Posts tagged ‘Abortion’

Women and Babies: Let’s Choose Both

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It’s been a watershed week for abortion law in this country.  Last week, the state of Alabama passed legislation outlawing abortions, except in cases where the mother’s life is endangered.  Just three days later, Missouri passed a bill that outlaws abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy.  These restrictions follow on the heels of a series of “heartbeat bills” passed this year in Ohio, Georgia, and Mississippi, which ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable.

These bills have sparked angry debate as a yawning chasm has opened over the issue of abortion.  Governor Kay Ivey, who signed Alabama’s bill into law, tweeted last Wednesday:

Today, I signed into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act.  To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious & that every life is a sacred gift from God.

On the other side, progressive firebrand and New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted shortly after Governor Ivey:

Ultimately, this is about women’s power.  When women are in control of their sexuality, it threatens a core element underpinning right-wing ideology: patriarchy.  It’s a brutal form of oppression to seize control of the 1 essential thing a person should command: their own body.

The talking points for both sides are set.  The arguments are entrenched.  The legal battle is being staged.  And there’s plenty of animus to go around.

Personally, I uphold the value and dignity of life, whether that life be in the womb, out of womb, young, or old.  So, when a third-world despot subjects his people to disease and starvation, I shudder.  When another story of another school shooting makes headlines, I am angered.  And yes, when a child’s life is taken at the hands of an abortion doctor, I am grieved.

All of this does not mean, however, that I am unsympathetic to women who, when they darken the doors of an abortion clinic, are often confused and scared of what having a baby will be like.  Neither does this mean that I am unsympathetic to women who, after having and abortion, often struggle deeply with feelings of guilt and regret.

As with many debates in our current culture, caricatures that fall largely along “either-or” lines have been developed for the sake of simplicity and tribal identity – either you care about the wellbeing of women or you care about the life of the unborn.

I care about both.  And I have a hunch you might, too.

The Psalmist calls us to “defend the weak” (Psalm 82:3).  Babies in utero are most definitely members of the weak.  It is incumbent upon us, therefore, to defend them and to speak up for them.  But women who are pregnant and scared, along with women who have had abortions and are ashamed, can also feel weak.  It is critical, therefore, that we love and help them by offering hope for joyful lives beyond their most frightening moments.

We should care about both babies and women, for, ultimately, we are called to care for all.  In a political moment where anger burns hot, loving both babies and the women who carry them may just be the one thing that is hard to hate.

May 20, 2019 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Moral Lessons from Virginia

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for the political leadership in the state of Virginia.  The state’s lieutenant governor seems to be in the most peril after he was accused by two women of sexual assault.  His colleagues are now considering whether or not to impeach him.  The state’s attorney general is embroiled in a scandal of his own after he admitted to dressing up in blackface at a party in 1980.  But all the trouble began with the governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam.  His name first hit national news after he ran interference on a local radio show for Virginia House Bill 2491, introduced by Virginia delegate Kathy Tran, which, according to the delegate herself, might theoretically allow for a baby to be aborted while a woman was in the process of giving birth.  This sparked national outrage, with many arguing that the governor was defending nothing less than infanticide.  But more trouble was on the way for the governor.  Two Fridays ago, a website published a personal yearbook page of his from 1984, which featured one man in blackface alongside another man in Ku Klux Klan garb.  When the photo came to light, the governor first apologized for the photo and then denied he was in the photo.

Many progressives remain supportive of the governor’s position on abortion, but stand aghast at the picture in which he, ostensibly at least, appeared.   I have also read some conservatives who are outraged at his stance on abortion while remaining more agnostic about how offensive the explicitly racist photo on his yearbook page is.

The issue, morally, in both of these scandals surrounding Ralph Northam is, at root, the same:  a person, either because they are in the womb or because of the color of their skin, is not worthy of the same status and security as they otherwise would be.  A pregnancy can be terminated right up to the point of birth because the will of a person who is pregnant outweighs and outranks the life of the baby she is carrying.  A portrayal of black person that uses explicit symbols of hatred, lynching, and murder can be chalked up to an awkward joke at a college party.

