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“Big Pro-Life” Is A Big Problem

Something that must be understood, and which is made quite clear in the letter, is that one’s worldview will determine not only how abortion is fought but also the end to which it is fought.

The controversies surrounding abortion have continued to be at a fever pitch since Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked majority opinion draft overruling Roe V. Wade was publicized several weeks ago. During that span, there has been much discussion and speculation as to what individual states will do with their anticipated liberation from Roe. The state of Louisiana recently offered a glimpse into what state legislation could look like when a bill of equal protection—one in which abortion would be criminalized under state homicide laws—was considered.

“Sincerely, For Life”

While the mainstream Pro-Life strategy for ending abortion has long been to get Roe overturned and then implement laws protecting life state by state, in recent years, there has been a comparatively small but energetic push by conservative Christians to simply ignore the wicked decision of Roe, and for states to classify and treat abortion for what it is: murder, in which mother, father, and abortionist are held to account and are liable for punishment. With Roe on its way to being a dead letter, one would think that these divergent approaches could begin to work together for the common cause of ending abortion in our nation without interference from the highest court. However, a recent open letter to state legislatures from America’s leading Pro-Life organizations, signed “Sincerely, for life” by no less than 76 individuals and organizations, has demonstrated once and for all that this is not possible.
Something that must be understood, and which is made quite clear in the letter, is that one’s worldview will determine not only how abortion is fought but also the end to which it is fought. Although some of the Pro-Life organizations signed to the letter are nominally Christian, most are openly ecumenical and, as the letter demonstrates, are sufficiently secular in their worldview. Because of this essentially secular humanist perspective, the mainstream Pro-Life Industry does not know how to deal with the problem of guilt.

Shame, Guilt, and Victimhood

The culture in which we live is sufficiently shameless—not just in its flagrant rebellion against morality and decency but also in the general attitude that “shame” is inherently and invariably destructive; therefore, feelings of shame ought always to be avoided. Thus, “to shame” a person is among the highest offenses one can commit in our society. This perspective has been imbibed by the vast majority of our culture, including those Christians whose greatest concern tends to be “not coming off as judgmental” in the eyes of the world. This mentality helps to explain how major Pro-Life and evangelical organizations can classify women who obtain abortions as “victims.”
The letter states, “The mother who aborts her child is Roe’s victim,” and supports this claim by citing various studies showing that a significant percentage of women who have had an abortion experience mental health struggles, psychiatric issues, and feelings of guilt and regret which tend to linger for years after the fact. Because we live in a culture that generally claims that any sense of guilt or shame is inappropriate, the logic demands that these negative consequences which often follow after an abortion make the mother a victim.
The reality is that these sensations are the correct response of a mother who kills her own child. God furnished His image-bearers with a conscience that testifies to His law’s binding and inescapable truth (Romans 2:15). When the conscience is functioning properly, it ought to overwhelm us with the heavy reality of our own guilt.
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”, and you forgave the iniquity of my sin (Psalm 32:3-5).
Yet the project of secularism relies upon the suppression of God’s truth, and in the case of the Pro-Life response to abortion, the reality of guilt must be spun into something other than what it is. The feeling of shame must be framed as evidence of a woman’s victimhood, and thus the letter goes on to state, in bold-face type, “Women are victims of abortion and require our compassion and support as well as ready access to counseling and social services…We state unequivocally that we do not support any measure seeking to criminalize or punish women, and we stand firmly opposed to include such penalties in legislation.”

The Testimony of the Conscience

While a secular worldview frames a woman’s feelings of guilt and shame post-abortion as evidence of her victimhood, the Christian worldview sees those feelings for what they are: the testimony of her conscience that she is, in fact, the perpetrator. If we remove ourselves from the cultural consensus that the feeling of guilt solidifies one’s victim status and instead see the sense of guilt for the grace from God that it is—a grace that leads to repentance—then we will be able to see with clarity how abortion ought to be handled by the civil state.
“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:6). This unambiguous, universal declaration from the mouth of God has never been revoked or abrogated. The civil Law of Moses affirms this solemn protection of human life from wanton murder and details more nuanced cases of lesser degree murder and manslaughter. The principle throughout Scripture is that the value of God’s image in humanity is such that when it is intentionally and unjustly destroyed, the offender has lost his or her right to live. The blood of the innocent is on the hands of those who intend and carry out the murder of the victim, and it is the state which God sanctions to inflict a just penalty (Romans 13:4).
In a typical abortion case, a mother and an abortionist—invariably along with a father who is either directly involved or has sinfully abdicated his responsibility—conspire together to bring about the death of an innocent child. All are culpable, all will be made to answer for that life before God, and all should be held accountable under the law. Of course, as with any other criminal prosecution in our nation, the individual facts of every particular case must be discovered and considered—yet first and foremost, the law must reflect that each person involved in an abortion will be held responsible for their role, and this must include the mother.

