Simple Concepts Concerning Life


In memory of the 50 million Americans lost since the dreadful Roe v. Wade decision, I wrote a poem for a competition hosted by the Manhattan Declaration (you can read it here).  The point of the poem is simply this: A little girl in the womb has no guarantee of liberty or the pursuit of happiness in America because she has no guarantee of life.

Two contrary points are typically made by those who favor abortion.  First, it is said that the baby in the womb is something less than human, not quite considered a person.  Maybe it is a fetus or embryo, but not a person.  And because it is philosophically impossible to determine at what point the embryo becomes a baby, we are not at liberty to impose a definition upon the mother. She is free to choose for herself.  Second, the argument is made that because the mother will have the primary burden of caring for the child, then she must decide whether to allow her birth.  Each of these arguments is fundamentally unsound.

On the first point, the question must be answered concerning the child in the womb. If it is not human, then what is it?  If it is human, then it must be protected.  Terms such as fetus and embryo only obscure what ought to be obvious to all.  What kind of embryo is it?  What kind of fetus is it?  Obviously, they are human embryos.  As such, they should be protected under the law.  According to our Declaration of Independence, “They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Still, the argument persists because pro-abortion advocates claim that humanity is not so easily defined.  When do the cells and DNA actually become a full human being?  Our simple response to this inquiry is, “When is it ever not human?”  From the moment of conception, a human being is in process—a process of growth which continues throughout the time in the womb and even for most of the next two decades after the child is born.  There is growth and development (in the strictly physical sense) from conception to the age of 18 or so.  This is undeniable.

In fact, this line of reasoning is so filled with common sense that it permeates our legal code.  Take, for instance, Title 16, Chapter 5A, Subchapter II, Paragraph 668 (a), of the United States Code:

 “Whoever, within the United States or any place subject to the jurisdiction thereof… shall knowingly…take, possess, sell, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, at any time or in any manner any bald eagle commonly known as the American eagle or any golden eagle, alive or dead, or any part, nest, or egg thereof of the foregoing eagles, or whoever violates any permit or regulation issued pursuant to this subchapter, shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned not more than one year or both…”

What is particularly illuminating in the U. S. legal code is the threat of criminal sanction for taking not just the egg of the eagle but also the nest.  It is clear enough that the egg of the eagle is protected (for the sake of protecting all eagles); what is even more astounding is that the eagle’s nest is also protected.  Why?  Because the nest is also a necessary part of the life-development of a bald eagle.  In the case of the bald eagle, the law protects a collection of non-living sticks and limbs because those sticks and limbs provide a nesting area for an egg which—if all goes well—will eventually develop into an eaglet, which–if all goes well–will one day fly as an eagle.  The nest of the egg of the eagle is protected in America because Americans value eagles and want to protect them.  The womb of a mother is not protected in America because Americans…

Now, on the second point of debate, again, the law is clear.  Those who advocate for abortion will say that they may be personally opposed to it, but they cannot feel compelled to burden the mother when child-rearing is her responsibility.  (There are many false assumptions built into this argument—child-rearing is a mother and father responsibility; children are not burdens but blessings; and one cannot be opposed to something and advocate for it in the same breath).  On the basic point of whether the child is the mother’s responsibility solely because it is part of her body, I would appeal to common sense and the law.

Common sense makes plain that the child in the womb is not simply a subsidiary part of the mother’s body.  When a couple goes for an ultrasound, they don’t go there to find out what kind of tumor is growing on the mother’s body.  They go there to find out the ___________ of the ___________.  (Could you fill in the blanks? They go to find out the sex of the baby).  It is simply ludicrous to assert that the baby is like a hemorrhoid, and abortion is good in the same sense as Preparation H.  This is not a part of the mother’s body; it is a separate human body.  The ultrasound is able to determine its sex. If it is a little boy, it will have a little boy organ which belongs to him—not to his mother.

In the law, the same common sense provisions can be found.  Even if we were to say that the baby were merely a growth on the mother’s body, and, because it is her body and her burden, it is also her free choice, we still would not think that the mother is free to do whatever she wants with her body.  Women are not free to do anything they want with their bodies; neither are men.  One cannot expose his body to others without facing charges of indecent exposure.  One cannot prostitute his or her body without facing criminal charges.  One cannot fill his or her body with illegal drugs without violating the law.  There are a great many things one cannot do with his or her body.  There simply is no absolute right to your own body when you live in community with others.

