Abortion and the Death Penalty: Is There Any Consistency to a Pro-Life Position?

English: Total number of executions carried ou...

Number of death penalty executions in the USA since 1960 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The charge is often leveled that Pro-life Christians are inconsistent in their position on protecting the sanctity of human life. On the one hand, Pro-lifers are quick to pronounce a “fetus” a human life worthy of protection, while, on the other hand, they will pronounce a murderer worthy of death and say that the state should kill him. Is there any consistency to this Pro-life argument? How can one be opposed to killing and for killing at the same time? Is this not a contradiction?


Matters of human life (whether the human is in a womb or in a prison cell) are grave matters indeed. Those who are Pro-life should respect all human life. This respect for life, however, does not mean that there is never a time when another human being should be put to death. The Pro-life position is not a position that denies the right to kill. Rather, it denies the right to kill unjustly. Or, to put the matter another way, it denies the right to kill an innocent human being.


This statement is no cop out or contradiction. It reflects what used to be common sense wisdom applied to matters of utmost importance. No human being has the right to take an innocent life. Our legal system still reflects this common sense wisdom in two distinct ways. First, there is the presumption of innocence. One can be accused of a crime, but he is to be considered innocent until proven guilty. This is an important presumption because it protects us from hasty revenge. If, for instance, you believe that a person ran over your girlfriend, you are not free to go out on the basis of your belief and kill that person–that would be taking an innocent life. There must first be a trial in which the person is proved guilty of his crime. Then, justice may well demand the death penalty–carried out by appropriate, governing authorities.


The second reflection of common sense in our legal structure is the notion of punishing the guilty and protecting the innocent. We have crimes against kidnapping, for example. And we enforce codes in maternity wards and daycare facilities to protect babies from being kidnapped.  These measures reflect the common sense reality that laws and authorities ought to protect the innocent and punish the guilty.


With these common sense realities in place, we ought to be able to see that it is not the Pro-life position which lives in a make-believe world of gross contradiction. Rather, it is the Pro-choice position which turns common sense on its head and, literally, asks that we kill the innocent and protect the guilty. The death penalty is reserved for those who have killed and have been proven guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt.  They are not innocent. They are guilty.


Abortion, on the other hand, targets the most innocent and most helpless form of human life.  What has the child in the womb done to deserve such an early death? How could one possibly argue against the death penalty and for abortion? Before the dreadful Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, courts had consistently held that babies in the womb had inheritance rights of their fathers (if, for instance, the father died before the child was born).  That makes sense.


In addition, courts ruled in Union Pacific Railway Co. v. Botsford that women must be examined for pregnancy before being executed  “in order to guard against the taking of the life of an unborn child for the crime of the mother.”  As this post from American Right to Life notes, this ruling makes perfectly good sense. A child should not be punished (by death) for the crimes committed by his mother.


Indeed, all of this common sense legal reality has foundation in Scripture.  Moses long ago established this form of justice for the people of Israel. As he wr0te in Deuteronomy 24:16,


Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.”


So, in my opinion, the Pro-life position is the consistent position. Whoever is proved to have shed man’s blood, then by man his blood shall be shed because he (or she) is no longer innocent, but guilty of murder. Punish the guilty. On the flip side, whoever has done nothing wrong is innocent. Protect the innocent. And who has a better claim to innocence than a baby in the womb?



Abortion’s Opposite Effect

When religious zealots pressed down hard on Stephen and the early Christians, they intended to stomp out the nascent movement before it got any traction.  They were unsuccessful.  Chapter 8 of Acts tells the story of how Christianity spread in its early days: It spread through persecution.  Though the leaders of the day intended to stop the movement, they, instead, caused it to spread more rapidly.  As the Christians were persecuted, they fled to other places, where they preached the gospel to more people.  In this way, persecution had the opposite effect of what was intended by the persecutors.

A similar opposite effect phenomenon is found today in the outcome of abortion.  Abortion was touted as a giant step forward in women’s rights.  Its promise was liberty for women, giving them complete control of their bodies and their futures.  President Obama recently marked the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v Wade decision with comments, again, applauding the decision as a victory for women’s rights.  But I wonder if the foray into full “reproductive health” (as it is euphemistically referenced) isn’t turning out to have the opposite effect for women.

