactly as it should extend that far. And in fact, you


Jim Denison  39:39

could argue that all laws do, right, all laws legislate morality, the reason the state enforces a seatbelt law is because it believes it as a compelling interest in protecting you. If you’re in an accident, in a way that you may not even want to be protected yourself but it’s going to force you to be to have that seatbelt is going to force the car makers to insure clewd safety apparatus in the car airbags things,


Mark Turman  40:04

you know, and I don’t know if your dad was this way, but my dad fought that the whole time of his experience and and didn’t he despise seatbelts and this whole idea that the state has an interest and a value in you via a seatbelt, even if you don’t have it for yourself? Sure. So there are examples where the state has an interest like this, in many ways, and reps always law.


Jim Denison  40:30

My parents hated that both of them did, they felt like the state was imposing unfairly on them, it’s their decision as to what they want to do about all of this. And the end of the day, it really wasn’t their decision if they don’t wear a seatbelt when get into this. But if they don’t wear a seatbelt, they’re involved in an accident, others in the car and may be more likely to be damaged or injured as well. There are the stories inside. But the bottom line is, if you believe in seatbelts, if you believe in speed limits, if you believe in the most basic laws, and you’re seeing the imposition of morality on the part of the government. And so to say that the government can’t legislate morality means it can’t do legislation. Because all legislation is a legislation of morality, in this case, relative to the most vulnerable among us. And that would be the preborn child,


Mark Turman  41:11

no, great, great explanation. Kind of the last major argument that is for abortion and abortion rights is that the woman must be permitted to make pregnancy decisions in light of her own life circumstances. We’ve touched on that a little bit, flush that a little bit more and what the response to that is. Obviously, part of that being that she’s not the only one that is considering the circumstances as well, you know, this child has circumstances to consider as well.


Jim Denison  41:46

And that’s really a lot of the argument that’s inside this a lot of what Roe v. Wade argued around was that we need to take into consideration the emotional health of the mother, the financial health of the mother, the life stage where she finds herself and, and really give precedence to her issues if we must choose. But it’s seen as a zero sum game, where we have to choose either the mother or the child. And so we’re going to choose the mother on constitutional grounds. While again, that logic is so flawed, we now understand the child to be a child, we now we would never make that argument about a one year old, never make that argument about a three year old. And yet, we’re making that about a child from the moment of birth forward, the state has a compelling interest to protect that child that it didn’t have five minutes ago, before the child was born. But now five minutes, all the child has done is move locations, it’s moved a foot or two from inside the womb to outside the womb. And in that moment, it has equal status, in the eyes of the law that it didn’t have five minutes earlier, is the argument that’s being made here. I also would want to emphatically make the case that a pro life supporter like me is not part of a war on women, as this is often seem to be, I believe abortion to be damaging to women as well, as we talked about a moment ago, I as a pastor, over four decades have seen so much devastation in the lives of women who’ve chosen abortion. I’ve seen that with a biological father. I’ve seen that with the grandparents extended family, as you mentioned a moment ago as well, I certainly myself would argue for the life of the mother, if one must choose the life of the mother, that would be a circumstance by which I would say abortion would therefore be be morally defensible. But in but apart from the very survival of the Mother, how do we grade this? How do we grade financial well being? How do we grade emotional well being? How do we make decisions like that? How do the courts make these decisions? So at the end of the day, we want both, we’re rejecting the zero sum nature of this and we’re wanting to argue for the life of the mother and the life of the child. And we we believe they’re absolutely positively ways to do both.


Mark Turman  43:41

Yeah, well, that’s what we hope people will be able to get some clarity around a couple of of questions just to kind of use our remaining time, I know that we could, we could spend so much more time talking about this. But as Christians think through this, as we try to go to our Bibles, gym to understand this, there is no clear, simple, easy scripture in verse that Christians can go to. But how would you advise our listeners in that area? We started off this, like said, you can find this resource on our website by simply saying, What does the Bible say about abortion? from a biblical perspective, just simply that text of the Bible? Where would you take people in terms of building their biblical as well as theological and practical understanding of this issue?


