Sunday, October 31, 2004

Evangelicals And Abortion

The lamest thing I recall Mr. Bush saying a few years ago during the stem cell debate was some mush about "the sanctity of life." That means what exactly? Sanctity is a church word. I think it means something transcendent. (Now, don't be fooled, Mr. Bush is opposed by a fellow who advocates federal funding of abortions and who has voted in favor of partial-birth abortions.) The reason Mr. Bush was lame to speak of the sanctity of life in a political context is that it sounds like a religious justification.

Mr. Kerry has professed that he is a Roman Catholic (how much he lets this affect his lifestyle is open to question) but he has said it does not affect his politics. He then frames the pro-life vs pro-choice conflict in purely religious terms, denying his right to impose religious opinion.

If my opposition to abortion rests upon religious criteria alone, then anyone who does not subscribe to that religion has a legitimate complaint when we oppose abortion in a civil context.

Therefore Evangelicals must make the case in the public square against abortion with our bibles kept firmly closed. This rhetoric of sanctity of life is an anchor around the neck of the pro-life movement.

When Roe v Wade occured, I was pro-choice. Back then Evangelicals were AWOL on this issue. Only Rome got involved in this issue. Shame on us. I did not want to be pro-life. It started with a single question: what is a fetus? (If you're wondering about stem cell research, ask "What is a fertilized egg?")

Let's examine some alternatives: 1) the fetus is part of the mother's body, like a tumor. 2) the fetus is a separate non-human organism. 3) the fetus is a separate human without rights. 4) the fetus is a separate human with rights.

Alternative 1 is not consistent with the fact that the fetus has a distinct genotype from that of the mother. Alternative 2 is not consistent with the fact that the fetus' genotype has 42 chromosomes and all that. Alternatives 3 and 4 depend upon where rights come from and who gets them.

Thomas Jefferson was a deist who wrote about walls of separation between church and state. He said that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Thus Mr. Jefferson's opinion expressed in this founding document of our nation seems to preclude the possibility that the fetus is a human without rights.

Conversely, Mr. Jefferson wrote these things while owning slaves. And the Supreme Court supported the constitutionality of this peculiar institution that denied the rights of slaves. In 1973, the Supreme Court put the rights of the mother above that of the child to such an extent that the state sanctioned the mother's termination of the unborn child's life.

The state sanctions the taking of human life all the time. If you break into my house and threaten my life, I can choose to resist with deadly force. In a sense, the fetus is a trespasser in the mother's womb and the mother lawfully evicts that child at the expense of its life. This is abhorrent, but in the eyes of US law it is not murder.

Because I am a Christian, I feel an obligation to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; I feel an obligation to defend those who cannot defend themselves; I feel an obligation to seek a change in US law that more justly acknowledges the rights of the unborn. (This is not an anti-woman position since half of the unborn in question are women.) My Christianity explains only my sense of obligation.

The case that I make against abortion and for the rights of the unborn, must be clearly articulated in secular terms. Otherwise, it will be dismissed as mere religious meddling in civil affairs.

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