We must be clear.  These things are wrong.  These things are inexcusable.  These things rob people of their dignity and have robbed people of their very lives.

I do not doubt that many people sincerely believe that abortion is a moral good because it is presented as empowering to women.  I also do not doubt that students in their twenties in the eighties may have not fully understood how what they perceived as a bit of tomfoolery was really a deeply entrenched cruelty.  This is why it is so important that we continue to describe and define the barbarous realities behind abortion and racism.  More people must know.  More people must understand.

Thankfully, there is a reflexive revulsion on the part of many to the idea of abortion in general and late-term abortion in specific as well as to the dismissive and diminishing attitudes involved in racism.  We should heed what our reflexes are trying to tell us.  In an article on the ethical entailments of human cloning, Leon R. Kass describes the importance of the human “gag reflex” in determining what is moral and what is not:

Repugnance is the emotional expression of deep wisdom, beyond reason’s power fully to articulate it … It revolts against the excesses of human willfulness, warning us not to transgress what is unspeakably profound.  Indeed, in this age in which everything is held to be permissible so long as it is freely done, in which our given human nature no longer commands respect, in which our bodies are regarded as mere instruments of our autonomous and rational wills, repugnance may be the only voice left that speaks up to defend the central core of our humanity.  Shallow are the souls that have forgotten how to shudder.

Theologically, we would say that our gut-level moral disgust at certain things is triggered by the requirements of God’s law, which Scripture says are written on every human heart (Romans 2:14-15).  In this way, our guts can give us valuable insights into transcendent moral realities.  But, as Leon Kass so critically notes:

Repugnance need not stand naked before the bar of reason.

Moral feelings are often astute, but they can also sometimes mislead us.  We must check our moral feelings against the bar of moral reasoning.  We can study the development of a baby in utero and we can draw reasoned conclusions about the life of a child.  We can watch anyone of any race erupt in laughter, burst into tears, tremble in fear, or sacrifice for love, and we can draw reasoned conclusions about their humanity.

The hard question that stands before us, then, is this:  have we really so clouded our hearts and minds by political ravings and selfish cravings that we have become blinded to what ails us?  Are we overlooking what should be morally obvious?

Perhaps Ralph Northam’s blunders can remind us of what we should already know:  that life is precious – be it the life of a baby in the womb, or the life of a person of any race.  And perhaps, if we reflected on that moral reality for a while, we’d see more pictures of ultrasounds and fewer pictures in yearbooks.

That certainly sounds like a better world to me.

 

February 11, 2019 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Expectant Mothers and Workplace Pressures

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Last month, The New York Times published a disturbing exposé on the treatment of pregnant employees by Planned Parenthood.  The article chronicled the journey of one employee, Ta’Lisa Hairston, whose experiences were particularly harrowing:

As a medical assistant at Planned Parenthood, Ta’Lisa Hairston urged pregnant women to take rest breaks at work, stay hydrated and, please, eat regular meals.

Then she got pregnant and couldn’t follow her own advice.

Last winter, Ms. Hairston told the human-resources department for Planned Parenthood’s clinic in White Plains, N.Y., that her high blood pressure was threatening her pregnancy.  She sent the department multiple notes from her nurse recommending that she take frequent breaks.

Managers ignored the notes.  They rarely gave her time to rest or to take a lunch break … Ms. Hairston’s hands and feet swelled; the clinic’s plastic gloves no longer fit. Her blood pressure got so high that her doctor put her on bed rest when she was seven months pregnant.

She returned to work on strict orders to not work more than six hours a day and to take regular breaks.  One day in March, she worked a much longer shift.  She soon became so sick that her doctor told her to go back on bed rest.  A few days later, on March 23, she went to the hospital.  Doctors performed an emergency C-section.  She was 34 weeks pregnant.

