Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Vice President at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Gospel Coalition on May 1, 2014.
The abortion battle is neither won nor lost, which is why Christians have to keep waging it.
Consider two recent items in the news. The first from CBS News: "Oregon incinerator may have been burning tissue from aborted fetuses." Local officials expressed dismay and anger. "I'm sorry I didn't know that this included fetal tissue, but now that I do know, believe me things change," Marion County (Oregon) board of commissioners chairman Sam Brentano said. "We are outraged and disgusted that this material could be included in medical waste received at the facility," according to Marion County commissioner Janet Carlson.
Well, good. The conscience is not dead in Marion County.
But if one takes the argument of the "pro-choice" movement to its wholly logical conclusion, there is no reason for outrage. If the growth within the womb is not a person, it is merely disposable tissue, not dissimilar to a metastasizing tumor or a cirrhosis-filled liver. Once discarded, it is mere waste to be mixed-in with other medical effluvia.
Yet the sheer callousness of this brutal assessment does violence to the "law written on the heart" (Rom. 2:15). Whatever the rationalization, we know that burning "fetal tissue" is barbaric and evil. Our hearts and minds intuitively rebel against it. We know that this "tissue" was once a living person, completely vulnerable, under current U.S. and Canadian law, to destruction within the womb.
We cannot live with something so odious, however sophisticated its artful presentation might be. At least not at this point-who would have thought that partial-birth abortion would ever be allowed in a civilized nation? Man's heart can harden into evil over a relatively short time.
The second item is about the governor of Mississippi signing a ban on abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy. Protecting unborn children after 18 or 20 weeks of gestation is neither a comprehensive nor conclusive win, but it is a step, a righteous one. The premise of this measure is that once an unborn child can feel pain, she should not be dismembered in her mother's womb.
Any ethical and legal thing we can do to advance the cause of life is a moral good. Yet we must not think that the "fetal pain" argument is an intellectual resting ground for the pro-life cause. Whether the unborn baby feels pain or not, from the moment of conception, she is a person. Science teaches us this, indisputably. Size and development do not qualify the fullness of personhood; if they did, anyone taller and stronger than his neighbor down the street should have the right to kill him electively.
The abortion battle has seen a lot of victories at the state level in recent years, as has beenamply documented elsewhere. But we kid ourselves if we think that the proponents of abortion-on-demand will simply throw up their hands and give up. Steady, diligent, enduring effort will not soon be unneeded in the pro-life cause.
Not a Complex Issue
As Pastor David Platt has recently noted, Christians cannot shrink back from the battle for life because our efforts "bring us into conflict with the culture around us." Rather, Platt says, believers should "fight abortion as an assault on God's creation and an affront to God's glory. . . . If that which is in the womb is a person formed by God, this issue is not complex at all."
To care deeply about the poor and the trafficked, the sexually exploited and the habitually addicted, reflects the heart of Christ. But to move away from the battle for unborn life because it is tedious, socially awkward, or exhausting is to abandon the most needy of all to a brutal fate. "Moral and political neutrality here is not an option for those who believe (the) gospel," Platt says. "If you and I sit idly by while millions of children, individuals in the image of God, around us are dismembered, then we are denying basic biblical truth."
Amen. The campaign for life must be waged with vigilance, compassion, wisdom, and foresight. But it must be waged, with the full recognition that it might not be won for a long time.