The Abortion Debate
By Pastor Tom Anderson
Catholic ethicist George Weigel writes, “The real question in the abortion debate always will be this: What does a just society owe the indisputably human life that indisputably begins at conception?” Weigel’s contention is that the moral dilemma of abortion is based on scientific consensus that the product of human conception is in fact a whole, unique living member of the species homo sapiens. This isn’t a religious judgment but is a scientific fact. This points to the need for all people in a democratic society to be included in the discussion of what society owes to its youngest members.
Christian moral reflection is united on several important points.
One is the sanctity of human life. This is most frequently established by reference to our creation in the image of God in Genesis 1:27. Human life has greater value because of this indelible connection to God. This principle lies behind the careful limits placed on the taking of human life in the laws of Moses. While the civil laws of ancient Israel no longer apply to the modern world, they do proclaim the sanctity of human life as the primary concern of any just society. The taking of any human life is a matter of highest concern for social justice. The circumstances where it is allowed ought to be limited and placed under the care of a legitimate government.
Another unifying principle is the protection of the innocent. Moses was imperative: “Do not kill the innocent.” (Exodus 23:7) Jesus grounded just behavior in relation to the most vulnerable members of society. Four times in Matthew 25 Jesus repeats, “as much as you did it to one of the least of these...you did it to me.” The justice of any given society is to be measured by how it treats the most vulnerable: the sick, the imprisoned, the disabled, the impaired, the elderly, the immigrant, the poor, and yes, the unborn. For this reason most Christians condemn the use of abortion as a means to eliminate unwanted pregnancies as well as rejecting its use as a means of gender selection. This places Christians in moral opposition to approximately 98% of all abortions performed in the United States.
The life of a mother is sacred. She is created in the image of God. She falls under the principle of protection for the vulnerable. Decisions made around abortion must include this principle. Here we see potential for an excruciating moral tension not to be resolved in a mechanical application of predetermined rules. What is required is moral judgment. But we are not without guidance. God has given to us the Holy Spirit. He is the teacher of truth and will lead us into all truth (John 16:13) We must appeal to Him in prayer with fasting, search for His voice in scripture and seek Him in conversations with our families, teachers, and fellow believers.
We live in a pluralistic democracy where no one--including Christians--can expect their views to prevail over all others. The best Christian service is to be the moral conscience of any given society. If we can serve to restrain some of the evils around us and provide a greater measure of justice we should do so. As someone has said, “Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.” Do as much good as you can right now for the unborn and their mothers. Let’s get our arms around those who struggle with moral dilemmas as well as those with regrets about the past. We can’t make everything right but we trust God to restore all things in His time.