Saturday, February 09, 2008

“There was a time in my life when life wasn’t worth living…”

January 20th was Sanctity of Life Sunday, where we remember the lives of the unborn, and our responsibility to protect them. You may know that January 2008 also marks the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion. As we reflect on the issue of abortion that has so deeply divided our nation (and yes, even churches), I would like to suggest a few thoughts for consideration.

First of all, if the pro-choice position is in fact true, and women should have the right to abort the unborn child in their womb—I am forced to conclude that there was a time in my life when life wasn’t worth living. Or at least in the eyes of the government, my life was not yet worth protecting. Was it only at my birth that my life somehow gained it’s intrinsic value and rights of protection under the law? Did the first nine months of my life in my mother’s womb lack the full value and worth of a unique human life? Perhaps it would be argued that I had not attained “personhood” until birth, or maybe the ability to survive separately from my mother. But that’s a hazy way of reasoning. What is it about crossing that barrier of my mother’s womb that would suddenly change my status? Inside or outside the womb, I was still dependent on my mother or some other caregiver for life. Does dependency take away our personhood or rights under the law?

Secondly, who decides whether a life is worth living? If the answer were the individual themselves, then the police would have no legal right to interfere with suicides or euthanasia. Is it then the person on whom that life depends (in this case the mother)? But how can someone else hold our right to life? Doesn’t that lead down a slippery slope? The prominent Princeton ethicist Peter Singer believes that infanticide should be permitted even after birth, because sick newborns cost society more pleasure than they give (Singer is lauded by the New Yorker as “the most influential living philosopher.” [p. 9, 178, What We Can’t Not Know by J. Budziszewski]). No, the right to life cannot be located in a particular stage of development or in varying degrees of independence from another person. The right to life must be something intrinsic in each person, that is, life must have value not because we give it value but because it is something to be valued in itself.

Thirdly, by human conscience and reasoning alone, a person should be able to conclude that life is intrinsically valuable. This explains why groups like Atheists for Life and Feminists for Life have been organized, quite apart from a Biblical rationale for doing so. Yet how much more do we as Christians understand that God is the one who gives life its intrinsic value from conception onward. The well known verses from Psalm 139:13ff speak of this: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Even more so, God demonstrates the value of human life in the womb by the incarnation of Jesus Christ. From His miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit, Mary knew that she carried the infant Messiah in her womb. What would the unborn Jesus’ status be under the law today? Would His life be considered worth living?

Thankfully, Christ came into the world to redeem us from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13), so that we might be set free from sin. My final point would be to recognize that abortion not only impacts the life of the unborn, but that mothers (and to a lesser extent fathers) have suffered much from this procedure. As Christians, we should be clear that our compassion and unconditional support is not only for the unborn children, but also the mothers—both those who have crisis pregnancies and need support, as well as those who have undergone abortion and are now feeling the effects. Not only unintended physical consequences like higher rates of cervical and breast cancer, or even infertility, but also in the often-devastating emotional consequences. I would like to raise your awareness of a group called “Silent No More,” which has been formed to give mothers who have undergone abortion a voice to speak of the aftermath of their choices to have an abortion. Check their website online and read their stories, how women who have had abortions are now sharing their pain and finding support from other women who now want this procedure to stop damaging both the lives of the unborn, as well as their mothers (see also ). Perhaps this can be a small step towards finding healing for the hurt that so many women feel, and we might know someone personally who needs the assurance of Christ’s forgiving love in this matter. May we rejoice in God’s gift of life this New Year and always!

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