When initially given a chance to write this article, Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that protected a woman’s “right to privacy” under the “Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” was yet to be overturned.[i] While internal documents were leaked suggesting that Roe would be overturned, it was not until June 24, 2022, that the official pronouncement was made. This, of course, was significantly celebrated by Evangelicals throughout the United States. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Seminary, in a special edition of The Briefing, commenting on the ruling, noted:
It puts a stop to the stain of legally sanctioned abortion by federal mandate. It returns the question of abortion to the people and to their elective representatives. It is an answer to prayer. I cannot but think of my mother who did not live to see this day.[ii]
Mohler was not the only public theologian to praise this massive moral victory, nor was there only praise for this reversal from Evangelicals and non-Evangelicals. Social media threads overflowed with comments that decried and praised this landmark ruling for weeks. Nevertheless, amidst all of the social media praise and the tribalism, have Evangelicals taken the time to ask if praising the reversal of Roe is good, moral, and ethical?
Before proceeding with the question, it is pertinent to revisit Church History on the topic of abortion. First, in recognizing God’s Law as the ultimate standard and Scripture as the ultimate authority, a consistent Christ-follower will consider Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”[iii] Further, a person will look to passages like Psalm 139: 13-16, Jeremiah 1:5, Exodus 20:13, or Genesis 1:27 to support the position that Christians must stand against abortion. However, this is not merely enough. Proverbs 24:11 exhorts Christians to, “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.” Simply voting pro-life, praising pro-life legislation, and sending money to pro-life causes is not enough. Many have taken up the pro-life cause for this very reason.
However, for some, the argument has been over when life begins. Looking back at the January 22, 1973, ruling, the exact words of Justice Harry Blackburn were an argument for “the potentiality of human life.”[iv] This “potential life” category is pure fiction from a biblical, historically Christian, and scientific perspective.[v] Passages like Psalm 139:13-16 and Jeremiah 1:5 make it clear that life begins at fertilization. This issue of personhood is like the discussion that plagued the states building up to the Civil War, “What is a human?”[vi] Scripture, being sufficient, makes the definition of humanity abundantly clear, and the Church has recognized this since its beginning.
Followers of Christ have always seen abortion as murder and beginning at fertilization. Francis Schaeffer writes:
In the Pagan Roman Empire, abortion was freely practiced, but Christians took a stand against it. In 314 the council of Ancyra barred from the taking of the Lord Supper for ten years all who procured abortions or made drugs to further abortions. Previously the Senate of Elvira (305-306) had specified excommunication till the deathbed for these offences.[vii]
Other Church Historians have noted that early Christians would scour the streets of Rome and various other cities at night to save the babies pagan Romans set out on their doorsteps to be eaten by wild dogs.[viii] “This was the ancient equivalent of Planned Parenthood.”[ix] Consistent Christians have always valued the sacred nature of human life.
When Roe was being debated, and after it was decided, Christians failed to respond to this “iniquitous decree” in a biblically faithful and consistent manner.[x] For instance, the Southern Baptist Convention in 1971 approved a resolution that stated:
Be it further RESOLVED, that we call upon Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother (EMPHASIS added).[xi]
Notice that the Southern Baptist Convention early on affirmed abortion in the cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity, and “damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” In other words, the largest Protestant denomination affirmed that it was permissible for a woman to kill her baby, but at the same time argued they held “a high view of the sanctity of human life, including fetal life.”[xii] These are two contradictory positions. A person or a denomination cannot affirm that they have “a high view of the sanctity of human life”[xiii] in one breath and then affirm the regulation of murder in the next.
In the years that passed, the SBC worked somewhat to reconcile their contradictory position. They passed resolutions condemning Partial-Birth Abortion,[xiv] a resolution condemning abortion pills,[xv] a resolution calling abortion infanticide,[xvi] and even a resolution correcting the mistakes of the initial 1971 resolution.[xvii] However, there was always an inconsistency deeply embedded in these resolutions and other statements. One might ask, “What is that inconsistency? These seem like perfectly Christian and pro-life affirmations.” Therein lies the problem of both the historical position of the secular pro-life movement and the ethical dilemma facing Evangelicals celebrating Roe’s overturn.