So, we conclude with two simple and undeniable truths.  At conception, human life begins.  And, no one should have the right to rob another human of her right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  With these simple facts recognized, we will see the value of human life soaring in America again like the eagle’s.

Life Is the Winner


A Baby in the Womb

The little boy came galloping into his living room with his six-guns a-blazing.  On cue, his dad made a series of agonizing contortions, grabbing his chest and groaning loudly as he fell to the floor in dramatic style, making sure his little gunslinger received full compensation for his cowboy skills.  The little boy loved the scene. Gunfights were always OK in this living room corral—as long as the little guy was allowed to win.

When dad decided to fire back his imaginary pistols, the pint-sized Paladin refused to die in agony.  Instead, his face switched from glee to gloom, and his lip slightly quivered: “No fair. Gunfighters don’t sposed to die.  I don’t want to die, daddy.”  Life and death games are always more fun if you are on the winning side of life.  We never really outgrow this lesson, do we?

I thought of this as I considered how most of us consider ourselves “pro-life,” but we are a little unsure of how far this conviction should take us.  Do we, for instance, refuse treatment for a life-threatening disease on the grounds that the treatment was derived from the stem cells of human babies who were aborted?  It is a dilemma which tests the seriousness of our pro-life convictions.  Like the little boy, we don’t want to die.  Sure, we don’t want to destroy babies in the womb just to harvest their stem cells, but we really don’t want to die.  Should we refuse treatments derived from human embryos?

Thank God, that isn’t a choice we actually have to make.  You may think this is a choice you will have to make, but it isn’t.  Here is the reason you won’t have to make that choice.  There are no treatments being successfully used to cure anything with embryonic stem cells.  None.  Nothing is being helped—much less cured—by embryonic stem cells.

You may not believe this claim, or you may be confused by it.  After all, you might have received stem cell treatments.  One of your loved ones may have been helped by stem cell treatments.  So, you think that stem cells are being used to treat disease, right?  You are partially correct.  Stem cells are being used.  However, the stem cells which are being used to treat diseases are adult stem cells—not from human embryos.

In fact, a group of doctors who form the Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics has compiled a list of stem cell success.  So far, according to their count, there are 73 successful treatments for diseases which use non-embryonic stem cells.  And there are 0 successful treatments using embryonic stem cells.  The score is 73-0 against taking stem cells from aborted babies.  In any game, 73-0 is a lopsided blowout.  Even in a staged gunfight, the dad insisted on at least 1 victory.  Embryonic stem cells have none.

Unfortunately, politicians have exploited the success of non-embryonic stem cells to continue aiding the abortion industry by encouraging embryonic stem cell research, but the science is against embryonic stem cells.  Common sense morality is against them, too.  Embryonic stem cell research destroys human life, while non-embryonic research extends it.  The choice is obvious, isn’t it?  The good news for us is that maybe we don’t have to die—thanks to non-embryonic stem cell research.  The sad news, on the other hand, is that some life has to die for embryonic stem cell research to take place.

Example of Political Importance


As Christians, we are told often to keep out of politics.  I agree that the power, purpose, and glory of the gospel far exceeds political ideology.  Nevertheless, this article from Victor Davis Hanson gets to a few root issues which demonstrate that politics matters.  Political decisions have sweeping influence over the lives of millions.  The dangers are real, and life and death often hang in the balance.  Granted, the gospel is much more significant in that it is the aroma of death to death or life to life; however, the gospel ought to be employed for human flourishing so that we rightly acknowledge that human beings alone are created in the image of God.

Victor Davis Hanson does a nice job in this article of outlining the ramifications of our political actions.  He appears to me to grasp the severity of the various political situations presently being mishandled.

Another Down Day for Life


Like the rest of the country, we wonder whether each day will be an up day for the stock market or a down day.  If we were to look at indicators for life rather than indicators of wealth, we would have to conclude that yesterday was a down day.  According to this article, a new drug is on its way to foster more abortions.  Notice (once again) that the drug is called by a deceptive pseudonym: “emergency contraceptive.”  What kind of twisted concept is “emergency contraception”?  Hurry, do something, before you “contract” a baby?  This nonsense makes childrearing out to be H1N1, something to be vaccinated against. Or, as some would see it, a punishment.  A down day for life indeed!