When she had been on maternity leave for eight of the 12 weeks guaranteed by the Family and Medical Leave Act, Planned Parenthood’s human resources department called her multiple times and urged her to return to work early, Ms. Hairston said.  She emailed the department and said she felt “discriminated against.”  She resigned in June.

“I didn’t get into the medical field to be treated like this,” she said.

The last she heard from Planned Parenthood was a letter asking her to donate money. She threw it in the trash.

Sadly, it is not just Planned Parenthood that struggles with treating pregnant employees appropriately.  The article cites examples of employees at both Avon and Wal-Mart who have had similarly disturbing experiences.

The very first command God gives to humans is, “Be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1:28).  According to Scripture, pregnancy is not a corporate liability, but a great blessing that fulfills one of the callings God has given to humanity.

Part of the problem with Planned Parenthood in particular is that, at the core of their mission, is a very different view of pregnancy than that of the Bible.  For Planned Parenthood, pregnancy is not a gift to be stewarded, but a choice to be made.  And, in certain cases at least, it seems as though some in Planned Parenthood wish their workers would make a choice of “no.”

I have written many times about the tragedies involved in abortion.  Abortion hurts the women who choose themAbortion destroys the babies who are lost because of them.  But this story presents yet another tragedy.  Abortion can hurt even those who carry little lives in them and bear little lives from them because they cannot work as long and as hard as their supervisors might want.  How inconvenient for the supervisors.

But, then again, perhaps there are things more important than convenience.  Perhaps life is more important than convenience.  And perhaps, if all this is true, how Planned Parenthood treats its pregnant workers is only the beginning of its problems.

January 21, 2019 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Ireland Legalizes Abortion

This blog was one I was hoping I would not have to write.

When I first heard the news that Ireland was voting on a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment to its Constitution – which recognized that both a mother and her unborn baby have an equal right to life, effectively barring abortion-on-demand – I almost began preparing a blog under the assumption that the amendment was going to be overturned.  But then I saw that polls showed a narrowing contest.  So, I waited and hoped.  My hopes were not realized.

Ireland was the last major European nation to have broad restrictions in place against abortion.  The fact that legalized abortion-on-demand has come to yet another country grieves me deeply.  Here is why:

  • I am grieved because abortion clinics tend to market themselves to minority communities, leading to a devastating and decimating loss of life among these communities.
  • I am grieved because some men will use this repeal as a hammer to pressure their hookups, their girlfriends, and, perhaps, even their wives into getting abortions they don’t want in order to appease astonishingly selfish men who do not want to raise children they don’t think they need.
  • I am grieved because I know that, for many women, abortions leave emotional and spiritual scars of guilt, shame, and pain that often go unaddressed and unadmitted.
  • I am grieved because I know that some women will not fully or truly understand that they have traded the preciousness of life for a vaunted “choice” that only proves to be shadowy and sad.
  • I am grieved because I know that, before this referendum passed, some women in Ireland whose pregnancies imperiled their lives did not receive the medical attention they needed.
  • I am grieved because I know that some people who claim the name “Christian” have self-righteously condemned those who have gotten abortions.
  • I am grieved because thousands upon thousands of little lives will now be lost as abortion comes to yet another place.

Yes, I am grieved for many reasons.  And yet, at the same time I grieve, I am not, to borrow the juxtaposition the apostle Paul uses in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, grieving without hope.  Here, again, is why:

  • I am hopeful because I know that, even as abortion clinics set up shop in minority communities, churches are there too, offering clarity and care to expectant mothers in frightening situations.
  • I am hopeful because I know that, for every selfish man, there are many brave women who will push against the pressures and persuasions of self-centeredness and, instead, heroically raise children as single mothers, or even put up children for adoption as they seek to give their precious little ones good lives instead of tragic deaths.
  • I am hopeful because I know that even as many women will surely be hurt by the abortions they endure, many more women will also discover the healing and forgiving grace of Christ and will use their pain to help others make different decisions.
  • I am hopeful because I know that even a choice of death through an abortion cannot overcome the choice of God to grant life through His Son.
  • I am hopeful because I know that, at the same time some medical professionals are foolish and harmful in their opinions and practices, many more are careful, kind, and wise in how they approach and treat their patients.
  • I am hopeful because I know that, for all the people who self-righteously judge those who have gotten abortions, many more humbly help and demonstrate Christ’s love to those who desperately need compassion and care.
  • I am hopeful because I know that the millions of children who have been lost to abortion aren’t really lost, for abortion is no match for eternal life.

