On Abortion

Ellie Baptism

With the recent uproar over Alabama’s new laws restricting abortion, it seems like time to weigh in on the subject.
Sidebar:
The Alabama laws were intended to be challenges to Roe v. Wade. For a good analysis on the real-life implications of that, see Prof. Ken Homa’s analysis.
The Church has been consistently against the practice since there was a practice.  Personally, though, my position on the issue has shifted over time, just like my faith has.
Spoiler Alert:
If you couldn’t tell by my leading with the picture of my daughter at her baptism, I’m against it.  I wasn’t always, but as I came back to Christ, met far too many people affected by it, and started studying the Bible, I found a whole new reason to protest the practice.  I saved it for the end, and you’ll have to wade through my thought evolution to get there.  I think it’s worth it.

a POLITICAL issue…
Earlier in my life, I had made the argument (even publicly), that unborn children are not US citizens, and therefore not afforded the rights of US citizens.  After all, the only ways to become a US citizen are 1.) to be naturalized (not happening for unborn children), or 2.) be born to parents who were citizens (again, not yet happening for unborn children.) So logically, I thought abortion should be legal, right?
And in a society known for its freedom, why wouldn’t we have complete control over anything within our bodies? It always seemed to me that there are some things that supersede laws, especially the laws made by other people.  And if I’m not harming anyone else, why is it illegal? Remember the term “victimless crimes”? Laws against prostitution (two consenting adults in a free-market society), tobacco use at 16 (it’s a plant), recreational marijuana use (hey, it’s also a plant), and so on, never seemed to make much sense to me.
As I got older, I started to see that prostitution wasn’t always consensual (think: human trafficking), tobacco use isn’t always voluntary (nicotine addictions), and marijuana can be a serious inhibitor for mental health (replacing stress-coping skills with smoke).  Now, whether it’s better that they’re illegal-and-harder-to-get or legally-accessible-but-socially-shunned is the eternal argument between “self-determination” and what the Brits call “The Nanny State”, and in either case, it’s the topic for someone else’s blog. Regardless, politicians seemed to have navigated us down that road a long time ago: some things are just bad for people, individually or collectively.
While my libertarian tendencies never liked the idea of the government influencing what goes on inside of my body, that logic breaks down as things pertaining to “inside” our bodies start to influence the “outside” world (think: drunk driving, or burglary to support a heroine addiction.)  As former Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. is credited, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”  For society to work, we all give up a small amount of personal freedom so no one has to suffer at our expense.  Anyone watching the gun rights / gun control debate is intimately familiar.
There are restrictions on all of us, and those restrictions enable others to live. Those laws foster life, and that’s a good thing.  And as the author of the bulk of the New Testament would tell you first-hand, there’s still good to be gleaned from even the most broken life.  (That’s St. Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee, and a rabidly zealous one at that, making an international name for himself as a hunter – and killer – of Christians.  One day, he met the resurrected Jesus and his life did a 180.  More to come on that.)
Rather than asking, “should we / shouldn’t we allow abortions,” the better question to ask is, “what kind of society do we want to live in?”
Imagine, for a moment, the humanitarian outrage if the US simply started shooting the 500,000 illegal aliens who tried to cross the boarder every year, armed or unarmed.  (For comparison, Guttmacher estimates the 2014 abortion total at 926,200.) But, a few objectors notwithstanding, we don’t want to be a society that does that.  J.K. Rowling once opined that “if you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” The same can be said of countries.
Aren’t unborn children and illegal aliens both people, loved equally by God? Take Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”  Yet why do we argue for the health, safety, and well-being of one group and refuse the same things to the other?
And that leads me to my next point.
a MORAL issue…
“Abort the fetus.”
“Terminate the pregnancy.”
If you think back to your history classes on Nazi Germany, try and recall the propaganda steps taken to remove the Jews and other “undesirables” from society:
  • Step 1: isolate them in an “us vs. them” mentality.
  • Step 2: reclassify them as sub-human. Why? Because people are more willing to do evil toward inanimate objects than toward other people.
The military knows this very well. It’s always, “we engaged the target.” Or, “we neutralized the threat.” Soldiers never say, “we shot at those men and we killed them.”  The only time soldiers talk that way is when they’re purging their consciences, and it usually involves tears. You see, what the Nazis figured out a long time ago is that to override the basic human moral compass, you just need to “de-human-ize” the other person.
Sidebar:
That’s one of the things that scares me most about the digital age. Look at the YouTube comments for any popular video. No one would ever say those things to another person’s face, but typing them into a screen is easy. More on this later.
The language around abortion follows the same path.  It’s “my right.”  Or, it’s “my choice.”  No, in most cases (98%), “sex” was the choice.  “Not incurring the inconvenience of adequate contraception” was the choice.  The child was the consequence.  And rather than asking, “do we have the ‘right’,” maybe we should be asking “is it right?”
And I struggle to make sense of the approach that “it’s a woman’s right”.  That argument would be a lot more consistent if its champions were only advocating the abortion of male children. Otherwise, it seems a little self-defeating.  “Women ending the lives of other women” hardly sounds like an exercise of “(all) women’s rights”.  Despite a degree in philosophy, I can’t follow that logic.  I’ve heard some people imply that it’s because I’m a man… maybe?
At the very least, we all need to be clear about something:  the abortion issue is not about reproductive rights; by definition, it’s about anti-reproductive rights.
…but all of this, you’ve likely heard before, and I doubt it’ll sway anyone’s opinion.  After all, pontificating on an issue is fine and good, but daycare, diapers, and formula cost real money, and to paraphrase Mike Tyson, “thoughts and feelings are fine until life punches you in the face.”
No, what galvanized my opinion on the issue was looking at the Bible, specifically, life in the Old-Testament civilizations outside of Judaism.