7 Pounds


The newest movie by Will Smith, 7 Pounds, not unlike I Am Legend, deals substantively with the human dilemma.  Specifically, Smith portrays a man who has unexpectedly come face with face with the frailty of the human condition.  Death comes suddenly, and he is unprepared for its arrival.

As a result, Smith (not his name in the movie, of course), devises a scheme whereby death might somehow be defeated.  In the unraveling of his plan, Smith becomes something of a Christ figure, using death to extend life.  Without giving too much of the movie away, I want to offer four key observations from the movie.

First, Smith clearly becomes a Christ-like figure.  In the movie, Smith plays a character who is willing to sacrifice for the well-being of others.  Indeed, the sacrifice motif plays itself out throughout the movie as an integral part of the substance of his character.  The movie intends for Smith’s character to be one who sacrifices.  Ultimately, the Christian will see sacrifice in its quintessential display through Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for many.

Second, and again like Christ, Smith acts on behalf of a certain group of individuals who most assuredly will be helped by him.  Beyond mere sacrifice, Smith—in acting this way—demonstrates great love.  He is willing to lose so that others gain—but not everyone gains.  The objects of his affections are particular.

Third, and in this instance not like Christ, Smith plays a figure whose righteousness is self-imposed.  Never in the movie is there a hint that righteousness is alien to the main character.  Smith plays a character who—though he has been devastated by unexpected death—is still perfectly capable of determining the righteousness of others and making determinations about their worthiness to receive (or not to receive) the blessing he will offer.  One may leave this movie with the mistaken view that righteousness consists of not getting angry or being overly selfish.  Giving and being considerate of others is apparently righteousness enough.  (There is one thing that is absolutely forbidden, but I will not mention it here because it isn’t revealed until the end of the movie).  The main point to make on righteousness is that it appears to reside in the character himself.  Thus, there are judgments made against others, but the title character himself is not judged, even though he might be guilty of fornication, forgery, impersonation, theft, espionage, and, potentially, self-murder. 

Finally, and again unlike Christ, Smith plays a character who is willing to sacrifice only on the condition of perceived righteousness.  In this way, I believe, Smith’s character is the most unlike Christ.  Though I found the movie to be a well-acted, very worthwhile production, I could not help at the end of it to quote Romans 5: Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Though I appreciated the thoughtful plot of 7 Pounds, I left the movie thanking God for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Rejected Ad


You may have seen this already, but it not you should watch it.  Then ask yourself why NBC and the NFL do not want such a “controversial” ad to run during the Super Bowl.

The group sponsoring the ad is called catholicvote.org.   I am not Catholic, and I am not real crazy about the name of the group.  However, I applaud loudly their aims and would remind everyone (sadly) that Catholics were right on abortion from the beginning, where many evangelicals were not paying attention to its dangers.

Here is a little blurb from the group:

Catholic Vote.Org is an exciting opportunity to be part of a new movement that’s committed to using powerful media projects to create a Culture of Life. We can help shape the movement and have a voice in its future.

Check it out at www.CatholicVote.org

The Side of Life


You simply must watch the story of Haleigh Poutre.  I dare you to watch it without crying.  I didn’t make it through.  The story is so great in showing the will of a child to live.  Of course, it has a much darker side in that her life has been robbed of so much because of an abusive stepfather.  One clear point of the story is that the diagnosis of “persistent vegetative state” is not always to be trusted.  Err on the side of life.  God help us to learn this lesson.  Watch the story

Forced Abortions


Not much has changed in China.  Sure, they have adopted a capitalist economic system–sort of; (it’s still under communist control).  At heart, however, the nation is still communist, which means it is still ungodly in its view of human life.  This story, which is not worth mentioning in U.S. news outlets, speaks of the horrors of forced abortion.  The story tells the plight of a young couple who already have two children.  The mother is expecting her third.  The Chinese authorities found out about it and seized her home.  Now, the choice is either abort the child or lose your home.  There is a U.S. ( Republican) representative trying to help.  Read the story here.

