A Note from Pastor Rick: Some Thoughts on Recent Controversies Regarding Late-Term Abortion
I hesitate to wade into a newly energized controversy resulting from New York’s recent passage of the Reproductive Health Act into law and recorded comments by Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam, calmly advocating terminating a newborn’s life, seemingly as an extension of “reproductive rights.” I hesitate, not because I think the subject unworthy of comment, or because I am unclear about what my own thoughts are on the topic, but rather because I only want to speak out if what I say might be clearly understood and also helpful to the community of Wellspring.
I want to begin by saying that, though the issues involved have become part of our nation’s larger political argument, I do not seek to argue from or for political motives. I am increasingly troubled by the unthinking association of certain political positions with “the Christian perspective” or being infallible because they advocate for social justice. Politics is always a fallen endeavor in this fallen world and anytime Christians seek to align themselves with political power, they are already compromised. And I have lived too long to naively believe that an attempt to achieve a moral or justice outcome by the passage of well-intended legislation always guarantees the intended result. The outworking of laws can be very complicated. Don’t misunderstand, I believe in the necessity of morally-motivated and justice-seeking legislation. I have just become more realistic about the gap between lofty political rhetoric and the actual consequences of certain legislation and political policy.
Having given these disclaimers, however, I want to say that some things are too blatant to let pass.
The issue of the sanctity of human life is a core biblical value. The God of Scripture is the God of life. God is the Creator of life. God is the redeemer of human life, at the greatest of costs. Human beings bear God’s image and every human life carries supreme value. These perspectives are the clear revelation of Scripture. In the Old Testament Israel was surrounded by cultures who worshiped pagan gods by engaging in ritual sexual acts with cult prostitutes and by offering infant sacrifices to their false gods. God makes it clear that his people are to have nothing to do with any of these abhorrent practices. In our modern world, the same demonic powers that stood behind the cults of the ancient near east are still around. They continue to draw humanity into the degradation of extreme sexual sin and to the shedding of innocent blood. And these practices, whether ancient or modern, continue to darken the moral understanding of humanity and to bring the cultures who embrace them under the sway of demonic powers.
Abortion is not new. It has long been practiced as a way to bring an end to an unwanted pregnancy. Nor is infanticide new. Many cultures have left unwanted babies to die by exposure. Abortion was certainly practiced in this country long before it was legal. However, declaring something legal does not make it any less heinous before God. And when a society declares something that God calls sin or evil a right, it has taken a step further down into moral darkness. That has been the case in our society over the last generation. Since Roe v Wade became law in 1973 our nation has aborted some 60 million bearers of the image of God. (Let me state here that over the years I have personally ministered to many men and women who have made decisions to abort their children. God is ALWAYS incredibly merciful and gracious to those who turn to him in repentance for their part in these actions. I would not want anyone who has been touched by these practices to read anything other than hope from me about God’s great grace for us when we turn to him.)
Over recent years there has been a shifting in our nation’s attitude toward abortion. Increasingly polls show numbers of Americans who oppose unfettered abortion practices as growing, even moving toward a majority. I believe that this is a result of our increased understanding of the capacity of the unborn child to experience both pain and feelings of love; of the increased viability of smaller and smaller prematurely born infants; and because of the faithful prayers and witness of God’s people on this issue of the sanctity of human life. These are all positive signs.
I believe that this trend toward reaffirming life as a basic American right is what makes the recent news out of New York and Virginia so alarming. The law enacted in New York a couple weeks ago not only extended the possibility of late-term abortions (post 24 weeks), but also became the cause of bizarre (to me, at least) celebrations at the bill’s signing. It is one thing to legalize and provide regulation for a practice that had previously taken place in “back alleys” and performed under less than sanitary conditions. It is quite another thing to light up the World Trade Center in pink because now abortions can be performed up to the day of delivery. What has happened to our leader’s consciences that terminating the lives of our unborn children is to be celebrated with whooping and hollering and light shows on iconic buildings? What has happened to the conscience of a pediatrician-turned-governor (yes, Governor Northam is a licensed pediatrician) who can speak matter-of-factly about delivering a baby and then terminating that child’s life upon the mother’s demand? What has happened is that the collective consciences of many in our nation have become darkened.
These issues of abortion and the sanctity of human life are indeed different from every other social and political issue of our day. Yes, there remain huge issues related to racial injustice and structural economic injustices in our society. But we do not have laws that actively enslave certain ethnicities or classes of people, or that pro-actively spell out racial inequality as the law of the land. I have often stated from the pulpit that racism in America is our core sin, because it strikes against our very creed of all people being created equal. BUT, structural inequalities and faulty policy are NOT the same as laws stating a fundamental right to terminate a human life. And racial inequities and injustices that we agonize over and seek to remedy by policy or by legislation do not carry the same weight of moral darkness as holding a celebration when a new law is passed to extend the right to terminate an unborn child’s life up to the very last day of pregnancy. These things descend to a new, lower level of evil that affects all of us and which invites the judgment of God upon our land.
I have sought to state this case as dispassionately as I can, not because I believe that these are not issues to be passionate about. But rather, so much of our current argument over these matters descends into language that dehumanizes and demonizes those with whom we disagree. This never advances the redemptive purposes of God. How can I argue for the dignity and sanctity of human life by dehumanizing those who disagree with me?
So what can we do? First, we must continue to pray. I believe that a generation of prayer is moving the needle on this issue. Prayers of repentance before God; prayers calling out for his mercy; prayers asking God to raise up courageous and fearless voices on these issues; prayers for the victims of abortion—including those who practice this grisly art; and prayers for those in political power who can affect change in our laws. And prayers calling upon the Lord of life to push back the cosmic level evil power called death and to see it toppled from its place of ruling over so much of our culture. Our prayers, however, must originate from a heart of identification with America in our lost condition and repentance toward God. Prayers of accusation against people with whom we disagree or despise are hardly the kind of prayers that will engage and release the mercy of God that our country needs. In the Scriptures the prophet Daniel (one of the most righteous men in all the Bible) began his prayer for Israel with the language of identification and repentance: “O Lord, we have sinned . . .”
We can also act to aid those who feel trapped by an unwanted pregnancy—both mothers and fathers. We are currently connecting with pregnancy help centers in our area and will soon have information about how we can help support alternatives to abortion and support for mothers who need help to carry through a pregnancy and to possibly place a child for adoption.
My expectation is that there may well be a similar initiative in Connecticut as we have seen in New York to extend the “right” to terminate unborn babies into the final trimester of pregnancy. My hope in writing and sharing these thoughts is that I might add some light to a discussion where there is already a lot of heat. If such a push in our legislature arises, may we be prepared to pray and advocate against this evil. And may we be prepared to do so in genuine Kingdom love. May the Lord forgive us our sins and heal our land.