We are in a strange new world as a result of the COVID-19 virus. The rules implemented by our governments as they seek to “flatten the curve” have revealed that some of their priorities are at best arbitrary, and at worst, immoral. While the faithful in Greenville, MS were being fined $500 per vehicle for attending a drive-in church service in a church parking lot on a Sunday, the two Planned Parenthood health centres that the church is situated between continued to offer elective abortions the very next morning. Dr. Meera Shah, a chief medical director for the organization, explained that their doors needed to remain open because “pregnancy-related care, especially abortion care, is essential and life-affirming, especially now when there is so much insecurity around jobs and food and paychecks and childcare” (source).
Let’s break that quote down a bit.
Dr. Shah really doesn’t mince words. By choosing to use the word “especially,” she reveals that abortion, not pregnancy care, is the priority of the clinic. In a time when non-essential organizations are being shut down, what makes Planned Parenthood essential? The fact that they offer abortions, apparently – “life-affirming” abortions which Dr. Shah conveniently neglects to mention are actually life-taking. But what kind of abortions are we talking about? Surely Dr. Shah is talking about abortions that are medically necessary? No; she’s specifically talking about elective abortions – abortions that people are choosing to have because they feel “insecurity around jobs and food and paychecks and childcare.”
Unfortunately, the irony of saying that Planned Parenthood needs to remain open so that their doctors can end the lives of the vulnerable unborn, while the rest of the country has shut down to protect the lives of the vulnerable elderly, seems to be lost on Dr. Shah.
But let’s take a step back here. Are the pro-choice advocates right? Doesn’t a woman have the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy? Why is this even a debate? After all, isn’t the pro-life group filled with misogynists trying to restrict a women’s right to choose what happens to her body? Isn’t the pro-life group lacking in empathy? Isn’t the pro-life group behind the curve, living in denial of science, needlessly defending a parasitic clump of cells that only achieves life at birth? Let’s find out.
I’ll start with one of the more common “gotcha” arguments that I’ve heard: “Fetuses are not people. They are nothing but a parasitic clump of cells in the womb – a cancer.” This argument is an interesting one. It has a few sides to it. Each of those sides is load-bearing: take any one to its logical end, and it will crumble, taking down the rest of the argument with it.
Fetuses are not people. I remember the day I decided that.– Amy Littlefield, from Rewire News
We need to start by defining a person. Synthesizing several sources, Wikipedia defines a person as “a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness or self-consciousness, and being a part of a culturally established form of social relations such as kinship, ownership of property, or legal responsibility” (source). At first glance, the pro-choice advocate will likely agree with such a definition. But there are some serious problems with this definition: if this definition is taken to its logical end, the pro-choice advocate will have no choice but to agree that since a person in a coma does not possess “reason, morality, consciousness, or self-consciousness,” then he or she is not actually a person. Some may argue that in the absence of those four traits, the cultural connections may allow a person to retain his or her personhood; however, this devolves into the error of defining a thing based solely on its relationship to something else, which would mean that an adult who wasn’t participating in a social relationship would no longer be human if he or she were rendered unconscious (but definitional humanity would be regained upon waking), which is patently absurd.
Can we find a definition that doesn’t break down? Let’s look to the Bible. The Bible defines a person as an image-bearer of God, saying that “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27, NIV). We must ask – is an embryo or fetus an image-bearer of God, deserving of the title “person”? The answer: of course; the embryo or fetus is a member of mankind.
Next, the claim that an unwanted embryo or fetus is a parasitic clump of cells akin to cancer. This argument is particularly silly; parasites cannot live indefinitely without a host: if they are expelled from one, they will only survive if they find another host to live with. Since babies do not seek another womb to inhabit after they are born, it is clear that an embryo or fetus is not a parasite. As for the claim about an embryo or fetus being a kind of cancer, a simple look at the the definition of cancer will rule that out. According to the Cancer Center, “[c]ancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body [which occurs when] when the body’s normal control mechanism stops working” (source). Since fetal development is anything but abnormal, and pregnancy is unrelated to the breakdown of the body’s control systems, this argument shatters. Finally, the argument that an embryo is nothing more than a clump of cells is absurd. By that logic, an adult is nothing more than a big clump of cells. No, an embryo or fetus is a person – an image-bearer of the almighty God.
