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Why Are Christians Stirred Up About Abortion?

Abortion.  The word itself stirs up the emotions.  Say it to yourself or write it down.  How do you feel?  You are probably uncomfortable regardless if you are pro-choice or pro-life.  It is a subject that can produce a wide range of emotions.  The purpose of addressing this topic is to give each side of the debate a glimpse into what the other side is thinking, not to start a debate or stir up anger.  Moreover, we want to be clear that what follows is in no way intended to produce guilt or shame.  The purpose of this blog is not judgment.  When the subject of abortion is brought up it is easy to be proud of what stance you have taken (on either side) or feel guilty about difficult decisions you have had to make in the past.  The guilt of all of us was paid at the cross of Christ.  It is finished and we are free.

The Pro-Choice Movement

Let’s start by looking at why the pro-choice movement values abortion or the legal right to abortion.  I think it will be clear that abortion in the pro-choice view is an act of last resort, but a very important one to accomplish their goals for society.  Also, their focus isn’t the effect on the unborn, but on the proposed benefit for women.  This is why we hear the charge that legal action taken against abortion is a “War On Women.”  That may sound out of the blue to some, but it follows logically when you understand feminist philosophy.

To provide a short and admittedly incomplete summary of that philosophy in its relationship to abortion, I have used several quotations from Kristin Luker. She wrote “In Abortion & The Politics Of Motherhood” in 1984, which is a study of attitudes on both sides of the abortion debate.  The first quote is a pithy statement one activist told Luker that without abortion, women would have "about as many rights as the cow in the pasture that's taken to the bull once a year."  To her, abortion is a way to reclaim power in male/female relationships.  In addition to that, sexual experience is seen as a means of self-realization and personality development.  In feminist philosophy, an unwanted child is an obstacle to that search for fulfillment.  The following quote reveals, even more, the value placed on sexuality regardless of moral implication.

"Because mobilizing such delicate social and emotional resources as trust, caring, and intimacy requires practice, pro-choice people do not denigrate sexual experiences that fall short of achieving transcendence. They judge individual cases of premarital sex, contraception, and infidelity according to the ways in which they enhance or detract from conditions of trust and caring. In their value scheme, something that gives people opportunities for intimacy simply cannot be seen as wrong.”

The bottom line here is that in pro-choice thought abortion is an important factor for improving the status and lives of women.  While acknowledging these are very noble goals, the act of abortion is problematic within a Christian worldview.  It is impossible to read the Bible and not notice that the unborn are given intrinsic value and personhood.  Read the following Psalm to understand what I am talking about.

God Values the Unborn

Psalms 139:13-16: "For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them."

In the psalm, the development of the unborn child is celebrated.  Not only is God intimately involved in forming the child, He has already recorded the life he or she will live.  The unborn is not seen in this view as a potential barrier to fulfillment, but an individual with a life of their own that needs protection and celebration.  The same idea is found in the book of Galatians where God has dedicated Paul’s life for a certain purpose before his birth.

Galatians 1:15: "But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased."

Even more so, this is seen in the following account of Jesus and John the Baptist occurring before either one of them was born.

Luke 1:39-45: "39 Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”

Verse 44 is such a vivid example of the personhood of the unborn.  John the Baptist in his mother’s womb heard a voice.  Then he recognized the situation enough to have an emotional response. Leaping with joy is something only a person can do.  For those of us who believe in the reliability of the Bible, the personhood of the unborn is unequivocal.  

So why ARE Christians, who associate with the pro-life movement, so impassioned about abortion?  It’s simple.  We genuinely care about people.  We are instructed by Jesus’ half-brother James to be impartial, which means that we should not focus our care on only some people.  This idea compels us to care for the most vulnerable in society.  James describes true religion as caring for widows and orphans, those with a low social position.  Who has a lower social position today than the unborn, whether you describe them as a fetus or a baby? It’s because we care about the unborn that Christians are emotionally charged about abortion and because of that, we can claim to love all people: male and female, large and small!  The Atlantic April 1990