Foundations: Why Is the Pro-Life Movement Central to Christians?
His mother was unmarried, 40 years old, with no money to raise a child. She’d been raped by the alcoholic son of the man she cared for. She went to the doctor to have the child aborted. What else could she do?
The plight many women face, with pregnancies they weren’t expecting, can be overwhelming and heartbreaking. The abortion industry capitalizes on fear to promote death as the answer. Millions have convinced themselves that women have a right to abortion, not just that it should be permitted. Even many Christians agree. Others think that if you support individual rights, the free market and limited government, you should be “pro-choice.” These views are mistaken.
Why Support the Right to Life?
There is no right more basic than life. It is enshrined in our Declaration of Independence (though it is much older than that): “We are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights [and] among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Christianity has for two thousand years tutored us to recognize what should be obvious, but has all too often been ignored. This fundamental right extends to the voiceless, defenseless unborn. With few exceptions, the Church has opposed abortion since the beginning, because it involves intentionally killing a helpless, innocent human being. That’s murder, and murder is a sin.
The logic is not complicated, and it applies not only to abortion but also to procedures that destroy human embryos for research. Killing human beings is not an acceptable way of resolving difficult situations or advancing scientific knowledge.
From scripture we gain revelation on God’s perspective of the unborn. God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5, 6).
The New Testament treats born and unborn babies the same way. Luke in his Gospel uses the same Greek word for “baby” to refer to both John the Baptist before he is born and Christ after He is born. The angel Gabriel tells Zacharias that his son, John the Baptist, will “be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.”
If unborn human beings are not morally significant persons, then how could the Holy Spirit come upon John the Baptist even when he was in the womb, and cause him to leap for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice? God’s Spirit did not discount John as a person when he was in the womb. How then, can we discount human beings as persons when they are in the womb?
We don’t oppose abortion because it violates something peculiar to Christianity, however, but because it’s a form of murder. If you can’t make laws against murder, you can’t make laws against anything.
Freedom Does Not Allow For Murder
The most common pro-abortion argument — that a woman should be free to do what she wants with her own body — is flawed. We should not be legally free to use our bodies to murder other people. There is no such right.
Some abortion proponents will allow that an unborn child gains full human moral significance at some point during development inside the womb. When does that transition happen, how does it happen, and how do they know that’s when it happens? As author and speaker Greg Koukl has pointed out, we don’t kill anything if we don’t know what it is. If a toddler tugs on Mom from behind and says, “Mommy, may I kill it?” she won’t answer until she knows whether he’s talking about a beetle or his baby sister.
So, if you don’t know for sure if an unborn baby is a human being and so has the right to protection, what’s the best course of action? In any other situation, you would err on the side of caution. Why throw caution to the wind regarding unborn babies?
Some abortion advocates claim they’re certain the fetus is not fully human because it is quite small, or because it depends on another life, so it’s not really an independent life. By that principle, though, a newborn six-pound baby is considered a fully human person while an unborn seven-pound baby is not. How does that make sense? Newborns, the weak and the elderly all depend on others. Are they nonhuman for that reason? A person who crashes on a ski slope and is knocked out cold with a concussion would freeze to death without help. Is she suddenly nonhuman because she is no longer independent?
To be a person (supposedly), one must be self-conscious, or able to get on in the world, or have meaningful relationships, or meet some other similar requirement. This is absurd. When people are sleeping or in a coma, they aren’t self-conscious and they aren’t too chatty. Does that mean they’re not persons, so it’s okay to kill them? Certainly not.
The issue boils down to one simple question: Is a pre-born embryo or fetus a human being? Yes, a fetus is a not-yet-born human being. It’s not just that this new life has its own, distinct DNA, though it does, right from the start. It’s a fully integrated, living, complete being — also right from the start.
Abortion and the Law
Some respond that criminalizing abortion limits choice. So does every law, though. Every law recognizes that choice is not an absolute virtue.
Yes, the law limits the choice of those who seek abortions and of those who seek to provide them, in order to protect the life and freedom of unborn human beings. The central role of government — its core competency — is to maintain the conditions in which individual initiative, personal freedoms, and personal property are protected under the rule of law. Those conditions do not include the “freedom” of some to violate the basic rights of others.