The Scapegoat

However, because of the prejudicial commitments of the Pro-Life Industry, any law that would hold a guilt-ridden mother to account is anathema. Yet because they still maintain that abortion wrongfully ends an innocent life, there must be some satisfaction of justice, and thus they need what any worldview apart from Christ needs: a scapegoat. For Big Pro-Life, that is the “abortion industry.” This is stated explicitly in the letter: “She [the mother] is the victim of a callous industry created to take lives.” It later says that its mission is to “protect unborn children and American women from the greed of the abortion industry.”
The blood guilt of abortion, according to the major Pro-Life organizations in America, is not ascribed to the mothers and fathers who seek out and obtain them but to an impersonal industry, a system whose face usually ends up being abortionists. This conviction dictates how these organizations attempt to combat abortion. Instead of making clear that abortion in every case ought to be categorized by law as a criminal offense, it promotes bureaucratic regulations such as the Hyde Amendment and slogans like “Defund Planned Parenthood,” and all the while, babies continue to be killed every day by the thousands.

The Conscience Bears Witness

It is no doubt true that abortion is a big industry, that there is big money to be made in it, and that one of our major political parties is entirely devoted to pushing propaganda in support of abortion, which is then consumed by mothers who have come to see abortion as birth control by other means—as morally indifferent. However, even if it is a sincere belief, that perception does not alter what abortion is. If a mother truly believes her pre-born child to be nothing more than an inhuman lump of cells, that does not make it so.
The humanity and image-bearing nature of the pre-born child are asserted throughout Scripture (Genesis 25:22, Exodus 21:22-25, Psalm 139:13-16, Luke 1:41-44); human beings are not afforded the liberty to re-define the reality created by God, and all will be held accountable to God for how they conducted themselves in this world that He made. Furthermore, Scripture asserts that, by and large, human beings are not ignorant regarding His laws, and certainly not when it comes to the rudimentary principles of life and existence. Instead, sinful man is guilty of actively suppressing the plain truth revealed about God and His righteousness in creation itself (Romans 1:18-20).
The human conscience bears witness to the fact that abortion is indeed an unspeakable sin, and the fervent attempts by the neo-pagan radicals to portray it as something to be celebrated are simply a more desperate attempt to suppress that witness of the conscience. As discussed earlier, the regret and shame felt by many women in the days and years following an abortion is evidence that their conscience continues to testify to their guilt and need for reconciliation.
While it is doubtful that most women procuring abortions have genuinely bought the lie that the thing they are pregnant with is not, in fact, a human child, and even if the Pro-Life Industry were to be granted this premise, it still would not be justified in absolving women of their guilt. The way to effectively combat propaganda is not by embracing the principles of the lie but by consistently and unapologetically pressing the truth.

Perception and Reality

Big Pro-Life has indeed worked to educate the population about what abortion really is—as such regulations as requiring women to have the opportunity to view an ultrasound before aborting demonstrate—yet their refusal to support actual bills of equal protection gives away the game. The pro-abortion advocates want abortion to be viewed as at least morally neutral, and the staunch refusal of the Pro-Life Industry to hold the primary perpetrators of abortion to account demonstrates that, whatever their rhetoric may be, they do not consider the pre-born to be human in the same way as born people.
If the object is to combat the propaganda of the abortion industry, the law itself is often the most effective education. When employed in the service of false propaganda—one current example being legislation supporting transgenderism—the effects are detrimental. However, when the law supports and protects truth, it can help reform perception, bringing it into line with reality. It is often by the instrumentality of the law that we come to see sinful things that we previously thought were just fine. As the apostle Paul testifies, “Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7:7).
Establishing a just law that rightly asserts that the command “You shall not murder” applies to the pre-born will not only remove the possibility of any mother pleading ignorance when it comes to ending a pregnancy, but it will also intensify the moral stigma that surrounds abortion. It will teach the populous that it is something that ought to be repudiated. This will not happen instantaneously, but it is a massive step toward attaining the oft-stated goal of many Pro-Life organizations, “to make abortion unthinkable.” If our laws—even Pro-Life ones—indicate that abortion is anything less than the willful and premeditated killing of an innocent human being, what is being taught to the population that will lead to abortion becoming “unthinkable”?
More important even than the law telling a criminal that she is guilty before the civil magistrate is informing the sinner that she is guilty before the Divine Magistrate, which is undermined by laws that excuse mothers. If the earnest desire of Christians is for mothers who have killed their babies to come to faith and forgiveness in Jesus Christ, then we must not be afraid to boldly attest to their guilt and their need to be reconciled to God. However, this message is antithetical to that promoted by the Pro-Life Industry and even by many Christians who do acknowledge abortion to be sinful.

