Note: Thank you to Dr. Ryan Denison for writing today’s Daily Article. He is the Denison Forum senior editor for theology and has written more than four hundred articles for the Denison Forum.
Yesterday, the Senate voted on the Women’s Health Protection Act, which—had it passed—would have gone beyond simply codifying Roe v. Wade to also roll back a number of abortion restrictions that have been passed at the state level in recent years.
It predictably failed to garner the requisite 60 votes—the final tally was 49 for, 51 against—with even Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer acknowledging that the vote was primarily symbolic. A largely similar law had been voted down 46-48 less than three months ago, and no real efforts were made to alter the bill in a substantive way prior to yesterday’s proceedings. Rather, Schumer said the vote was intended to let every American see “where every single US senator stands” on the issue.
As Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) told the Washington Post, “You guys are all covering [the vote], right? This will be in papers all over the country. It’ll be on the nightly news. It’ll be on talk radio. I think of the old saying: ‘It’s important to be caught trying,’ and we’re going to try really hard to do everything we can to highlight this.”
Bustos is hardly alone in her belief that raising awareness is a valuable end unto itself, regardless of whether that awareness leads to real change. The crowds that have spent the better part of a week protesting outside the homes of conservative Supreme Court justices, for example, would appear to share her view.
The unborn are not political pawns
Those protests continue to make headlines with no end in sight. Even among progressives, however, an increasing sense of unease has begun to grow regarding the actions of the crowds and, more pointedly, the inaction of the federal government in response.
Title 18, Section 1507 of the US Code states that “Whoever, with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, witness, or court officer, in the discharge of his duty, pickets or parades in or near a building housing a court of the United States, or in or near a building or residence occupied by such judge, juror, witness, or court officer. . . shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”
In short, it is against federal law to protest or picket outside the home of a judge, juror, witness, or court officer in the hopes of changing the outcome of a judicial decision.
As Aaron Blake notes, “Advocates for abortion rights might argue that, given the stakes and even if illegal, the protests are justified as a form of civil disobedience . . . But the Biden administration is charged with enforcing federal law.” As of this writing, the Justice Department has yet to address the issue.
That silence speaks volumes about the politically charged nature of the abortion debate and the way that the lives of the unborn have often been used for political ends by people on both sides of the aisle. Let’s not forget that Republicans have benefitted quite frequently from this subject as well, given the degree to which many have overlooked other issues in order to vote in support of pro-life candidates.
And while I rejoice with every life that has been and will be saved by restrictions placed on abortion, we must not make the mistake of overlooking the fact that there is a large percentage of America—many, though by no means all, of whom do not know Jesus—who are terrified and angry at what’s going on.
As such, now is not the time for taking a victory lap and acting as though God cares about the unborn more than he does those lamenting the Supreme Court’s impending decision. After all, how we react now will define the way many in that latter camp see our faith going forward.
Is abortion an issue of religious freedom?
In a recent article for Christianity Today, Russell Moore points out that for many pro-choice individuals, the issue of abortion is “a manifestation of a kind of soft theocracy—that those who are pro-life are now imposing our religious views on the rest of the country.” He goes on to note that “according to this reasoning, to oppose legal abortion is to impose a certain religious viewpoint upon other people, and thus violate the religious freedom of those who don’t believe the fetus to be a human person.”
While you and I may disagree with that notion, we can likely understand how easy it can be for fear and anger to become the dominant emotions when one’s religious liberty is threatened. To discount the role it plays in how a large swath of the pro-choice camp sees our position on this issue simply because we don’t agree that protecting the unborn is imposing on someone’s religious freedom does not change the fact that others do.
Besides, our stance on abortion is influenced by our faith. A big reason why we see value in unborn life is because God says that the unborn—like every person he has created—have value.
However, that our beliefs are, at least in part, religiously motivated does not make abortion an inherently religious issue. There are moral and scientific arguments for protecting unborn life at all stages of development that more than justify a pro-life position.
But as we engage in discussions and debates on abortion, we cannot forget that how we fight for children in the womb matters to God as much as the fact that we’re fighting for them because the unborn are not the only souls potentially at stake.
So the next time you see a story on the news trying to justify the necessity of Roe v. Wade or read someone’s pro-choice comments on social media, instead of responding in anger, take a second to pray for the person expressing those views. Pray that God will surround them with people who can speak the truth on this issue in a way that fosters dialogue rather than division. Pray that God will change their hearts to more closely align with his. And pray that God will soften your own heart as well, replacing any anger or resentment with a sense of empathy for those who desperately need to encounter him.
God cares immensely about every person he creates, from the moment of conception to their final breath. Let’s make sure we’re doing the same.