Two summers ago our country’s pro-life movement was infused with fresh motivation to oppose abortion with vigor and persistence. Undercover videos exposing current and former Planned Parenthood employees discussing the potential sale and procurement of aborted baby parts emerged in July and quickly went viral, jolting many back into the public fight for life. These videos, gruesome in their verbal and visual content (one video shows the two undercover “buyers” sifting through petri dishes of tiny, mutilated body parts) compelled pro-life proponents to take to the Internet and to the street to serve as a voice for those who have no voice.
Christians and the Issue of Abortion
Of anyone, Christians should be the first to oppose abortion in our day and age. We know that every person, born and unborn, is made in the image of God and is, from the moment of conception, worthy of life and protection. Regardless of what popular sanitized rhetoric attempts to convey, abortion ends a human life. Sadly, since Roe v. Wade (1973), over 55 million human lives have ended as the result of abortion.
But how might Christians serve as salt and light in a culture where access to abortion is framed as a fundamental right and where celebrities take to Twitter to encourage women to “Shout their Abortion?” This is not an easy question to answer, and our respective engagement in the culture at this point will vary depending on our gifts, current responsibilities, and sense of God’s calling on our individual lives. But there are a few things we need to know.
The Bible and Abortion
At basic, we need knowledge of what Scripture says about human life. From the first chapter of the Bible human life is given special status. Human life has inherent dignity because humans are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26). To kill that image unlawfully, therefore, is an act of high-handed revolt against one’s Creator, for one is attacking directly God’s very image.
Yet, this value for human life does not begin once a child is outside the womb. From the moment of conception, God relates to that new life personally (Psalm 51:5) and knits that life together in the mother’s womb (Ps 139:13-15). Such life is utterly vulnerable and requires the utmost protection and care. Contrary to Roe v. Wade, God’s Word tells us that personhood does not begin at birth; it begins at the moment of conception.
Contemporary Arguments For the Right to Choose
But we also need some knowledge of the current argument for legalized abortion. The major claim made by abortion proponents is that it is the woman’s right to determine whether or not she will have an abortion. This stance is often framed as the mere “right to choose” so that when pro-life advocates oppose abortion, it appear that they are opposing a women’s right to make her own decisions, thus making it sound like pro-lifers stand against women’s freedom. Framing the argument in such a way puts those who oppose abortion in a difficult position.
The question we need to ask, however, is what “choice” are we talking about, for there is only one genuine option. A pregnant woman can allow her pregnancy to go to full term and then deliver her baby. In this case, she has made no choice, because she is allowing the pregnancy to run its natural course. But if she wants to interrupt this natural process, she can choose to abort that baby.
When abortion proponents call for a woman’s right to choose, therefore, they are calling for the right to choose to end a human life. Get past all the politicized bluster and this is, at bottom, what the abortion debate is all about. Far from being a private issue between a woman and her doctor, then, abortion is an issue of public justice, for a powerful class of people (mothers and husbands and boyfriends who want to end unwanted pregnancies) are claiming the right to kill another weaker class of people (the children in the womb). And we all know how God feels about justice and the stronger taking advantage of the weaker (Ps 10:17-18; 82:3; Is 59:14-15; Jer 9:23-24).
In order to leverage their case for a woman’s right to choose, abortion proponents have also turned to science to dispute the notion that human life begins at conception. We should not be fooled at this point, however. Genuine embryonic and fetal science tells us that life most certainly begins at conception. Even someone without a background in fetal science would be able to ask this basic question: At what point, then, if not conception, does human life begin? Any answer is, at best, arbitrary and question-begging. The science confirms what God’s Word has said for centuries: Human life, and thus, human personhood, begins at conception.
Our Response to Abortion
Because human life begins at conception and because all human life is made in God’s image, Christians have, by default, a special interest in the issue of abortion. Our responses may not all be the same, but respond we must. Some of us may devote ourselves to praying diligently that God would move in this country for the sake of the unborn. Others may work strategically to find ways to evoke legislative change. Some of us may develop ministries to encourage young pregnant mothers to carry their children to full term and care for them once they are born, or give them to other families through the gift of adoption. Others might sense a call to serve women who have had abortions. The gospel is the power of God to salvation (Rom 1:16), and women who are reeling under the guilt of previous abortions will need to see the glorious forgiveness that Christ offers at the cross.
In all of this, we will engage this culture of death with courage and hope in the gospel. We tread confidently yet humbly for we know that we are chief among sinners in need of a bloody cross for salvation. And we look ultimately to Christ, our just King, to set all things aright at His return. May He come quickly (Rev 22:20).