Allow me first to preface this article with an important consideration. Perhaps someone reading this article has had an abortion. This article is not targeting or condemning you, though it may pertain to you (and I hope you think through the issues just the same). Instead, if I were writing an article just for you, I would write to you about God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness. I would write to you about the sacrifice Jesus made to offer new life to all who would believe in Him. I would write to you about the joy of being called a child of God. I would write to you about King David, for example, who was guilty of great things before God, but who found forgiveness and joy in God’s love, and who in Psalm 32 wrote, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered…many are the sorrows of the wicked, but he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him.” Or I would write to you of the Apostle Paul, a former murderer of Christians, who wrote, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:1, 39).
This article is not intended as condemnation of anyone (especially anyone who might have had an abortion). Instead I hope it provokes thought and challenges beliefs.
A number of arguments in favor of abortion rights have been grounded in the assertion that the question of whether life begins at conception is irrelevant. Prominent in those arguments is the idea that the beginning of human personality, rather than the beginning of life, is the real milestone in question. Proponents of such views (e.g., Mary Anne Warrren) argue that characteristics such as sentience, emotionality, reason, capacity to communicate, self-awareness, and moral agency are sine qua non for human personality, and thus for true human life.
While this line of thinking is more comfortable for secularists, it is not the primary support for abortion rights among the religious left. Instead, it seems the religious left favors abortion rights on the basis that the right of a woman to control her body simply trumps the right to life of an unborn child. Vice President Joe Biden illustrated this well during the recent Vice Presidential Debate (Oct. 12, 2012) in his comments on abortion.
Biden: “My religion defines who I am…and has particularly informed my social doctrine…I accept my church’s position on abortion…Life begins at conception in the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.”
In these comments Biden recognizes that life begins at conception, and that he accepts that principle in his personal life. If life begins at conception, then it is a logical necessity for Biden to understand that life is protected as having “certain unalienable Rights…Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” if the phrase “all men” in the Declaration is indeed synonymous with “all human life.” Abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage and civil rights were all pursued on grounds that such a synonymous meaning was intended, and there is little questioning of that idea.
Consequently, if life begins at conception, and the fetus is actually a human child, then that child has the same protections as every other person under the jurisdiction of the Declaration and the Constitution. Vice President Biden’s grounding beliefs would seem to require him to conclude in favor of a pro-life position. The Catholic church arrives at a pro-life, anti-abortion stance by applying this simple logical maneuver. So how does Biden, illustrative of many in the religious left, avoid favoring the pro-life conclusion?
Biden: “But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others…I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that – women can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor.”
In his own words, Biden’s religion defines who he is, and he believes life begins at conception. Yet, he does not want to impose that view on anyone else, lest he violate a woman’s right to control her body. This is a remarkable disconnect. Biden should either admit he disagrees with Catholic teaching on the matter, or he should be consistent in how he applies that teaching. As it is, he is saying that a woman’s right to control her body trumps the child’s right to life – the child that is not part of her body, but is sustained by it and totally helpless without her. Even in the debate, Biden acknowledged that “The Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who – who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help.”
Mr. Vice President, by your definition (informed by and in agreement with your faith), don’t unborn children fit in that category? If they do, then on what basis can one who holds that belief argue that it should not be imposed on others?
Is it OK for others who have different beliefs to kill unborn children?
For those who hold other religious views and believe that Christians and Jews are swine, is it OK for those people to kill Christians and Jews?
Is it OK for us to kill those so mentally disabled that they cannot function on their own – because they don’t meet some standard of personality?
Is it OK for those of different beliefs to behead or shoot their children because their children adopt different worldviews?
Isn’t the very purpose of the Constitution and the American Government to protect from these kinds of things?
The Vice President and others who ground themselves on the beliefs that life comes from God and that it begins at conception cannot extricate themselves from the moral obligation that such a belief requires. They are not free to simply declare that such questions are above their pay grade, as our current President has, and move on as if the answers to those questions don’t matter.
Yes, all women do have a right to control their bodies – that is a part of their right to life. But their unborn children are not part of their bodies. I pray that women use their ladysmarts to be discerning with their ladyparts and exercise responsible control over their body. And, yes, where there is at stake the life of both mother and child, then there is a choice for that mother to make; perhaps even in cases of incest or rape (obviously the latter is a highly controversial subject). But once a person willingly participates in actions that create new life, does that new parent have the right to evade the responsibilities those actions demand?
How is it that a woman can legally have a doctor end the life of her 24-week-old child who is still in her womb, while another woman who gives birth to a child at the same stage of development can be charged with both manslaughter and child neglect?
Those who support abortion rights and yet hold to the grounding principles that God gave life and that it begins at conception have only three options: (1) abandon their basic beliefs regarding God and life, in favor of secular arguments, (2) continue to maintain a disconnect between beliefs and action, or (3) acknowledge the inconsistency and irrationality of such a disconnect and recognize abortion for what it is.
While of course, I pray the last option be most often chosen, perhaps many will prefer option one, as it allows redefinition of the unborn child without any consideration for God’s perspective or the actual life of the child. I simply ask those folks to be consistent and transparent, and not make the same mistake of logic made by our Vice President.