Without the rule of law, there can be neither free markets nor free people. And the first rule of law is to protect innocent human beings at every stage of their lives from harm and death at the hands of others. Protecting innocent, pre-born human life, then, is not only consistent with economic freedom. It is one of its prerequisites.
So we need to support pro-life candidates. Bad laws and tragic court decisions must be changed. Still, we’re not going to stop abortion by focusing all our attention on reversing Roe v. Wade. In fact, that alone could make the pro-abortion forces more militant.
Glorifying God in Our Response
We must demonstrate love and compassion — not just emotionally but practically — to every woman who is pregnant, regardless of the circumstances. We could certainly do more of what we’re doing: praying and protesting peacefully at abortion mills and providing alternatives to mothers with tough pregnancies. Adoption, crisis pregnancy centers, homes for poor and homeless mothers — all these are part of the solution. As Christians and as Christian communities, we should lead the way in all these things. Let’s focus not just on what “society” or government is doing, but on what we can do.
We don’t rely solely on Christian doctrine for the revelation that murder, and therefore abortion, is wrong (there are pro-life atheists). Nevertheless as Christians we glorify God when we care for vulnerable people. By loving the fatherless child, for example — in the womb or out — and the unmarried woman who doesn’t know how she’ll care for that child, we do His work of loving those who are like the Biblical “widow and orphan.”
Reflecting God’s Image
When we stand with a woman who is overwhelmed by the reality of being pregnant, and when we offer her and her growing little one support, we display God’s provision and love.
When we make difficult sacrifices to love and care for a child, we reflect the image of God the Father, who loves us perfectly, and God the Son, who laid down his life for the sake of loving us.
When we show compassion to post-abortive parents struggling with guilt and point them to God’s forgiveness, we partner with the work of the Holy Spirit.
When we come alongside single-parent families, foster families and adoptive families, we help the world see an image of God. God, in His nature, is family: God the Father. God the Son.
When we support families and become God’s family to others, we glorify God, which is our purpose as Christians.
Or the Alternative
Alternatively, when we turn a blind eye to abortion and the needs of those around us, we ignore that which grieves God’s heart. A nation that sacrifices its unborn children is in grave spiritual danger. God is just. He hates sin, especially sins against those who bear His image. So, above all, we should pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to lead us to repentance — before it’s too late.
We must cry out to God in repentance for revival, boldly proclaim the right to life and help provide hope in life. The story we opened with above reveals what God can do with one hopeful choice.
The Unmarried Mother
The unmarried forty-year-old woman we spoke about at the top of this article had no money to raise a child conceived from rape. She wanted to have the child aborted. Her doctor said, “Ma’am, I simply do not believe this is best. I believe it is wrong.” She went home, sat down alone, and prayed. God said, “Have this little baby, and it will bring joy to the world.”
The baby was born in the charity ward of the Saint Joseph Hospital in Houston, Texas. Two weeks later, through an ad in the newspaper, his mother released him to a foster family — a pastor and his wife — who raised him for the first five years of his life.
That baby was James Robison, founder of LIFE Outreach International and publisher of The Stream. Think what the world would have lost had his mother aborted him. James has helped to feed the hungry, clothe those with bare feet, build water wells for those without clean water, rescue those who are about to be trafficked and heal the wounds of sex trafficking. He and the work he began have changed the lives of millions around the world.
“My conception was the result of a crime, and my childhood and adolescence weren’t easy,” James says, “but God had a plan for this unexpected child born in difficult circumstances.” That plan required that he be allowed to be born.
This article is part of a new Stream series called Foundations. As we approach this year’s election, it appears that the most fundamental principles upon which the American republic was founded are being called into question. Foundations is a tool for pastors, teachers, leaders and all people of faith to learn why, from a Biblical view, we should continue to support the Constitution — with an emphasis on the First and Second Amendments and wise policies that promote freedom. Visit the Foundations page to see all the articles in this series.
This article is adapted from the chapter “Choose Life” of the book Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late, by Stream Founder James Robison and Stream Executive Editor Jay Richards.