I’ve been blogging all week in response to a recent post at Stand Up For The Truth that describes the efforts of “progressive Christians” to “use the Bible to promote abortion”. I promise this will be my last post on the subject, but the article cited at the Christian Left Blog (entitled, “The Bible Tells Us When A Fetus Becomes A Living Being”) included a statement from an abortion advocate that I hear more and more often:
“If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one. But don’t judge others who may be in terrible circumstances that you can’t possibly understand.”
Sometimes pithy, brief statements like this are rhetorically powerful: “If you don’t like X, don’t do X. But don’t judge others who hold a different point of view related to X.” This kind of statement only makes sense if activity X is a matter of personal preference. “If you don’t like water skiing, don’t water ski.” Who could argue with that? But once we change the activity to something that is not a matter of personal preference, the statement starts to sound illogical. “If you don’t like the fact that 1+1=2, then don’t accept the claim that 1+1=2.” “If you don’t like insulin to cure your diabetes and prefer aspirin, then don’t use insulin and use aspirin instead.” See the problem?
The question here is whether abortion is something that falls into the personal preference category or something that falls into the objective truth category. As a reasoning evidentialist, I recognize that the fetal human is a living being with the same rights possessed by newborn humans, pre-pubescent humans and aging humans. Taking the life of the fetal human is no different than taking the life of the other kinds of humans. Now as a homicide detective, I do recognize that there are times when killing is justified, both in the context of Biblical law and in the context of my own state’s laws. But there must be proper justification. So let’s re-state the line from the article:
“If you don’t like the unjustified killing of an innocent human, don’t kill someone without justification. But don’t judge others who may be in terrible circumstances that you can’t possibly understand (and therefore think they have proper justification).”
OK, now we can cut right to the chase. What would count as proper justification for taking someone’s life? Would any of these things be considered proper justification?
The mother cannot afford the economic hardship
The mother does not feel like she is ready for the responsibility
The mother wants to avoid the shame of being pregnant
The mother doesn’t want her life to change
Would any of these reasons justify taking an innocent life? Of course not. Here in California, there are only a few legal justifications, but to be sure, most states recognize that you can take a life in order to save your own life or to protect the life of an innocent person (other than yourself). This is why so many of us, as Christians, are more than willing to allow for abortion when the mother’s life is at stake.
In the end, as we consider the proper justification for taking the life of a human being, it’s obvious that the two justifications that are legitimate require that the victim is no longer innocent. Instead, the human that is killed is actually threatening the life of someone else. So let’s restate the line from the article in a way that takes into account everything we’ve talked about so far:
“If you don’t like the unjustified killing of an innocent human, don’t kill someone without justification. But don’t judge others who want to kill an innocent human without justification; you might not understand that they are struggling financially, don’t feel they are ready for the responsibility, don’t want to be embarrassed by a pregnancy or don’t want their life to change.”
This form of the statement still has rhetorical power, just not the kind the abortion advocate was hoping for.
J. Warner Wallace is the author of Cold-Case Christianity.