Two Fine Ladies and a Good Man


I take this opportunity to give thanks to God for 2 fine ladies who have passed away and now, we trust, are in the presence of the Lord.  Our church said an earthly good-bye to Mrs. Ruth Mann and Mrs. Almeda Redmon.  Mrs. Mann taught in our Sunday School for decades.  Mrs. Almeda faithfully served our church until about 3 years ago when Alzheimer’s struck her.  One of the best things to come out of this sad loss is the witness of Almeda’s husband.  For the past 19 months, he has gone to be at her side, day in and day out.  Each day, another piece of his heart was pierced with pain, as he watched his wife slowly give way to this terrible disease clouding her mind, her thoughts, and her actions.  This husband and wife have allowed all of us to learn something about our wedding vows and how to fulfill them.  I bless God for the privilege of seeing a marriage remain firm to the end as promised. 

These two fine ladies will be missed.  They were two of the most gentle women I have ever known.  I am honored to have known them and privileged to have been called their pastor.

Voting for Piper


No, not John Piper, although he is worthy of our support as a great man of God.  Today, my mind is on Piper Palin.  Maybe if we all remember that sweet little girl licking her hand to fix baby Trig’s wayward hair at the Republican convention we will be a bit more cheerful today and much better focused.  The election is about Piper; it’s about loving human beings rightly–even those babies with Down syndrome.  Remember Piper loving her little brother and making him pretty for the world to see.  Think about the tender care she offered to a fragile child and remember what America is supposed to be about: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  It all starts with life.  Piper seemed to get that, didn’t she?  Watch the video again. Then, Go Vote for life.

Sanctity of Life


Dr. Gushee was the first seminary professor I heard when I visited Southern Seminary long, long ago, seeking the Lord’s will for my call to the ministry.  Though I haven’t always agreed with him since, I have often been encouraged by his writing.  He has a good article here which mentions, among other things, the responsibility we have to show concern for all human life, including the women who contemplate or have had abortions.  From the article,

 

For those of us who believe that decision was wrong, we still face the task of showing not just that Roe opened the door to the mass destruction of developing human lives in utero, and that this assaults life’s sanctity. We must also show why Roe does not succeed in advancing the sanctity of women’s lives, and must offer both on-the-ground and legal alternatives that can do better.

 

You can read the entire article here.  You may also want to visit a website that demonstrates a deep concern for the “others” involved in an abortion.  “Abortion Changes You has started a PR campaign against abortion by showing concern for all of the victims.

Ridiculous


A liberal Christian group going by the name of Matthew 25 has set up a website to convince people that Obama is the more pro-life candidate between the two major contenders.  It would be laughable, except that it is devilishly deceptive and destructive.  I do not recommend going to their site, as it would give them credibility through traffic, but here is an article that describes the movement.  You might also look for people to say they take the life issue to be more “holistic.”  By this, they mean that they feel righteous by recycling their bottles so that they are helping the environment in this global warming crisis.  Therefore, the issue of abortion is not as important any more.

 

More Good News Well Needed


As we have mentioned before, abortion is responsible for the death of about 90% of babies who are diagnosed (rightly or wrongly) with Down Syndrome in the womb.  This article tells about an effort to counter attack the eugenic approach to life.  The legislation about which this article speaks was championed by Senator Brownback.  I have linked his press release on the subject as well.  It is worth checking out.

Good News Well Needed


I have linked an article  which talks about the actions of one American citizen to bring clarity to the abortion conversation.  One of the realities of a post-abortion culture is that it has a difficult time defining what is human and what is not.  We have trouble saying when a baby is a baby (as is indicated in the responses by Tony and others in the blog titled “Logical, But Destructive”).  This article  tells of the efforts of one young person to force clarity on the issue of personhood.  When does a conceptus/fetus/embryo/baby become a human being, with all the rights of personhood, including the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?  This was, after all, the question that Obama could not answer at Saddleback.

Logical, But Destructive


I once heard a Florida doctor spell out one of the most horrifying, yet logically sound arguments for abortion I have ever heard.  I include this story in our section on the fruits of abortion because I believe that poor, muddleheaded thinking is a natural outgrowth of abortion (and other sins).  As Paul writes to the Romans, there comes a time when God gives us over to a depraved mind.  It seems safe to say that encouraging a mother to kill the child she is carrying in her womb is evidence of a culture’s depraved thinking.