Jim Denison  44:35

That’s a great question. The challenge that is before us here is that the Bible nowhere says Thou shalt not have an abortion doesn’t say those words. The reason it doesn’t say those words, is that abortion was so forbidden in the Jewish culture of the biblical era. It didn’t need to say that. It didn’t need to forbid that per se, because it was absolutely categorically clear. In ancient Judaism, we get this in the Talmud, we get this Babylonian Talmud as well as and other documents, we’ll get this in Sanhedrin documents. It’s again and again emphatically stated to Judaism that life begins at conception and that abortion is wrong. It’s really when you get outside the biblical era and the church, God starts getting out into the larger Greco Roman world, that you get the Epistle of Barnabas, which is a late first century early second century document, which forbids abortion. You start seeing very clear categorical statements by early Christian fathers forbidding abortion, once the church starts getting out into a culture that accepts abortion,


Mark Turman  45:28

and they’re and they’re working out their implications of their faith in contrast to their unbelieving culture,


Jim Denison  45:35

exactly so, but relative to a case against abortion in Scripture, the Bible again and again, I think makes it very clear life begins at conception. You find that in Psalm 139, where David very clearly says to God, you formed my inward part, you knit me together in my mother’s womb, I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth, your eyes be held my unformed substance, in your book were written all the days formed for me when none of them yet existed. You’ve got Jeremiah, one, five, before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I consecrated you. You’ve got Luke 139 to 45, where the unborn child and Elizabeth’s womb leaped. When Mary came in clearly cognizant of what we’re dealing with here, we’re also talking about the rights of the innocent that again, and again, to make clear in Scripture, Exodus 23, seven do not kill the innocent, and those in the right for libel not acquit the guilty. So again, and again, the Bible explains clearly that the innocent and to be protected, that life begins at conception. The fact that the Bible does not say thou shalt or shalt not have an abortion is because in the culture, it wasn’t necessary, because in the Jewish culture of the day, abortion was simply forbidden. It wasn’t even considered as an option one might consider when you get outside that Jewish culture is when the unanimous position of the church starts becoming clearer as regards forbidding abortion, per se.


Mark Turman  47:00

And that, so many indications, obviously, from start to finish, right, the Bible begins in a garden, it ends in a garden, and everything in in between is an affirmation of this incredible gift of life. I think every time I come across this, Genesis to seven, God breathed into human beings, his breath of life, and the first man Adam became a living being, that, that everything that God is about is about being pro life, and that scripture points in that direction in every single aspect in every single way. Which really kind of comes down to the core issue of what we wanted to try to get at today, right? If people were going away from this, we’re gonna we’re gonna give them before we wrap up just a few practical things to think about how they can be praying, how they can be listening, how they can engage in this perhaps, but the core issue is one we’ve already touched upon in a couple of different ways. Put it in the words that you want to share it


Jim Denison  48:02

and be glad to do that. At that point. I’d like to quote Mother Teresa, okay. I don’t know how could quote anybody that has higher moral authority, whatever the subject might be than her. She was writing to the United States Supreme Court as it was considering petitions related to abortion, and she made this statement. Your opinion this was in Roe v. Wade, stated that you did not need to, quote resolve the difficult question of when life begins in quote, that question, she writes, is inescapable if the right to life is an inherent and an inalienable right, as obviously the Declaration of Independence states that it is, she says, It must surely obtain wherever human life exists. No one can deny that the unborn child is a distinct being, that it is human and that it is alive. It is unjust. Therefore, to deprive the unborn child of its fundamental right to life on the basis of its age, size or condition of dependency. It was a sad infidelity to America’s highest ideals. When the court said that it did not matter or could not be determined when the inalienable right to life began for a child in its mother’s womb. And she has been widely quoted as stating it is a deep poverty to decide that a child must die, so that you may live as you wish.