The Roles of the Church and State

The seduction by the Pro-Life Industry to Christians who would otherwise presumably agree with holding women accountable for having an abortion is their call for compassion, sympathy, and benevolence toward these women. This is language Christians have a hard time disputing, and indeed we are commanded to love our enemies and extend to others the same kind of grace God has extended to us. However, Christians who affirm this and yet oppose the criminalization of mothers who obtain abortions confuse and conflate the role of the Church and that of the State. The principle of sphere sovereignty is absent from their reasoning.
God has both ordained and infused with authority the earthly institutions of the Church and the State under the supreme Lordship of Christ. While both are to operate according to God’s universal law, the two serve very different functions, which bring about disastrous consequences when mixed, confused, or conflated. This confusion is evident in one of the letter’s closing remarks: “In fighting for our country’s future generations, we are called to act with love and compassion as we seek fairness, justice, and liberty for unborn children and their mothers.”
Consistent Christianity would agree that we are always called to exercise love and compassion when dealing with sinners, including those who commit the sin of abortion. As Paul instructs Timothy, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:24-25). The Church is to tirelessly proclaim the free forgiveness of sins for those who would turn in faith to Christ, the only Savior—we proclaim the love and compassion that God has for lost, rebellious sinners.
However, this letter is not addressed to churches for instruction on how to minister to women burdened by the guilt of abortion but is written to legislatures—civil magistrates—instructing them on how they ought to deal with abortion legislatively. Indeed, the role of the Church is to proclaim the gospel of repentance and forgiveness to all, but that is decidedly not the role of the State. God ordained the State for the particular function of maintaining civil order in a fallen world by punishing evil:
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out the wrath of God on the wrongdoer (Romans 13:3-4).
To put it simply, it is not the role of the State to exercise compassion when executing justice. This is not to say that every case of abortion should be treated the same—each case must be judged on its own merits, according to the facts, and as in the rest of the criminal justice system, there is room for the judiciary to act with mercy. But the law itself must reflect true justice, and the only way to achieve that is by identifying and treating abortion unambiguously as murder.

Two Uses of the Law

The letter states that we must seek “justice and liberty for unborn children and their mothers.” This statement applied to abortion is confounding. In a typical abortion, the only injustice done is that which is perpetrated against the unborn; the only infringement of liberty is the execution of the innocent child. And it is at the hands of their mothers that they suffer the crime. Traditional reformed theology sees three main uses of the law, two directly applicable here. One is to curb evil in this fallen world. If abortion is outlawed and mothers, fathers, and abortionists are held criminally liable for their role, abortion will not cease altogether, but it will be significantly diminished.
Another use of the law is to show sinners their need for Christ. As mentioned before, when civil law does not regard as evil that which God declares to be so, this use of the law is undermined. When the State declares that mothers who kill their children are innocent, this serves to severely soften the blow that our sin should strike. As Christians, we must be entirely consistent in our approach to abortion: it is a sin of murder. Therefore, when dealing with a woman who has had an abortion, we call it what it is and tell her about the free grace and complete restoration available in Christ. And when we are dealing with those who represent us in our government—who God charges to punish evil with impartiality—we call abortion what it is and urge them to treat it as such under the law.

Christians Must Continue The Fight

This letter proves beyond doubt that the mainstream Pro-Life Industry (not necessarily every person who makes it up) does not consider the pre-born to be human in the same way as the born and does not ultimately care to see sinful, murderous mothers come to Christ. Christians must continue the fight against abortion without these organizations as we go forth armed with the explicit Word of God and assured of our victory in Christ the King.
Luke Griffo is an elder and member of leadership at Redeemer Church of South Hills in West Mifflin, PA.  Click here for more RCSH Blog posts. 
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