On Friday, June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established abortion as a legal right in all fifty states. On Saturday, June 25, my family went out to eat to celebrate, and I explained to my children the historical significance of this ruling. After nearly fifty years of legalized bloodshed of the most innocent victims, the right to life has triumphed over the right of convenience. God has answered fifty years’ worth of prayers.
As I celebrated with my family, I realized that many in our nation were in no mood to celebrate. For many the entire issue of abortion is framed within a completely different narrative. For those on the other side, a basic right has been taken away from women and the march of progress has been reversed. For those lamenting Friday’s decision, the overturning of Roe is another sign of religion infiltrating politics, of the church breaking down the wall of separation in our nation.
The debate around abortion in this country reveals two fundamentally different ways of interpreting the world and our place in it. While some jump on either side of this issue out of partisan loyalty with little understanding of the issues at stake, many others understand the issues well and choose their side with conviction. Where you stand on the abortion issue reveals a lot about how you perceive the world.
When opponents square off in the public square and debate the issue of abortion, it’s not just abortion being debated; it’s a clash between worldviews. There’s a reason you’ve probably never seen anyone change their mind on the issue in such a setting. It’s not about abortion. It’s about everything. The issue of abortion gets to the heart of every person’s most basic assumptions about the world.
My children, for example, cannot fathom how anyone could defend such a practice. To be honest, I often feel the same way. I have taught them from the beginning of their lives that all human beings are created in God’s image, that children are precious to God, that the weakest among us must be defended. We live under the assumption that our decisions are accountable to a higher standard, that meaning is not determined by the individual. We believe that there are times when we must sacrifice our own “rights” or “preferences” for the good of others in obedience to God. We believe that hardship and suffering are necessary consequences of living in this broken world and that God can bring beauty out of ashes. In short, we believe that the question, “What is right?” precedes the question, “What do I want?”
For those touting “bodily autonomy” and a woman’s “right to choose,” the goal of life is determined by the individual. There is no authority outside of the will of the individual person. The fetus in the womb is whatever the mother chooses it to be just like a person can choose to be male or female in the face of biological fact. Decisions about right and wrong under this ideology are based on one criterion: what will make me happy right now? The autonomous individual should never have to give up comfort, convenience, rights, or preferences. The individual should be free to do whatever he or she wants. The order of questions is reversed: “What do I want?” determines “What is right?”
I’m sure I’ve oversimplified, but I don’t know how else to explain it. I’ve tried to grasp the arguments on the other side, but I always come back to one undeniable fact. A just society does not dispose of innocent life. Deep down we know this. There’s a reason why murderers of pregnant women get convicted for double homicide. Does autonomous individual choice triumph over the life of another? If you answer yes to this question, we don’t just disagree over abortion; we’re living in different moral universes.
We now live, for the first time in half a century, in a nation where abortion is not universally legal. I’ve heard many make the claim in recent days that now the church will have to prove that its more than just pro-birth, that it’s now time for the church to step up and care for the lives of mothers and children. I agree with this sentiment, but I also believe that the church has already been doing this. My church is full of families who have taken mothers and children in. I know dozens of families who have adopted or who are on adoption waiting lists. The work of pro-life pregnancy centers has been funded and staffed by Christians. We have been praying for this day, and we are ready to do whatever it takes to save and love every single life saved by this historic decision.