 

Here is the logically sound and yet depraved example of poor thinking:

According to this Florida doctor, he treated a college-aged female one Winter morning and had to tell her what she didn’t want to hear: “You’re pregnant.”  The young, unmarried woman was more perplexed than crushed, and she kept saying, “I don’t know what I should do.  I don’t know what I should do.”  The doctor–thinking she meant something like, “Oh, my goodness, I never planned for this; this was a mistake; I am not ready to be a mother”–tried to encourage the young woman that it would be all right and that her family would support her through the trials of having a child.  In reality, however, the young woman meant, “Should I abort the baby or not.”  Here was the exact dilemma she relayed to the doctor.

 

I don’t know whether I should keep the baby or not because I am scheduled to go on a mission trip with my church group this summer.  If I am pregnant, I cannot go.  I don’t know what to do.  I can do so much good by going on the trip and serving people in need, and I have the opportunity to lead people to Jesus there.  I don’t know what to do. 

Doctors of Death


There is an inextricable link between abortion (the idea that a human life at an early stage of development can be destroyed for the sake of convenience) and our present culture’s fascination with death. Where abortion was supposed to clean up the back alley butcher shops, in reality, it only moved butcher shops into mainstream hospitals and created new venues for ridding our race of “useless” and unwanted human beings. We now have doctors promoting death.

The euthanasia “debate” is driven by the same death thirst driving abortion. Schaeffer and Koop told us this would soon follow the Roe v. Wade decision, and it certainly did. We have states like Oregon offering to foot the bill for “Physician-assisted suicide,” while at the same time refusing to pay for necessary cancer treatments. And, as this article points out, the natural progression from “safe, legal, and rare” abortions to actually killing any life considered “not worthy” of life is inevitable. We remember Terri Schiavo. She was a logical consequence of abortion. Sadly, the attitude that the “unfit” are disposable is taking over what used to be the honorable enterprise of medicine. Medicine which once was designed to heal is now being used to kill. Doctors which were once on the side of life seem now to side with death.
More Bad Fruit: Doctors of Death

Why Belabor Abortion?


Why continue harping on the same subject? Two reasons. (1) The awful destruction of human life in the wake of Roe v. Wade warrants the attention of any decent human being; (2) As this Pew Research poll reports, evangelicals are the only ones who are solidly in the pro-life camp nowadays. If we don’t hammer the point home, who will? If not us, then who? If not now, then when? Sarah Palin is giving us a great opportunity to push the culture back to life and away from death. Sadly, evangelicals–though we are the most staunchly pro-llife of all Americans–still have a full one-third of their constituents in the poll arguing in favor of abortion.

Example of Bad Fruit


Abortion is supposed to be helpful because it enables us to detect “problem pregnancies” and dispose of them before the “problem pregnancy” becomes a “problem child.” Forgetting for the moment that many of the so-called problem pregnancies result in the creation of a beautiful child like Trig Palin or Emily Rose, we can see that even in the case that a Down Syndrome child is detected early, abortion may not be a good option. Abortion is supposed to be a solution to “problem pregnancy” (such as Down Syndrome). It is true that 90 percent of Down’s babies detected are aborted. But, once again, we can see the fruit of such a practice is as rotten as a 10 day banana. This story from the UK tells the dreadful tale that 2 healthy babies are lost for every three Down syndrome babies targeted for abortion. Targeting babies for death is one of the destructive fruits of the abortion practice. Read the article here

Violins and Rights Violations


Another of the stronger arguments for abortion has been put forward by Judith Jarvis Thomson. She begins by assuming (as most of us would) that abortion is actually killing another human being. She doesn’t necessarily believe that it is the case that abortion is murder, but she wants to make a strong argument for abortion. Thus, she takes the position which we take and then argues that our position still does not mean what we think it means.

So, Thomson—for the sake of the argument—says the unborn baby is a child in the womb. She then argues (1) that it is not always wrong to kill another human being; and (2) that it is not necessarily wrong to kill an unborn child. On the first point, Thomson argues that we kill soldiers in battle. We also kill criminals with execution. So, killing human beings is not inherently evil. There is such a thing as a just killing. The question is whether killing an unborn child is just or unjust.