I grieve what has happened in Ireland.  I grieve what has been happening since 1973 in my own country.  But I do not grieve without hope.  Indeed, I cannot grieve without hope.  For I follow a man who, when He was confronted with His own death, responded to those who were bent on His execution by saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).  Christ confronts death with forgiveness.  I am hopeful that Christ will confront our decisions toward death in the same way.  Abortion may have won a vote, but I am still hopeful that life will win the victory.

May 28, 2018 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Down Syndrome, Life, and Death

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When Eve gives birth to her first son, Cain, she declares, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man” (Genesis 4:1).  With these words, Eve acknowledges a fundamental reality about conception, birth, and life in general:  without God, the creation and sustentation of life is impossible. Each life is a miracle of God and a gift from God.

Sadly, this reality has become lost on far too many.  Life is no longer hailed as something God gives, but is instead touted as something we can create and, even more disturbingly, control.  The latest example of this kind of thinking comes in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post by Ruth Marcus, the paper’s deputy editorial page editor, titled, “I would’ve aborted a fetus with Down syndrome. Women need that right.”  Ms. Marcus explains:

I have had two children; I was old enough, when I became pregnant, that it made sense to do the testing for Down syndrome.  Back then, it was amniocentesis, performed after 15 weeks; now, chorionic villus sampling can provide a conclusive determination as early as nine weeks.  I can say without hesitation that, tragic as it would have felt and ghastly as a second-trimester abortion would have been, I would have terminated those pregnancies had the testing come back positive.  I would have grieved the loss and moved on.

According to her opinion piece, Ms. Marcus’ concern over whether or not a woman should be able to abort a child with Down Syndrome comes, at least in part, because of HB205, a bill introduced by Utah State Representative Karianne Lisonbee, which would ban doctors in that state from performing abortions for the sole reason of a Down Syndrome diagnosis.  Ms. Marcus passionately defends her position, going even so far as to conclude:

Technological advances in prenatal testing pose difficult moral choices about what, if any, genetic anomaly or defect justifies an abortion.  Nearsightedness? Being short?  There are creepy, eugenic aspects of the new technology that call for vigorous public debate.  But in the end, the Constitution mandates – and a proper understanding of the rights of the individual against those of the state underscores – that these excruciating choices be left to individual women, not to government officials who believe they know best.

Ms. Marcus admits that choosing whether to keep or abort a baby based on certain physical traits or genetic anomalies has “creepy, eugenic aspects.”  But such moral maladies are not nearly unnerving enough for her to even consider the possibility that some sort guardrail may be good for the human will when it comes to abortion.  The ability to choose an abortion, in her view, is supreme and must remain unassailable.

Ms. Marcus flatly denies what Eve once declared: “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.”  She has exculpated herself from the moral responsibilities intrinsic in the front phrase of Eve’s sentence and has left herself with only, “I have brought forth a man.”  She has made herself the source and sustainer of any life that comes from her womb.  And as the source and sustainer of such life, she believes that she should have the ability to decide whether the life inside of her is indeed worthy of life, or is instead better served by death.

Part of what makes Eve’s statement so intriguing is that it seems to be pious and prideful at the same time.  On the one hand, Eve acknowledges that God is the giver of life.  Indeed, Martin Luther notes that Eve may have believed her son “would be the man who would crush the head of the serpent”[1] – that is, she may have believed her son would be the Messiah God had promised in Genesis 3:15 after the fall into sin.  On the other hand, what she names her son is telling.  She names him “Cain,” which is a play on the Hebrew word for the phrase, “I have brought forth.”  Eve names her son in a way the emphasizes her action instead of God’s gift.