a RELIGIOUS issue…
The New Testament doesn’t say anything about abortion directly.  (Side note, if you read it, you’ll realize it doesn’t have to.)  In fact, there are a lot of specific hot-button issues that the New Testament doesn’t address.  Similarly, though, when we all were growing up, our mothers never told us what to do in every specific circumstance, but we all definitely learned what would make her happy, and what would disappoint her.
In the Old Testament, though, there’s an eerie parallel between abortions and some of the… “other” practices of the time.
I first heard about it through Pastor Chris Swansen, one of my favorite preachers whose Bible studies are broadcast on the radio every morning.  He shared that archaeologists have found large bronze statues used for human sacrifices to pagan gods, specifically, Ba’al.  Apparently, the statues are human in shape, with their arms outstretched in front of them.  Looking at the tempering and charring on the arms, the archaeologists confirmed that the common practice was to build a large fire under the arms until they were red-hot.  Then, the “sacrifice” (a.k.a. an otherwise healthy baby) was placed on the arms and burned alive.  The rest of the community would play drums, sing, and dance to drown out the sound of the baby’s screams.
With my cursory search, I wasn’t able to find any images of these statues, but I did find someone who spent some serious time researching the practice of child sacrifice among the ancient civilizations that were mentioned in the Bible.  You can read his supporting article for yourself.

Question: Why would anyone do this?
Answer: For “blessings”, or put differently, so they could live the life they wanted.
Does that sound at all like modern-day reasons to have an abortion?  I’m not ready to be a parent.  I want to get my life together, first.  I don’t want to be tied to the mother / father forever. The list goes on.
Modern-day abortions are way too close to the demonic child-sacrifices of old.  Definitely not as public, but like it or not, the underlying motivation is the same.
Now of course, in our medically advanced society, we would never advocate for anything quite so barbaric as burning an infant to death, right?  Do a quick “image” search on abortion.  It’s hard to claim the moral high ground when aborted babies are removed in pieces to “lessen the mother’s discomfort”.  (The citation for this is from a conversation I had with a woman who was recounting the details of her own abortion.  Feel free to research it if you don’t believe me.)
On God’s list of rules for the world, the First Commandment simply states: “You shall have no other God before Me.” (Exodus 20:3), that includes the god of easy living and the god of money. Or the god of “my” life, a.k.a. “me”.
It’s that “god of me” that Satan seems to exploit every time, and it started when he tempted Eve in the Garden: “nevermind what God said, you’re not going to have to pay the price for any of this. You can be like God.”  Only now, it looks more like, “nevermind what the Church / your conscience / those religious fanatics tell you, you can have complete control over everything.  YOU can be like God, controlling Life and Death.  You get to decide who lives or dies.  You get the… choice.”
Whether you believe it was 6,000 years ago, 60,000 years ago, or 600,000 years ago, the devil’s story hasn’t changed.  He just leaned on Eve’s own thoughts / feelings / perceptions / intuition… “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it…” (Genesis 3:6)
I don’t blame Eve.
I, too, have walked down that road several times. Trusting in Satan, ignoring God, and doing what seems like the best idea to me. It never led where I thought it would.

So, what to do?
First, reduce the demand.  About half of all pregnancies are accidental, and almost half of them end in abortion.  If we seriously want to reduce abortions, reducing unplanned pregnancies goes a long way.  Artificial contraception is against my Catholic faith, but the sins of condoms and birth control pills pale in comparison to the excommunicable offense of abortion.
Second, be gentle.  Look, I love freedom as much as anyone, and I would love for abortions to be legal as long as they were never procured, but I’m under no false pretenses about the unviability of that aspiration.  And even on the long-shot that Ruth Bader Ginsberg gets replaced by an ultra-conservative justice and Roe v. Wade gets overturned (an even longer shot), Prof. Homa’s spot-on analysis makes it clear that the practice isn’t going away.
There are a lot of other bad things in this world that haven’t gone away, either.  And while the (inter)national problem may be a boulder too stuck to push, we all have considerable influence over the rocks in our own lives.  And it’s not just an issue of the unborn.
In this country, we celebrate too much death. All of us should be championing Life in all forms: Unborn. Black. Immigrant. Addict.  If you insist on protesting, protest the practice, not the person.
And finally, stay strong in the faith.  While God tests us when we’re at our best, the devil tempts us when we’re at our weakest.  No one ever wants an abortion when everything in life is going perfectly.

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