So, what is this ethical and moral problem? Why not celebrate the overturn of Roe? First, Christians lied to themselves at the outset of the Supreme Court ruling on Roe in 1973. How? Christians know that God’s Law is the ultimate standard. Yet, Christians pretended that man’s law was the paradigm by which one is to operate; they accepted the Supreme Court’s ruling. This not only undercuts the Law of God, but demonstrates a lack of commitment to God’s righteous decrees. Roe was never the law of the land; judges do not make laws. As Free the States notes:
The pro-life political strategy for nearly five decades has been to compromise by regulating abortion within the confines of Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) with the hope that these decisions will one day be overturned, and more regulations will progressively be allowed by the courts.[xviii]
In other words, for the last five decades, Christians have not operated under the clear teaching of Scripture on the sanctity of life. While championing the pro-life position, pro-life Christians have merely tipped their hat to the concept that they are for life. Pro-life Christians affirm, “All people are called to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.”[xix] Yet, these same people have not fought for the end of abortion; they have only fought to regulate murder.
Pro-life laws have only regulated the murder of Christians’ preborn neighbors. “Regulating abortion gives more than tactic permission [for murder]; it definitionally governs, directs, and controls the killing of preborn children through rule and law.”[xx]
If one were to exchange the tactics of the secular pro-life movement regarding abortion and apply those same standards to rape or pedophilia, the problems would be glaring.[xxi] Imagine if a law stated, “Rape can be conducted only in certain locations that are sterilized and on individuals of a certain age.” But this is what the pro-life movement’s laws have done with abortion. This is not loving preborn neighbors as ourselves.
Further, states like Missouri have declared they are “abortion free.”[xxii] This is a lie of the secular pro-life movement. Further investigation demonstrates that all Missouri has done is regulate murder once again. Why would one make such an assertion? Well, this is more than an assertion.
What does Missouri’s “trigger law” do? Here is what it does. It legalized the murder of any child before eight weeks of age.[xxiii] It allows minors to murder their baby with parental consent.[xxiv] The law allows “physicians” to give women pills to murder their babies as long as they are under eight weeks of age.[xxv] In Missouri, private health insurance can legally cover the murder of children less than eight weeks old.[xxvi] Finally, if a facility passes all of the medical requirements granted by the state, the facility is permitted to murder babies under eight weeks old.
A Christian, affirming that life begins at fertilization and affirming this life is of equal value to a fully developed human, should be appalled at this legislation. No consistent Christian would be praising this legalization of murder. Yet, this is precisely what has been done. Further, there are no laws protecting a preborn child taken from Missouri to a state such as Illinois, California, New York, or any other state that allows a parent to murder a child later than eight weeks old.
Likewise, the Guttmacher Institute reported for the first time in 2021, “that 20 years after its introduction, medication abortion accounted for more than half of all abortions in the United States.”[xxvii] In other words, most abortions reported in the US are now carried out in pill form. This is without counting states like California that do not even report abortion numbers any longer.[xxviii] While numerous states continue to praise the success of their pro-life laws, states such as Oklahoma, one of the strictest pro-life states, has seen a 103% rise in abortions from 2017 to 2020.[xxix] While the pro-life movement continues to claim victories, the reality is that the murder of the preborn has merely moved from the clinic to the couch.
So, what can be done? First, Christians must recognize that pro-life laws violate God’s standard. Pro-life policies fail to call for the immediate abolition of abortion; they merely regulate murder. Next, Christians must repent for the moral evil that has taken place in our land, where we have only codified murder by enacting policies such as those in Missouri and lied by claiming to have made abortion illegal. Further, Christians must quit allowing the secular pro-life lobby to pull the wool over our eyes. As recently as June of this year, over seventy pro-life groups signed an open letter opposing the Abolition of Abortion in Louisiana Act (HB813), the first bill to call for the immediate abolition of abortion and equal protection under the law for the preborn.[xxx]
Christians have consistently held that human life is sacred as all human beings at all stages of life are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Murder is a sin that violates God’s Law. However, there is forgiveness from sin and reconciliation through the redemptive work of Christ. Even those who have murdered their babies can be forgiven. Every Christian would agree with that statement. But what about the Christians who have advocated for laws that have legalized murder? They, too, can be forgiven.
Charles Colson, a staunch advocate for life, once noted, “The face of evil is frighteningly ordinary.”[xxxi] It is indeed. While lives have been saved through the secular-pro-life movement, the laws that Christians have come to fight for are not morally or ethically in line with God’s standard of justice. These laws have become “frighteningly ordinary” to the pro-life Christian. God’s Word speaks clearly to laws that do not uphold righteous standards stating, “Abstain from every form of evil.” Abortion is evil. Abortion is murder. Codifying murder is evil. Any law that legalizes murder is a law that Christians should reject.
[i] “Roe v. Wade.” Oyez. Accessed July 9, 2022. https://www.oyez.org/cases/1971/70-18.
[ii] R. Albert Mohler, “This is the Day the Lord has Made’: A Monumental Victory for Life at the Supreme Court,” in The Briefing, podcast, 00:00-31:25, MP3 audio, https://albertmohler.com/2022/06/24/briefing-6-24-22-dobbs (accessed July 10, 2022).
