Consolidating: Abortion

So Kermit Gosnell has gotten his comeuppance, as far as the law will allow anyway, though nowhere near what he deserves – not that it’s possible, considering he killed hundreds of babies and harmed many young women’s lives. In times like these I am incredibly thankful for a greater justice than what this world can provide. Then I remember that I, too, committed murder against an innocent man, albeit two thousand years ago – and am even more thankful that a greater mercy exists.

But why did Gosnell get the attention he did, when abortions, even very late-term ones, go on everyday? Because his clinic was unregulated. Because his method of abortion was cruel and gruesome and immoral (but how much do we know about how the other organisations conduct abortions? – Trevin Wax’s take on this rocks.). Because he didn’t just kill babies, he preyed on young women and harmed their health. Because other abortion clinics are clean, with professional healthcare staff. Because he didn’t get rid of the remains of the babies he killed, and so the world has seen. Douglas Wilson puts it simply, it’s like saying killing in the corner of a dark room is fine, but do it in the light (rather unhygienically), and it becomes worthy of trial. Matthew Franck is harsher still in his description of the public’s hypocrisy. It is stranger still that in today’s world, morality depends entirely on one’s personal choice – If a mother wants her child, and the fetus is killed, it’s murder. Yet if the mother doesn’t want her child, it’s called abortion. 

Pro-choice/pro-life fruitless debates aside, today I read a sterling essay by Justin Taylor which summarised John Piper’s teachings on abortion. What struck me most was Piper’s use of James 4:2 to describe abortion – ‘You desire and do not have, so you murder.’ He elaborates, ‘We kill marriages and we kill unborn babies because they cut across our desires; they stand in the way of our unencumbered self-enhancement. And we live in a culture where self-enhancement and self-advancement is god. And if self-enhancement is god, then the One who is at work in the womb shaping a person in his own image is not God and the assault on his work is not sacrilegious, but obedience to the god of self.’

How true. That the reasons for abortion too often stem from the fact that it would affect my life. My desire to finish schooling in peace. My wish to not struggle financially. Our need to have some time for one another before we bring a child into our marriage / relationship. My want to climb higher in the corporate world or social ladder, to reach a certain tax bracket before I ‘settle down to a family’. Or simply, maybe because my life is fine (or just as sucky) as it is, and I don’t want it to change. ‘Whereas Christ died that we might live, … abortion kills that someone might live differently.‘ – Piper.

This article made its rounds a few weeks back. It is absolutely heartwrenching, and my heart goes out to the parents who had to make a decision that was painful in the extreme, and I cannot claim to understand even a fraction of that pain. Like the writer, nobody wants their children to suffer. But the Bible is clear even in the midst of hard decisions – God alone has the right to give and to take human life (Job 1:21). Furthermore, if a newborn baby was in front of you, with many health defects and physical/mental disabilities, would you kill it because ‘it is going to have a horrible life ahead of it’ or because ‘it probably won’t live long anyway’? I think many won’t; so why is it then alright, even righteous, to do so when the baby is in the womb? For the Bible makes no distinction between babies in and out of the womb – there is no such thing as a ‘fetus’ (see Gen 25:22, Lk 1:41). Again, the hypocrisy of what we can see and what we cannot. For those making the ‘but the fetus can’t live without its mother at that time, so it’s not a baby’ argument, try that with all those walking, talking, healthy adults who were born as preemies. Or find a newborn who can survive on his own. Find anyone who can survive on his own, for that matter.

Which is why I’m so thankfully in awe of North Dakota, and its two bills that forbid abortion after a heartbeat can be detected; and especially so on the basis of gender or deformities. I don’t know much about law, but apparently a bill being passed doesn’t mean it will be codified, so this probably wont be so according to the writer (who has a son of multiple disabilities). Yet, how bold a statement to make, that people who scorn the East for discriminating against babies because of their gender are really doing the same thing when they discriminate against babies because of their genetic abnormalities! This need to murder a baby ‘because he’s disabled and his life is going to be terrible’, to me, points to a much greater problem, namely one’s own (prejudiced) views of said disability. Should not my purpose be to advocate equality for the able and disabled; to give birth to my child then fight for him/her to be allowed to do the things that others can; to seek to change the views of employers, voters, politicians, teachers, social workers about what being disabled really means? Surely that is much more beneficial to humankind than tolerating murder.

Maybe it’s easy for me to say. And in my selfishness I cannot honestly say I want a child with physical or mental differences. Nor that I will make the right choices in the face of heartache and grief. But perhaps that is precisely the reason for this post – to remind myself of the truths of Scripture so that I hold on to right and wrong, and know that my purpose is to please Him even if it means suffering and pain.

It is to tell myself that in every child, God has created a being (Ps 139:13, Job 31:13-15) in His own image, and even a mother does not have sovereignty to destroy it. It is to tell myself that when Scripture speaks of justice, of speaking out and standing up for those who are weak, vulnerable and unable to do so for themselves, surely a baby in his/her mother’s womb, unheard and unseen, counts as well. It is to tell myself that my true joy and satisfaction can come only from Christ, and choosing to kill a child in an effort to maintain income, comfort, time, energy and freedom will bring me nothing.

It is to tell myself that yes, maybe I will see my child die in pain; maybe I will end up spending all my years taking care of my child (if he/she is severely autistic, for instance) and I will ask myself tiredly, bitterly – when does this end?; maybe my child in his/her disability will be depressed and wish that I had aborted or killed him/her at birth, but that God does all things for His purpose, for His glory and for my ultimate good (Romans 8:28-29)And in Him, there is true hope for a future when disability and suffering reigns no more. I love this amazing testimony of how God’s words have given her hope in her disability, and should the choice come to me one day, I pray that I will trust in God’s provision for all I need.

Rachel Jankovic beautifully writes

Motherhood is the big-leagues of self-sacrifice. Millions of women kill to avoid it. In our culture of self-gratification, to embrace selfless motherhood is a revolutionary act. To see the sacrifice and rejoice in it. To recognize that the cost is your own life, and to willingly lay yourself down. The world hates the smell of that sacrifice, because it is the smell of grace. They hate it because it is the smell of something living and burning at the same time — something that is impossible without a risen Savior.

There are times to stand on sidewalks and hold signs, but holding a sign isn’t what makes a mother pro-life. Being pro-life means putting the life of another ahead of your own. It means being daily grace to the small souls nearest to you. It is not just an opinion or a position or a lobbyist group. It is the glory of maternal self-sacrifice that begins at conception and runs through labor and midnight feedings and diapers and sandwiches and crayons and homework and flu seasons and graduations and on into grandkids. It is an avalanche of small and large sacrifices. It burns bright in kitchens and bedrooms and backyards. It is the real life of the pro-life movement, and it will change the world.

May I one day learn to truly sacrifice.

P.S. What then, of potential abortions where it truly is a case of mother-or-child? Where it’s an ‘or’ choice, with a definite case of death for the other? Firstly, such cases are rare – I read some statistics before that said that less than 1% of abortions occur for this reason. (I can’t find the link anymore, but I’ll keep looking.) Barring that, honestly, I do not know what the right thing is to do. I can only pray that I will not face such a situation; but that if I do, that I will trust in God’s goodness and power and purpose as I make my decision, whether I live or die.

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