Being pro-life unashamedly — actually believing in the intrinsic sacredness of human lives — has fought a long defeat for 40 years. That is not to say that 50 or 100 years from now people will not look back on this era and lament the barbarism of their parents and grandparents. I have some hope that this may yet be the case. But it has been a long defeat in that those fighting for intrinsic human dignity, especially in the womb, have fought for multiple generations with victory out of sight. It is demoralizing to not be near victory, especially when the casualties of this conflict are so many and still mounting so quickly.
Each year globally there are about 40 million abortions. There are 1.2 million each year in America. It has been generally reported that the abortion rate in New York City is 41%, but when broken down by Burroughs, some have rates as high as 70%. Since some estimated the abortion rate in America as high as 1.2 million in 1965, it is not unlikely that the 40 year death toll has been in excess of 40 million lives in the United States alone.
No Sense of Proportion
This is important when understanding the issue of women’s safety. Women safety has never been a significant problem for morally justifiable abortions – for example in cases of ectopic pregnancy. But even in 1965 (an era with many stories told of women being butchered) it’s reported that a total of 217 women died of abortion related complications, as opposed to 12 reported deaths by the CDC in 2008. If this were the only consideration – 217 deaths vs. 12, then the question on abortion would be obvious. 12 deaths is better than 217 – therefore abortion should be legal. But this of course assumes that fetuses are not human lives. Half of all fetuses are of course female, so this year, in order to save the lives of 205 women, we have legally affirmed the killing of 600,000 baby girls.
This not only illustrates a failure to have a sense of proportion when faced with heart wrenching stories of women suffering, but it also demonstrates that the central question about abortion is whether or not fetuses are human lives. That is the uncomfortable moral question that no one can get away from – and that the pro-life movement hates to face. And the reason it is so difficult to face, is because its answer is so obvious. So obvious in fact, that while Christians have lost the public argument about homosexual marriage, public opinion in favor of pro-life positions has grown (see pic above).
This is an important issue for both Republicans and Democrats that are Christians. Though Republicanism has been more supportive of pro-life arguments surrounding individual rights, within the logic of the Democrat party, a consistency argument can be made around protecting the weak and disenfranchised. In the case of abortion, the weak and disenfranchised person in the triumvirate of the man, woman and child is not the woman, but the child. For Democrats to be consistent in their base philosophy they must protect women from the illegitimate use of force from men, but also children from the illegitimate force of women. The ethical considerations about the child residing within the woman’s body we’ll have to leave for another time. Here I am only saying Christian faith, biblical authority, and the entire Christian tradition claims that whichever political tradition you favor requires you be an advocate for life, and especially for the life that is most endangered.
Sacrifice for Life’s Sacredness
However, the earliest Christians did not distinguish themselves culturally by being against the Roman policy that allowed for abortion and infanticide. Not only was infanticide, sometimes called “exposure of children” commonly practiced in the Greco-Roman world, but abortions through herbal and chemical-based ‘potions’, were widely procured as well. Most historians agree that the sacredness of life did not hold a very high premium in the Roman world. Though the Christians could not change the Empire’s policy, they lived out their belief on the sacredness of life through personal sacrifice – they simply saved as many children as they could. They were both respected and held in derision for it. And in the end, they won over the hearts of the weakest of society, especially women.
What the modern feminist movement missed was that infanticide has always been driven by men. Even in America, a large portion of women procure abortions not because they hate that they are pregnant, but that they hate that they do not have husbands to stand with them in being pregnant and raising children. Or, the woman’s unwanted pregnancy comes from her participation in a sexual culture she certainly would not have designed and that favors the proclivities of men.
As in the first centuries of the church, I believe the practice of Christians today should be the same. We should speak out and seek to persuade the Empire, and in our families and churches we should seek to create a hospitable place in which the lives of children are redeemed and saved. Christians do not have to save children to speak against abortion, but we will be much more culturally persuasive when we do. Self-sacrifice is one of the great authentications of moral arguments, and when logic cannot persuade, sacrifice and love often does.
Exactly how this works can get really thorny. On one level, there are 116,000 children in the foster system awaiting adoption. That seems like a very manageable number for American Christians to adopt. However, one of the reason there are more children who need adoption is because many Christians have already adopted. Further, for those engaging in international adoption of even more needy children, the adoption process now often costs $30,000 on the low-end. One family in our church just spent nearly $50,000. My first daughter cost my wife and I $10 from conception to birth because we had good health insurance. These powerful disincentives to adoption are structural in our culture, but they need to be overcome as well as combated. Even with strong financial and other disincentives, we have seen 4 or 5 families adopting or entering the process in the last two years, and I have seen that this trend is contagious.
For every Christian, we should not stop praying for this. We need to pray, continue to persuade, support people who have a specific passion for promoting life, and we should be continually open to how God would call us in our home and church to be individual parts of the solution.