Let’s tackle the claim that all pro-life advocates are misogynists who lack empathy. This argument assumes that pro-life advocates don’t think that women should have control over their own bodies, and that if they would only understand that women have the right to bodily autonomy, then we would all be able to get along. There’s a huge disconnect between the two camps that makes this one harder to resolve. The problem here is that pro-choice advocates who make this argument have convinced themselves that the baby in a woman’s womb is not actually a person; therefore, the woman has the right to do with it whatever she pleases. This argument cannot be tackled head-on; first, the subject of personhood must be discussed. Even if a consensus is reached there, though, there’s the issue of a perceived lack of empathy for vulnerable women. This is again intimately tied to the argument about personhood: the pro-choice advocate says that the pro-life advocate lacks empathy; however, this is an unfair assessment: the pro-life advocate is actually acting with more empathy than the pro-choice advocate. The pro-choice advocate is only defending the apparent well-being of the mother; the pro-life advocate is advocating for the lives of the most vulnerable individuals in our society and offering valid alternatives to abortion for the well-being of the mother, such as adoption, foster care, government assistance, etcetera.
The argument for the personhood of an embryo or fetus depends on our answer to another question: When does life begin? After all, if we agree that an embryo or fetus is a person, but we can’t defend life at conception, then a woman has every right to abort an embryo or fetus at any stage of pregnancy, since she would be simply removing an unwanted lifeless mass from her body.
We’ll start by examining the positions held by pro-choice advocates. When asked at what stage life begins, some abortion advocates say that an unwanted embryo or fetus’ right to life begins at birth; some say, “it’s not so simple” (source), since life develops gradually. Some simply deflect the question, saying, “that’s not the point” (source), since potential doesn’t equal personhood.
I hope you noticed that there was a problem in that last paragraph. The narrative has changed: no longer do pro-choice advocates argue about when life begins; they admit that life begins at conception, but now they argue about when the right to life begins, and there’s a huge difference. This is a diversion tactic – a subtle shift in wording that is easy to miss. Should pro-life advocates try to bring the argument back to the now-familiar grounds of fetal personhood and life at conception? No; the topic of the right to life must be addressed head-on, because all other arguments for abortion hinge on the integrity of this one point.
So far, we’ve established that an embryo or fetus is a person, that pro-life advocates are (at least theoretically) more empathetic than pro-choice advocates, and that life begins at conception. Let’s look at whether a living person in the womb has the right to life.
We must start by recognizing that the debate about a person’s right to life is ultimately a moral argument; thus, our first step is to acknowledge that any moral argument only has meaning if objective morality exists. Now, normally trying to get secularists to verbally acknowledge the existence of objective morality (despite their actions belying their apparent position) is difficult; however, I’ve seen those same people claim that adhering to the social distancing guidelines that have been put in place by our government is a moral responsibility, since failure to do so is tantamount to murder. So now not only by their actions but also by their words, we see secularists agree with Christians that one of the moral laws that is written on our hearts is the command, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).
But what is the basis of morality? The famous philosopher Immanuel Kant said that it is only right to do that which you would also have all others do (source); one of his rivals, Schopenhauer, said morality is based on “compassion or sympathy” (source). Both of those answers are problematic: Kant fails to account for outliers (for example, by his logic it was right for Hitler to try to exterminate the Jews, since Hitler would also have hoped that everyone in the world would try to exterminate the Jews), and Schopenhauer’s answer fails to answer whose compassion or sympathy determines what is right and wrong (again, Hitler’s compassion or sympathy for the Jews was nonexistent; the way he treated them was objectively wrong, but Schopenhauer cannot explain why it was wrong).
