Guest Post by Logan Hurley
Over the past weeks, a number of videos were released showing Planned Parenthood executives not only admitting that the parts of aborted fetuses could be sold, but offering negotiation on the price for these parts and suggesting that abortions could be performed later or differently to provide adequately developed and unharmed parts. The videos caused a lot of outrage among Christians and have even proved hard for pro-choice advocates.
Early in 2013, John Piper gave insight into why that would be the case: we collectively know as a culture that what is being killed in an abortion is a human child. I encourage every believer to read Piper’s article and his 1989 article on Biblical justification for protecting unborn life. In light of the presence of solid biblical warrant for protecting our children it can only strike me as odd that some people will concede that, indeed, a fetus may be a human child, but that ultimately this life shouldn’t be protected.
In order to understand why this clarification must be central to the Christian response to abortion, let’s see three reasons why understanding the nature of what is killed in abortion should shape our response to abortion as an action and as an institution.
1. It Shows Abortion as Truly Sinful
I sincerely believe that we wouldn’t be appalled by the notion of Planned Parenthood’s organ mongering if we didn’t on some primordial level know that what was being killed was in fact a child. Every person I know applauds the research and development going into 3-D printing human tissues and organs from a patient’s own genetic material. The narrative of medical treatment gets turned on its head once stealing the body of babies comes into play, though. Romans 2:15-16 shows why this knowledge seems to be universally troubling: on some level, every person knows that killing a human made in the image of God for selfish gain is wrong.
This issue becomes obfuscated when we don’t talk about aborted children as just that: children. This is why a lot of pro-choice advocates usually toe the line at asserting that what is being aborted isn’t human. When we know that it is, though, the people of God have to respond accordingly, with an instinct to protect what God has deemed most precious, the life of those bearing his very image.
Pro-life stances don’t and shouldn’t focus only on the child, though. There are two humans, equally created by God in his image, in this equation. In fighting over the fate of children who would be aborted, its easy for us to take no pity on the mothers who choose to seek abortions, but the human dignity we afford to children must also be afforded to mothers who are suffering. We as Christians must seek to prevent and end suffering where we find it, just as our Savior did for us.
We must be concerned for all kinds of suffering, especially eternal suffering. If abortion is a sin because what is being killed is human, we owe mothers a voice of warning, pleading and begging them to not enter into this especially gross condemnation, and simultaneously offering hope and love with the people of God and God himself. Knowing that our inaction may allow a mother to become guilty of a heinous sin should move us to radical compassion and care.
2. It Shifts the Debate to Moral Grounds
In a nation of laws, the issue of abortion will in some way be decided in the legislative chamber as much as it is in our pulpits and on the streets. This can cause a muddling of discussions about abortion causing some to claim that only those directly affected (pregnant women) should have the ability to decide whether they ought to or ought not have an abortion.
If it is in fact a reality, though, that abortion is the killing of the child, the cultural discussion on abortion is not a matter of personal preference, but of moral stance. To illustrate what this means, take another example that I, as a white, middle class, non-police officer am relatively unaffected by: the very high incidence of police shootings of unarmed, poor, black men. The fact that I am neither of the persons in the previous sentence invalidates my reasonable right, even duty, to be concerned about it. If I love lower class black men because of the image of God which they bear, I absolutely must advocate for reforms to society to help protect them from undue violence. Applied to abortion: if I genuinely love those made in the image of God, I am bound by duty to advocate for their protection at any age, even before birth. There is no other sphere of moral reasoning where those who are not directly affected by injustice are uninvited from seeking justice for victims.
The policy line of thinking also causes people who are against having abortions themselves to punt the issue, saying that they would not want to impose their personal belief upon mothers in this difficult situation. This stands well enough so long as no question of morality is at stake. I really dislike the taste of beans, but this is a matter of taste and forbidding beans or other unpopular tastes makes poor legislation. When a human life hangs in the balance, though, the equation shifts. Violating a contract to steal a widow’s life savings is morally repulsive and there is good reason for it to be illegal. Putting another driver’s life at risk by speeding to get to a party on time is reckless and evil. It is also illegal, as it should be. Murder, theft, sexual assault, and child abuse are all illegal because of their repulsive moral quality, a quality they share because of the harm they involve to others. Once we see that abortion is about human life and protecting victims, and thus a question of morality rather than taste, we lose the convenience of punting. We have to answer hard questions about restraining others in law, and Christians have to answer that question by trying to protect the vulnerable.
3. It Forces Us to Consider Rights
Central to the pro-choice movement is the extension of the rights of bodily autonomy. A key argument of abortion-rights activists to try to negate the importance of knowing that the victim of an abortion is in fact a child rests on bodily autonomy. It goes like this: There is no situation in which you could be compelled to save another’s life by having to give them a kidney or blood infusion or other transplant of your body. Your right to the use of your body is grounded upon the right of bodily autonomy. Thus, they conclude, a pregnant woman’s right to end her pregnancy is inseparable from her dignity as a human in her bodily autonomy.
The answer to that argument must be founded in a consideration of the rights inherent to a human being made in the image of God and the ordering of those rights.
A pregnant woman has no less bodily autonomy than any other person, but another human life has become actively integrated into her life. If I by any action of my own ended another human life, I would be a murderer and in some cases I would be subject to a death penalty, my own life being forfeit for the sake of the life I took. Why do we take murder so seriously? Because it is the permanent deprivation of the highest right which God gives to man (Gen. 9:6).
If abortion deprives a human of its right to live, it must be stopped to protect that victim. It must be stopped at the expense of depriving lesser rights. When we understand that what is being killed in an abortion is a baby, we understand that abortion must be stopped.
Logan Hurley is a member of Broadway Baptist Church in Lexington, KY and senior at the University of Kentucky where he studies Communication, Arab & Islamic Studies, and Philosophy. He desires to attend seminary in Fall 2016. You can follow him on Twitter @loganmhurley.