Abortion and the Wrong Side of History

Not long ago I came across an article by Frederica Mathewes-Green in The National Review, titled “When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense”.

Not only was it one of the most emotionally moving stories told by a pro-life woman that I’ve ever heard, it also had something profound to say beyond merely reinforcing the “pro-life cause.” Sadly, in America it is a cause that often finds itself bound up in hypocrisy, misogyny, and self-righteous promotion of a secluded family life that exiles the forgotten, in the name of—maybe—saving children.

Mathewes-Greene, however, without being preachy and judgmental toward women who hurt, begs us to call into question what it would be like to stand on the wrong side of history. How can people conceive of even doing such a thing to such tiny humans? We are losing babies, and that’s not how it should be. It is such a human deception that murdering the unborn is merely an option, nothing more.

But it is also a deception that women who choose abortion are, by default, merely seeing it as an option, nothing more.

Frederica Mathewes-Green has been published in both progressive and conservative Christian publications. She knows how to reach beyond camps, factions, and sects. When she was younger, she was passionately for the passing of laws allowing abortion. She also had no idea what she was talking about, believing unborn children to be “blobs of tissue.” Of course, this was, as she points out, 15 years before sonograms were a thing.

views_of_a_foetus_in_the_wombWe often forget things like that. Sometimes advancements in science accompany those in ethics, sometimes they don’t. Studies in bone structure reinforced to false scientific beliefs about race. Studies in DNA reinforced the belief that we’re all pretty much exactly alike. The belief that abortion is a viable option is not a new thing, but ancient. And barbaric. Scientific discovery has only reinforced that babies are human.

But science does not tell us what kind of ethics to have. And so the science of performing an operation more efficiently and safely (but only because it is legal) led not to just a few abortions, but many. Killing a child could become routine. After a simple abortion, “it’s like the pregnancy never existed. No one is inconvenienced. It doesn’t cause trouble for the father of the baby, or her boss, or the person in charge of her college scholarship. It won’t embarrass her mom and dad.”

Consider this: If you were to have an abortion, who would be there for you? If you were to have a child, who would be there for you? What motivates these people to take one stand over another?

I ask this question because the point was brought up by Mathewes-Green herself. But I also ask because it sorts people like a sieve through politicized categories until they stand with or without integrity:
1) If you are for legalized abortion, would you support your pregnant friend just as much if she kept her baby? If not, then you value life based on convenience.
2) If you are against abortion, would you support a pregnant stranger to save the baby’s life? If not, then how pro-life are you, anyway?

That is to say, I am tired of mere rhetoric and blasting from people in my own camp, as if this is simply a matter of women who know and don’t care, who never suffer but want to see suffering.

As the author points out, a rise in abortion rates means there is something deepy wrong with the environment. A bunch of women didn’t just rise up in a good culture one day and decide they’d had enough of living out godly values of strong womanhood. The society was sick.

As the end of the article predicts, a later generation may look back on Roe v Wade and the half century or more after as a dark time because of a single policy, but of course also for the culture that engendered that policy—much like slavery. They will look back at our culture and say, “what were they thinking?”

We are thinking a lot of toxic things.

Our history is complex. And we can learn from what came before even Roe v Wade. For example, until the rise of the political “Moral Majority,” Catholics were about the only Americans rallying against abortion as an issue. Alongside keeping Bob Jones University segregated. That’s right. Abortion became an issue in America in part because Jerry Falwell was a bigot. But abortions have also historically happened to black babies for the same reason: America is racist. Marginalized people will feel more desperate, make more desperate actions. Like seeking an abortion.

And while I can’t imagine every being okay with a doctor (who swears to “do no harm”) taking the life of a baby because its mother no longer wants it, I have to come to terms with the killing of innocent children in scripture.

I can’t just ignore all that and join up in a parade of poor rhetoric. It won’t do much good to save children, or the souls of the adults around them. But it will cause strife.

And I must be bold to let my fellow believers know that if they support warfare that kills children, including the use of bombs that blow babies to smithereens, they are not pro-life at all. They are frauds and charlatans. If you believe dropping the atomic bomb on Japan was acceptable, you are pro abortion. This is non-negotiable.