Countless years and 60 million American abortions later, this emphasis has not changed.  Maybe it should.  As the fall into sin reminds us, human sovereignty is never far away from human depravity, which is why our demand to be able to choose death never works as well as God’s sovereignty over life.

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[1] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 1, Jaroslav Pelikan, ed. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1958), 242.

March 19, 2018 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Advocating for Life

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Over these past few weeks, lots of big news has been breaking regarding the abortion industry.  Perhaps most notably, it was announced a week ago that Cecile Richards, who is the president of Planned Parenthood, has decided to step down from her position.  Mrs. Richards’ time at the helm of Planned Parenthood has been marked by scandal, as a series of exposés were published accusing her organization of trafficking fetal parts, and by a total of some 3.5 million abortions.

Also in the news, new research has been published in the controversial Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, which claims to shed light on the emotional pain that many women experience after going through an abortion.  If the study’s findings are even close to accurate, they are shocking:

13% reported having visited a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor prior to the first pregnancy resulting in an abortion, compared to 67.5% who sought such professional services after their first abortion. Only 6.6% of respondents reported using prescription drugs for psychological health prior to the first pregnancy that ended in abortion, compared with 51% who reported prescription drug use after the first abortion.

Abortion, this study asserts, has deep, lasting, and adverse effects on women’s emotional health.

Digging deeper into the study, some of the individual responses given by women to researchers concerning how their abortions affected them are nothing short of heartbreaking.  When asked, “What are the most significant positives, if any, that have come from your decision to abort?” one woman responded:

None, there are no positives.  My life is no better, it is much worse.  I carry the pain of a child lost forever.  Although I know I am forgiven and have worked through the guilt and shame, the heart-wrenching pain is still there.  I would rather have been a single mother of two and have my baby here to love and dote on than the pain of empty arms.

Another woman explained:

My child is dead and by my own choice.  I spent years of anger, shame, and grief.  It damaged my relationship with my husband, my children, and my God.  For 30 years I did not speak of it to anyone but my husband.  My grief overwhelmed him and left him powerless and ashamed.  For years I cried every Sunday in church, experienced dark depressions, thoughts of suicide, and flashes of anger.

Clearly, the abortions these women endured were devastating to their emotional health.

Along with this research, there is also a proposed bill that addresses the care of babies who are born alive in failed abortion attempts.  Representative Marsha Blackburn has introduced the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” which requires doctors, if a baby is born alive during an attempted abortion, to provide the same level of care for that child that would be offered to any child born at the same gestational age and to immediately admit that child to a hospital for further care.  The House of Representatives has already passed the bill.  It now awaits consideration in the Senate.

In all this news, opponents of abortion, among which I count myself, have much on which to reflect.  A successful and, I should add, gigantic March for Life in Washington D.C. a few weeks ago demonstrates that the advocates for babies in the womb are both many and organized.  Through academic investigation, state and federal legislation, mass demonstration, and, of course, one-on-one conversation, the cause of life marches forward.  It marches forward for the babies who have yet to be born, and it marches forward for the women who have been emotionally scarred by their decisions to terminate their pregnancies.  Babies in the womb deserve our protection and advocacy.  Women who are hurting because of a decision to abort deserve our sympathy and support.  The devastation abortion leaves – both in the lives of mothers and the deaths of children – must be revealed for what it is.

As a Christian, I am a firm believer that life is stubborn.  It wants to triumph, even over death.  This the promise of Easter.  And this is what leads to hope for a world without abortion.

February 5, 2018 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

The Dogs of North Korea

The more we learn about North Korea, the more sickening the regime there looks.  Recently, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley held a meeting on human rights in North Korea, which featured Ji Hyeon-A, a woman who escaped from North Korea to South Korea in 2007.  Fox News reported on her remarks:

“Pregnant women were forced into harsh labor all day,” she said. “At night, we heard pregnant mothers screaming and babies died without ever being able to see their mothers.”