Mark Turman  49:15

What a profound statement. It truly has. Wow. Yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s something that just kind of keeps you up at night as far as I’m concerned. Yes. And to think about that, in terms of, of a post truth, post morality, culture thinks that way that it needs to be about what works for me. And it doesn’t really matter what works for somebody else. Even this unborn child.


Jim Denison  49:43

Aren’t you glad your mother didn’t make the same choice? Exactly. No. Yeah.


Mark Turman  49:47

This conversation is just part of a bigger conversation in this story around where the Supreme Court may be headed. is just one more page and chapter in an ongoing Boeing situation and and, as you said, the moral defining issue of our day. So even if in a few weeks or months, the Supreme Court comes out and does overturn Roe v. Wade, what would you likely expect to see happen? There’s that we already know, you look at Texas, you look at California number or their state’s their trigger laws. So there’s, there’s there will be so much more that happens either way. But what would you what would you tell us just kind of generally to expect but then also more importantly, as believers redemptively how should we be preparing and engaging


Jim Denison  50:42

now? Thank you, if Roe v Wade is overturned, what will happen is this will become a states rights issue, which is what it was prior to 1973. And why do we think it always should have been,


Mark Turman  50:51

I said, help us a little bit with political science. A states rights issue, which means it can be worked out in the States is also could be coming back to the Congress. And even today, there’s a headline that the President has asked the Congress to engage the so there’s two different kinds of tracks to that. So try it speak to that a little bit. So we understand the difference. Sure.


Jim Denison  51:11

Yeah. And that’s a great point. One way that this could work would be to say Congress ought to pass a federal law that legitimizes abortion. That was never done. What the Supreme Court did took this out of Congress’s hands, took it out of elected officials hands, and nine unelected justices discovered a right to abortion in the constitution. So