On the second point, Thomson admits that it sounds like the right to life is stronger than the right for a woman to choose what happens to her body. But Thomson asks you to imagine you awoke one morning with a world famous violinist attached back to back to you. As it turns out, you are the only one who is able to support his blood type and kidney function; thus, you were chosen to give him life. Without you, this man can no longer live, and the world would be robbed of the greatest violin music in its possession. So, you simply must choose to keep the violinist alive. You did not ask for this assignment. You did not want this assignment (just like a woman using contraceptives did not ask for and did not want her pregnancy assignment). Would you be compelled to live with this human being attached to your back for 9 months? If you say no, then does that not argue that you are actually more concerned about your right to control your body than you are about the inherent right to human life? Doesn’t that make the point that abortion is not inherently evil?

Thomson develops the argument much more extensively than I can relate here. The end of the matter is simply this: Thomson argues that even if you can prove that abortion is killing a baby with the right to life, you have not yet proved enough. You need also to prove that the killing is an unjust killing. There is such a thing as a just killing of other human life. Just as we would recognize that it would be an undue burden to keep the violinist alive, so, too, must we realize that women are being asked to suffer an undue burden by keeping another human being alive. We may think it is good and right for women to do this, but this is a far cry from mandating such behavior for all women. Abortion may be killing, but it is not unjust killing in Thomson’s view.

So, how would we argue that abortion is an unjust killing (when the mother considers the baby an unwanted intrusion and an undue burden)?

To learn more of Thomson’s argument, click here. To read a portion of her argument, click here.

For a very good response, see Beckwith’s article here.

Saplings, Eaglets, and Little People


I want us to pause for a bit and consider a few other arguments for abortion. Judith Jarvis Thompson (and others) have put forward reasons for accepting abortion. We should listen to the best arguments and think about them because there are people who think they are doing good by supporting abortion rights for women. So, let’s have a conversation with a few of the better arguments for abortion.

First, some would say that the child (fetus, conceptus) in the womb is not a human life. Rather, they would say that it is a potential human life. Just as an acorn is not exactly an oak tree; so, the fetus is not a human baby. They would argue that it has the potential to become a tree, but it does not yet possess “tree-ness.” In the same way, the fetus does not yet possess humanness, even though it has the potential to become a human being. So, they would conclude that aborting the fetus is not killing a human being; rather, it is terminating a process which had the potential to produce a human being.

In response to this first argument, let us say we must compare apples to apples, or, in this case, acorns to acorns. The analogy does not hold between an acorn and a fetus for the simple reason that the acorn is not germinated, and the fetus is already fertilized and already in the growth process of what it is meant to become. If one were to compare an acorn to a fetus, then he would need to make the comparison between the fetus with a tender, young shoot of the acorn as it has germinated in the ground and broken through the surface of the earth. Even a sapling is not yet a tree, but we do not doubt the “tree-ness” of the sapling. If one were to pull the sapling out of the ground, we would understand that he just killed the tree, wouldn’t we?

Even more clearly, the point can be made by looking to our environmental and animal protection laws (even as crazy as some of them can be). Father Tad Pacholczyk, in an article titled “Imposing Our Beliefs on Others,” points out that our federal laws protect the eggs of eagles, yet allow for destroying the human child in development. We have seen bumper stickers like, “Save the baby whales, but kill the baby humans.” Something appears to be amiss in a culture which protects plants and animals in development but not human beings. We may wish to agree that saplings and eaglets have value and deserve a measure of protection, but wouldn’t we also want to agree that human beings have value, too?

What Kind of Right to Life?


The most egregious abuse of human rights in America is the practice of abortion. Ironically, many so-called civil rights groups support the practice. Be that as it may, I think the subject has been under America’s skin for more than 35 years now.

Oddly, we don’t talk about it much. Many of us have been conditioned by the media to think it is somehow “too controversial.” I hope to dispel some of the controversy and encourage reasonable conversation about the topic of abortion. What follows is a conversation starter on the subject of abortion which will allow us to sustain a conversation with those who may hold an opposing view. It seems that Sarah Palin’s rise to the VP nomination has many people talking about abortion. Having both a teenage daughter pregnant and a child with Down syndrome, Mrs. Palin has given folks a reason to be talking about abortion. Each day for the next few days, I will post a new conversation angle for speaking about abortion. I hope it helps you to speak more comfortably.

The most common objection you will hear is that it is woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. After all, isn’t it the woman’s body? Well, it’s her choice. Now, there is much to say here—including asking some questions about what it would mean for a woman’s body to have male organs, extra feet, and another heart. But leaving that discussion behind for later, we need to get right at the heart of the matter of choice.