North Korea does not allow for mixed-race babies, she said. At one detention center, she described how inmates starved to death. Their dead bodies, she said, were given to the guard dogs for food.

This is horrifying.  But it is also tragically common in this isolated nation.  So, how are we to respond?

First, we should pray for the protection of the citizens of North Korea.  Living under the nation’s current dictator, Kim Jong-un, or its prior dictator, Kim Jong-il, as did Ji Hyeon-A, has to be terrifying emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and physically.  Just this past week it was reported that North Korea’s top military official, Hwang Pyong-so, second only to Kim Jong-il himself, is suspected dead after falling out of favor with the supreme leader.  In North Korea, there is no reasonable assurance of life.  Thus, prayers for the thousands whose lives are in danger every day are in order.  In Psalm 22, the Psalmist prays:

But You, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.  (Psalm 22:19-20)

The Psalmist’s prayer echoes an all-too-literal North Korean fear.  For those who face the grisly specter of being fed to dogs, we must pray.  For those who are oppressed or threatened in any way in North Korea, we must pray.

But we must go further.  Our prayers must include not only petitions for protection, but cries for justice.  The evil of the North Korean regime must be stopped.

When John has a vision of heaven in Revelation, he sees both those saved by God’s grace and those condemned by God’s judgment.  He explains the scene thusly:

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.  (Revelation 22:14-15)

John offers a laundry list of those who will be “outside” salvation on the Last Day.  But what is most interesting about this list is who heads it: “the dogs.”  Considering dogs are such a ubiquitous part of American families that they have garnered the moniker of “man’s best friend,” the idea that dogs would be excluded from God’s kingdom may puzzle us.  But in the ancient world, dogs were considered to be not pets, but dangerous, disease-ridden scavengers.  They were reviled.  In his vision, then, John sees dogs as symbols of all that is evil.

Those who feed people who have died to literal dogs can only be called dogs themselves, in the biblical sense.  Yet, we have the assurance that, one day, these dogs will find themselves on the “outside,” just like John foresees – whether this means they lose power in this age, or in the age to come.

In Psalm 22, shortly before the Psalmist prays that God would deliver him from the dogs, he declares:

Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. (Psalm 22:16)

This psalm, it turns out, is not only a prayer for deliverance, but a prophecy of things to come – a prophecy of One who, just like in the psalm, would be surrounded by His enemies and pierced for them (Psalm 22:16; Luke 24:39), a prophecy of One who, just like in the psalm, would die humiliated as His enemies divided His clothes and cast lots for them (Psalm 22:18; Matthew 27:35), and a prophecy of one who, just like in the psalm, would cry out in despair, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me” (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46)?

Jesus, just like the North Koreans, knew the horror of being surrounded by dogs while in the throes of death.  Jesus, just like the North Koreans, experienced the most diabolical evils humans could perpetrate.  But Jesus, while suffering death at the hands of evil, was not overcome by it.  The dogs that surrounded Him were defeated when His tomb turned up empty.  And the dogs that surround many in North Korea will be defeated when our tombs turn up empty too.

The dogs may maul.  But Jesus’ resurrection is the promise of their defeat, and it is offered to all.

December 18, 2017 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Abortion as Big Business

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Whenever the curtains are pulled back on Planned Parenthood clinics, the results never seem to turn out well.  Through an interview with two former Planned Parenthood employees, it was discovered a clinic in Storm Lake, Iowa had abortion quotas.  Sue Thayer, a former manager at Planned Parenthood, revealed:

Every center had a goal for how many abortions were done.  And centers that didn’t do abortions like mine that were family planning clinics had a goal for the number of abortion referrals.  And it was on this big grid, and if we hit our goal, our line was green.  If we were 5 percent under, it was yellow.  If we were 10 percent under, it was red.  That’s when we needed to have a corrective action plan – why we didn’t hit the goal, what we’re going to do differently next time.