Mark Turman  51:29

what is a good what is only the the responsibility of the Congress? That’s


Jim Denison  51:33

right. And that’s been one of the major arguments against Roe v. Wade, from the beginning, as you said earlier, regardless what you think of abortion, per se, the fact that the in essence, the court did what the Congress was supposed to do here, and at the end of the day, you don’t want the courts making law, you want the courts interpreting law, you want the Congress to make the law, right. So one push forward could be to try to do a federal sort of a law that doesn’t look as though that’s going to have any kind of traction, that would have to get past a filibuster in the Senate. It could pass the House, but in all likelihood, would not pass the Senate. And so in all likelihood, there would not be a successful effort to federalize abortion on that level. So then it becomes a state by state issue, depending on who you look at anywhere from 24 to 26. States have made decisions already, that if Roe v Wade is overturned, abortion would then become illegal in their state on any level. Now, some would say to protect the life of the mother, some would have Raven incest, some would have fetal deformity kind of carve outs. And so it depends on the state, but about half the states would have some sort of laws that they’ve already put in place or likely would put in place to make abortion illegal in their state. The other half would, as California would and has already decided would have laws that would absolutely endorse abortion, at any point across all nine months for any reason whatsoever. One of the most extreme abortion laws of all time, was recently passed in California, and would be their position if Roe v Wade were overturned. So what the practical consequence of all that looks like and well in there are what are the practical issues here, first of all, understand that we’re not going to make abortion go away through legislative means, and that’s simply not going to happen. Even if Roe v Wade is overturned, it then becomes a state’s issue. And even within the states, you have the ability to travel to states that do have abortion available, and you have medical abortion available through pills that can be procured. New York Times has calculated this since Texas passed a very restrictive law some time ago, a few months ago, the number of abortions in abortion clinics in Texas fell by half. But the number of women seeking abortions who traveled to adjacent states where it was available, plus those getting medical abortions were such that the actual zero sum end of the day abortion rate only fell by 10%. And so because abortion is going to be available medically through pills at pharmaceutical abortions, and traveling to other states, you couldn’t think that if roe falls than you, and if you live in a state that makes abortion illegal, that therefore there won’t be an issue about abortion in your state, that would not be the case for you. It’ll just take different forms different forms. Exactly. I would be grateful for this to be the case, I certainly would I would want abortion to be as limited as I could get it to. But on a practical level, there are three things then that we need to be doing as believers, the first thing that we can be doing, obviously, we always say this, but it’s so true. And that is to be praying, God, what’s my role here? What would you have me do? Is there somebody I know that is considering an abortion? Is there a crisis pregnancy center I should be volunteering in and serving? Is there a board like you’ve served on where I could be supporting or their financial means I could be giving? Is there a way I could personally be helping women where I live in mind Jerusalem, choose life? And what would that be God? How would you have me do this? What can I be doing or what difference can I make today? That’s the first thing to be asking and praying about and thinking about looking toward second, how can my influence make a difference? We all have social media influence. Our cell phone is now a megaphone, and we can do things to make public opposition’s in ways that may influence others. With whom we don’t have personal direct interaction, we can influence legislators, we can influence those in the press, we can use our political and personal influence in a way that can advocate for life as well. And then third, let’s not just be pro birth, let’s be pro life, we ought to be as concerned, not only about the unborn, but about those that are born, and about their lives and the quality of their lives. That’s why poverty ought be a grievious issue for us. And racism needs to be an issue for us. Now, these are not life and death issues on the same level, I understand that. But they nonetheless are part of a pro life ethic, not just a pro birth ethic. And we want to be known as people that advocate for the abundant life, Jesus intense, in all its manifestations. Let’s be those people. Let’s be on that front of this. Let’s be people offering living water to people that come for water. Let’s be those people that offer the good news of the grace of the grace of God. This is not a war on women. This is actually as you said earlier, a spiritual war for the abundant life that the flourishing God intends for every human being, how can we be a means to that end?


Mark Turman  56:04

Absolutely. What a good word. And as, as we often say, around here, how can we in every one of those practical way speak the truth in love? Yes. That that we are called and that we are passionate about being cultural missionaries, even when there are people that don’t see this issue the way Believers do, or way many of us do. If you’re finding somebody in your personal, pro life conviction, and you’re talking to somebody who is pro choice, that you still must live out the Gospel. That’s right, in a cultural missionary speaking the truth and love kind of way they are not the because you cannot arise, especially in something of this nature. But in other areas as well. You don’t argue people into changing their mind. In fact, you may push them away, you may push them further away.


Jim Denison  56:50

And if you know someone who’s chosen abortion, they’re a victim. We often quoted our friend John Stonestreet ideas of consequences, bad ideas have victims This is Exhibit A of that they especially need our ministry, they especially now we’re not endorsing the decision to care about the person, right? If that were the case, you can never minister to a sinner, right on any level, right? So we want to be ministering to them. We want to be the church. Someone said the church is the only army that buries its wounded. We don’t want to be that army, right? We want to be those folk who are reaching out in grace to those who have made tragic decisions because we’ve all made tragic decisions in a way that offers the grace that we’ve received. So let’s be those advocates of hope and those advocates of love. And let’s be the hands and feet of Jesus today.


Mark Turman  57:29

Absolutely. Well, thank you for the conversation. Dr. Jim, I hope it’s been helpful to our audience. I believe it will be again if you want to do some more reading in this area. You can read Dr. Denison’s article on the Denison Forum website Denison Simple Search, what does the Bible say about abortion, you’ll find even more resources there. There’ll be more in the daily article and in other resources coming out on our website, we hope that it’ll be helpful to you. We hope that you’ll use not only your prayer life but your influence is Dr. Dennison said, and that God will use us to shine his light into this darkness. Thank you for being a part of our conversation.

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