A friend of mine who does not agree with me about the issue of abortion read the article I did. She drew attention to the author’s statement: “No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

Said the friend, “What causes women to feel trapped and seek abortions then?”

She brought up a good point that I do agree with her on. It is not just about abortion, but what drives a woman to seek one. What is wrong with our society? When we ban abortions, those other problems will remain.

How comprehensive is our sex education?
How much health care to poor women have access too when they are pregnant, as well as afterward?
How many pregnant women have no safe place to live?
How supportive are our maternity leave policies?
Where is our supportive community?

I read in the Torah about priestly laws that seem to command abortion in the case of infidelity, of laws that protect the life inside a woman as only partially as valuable as her own, and instances where Israelites were commanded to kill infants. I also see the Old Law as a shadow of the new, of putting up with man’s horrible ways by making tearful concessions, deeply painful as the cross.

But I also see a god who knits a profit and knows him in the womb. I see a God who cares for a woman who isn’t even part of his Abrahamic covenant by saving her and her baby’s life so she doesn’t have to put it down.

In the New Testament I see a baby leaping in his mother’s womb.

I see Christian leaders not long afterward teaching not to induce abortion, for life is precious.

expulsion_of_ishmael_and_his_motherI see Hagar.

I see Hagar, because God saw Hagar. When she was a single mother cast out from her home, she was desperate, and sought to abandon her baby. She didn’t do it because she wanted to. She did it because she felt so hopeless that she couldn’t take care of the child, and would rather not see it perish.

God asked Hagar, “Where are you coming from, and where are you going?” This is what we should seek to know about women seeking to end their pregnancies. She was vulnerable, and needed answers.

Hagar had been enslaved and was a victim of abuse. To our modern culture, she was a perfect candidate for terminating the life of her child. At least, had she still been pregnant. Somehow our culture has come to believe that once the baby is born, what was  okay is suddenly not okay. Despite any scientific reason for thinking so.

God did not honor Hagar’s initial plan to let the baby perish. Neither did he condemn her for doing so (and the baby was already born!). Rather, he saw her and helped her. He promised to take care of her.

I can be pro-life, but let me not be so in the manner of Abraham, who cast a woman out, but rather in the manner of the angel of God, who came to a distressed woman and led her to the resources she needed to care for herself and her child.

Said Hagar, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” Does my response to women with unplanned pregnancies who feel incapable of raising a child warrant such a statement? When they see my face, will they see the face of God? Or the face of some patriarch shouting at them?

We can try banning abortion. But we must also address the socioeconomic conditions that lead women to conclude that this frightening last resort is even on the table.

I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history, whether it be the right or the left. I don’t want to a champion a pious but cruel Abraham, or a tragically fatal Hagar. I want to champion a God who sees the vulnerable and descends to help them accomplish the impossible. History may one day look back on the horror of common abortions and wonder why our society couldn’t figure this out sooner. Where have we come from? Where are we going?

6 responses to “Abortion and the Wrong Side of History

      • Sounds like you think they are equally wrong. So I suppose you don’t think God is pro-life?

      • For some reason I can’t seem to reply to your latest comment. I did read the post. Of course it was well over a month ago when I made my comment so forgive me if I forgot some of the details. I was mainly responding to this paragraph:

        “And I must be bold to let my fellow believers know that if they support warfare that kills children, including the use of bombs that blow babies to smithereens, they are not pro-life at all. They are frauds and charlatans. If you believe dropping the atomic bomb on Japan was acceptable, you are pro abortion. This is non-negotiable.”

        The Canaanite genocide killed children. God supported that warfare. In fact, he commanded it. Therefore, you are saying that God is “not pro-life at all.” I suppose you try to rationalize this when you say “I have to come to terms with the killing of innocent children in scripture.” but then you never elaborate on that. Have you come to terms with it? If so how do you rationalize it? God is just therefore all his actions are just?

      • In the old covenant, the operation of God in justice is not simple. Looking closely, the taking of the lives of children was under a temporary covenant with a depraved culture, and did not represent the will of God for the behavior of the Messianic kingdom.

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