Planned Parenthood, for all the assertions it makes about helping people with family planning, seems to be primarily interested in selling one service – abortions.  Mrs. Thayer went on to disclose some of the techniques her clinic would use to sell abortions:

I trained my staff the way that I was trained, which was to really encourage women to choose abortion, to have it at Planned Parenthood, because that counts as, you know, towards our goal.  We would try to get the appointment scheduled for the abortion before they left our clinic.  We would say things like, “Your pregnancy test, your visit today is X number of dollars.  How much are you going to be able to pay towards that?”  If they’d say, “I’m not able to pay today,” then we would say something like, “Well, if you can’t pay ten dollars today, how are you going to take care of a baby?  Have you priced diapers?  Do you know how much it costs to buy a car seat? … So really, don’t you think your smartest choice is termination?”

Honestly, this kind of sales pitch and posturing is difficult for me to process.  Planned Parenthood workers freely admitted in their conversations that a life in a womb is – or, at the very least, will be – a baby who will need to be cared for and fed and protected, and yet, because of the expenses involved in raising a child, there is a cold calculation at work that says it is better to abort a child than to financially invest in one.  I’m honestly not sure how else I’m supposed to interpret a calculation like this than this: for Planned Parenthood, financial burden trumps human life.

But it goes beyond that.  For Planned Parenthood, financial gain also trumps human life.  For those clinics that reached their abortion quotas, Mrs. Thayer explained:

We would have things like pizza parties.  Occasionally, they would say, “You can two hours of paid time off.”  If your center consistently hit goal and you were green all the time, you know, like, three months in a row, you might be center manager of the month and go to Des Moines and have lunch, you know, with the upper management, or something … It sounds kind of crazy, but pizza is a motivator.

Planned Parenthood is so devoted to selling abortions that they offer pizza parties as an incentive to their clinics to sell a lot of them.  It turns out that they also hand out awards to clinics that increase the number of abortions they perform year over year.

The moral questions such practices raise are inescapable.  Are the lives of babies who are born into lower financial means more disposable than the lives of babies who are born into more affluent families?  Should the future of a life be subject to a financial litmus test – if a life can be afforded, it should be nurtured, and if it cannot, it should be ended?  Should expectant mothers, who often have nagging doubts and deep moral misgivings about whether or not they should have an abortion, be pressured into a procedure to add to a company’s bottom line?

Peter Singer, the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics chair at Princeton, has been widely decried, and rightly so, for his crassly utilitarian view of human life.  He has claimed, for instance, “that a human’s life is not necessarily more sacred than a dog’s, and that it might be more compassionate to carry out medical experiments on hopelessly disabled, unconscious orphans than on perfectly healthy rats.”  For Singer, the worth of a life can be coolly calculated by a set of criteria.  If a life meets the criteria, it should be nurtured and protected.  If it does not, it can be ended, even if it is a human life.  It is difficult to see how Planned Parenthood’s financial criteria to determine a human life’s value differs all that much from Professor Singer’s method.

It must be said that a Christian cannot endorse or endure such a view of human life.  Human life is not valuable because it meets certain criteria. It is valuable, according to Scripture, because of its origin and its unique reflection of its Creator.  Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee for Supreme Court Justice, echoes this sentiment using a Constitutional lens when he writes:

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees equal protection of the laws to all persons; this guarantee is replicated in Article 14 of the European Convention and in the constitutions and declarations of rights of many other countries. This profound social and political commitment to human equality is grounded on, and an expression of, the belief that all persons innately have dignity and are worthy of respect without regard to their perceived value based on some instrumental scale of usefulness or merit. We treat people as worthy of equal respect because of their status as human beings and without regard to their looks, gender, race, creed, or any other incidental trait – because, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, we hold it as ‘self-evident’ that ‘all men (and women) are created equal’ and enjoy ‘certain unalienable Rights,’ and ‘that among these are Life.’

What is “self-evident” to the framers of the Declaration of Independence is apparently not so self-evident to Planned Parenthood.  May we never allow the inherent value of human life to be anything less than self-evident to us.

February 13, 2017 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Marching for Life

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.