Is there an ultimate standard of morality that doesn’t break down? We know that there is a threefold division of the Mosaic law given to us in the Old Testament: there are civil, ceremonial, and moral laws. The moral laws are those which were “first written in the heart of man [and] continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness after the fall” (1689 LBCF, Chapter 19, Paragraph 2). These moral laws are familiar to many of us: they are the ten commandments. So God’s laws, given to us by Him in the Bible, are our ultimate standard of morality. Since He created all things and to Him all things belong, He has the authority to determine what actions are right and what actions are wrong.
Since the Bible is our source of moral truth, let us look there to determine whether children have a right to life prior to birth. First, we must acknowledge that God in His sovereignty knows each of His children before they are even formed in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). Second, we must recognize that God personally has a hand in the development of the embryo and fetus in the womb: David sang, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13b). Third, God commands His people not to murder (Exodus 20:13).
But what of those Christians who advocate abortion as a form of birth control? Entire groups of Christians and ministers have become abortion-rights activists; many of them are challenging the teachings of their pro-life pastors; some have started counselling women who don’t feel ready for children to choose abortion as a form of birth control; entire Christian denominations, including the American Baptist Churches of the USA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the United Church of Christ, have affirmed that elective abortion is a woman’s personal choice to make (source).
If you are a professing Christian who condones abortion, you should fear for your salvation – you should, as Peter writes in his second epistle, “make every effort to confirm your calling and election” (2 Peter 1:10). Why do I say this? Well, I am aware of two evidences of salvation: first, a display of the fruits of the Spirit; second, our ongoing sanctification, whereby we grow more like Jesus throughout our lives, and through which God’s laws become dearer to our hearts. I would submit to you that neither love, nor joy, nor peace, nor patience, nor kindness, nor goodness, nor faithfulness, nor gentleness, nor self-control will logically lead to the idea that murdering an unborn baby is acceptable. And since we’ve already established that God’s laws prohibit abortion, I would call into question the sanctification of any professing Christian who continues to condone that vile act after their conversion. Am I questioning the salvation of those who condone abortion? Yes, I am! “But we believe in God,” they say. Wake up, you blind fools! Simply believing that God exists is insufficient for salvation; as James says, “Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19)! Jesus warns us that only those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21). If you worship a God of your own making, you are worshiping no God at all. The true and living God has revealed Himself to us in the Scriptures. If the thing you are worshiping contradicts the character and attributes of the God of the Bible, the thing you are worshiping is unworthy of worship. “What right do you have to judge us?” they might ask. Paul commands us to “judge those inside [the church, for] God will judge those outside” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). Whether you are a professing believer who is not following God’s ways, or an unbeliever – seek out God’s truth in His own words. Cry out to Jesus, the Son of God; He was crucified, buried, and rose from the dead to atone for the sins of His bride, the Church. Repent of your sins, accept His blood poured out to wash them away, put on the robe of imputed righteousness, then go and sin no more!
Some might say that my concerns about the salvation of abortion advocates is illogical or a leap. “After all,” they say, “no Christian is perfect. What about Christians who struggle with lust, or those who are racist?” First of all, their argument is fallacious – a false equivalency. We are not talking about people who don’t like holding babies; we are talking about those who advocate the murder of the unborn. To make this an equivalent, we would have to compare abortion advocates not with people who struggle with lust and prejudice, but with serial rapists or or neo-Nazis. If you met a card-carrying KKK member who condoned lynching black people for being uppity, and he claimed to be a Christian, would you question his salvation? I would hope that you would. Now replace “KKK member” with “pro-choice advocate” and “lynching” with “dismembering” and “black people” with “unborn children” and “uppity” with “inconvenient.” Do you see the problem now? At the end of the day, since we’ve already established that embryos and fetuses are as much people as are those out of the womb, murdering an unborn child because of financial instability is no more morally defensible than drowning a toddler in the bath because of a stock market crash, or starving a quadriplegic to death because taking care of him or her is too much work, or smothering a grandparent with a pillow in their sleep because taking care of them is impacting your earning ability.
In conclusion, being a Christian and being a pro-choice advocate are two mutually exclusive positions. You will have to choose one or the other. To paraphrase Joshua 24:15, “If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods of money and career and convenience to whom you sacrifice your unborn children, or the golden calf that you call a loving God who would never judge someone for their actions. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”