What do I mean?  Two recent studies are building a case against the goodness of abortion for women.  Specifically, Richard Stith, in the article “Her Choice, Her Problem” for First Things, chronicles the oppression which has followed women since the onset of abortion in 1973.  Clearly, this is an opposite effect.  Interestingly, he shows that even feminists could foresee this opposite effect. He traces the arguments from pro-abortion feminist Catherine MacKinnon which were made during the early debates on abortion but were never heeded by abortion advocates.  Stith shows through a review of MacKinnon’s arguments and present statistics on the declining freedom of women how abortion has actually had the opposite effect from that which pro-abortion feminists intended.  In short, his argument boils down to this:

“The presence in the sexual marketplace of women willing to have an abortion reduces an individual woman’s bargaining power.”

Men, it seems, hold the upper hand in sexuality, leaving the woman alone to deal with its consequences.  The man is free to have casual sex with the woman without fear of consequences.  At one time, she might use the fear of conceiving to opt out of sexual favors, but she has lost that bargaining power.  Now, she must yield because abortion “solves” the contraception problem.  If she won’t allow sexual favors, he will find a woman willing to have an abortion who will allow it.  Then, if there is a pregnancy, he is free to leave her all alone to decide what she does “with her body.”  Abortion empowers men and leaves women more vulnerable.  If you don’t believe that, compare the number of unwed mothers before abortion in 1973 and after abortion today.  Look at the number of women living in poverty today contrasted with 40 years ago.  Economists call this “the feminization of poverty.”

And, building on the reality pointed out by Stith, Maggie Gallagher points to a new book which studies sexuality in America: Premarital Sex in America by Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker.

Gallagher points out from their study that abortion appears to end with depression in women.  Even further, Gallagher points out that the depression comes at least partially from the drastic increase in low commitment sexual encounters.  Because the abortion culture has produced a freedom for men to use women for sex without commitment, it has further pushed women into the role of being used merely for sex—any sex which the man prefers without any commitment to the woman.

In short, Gallagher says, “…we have created a sexual culture that empowers young males (even as it stunts their incentives to grow to become successful, confident and happy family men) and disempowers women.”

Abortion may have had the opposite effect its original adherents intended.

The Supreme Court’s Back Alley Runs Through Philadelphia | The Weekly Standard

The Supreme Court’s Back Alley Runs Through Philadelphia | The Weekly Standard.

I just read this article, and it opened my eyes to the logical connection between the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 and the horrors uncovered in Philadelphia.  Most likely, there are a number of other such clinics out there, but they remain off limits because of the poor decision in 1973 and the court challenges since then which have labeled any regulations on abortion clinics as excessive burdens (and thus unconstitutional).

The supposedly medical procedure of abortion is not regulated, which means the old horror stories of back-alley butcher shops are a legalized reality in America.  In fact, what might be most disturbing about the Gosnell case in Philadelphia is all of the behavior he is NOT being punished for.  The crimes he is being charged with are related to partial birth abortion (which are heinous), but what about the conditions of the clinic? The baby parts all over the place?  The feet in jars?  Storing food and baby pieces in close proximity?  Are any of these (or the other grotesque findings from the clinic) against the law?

At first, I thought some local officials were negligent in not exercising any oversight of this horrific abortion clinic, but I am thinking now that the problem may not be that officials didn’t do anything:  The problem may be that they can’t.

Golden Gateway to Freedom?

I just read this remarkably encouraging pro-life article from where? San Francisco!  A great crowd rallied against abortion in San Francisco of all places.  According to this article, more than 40,000 marchers gathered together for the pro-life parade.   Walk for Life co-chair Dolores Meehan said, “We are here to break the bondage of the culture of death.”

If the movement is thriving in San Francisco, then it can thrive anywhere.  How encouraging to see.  And notice in the pics how young the women are who are holding the signs.  Encouraging indeed.