Marching for Life

January 30, 2017 at 5:15 am 1 comment


march-for-life

This past Friday, hundreds of thousands of people descended on Washington D.C. for the 43rd annual March for Life.  The march finds its origin in a decision handed down by the Supreme Court on January 22, 1973, which legalized abortion in all 50 states.  From its outset, the ruling was controversial, as can be seen in a dissenting opinion from one of the justices on the Court at the time, Justice Byron White:

With all due respect, I dissent. I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court’s judgment. The Court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant mothers and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invests that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes. The upshot is that the people and the legislatures of the 50 States are constitutionally disentitled to weigh the relative importance of the continued existence and development of the fetus, on the one hand, against a spectrum of possible impacts on the mother, on the other hand.

Justice White frames his dissent in a couple of ways.  First, he frames it in terms of states’ rights.  At the time of Roe v. Wade, four states had legalized abortion on demand while thirteen states had legalized abortion in cases of rape, incest, and endangerment to a woman’s health.  Justice White is concerned that the high court’s federal ruling runs roughshod over decisions that rightly belong to the states.  But that’s not all he’s concerned about.  He also frames his dissent around the morality of deciding “the relative importance of the continued existence and development of the fetus, on the one hand, against a spectrum of possible impacts on the mother, on the other hand.”  This moral quandary is the one that remains and rages to this day.  The question is this:  is the fetus important?  Should a fetus be protected in some way, shape, form, or fashion because of what the fetus is – a baby in utero?

The answer from those who participate in the March to Life each year to these moral questions has been a resounding “yes.”  And Christianity’s answer to these questions has been a resounding “yes” as well.  Indeed, the story of Christianity can be summed up quite accurately as a war on death.  Ever since Adam’s fall into sin brought death into the world, God has been working to undo death’s grimly efficient accomplishments.  God’s war on death, of course, finds its climax and consummation in Easter, but all throughout Scripture we see that death gets cheated as a warning to death that it will ultimately be defeated.  Death gets cheated when God leads the children of Israel through the Red Sea, rescuing them from Pharaoh’s sword.  Death gets cheated when the prophet Elijah raises a widow’s son back to life.  Death gets cheated when a king of Israel, Hezekiah, falls ill, but God adds fifteen years to his life.  And death gets cheated all throughout Jesus’ ministry, where the terminal are treated, the reposed are raised, and the graves are gutted.  Yes, the Scriptures tell the story of God’s war on death.

Of course, we know that, in a pluralistic democracy, Scriptural theology doesn’t always translate into broad public policy.  Nevertheless, even from the vantage point of a pluralistic democracy, concerns about life must be addressed.  Questions of anthropology, such as whether life matters and whose life matters, demand our time and attention if we are to have any sort of a functioning and orderly society.  The March for Life dares to raise these questions.  And for that, it should be commended.

One of the criticisms I have heard of the pro-life movement is that though it seeks to defend the lives of the unborn, if often turns a deaf ear to the lives of the already born – the economically oppressed, minorities, and the socially marginalized.  I agree.  I agree that it is hypocritical to defend some life while turning a blind eye to other life.  But I also believe it is tragic to privilege the desires of one life at the expense of another life.  Yet, this is precisely the argument abortion proponents regularly make.  One abortion proponent explained it like this:

Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal…A fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always…

I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time – even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.

This is a chilling – and, dare I say, downright evil – rationalization for abortion.

To speak out against abortion is to understand that it is awfully difficult to defend the lives of the economically oppressed, minorities, and the socially marginalized if those lives are never allowed to leave the womb alive because they are aborted.  And studies have shown they are abortedagain and again.  It is because of that reality that I am thankful for the March for Life.

Life matters – whether it is in the womb, on this earth, or with Jesus in eternity.  And that’s something worth marching for.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. larryzb  |  January 30, 2017 at 11:28 am

    Some have said the so-called “right to abortion” is based on a web of legal fictions. I agree with that view.

    Reply

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