[iii] All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Bible unless otherwise noted, (Crossway, Copyright © 2016).
[v] Mike Samuels and Nancy Samuels, American Family Physician 56, no. 2 (August 1997), p. 351 as cited in Charles Coloson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live? (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1999), p. 130. “The growth of scientific knowledge “is causing us to regard the unborn baby as a real person long before birth.” . . . The pro-life position is supported by empirical, rational, arguments that are accessible to everyone.”
[vi] Mark Noll, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina, 2006), pp. 51-74.
[vii] Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live?: The Rise and Decline of Western Though and Culture 2nd ed. (Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1983), p. 222.
[viii] James White, “Clement of Rome Part 2” Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church: Sermon Audio. Online audio clip, https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=626161244405. (accessed 10 July 2022).
[x] C. R. Cali, The Doctrine of Balaam (Columbus, GA: Wrath and Grace, 2019).
[xi] Resolution On Abortion 1971 Southern Baptist Annual Meeting https://www.sbc.net/resource-library/resolutions/resolution-on-abortion-2/. (accessed 10 July 2022).
[xiii] Resolution On Abortion 1971 Southern Baptist Annual Meeting https://www.sbc.net/resource-library/resolutions/resolution-on-abortion-2/. (accessed 10 July 2022).
[xiv] Resolution On The Partial-birth Abortion Ban 1996 Southern Baptist Annual Meeting https://www.sbc.net/resource-library/resolutions/resolution-on-the-partial-birth-abortion-ban/; On Partial-birth Abortion 2002 Southern Baptist Annual Meeting https://www.sbc.net/resource-library/resolutions/on-partial-birth-abortion/
[xv] Resolution On Ru 486, The French Abortion Pill 1994 Southern Baptist Annual Meeting https://www.sbc.net/resource-library/resolutions/resolution-on-ru-486-the-french-abortion-pill/
[xvi] Resolution On Abortion And Infanticide 1982 Southern Baptist Annual Meeting https://www.sbc.net/resource-library/resolutions/resolution-on-abortion-and-infanticide/
[xvii] Resolution On Abortion And Sanctity Of Human Life 1974 Southern Baptist Annual Meeting https://www.sbc.net/resource-library/resolutions/resolution-on-abortion-and-sanctity-of-human-life/
[xviii] Free the States, Are You an Abolitionist? (Norman, OK: Free The States, 2021), p. 5.
[xix] On the Imago Dei and the Helpful Content Submitted in Several Resolutions 2022 Southern Baptist Annual Meeting https://www.sbc.net/resource-library/resolutions/on-the-imago-dei-and-the-helpful-content-submitted-in-several-resolutions/
[xx] C. R. Cali, The Doctrine of Balaam, as cited in Free the States, Are You an Abolitionist? p. 5.
[xxii] Tessa Weinberg, “Abortion is now illegal in Missouri in wake of U.S. Supreme Court ruling,” Missouri Independent, June 24, 2022, accessed July 10, 2022, https://missouriindependent.com/2022/06/24/abortion-is-now-illegal-in-missouri-in-wake-of-u-s-supreme-court-ruling/
[xxiii] Center for Reproductive Rights, accessed July 10, 2022, https://reproductiverights.org/maps/what-if-roe-fell/?state=MO.
[xxiv] Guttmacher Institute, “Interactive Map: US Abortion Policies and Access After Roe” accessed July 10, 2022, https://states.guttmacher.org/policies/missouri/abortion-policies
[xxvii] Rachel K. Jones, et al. “Medication Abortion Now Accounts for More Than Half of All US Abortions,” Guttmacher Institute, February 2022, accessed July 10, 2022, https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2022/02/medication-abortion-now-accounts-more-half-all-us-abortions
[xxviii] Kristen Hwang, “California fails to collect basic abortion data — even as it invites an out-of-state influx,” CalMatters, June 27, 2022, accessed July 10, 2022, https://calmatters.org/health/2022/06/abortion-data-california/
[xxix] Phillip Reese, “Three-Year Abortion Trends Vary Dramatically by State,” Kaiser Family Foundation, June 28, 2022, accessed July 10, 2022, https://khn.org/news/article/abortion-trends-states/
[xxx] Ben Zeisloft, “Pro-Life Lobbying Groups Issue Letter Against Charging Women With Crimes For Seeking Abortions,” Daily Wire, May 12, 2022, accessed July 10, 2022, https://www.dailywire.com/news/pro-life-lobbying-groups-issue-letter-against-charging-women-with-crimes-for-seeking-abortions
[xxxi] Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live?, p. 185.