January 30, 2017 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Abortion, Absolution, and Pope Francis

francis

In a letter dated Sunday, November 20, Pope Francis announced that any woman who has had an abortion can now be forgiven for that sin by a priest.  This move toward priestly absolution for abortion began a full year ago when the pope announced a “Year of Mercy.”  Before this special year, only ecclesiastical higher ups could absolve someone of an abortion unless a particular region gave special disposition to its local priests to absolve this sin, which the Catholic Church in the United States had already done.  The pope’s announcement of a Year of Mercy gave this right to priests worldwide.  And now the pope has extended this right into perpetuity.  In his missive, the pope explained:

We have celebrated an intense Jubilee Year in which we have received the grace of mercy in abundance. Like a gusting but wholesome wind, the Lord’s goodness and mercy have swept through the entire world. Because each of us has experienced at length this loving gaze of God, we cannot remain unaffected, for it changes our lives…

Lest any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness, I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion. The provision I had made in this regard, limited to the duration of the Extraordinary Holy Year, is hereby extended, notwithstanding anything to the contrary.

When the pope first announced his Year of Mercy, The New York Times ran an editorial by Jill Filipovic titled, “The Pope’s Unforgiving Message of Forgiveness on Abortion.”  In her piece, Ms. Filipovic decries the idea that those who had obtained an abortion should need forgiveness.  She writes:

Instead of treating women as adults who make their own decisions, the pope condescends to “all the women who have resorted to abortion,” saying he is “well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision.” The threat of excommunication, at the very least, makes the church’s views on women’s rights clear. Offering forgiveness is a softer version of the same judgment: that the millions of women around the world who have abortions every year are sinners. Inviting women to feel shame and guilt for their abortions isn’t a mercy; it’s cruelty.

At issue for Ms. Filipovic is the fact that abortion would be classified as a sin at all.  For her, forgiveness for an abortion is neither needed nor desirable.  What is needed is a wholehearted endorsement and promotion of abortion itself.

The biblical position on abortion and forgiveness undermines both the Roman Catholic Church’s strange view of absolution, especially before this recent papal pronouncement, along with the secularist’s cynicism toward the sinfulness of abortion.  The secular view of abortion and forgiveness is inadequate precisely because the emotions of “shame and guilt,” contrary to Ms. Filipovic’s assertion, should be the affective outcome of any sin, including abortion.  Our sin should make us feel bad – at least if we take what God commands seriously.  Only God’s gospel can remedy our shame and guilt as it releases our sins to Christ on the cross.  Abortion cannot be excused and explained away.  It can only be forgiven.

Likewise, the Roman Catholic Church’s view on abortion and forgiveness also will not do.  The now former restriction on priestly absolution for abortion seems to have been largely meant as a threatening deterrent against particularly grievous sins, as is explained in the Baltimore Catechism:

The absolution from some sins is reserved to the pope or bishop to deter or prevent, by this special restriction, persons from committing them, either on account of the greatness of the sin itself or on account of its evil consequences.

This restriction overlooks the fact that, theologically speaking, every sin is an affront against all divine law, therefore making any sin damnable.  It also overlooks the fact that to make forgiveness difficult to obtain via a barrage of ecclesiastical red tape takes what is meant to be a gift from God and perverts it into a work of man.  This makes the forgiveness spoken of here antithetical to the gospel rather than the center of the gospel, for the gospel is never about what we do, but about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

So where does this leave us?  It leaves us here:  if you are a woman who has had an abortion, there is hope beyond shame, release beyond burden, and wholeness beyond brokenness.  Not because there shouldn’t be any shame, any burden, or any brokenness.  And not because you can somehow claw your way out shame, burden, and brokenness by a work, even if that work is a work of self-debasing sorrow before a bishop or a priest. No, there is hope and release and wholeness because of Jesus.  After all, He suffered death to conquer death, which means, even if a life has been lost to abortion, that life can be recovered too.  And your life can be made new.

That’s the promise abortion needs.

November 28, 2016 at 5:15 am 1 comment

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