Saying that the woman has a right to choose is a true statement; you need not bristle at such a statement. In America today, the woman does have a right to choose. But I wonder what exactly we mean when we say that? I wonder how clear the thinking is concerning what this means. What kind of right are we speaking about?

Is this a divine right? In other words, is the person arguing that God has given a divine right to all women for all time to be free to choose whether or not they abort their babies? I really don’t think people are making this argument. If so, I would immediately ask on what authority are they speaking this way on behalf of God. I might also point out that many others disagree strongly on this point. The majority of evangelical Christians, for instance, are convinced that Scripture teaches that abortion is sinful. And they would say God opposes abortion. Such was the teaching of the early church, too. When folks say it is the woman’s right, they are meaning something other than a God-given right to abortion.

Perhaps, they mean something more akin to constitutional rights. This is much more likely. Yet, I would then ask them to show me where one gets the notion from the Constitution that women have a constitutional right to abortion. Of course, such notions are not contained in the constitution. The closest thing to a right to abortion found in the constitution is a liberal re-reading of the Constitution to include a perceived “right to privacy.” The right to privacy was hatched by Louis Brandeis around the turn of the 20th Century. After 7 decades, it found its way into law when the Supreme Court determined that the inherent right to privacy included the right for a woman to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. There is no constitutional right to abortion. The constitutional right to privacy is debated and somewhat mysterious. Does a private citizen in his own home have the right to privately manufacture and personally use crystal meth? Furthermore, is terminating a pregnancy actually a “private” affair? Doctors, fathers, grandparents and others (not to mention society at large) are affected, aren’t they?

A third type of right (and I think this is the proper type for classifying abortion) is simply a legal right. Yes, it is true in America today that women have a legal right to abortion. This fact, however, does not settle the question any more than saying the laws against illegal drug use have solved the drug problem. Laws are reflective of a people and of a value system those people hold. Pro-choice people tend to value sexual freedom. Pro-life people are saying value human life first. Laws provide an ordering around a value system; they are not the fixed points by which morality is determined. They tend to be derivative; they are derived from (a) what people value and (b) what problems need to be corrected. So, for example, we might value both freedom and human life, but, when a problem is identified, we may have to craft a law to correct abuse of one form or another. If it were shown, for instance, that wearing a helmet would save human life, then we might re-enact laws which say motorcycle riders must wear helmets, even though it would be a loss of freedom for them.

When it comes to abortion, there is a similar conflict between the two values of freedom and life. The fact is, of course, that women have the legal right to abortion, but should that be the case? Is it possible that those laws ought to be changed in favor of life, even if it means losing freedom? After all, laws become outdated. You have probably all read some of these laws. For instance, there is a law that makes it illegal to carry an ice cream cone in your pocket. Now, before you think one would be insane to carry an ice cream cone in his pocket, realize that the law was made to prevent folks from luring horses away from their owners. If a horse just “followed” you home, you wouldn’t be accused of stealing it. There were some smart folks who put food items in their pockets to get horses to follow them. Hence arose the laws against such practices. Those laws are now obsolete and irrelevant.

Some suggest that abortion law is likewise out of step with the facts on the ground. When Roe v. Wade happened 35 years ago, we did not have ultrasound technology. Now, we have 3D ultrasound, and it has become glaringly obvious that we are not talking about a glob of tissue; rather, we are talking about a baby. Doctors have also performed surgeries on babies in the womb to correct medical issues with the living babies before they are born. How many of you have seen the pictures of the little baby grabbing the doctor’s scalpel while surgery was being performed? (If you haven’t seen the picture, click here). The facts are clear, and they have corrected a medical misdiagnosis made in the Roe v. Wade decision.

While it is true that women have a legal right to terminate the life of a baby in the womb, the question still needs to be answered, “Should they?”

Palin’s Anthropology (Live 2)


I just read the report that Palin’s 17 year-old daughter is 5 months pregnant. This surely is not “good” news for the governor and VP nominee. However, she and her family have once again demonstrated their affirmation of human life. While Obama remarked that he would not want to “punish” his daughter for making a mistake and getting pregnant, Palin and her husband are excited about the possibility of welcoming a grandchild, even if it is not under ideal circumstances. I don’t think they will feel that the baby they rock to sleep is a punishment to their daughter.