January 22, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion. Doe v. Bolton was another law also passed that day – lesser known but not of lesser importance – which made abortion legal after viability based upon the “‘health’ of the mother”.
Since this date, more than 55 million unborn babies have been murdered/killed/aborted. Today one of the most common surgical procedures performed on adults in our country is abortion. And every one of these “procedures” performed on women results in a death of an unborn child, the weakest and most vulnerable that ought to receive the greatest support and protection.
America has often been a world leader in upholding the dignity of fellow human beings (there have certainly been grave and tragic exceptions, e.g. slavery). Tragically, in this instance the law has gone contrary to the very fabric of what has made the U.S. a great and good nation (consisting of power and resources, and doing good to others, generally speaking): no legal protection is given to the unborn at any stage of development.
Lawrence H. Tribe, professor at Harvard Law School, an abortion-rights defender, accurately stated that the abortion question is a black and white issue because it consists of a “clash of absolutes.” Tribe’s attempted solution to ameliorate the differences or avoid pitting one absolute against another failed. Though he failed in his attempted solution, he understands the heart of this issue, which is why it will not go away for Evangelicals.
In a recent sermon (7 minute excerpt), David Platt gets to the heart of the abortion debate by focusing on the “most important question in the abortion debate”: is what is in the womb from conception a person? Platt states that this brings every other question into perspective.
Platt answers the question in the affirmative:
The womb contains a person formed in the image of God.
He follows this with two important implications regarding one’s answer:
- If the unborn is not human, no justification for abortion is necessary.
- If the unborn is human, no justification for abortion is adequate.
Al Mohler explains why the abortion issue will not go away for those committed to the sanctity of life (“Forty Years After Roe, Human Dignity Hangs in the Balance”).
- First, the radical character of Roe – overthrowing abortion laws in 49 states – galvanized pro-life forces. The judicial imposition of abortion on demand, virtually without restriction until the third trimester, produced both shock and outrage among those who believe that the unborn child has an inalienable right to life.
- Second, Roe also had the effect, surely unforeseen by the Supreme Court, of bringing millions of evangelical Christians into the fight on behalf of the unborn. Prior to Roe, even many evangelicals believed that abortion was a Roman Catholic issue.
- Third, the death spiral of abortion simply defies adequate calculation. Over a million abortions are performed in America each year. Reports last year indicated that over 40% of all pregnancies in New York end in abortion, a rate that increases to almost 60% of pregnancies among African-American women.
- Fourth, abortion has proved to be exactly what pro-life activists warned it would be: a deadly threat to human dignity that would target specific populations. Prenatal testing has produced a deadly reality for unborn babies considered less than acceptable by their parents.
- Fifth, powerful imaging technologies now allow a look inside the womb, a privilege unknown to previous generations. That window has transformed the equation, as millions of parents have seen their unborn children and witnessed the miracle of life.
Many of the young of this generation are pro-life, which we celebrate. They are the ones who look around and see only images of the 55 million with whom they would have lived life, shaped culture and made history. Mohler notes this, and then concludes by emphasizing the importance of affirming that every human being is created in the image of God, from conception to death.
The greatest advances made by the pro-life movement have been made among the young, the generation that has known the death toll from Roe v. Wade all their lives. More evidence that the abortion issue will not simply go away.
Nevertheless, Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land and abortion on demand remains a constant. Since Roe more than 55 million unborn Americans have been aborted, and the nation is more concerned about economics than the sanctity of human life. We have much ground to recover, but the only foundation for a recovery of human dignity is an affirmation of the fact that every single human being is made in God’s image and is of sacred worth from the moment of fertilization until natural death.
Lord, have mercy.