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The “A” Word

February 4, 2017

With the appointment, and highly likely approval, of judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court it appears that President Trump has made good on a campaign promise to appoint pro-life justices.  It is helpful that judge Gorsuch’s credentials are exemplary.  In the long run however this simply restores the balance the court had when Justice Scalia was on the bench; it does not overturn the 5-4 margins that have leaned away from pro-life decisions so it is really the next opening that matters.

In a recent long and scholarly report the medical journal The Lancet gives a world-wide analysis of abortions that gives us much to think about on this subject.  While it is true that here in the U.S. the abortion rate is steadily dropping (now 27 per every 1,000 women of reproductive age where it was 45 per 1,000 in 1990) the global rate has not dropped at all.  Digging through the data (and it is time-consuming) shows some curious realities that make me think on this subject.

  1. Money is a primary factor in abortion decisions.  Both globally and in the U.S. rates are dropping among more well-to-do areas and remaining the same in poorer areas.  The widespread, although by no means universal, explanation for this is that birth control and sex education play the dominant role in this reality.
  2. Globally, married women are more apt to have abortions than single women. This is not true in the U.S.  This might well be tied to #1 above but we need to avoid developing stereotypes of the “typical” woman getting abortion.
  3. Abortion laws don’t appear to reduce abortions. This was the most shocking finding.  Countries where abortion is illegal have no lower (and no higher) rates of abortion.  Women are terminating pregnancies with or without such laws.  This does not bode well for those pinning their hopes on the Supreme Court.

Let me be quick to say that I don’t think this means pro-lifers should quit the legal war for life. If we’re saying—which we are—that life in the womb is life made in the image of God, then it makes perfect sense that battles for the dignity and honor of that life should extend wherever possible.  But it tells us that making this the primary focus will accomplish little except the driving of women underground.  In fact, it suggests that addressing economic issues is far more promising.

When we consider our brothers and sisters in the early church it gives us some clue to ways to wage the battle for life.  Both abortion and infanticide were normal and acceptable practices among the pagan Roman and Greek cultures that the early church was set in. Baby boys were highly desirable and baby girls were not.  Therefore, it was common for married couples to keep only one baby girl.  If it was thought that a second baby would probably be a girl, the mother would have an abortion, and if the child was born and turned out to be female, the child would be exposed outdoors to die.  Abortion was far from taboo, and even murdering one’s own baby girl was far from controversial.  You can see an example of this in this 1st century Greek letter from a man named Hilarion to his wife:

“Know that I am still in Alexandria. And do not worry if they all come back and I remain in Alexandria. I ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son, and as soon as I receive payment I shall send it up to you. If you are [already] delivered of a child, if it is a boy keep it, if a girl discard it. You have sent me word, “Don’t forget me.” How can I forget you? I beg you not to worry.”

It is obvious he was more concerned about his wife’s feelings than his baby daughter.  This was the world in which our church was born.  This was the law of the land.

The law told these Christians that they could get as many abortions as they wanted and they could throw their babies in the trash can if they felt like it.  They did not.  But neither did they go around advocating changing laws. They had ZERO political power to do that. But they did have a much greater power. They had the power of the Holy Spirit in them and they let that light shine as bright as the sun.

Because they did this, many pagan women desired to know Christ too and their hearts were changed. In time, they felt abortion was not the right choice for them or their babies, so they made a moral decision on their own to keep their babies.

There is not one hint in the Bible, or early Christian literature, that Christians should try to make the pagans surrounding them change their laws on abortion and infanticide. Instead, Christians simply practiced their convictions and let their light of life and love shine.

While men and boys continued to outnumber women and girls in the pagan communities due to killing off baby girls and abortions gone wrong on women, Christian women and girls began to flourish because their lives were considered equally valuable and worthy of breath.

They knew what we need to understand.  Laws can never bring about heart-change.  If we are truly pro-life, we should focus our efforts on sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and the freedom that He offers women and babies – inside and outside of the womb.

 

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From → Christianity

One Comment
  1. Dan permalink

    Very well said Tom and very true. I would add that this applies across the board. Too often our beliefs are forced through laws and that only brings a negative response. Living out what one believes always has the greater impact.

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