A Classical Christian Response to "Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice" by Rebecca Todd Peters PDF Print E-mail
Written by Deborah B. Hollifield   

Editor's Note:

In advertising her book, Trust Women: a Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice, author Rebecca Todd Peters, an ordained minister in The Presbyterian Church (USA), says that abortion can be "a moral good."

Deborah HollifieldDeborah Hollifield, also an ordained minister in The Presbyterian Church (USA) has written a cogent and comprehensive classical Christian response to Todd Peters. PPL will publish her response in an email series over the next few months. Links below lead you to each part or you may read the entire article.

Part 1 This is not a Christian Book

Part 2 Responses to some major themes

Part 3 Implications for the Church

What follows is my response to the author's attempt to justify abortion as a moral good compatible with Christian faith and practice. Some necessary preliminary caveats:

The subject book is not a Christian book. If readers expect to read about reproductive justice from a Christian worldview, the title of Peters' book, containing the word, "Christian," together with the author's credentials as an ordained minister in a Christian denomination, is simply misleading. Not only does Peters not use Scripture as a foundation for her arguments, she does not even seriously reference Scripture. Indeed, the Bible is dismissed early on:

"Clearly there are limitations in seeking direct ethical guidance for contemporary sexual behavior from a book that reflects sexual and cultural attitudes two thousand years old." (17)

Additionally, she claims the Bible is the source of all the cultural misogyny in Western civilization (178-179). While it is true that misogyny is depicted in the Bible, along with other sinful behaviors, nothing in Scripture indicates God's endorsement of the mistreatment or oppression of women – rather, the opposite is true. Finally, she maligns her sisters and brothers in Christ as those who "misrepresent the Christian tradition's attitude and approach to pregnancy, contraception and abortion," (185) and slanders them as "bullies and hate-mongers" (206).

A recent promotional interview for The Nation, (hardly a fundamentalist publication), reveals more:

Interviewer: One thing I found surprising was how little of the book was explicitly Christian.
RTP: Well, what do you mean when you say that?

Interviewer: Maybe that's my own misunderstanding, based on that dominant narrative.
RTP: What I would say is, my book embodies progressive Christianity, and that's what most people don't understand. Progressive Christianity, for me, and for many people, is about focusing on what the social teachings are in the Bible, in the traditions, in the church, that help us think about and address the social problems we see in the world. That's very different from an evangelical understanding of Christianity, which is about salvation. I actually don't care that much about salvation. That's not my primary concern. My primary concern is about the world that we live in, and how we make a more just world. That's the tradition of the social gospel.[1]

Context matters, and so do words: Whenever we read, it is important to know something about the author. In many ways, we are the products of our particular environments – where we live, who we live with, our vocations and what we read. We all have biases, both known and unknown, even to ourselves. Peters' context is noted above; mine is set out at the end of this article.

Vocabulary and definitions: There is a famous line in the movie, The Princess Bride, where the hero says, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Dialogue becomes confused – or impossible – when we speak a different language while using similar words. It is critical to Peters' thesis that the unborn is neither 1) human; 2) alive; nor 3) a person, and she finds it necessary to redefine all three.

For example, when I say, "This fetus is human," I am making a biological truth claim. Peters disagrees. She cannot attach the label of humanity and still maintain her moral high ground, so she has coined the word, "prenate" as a substitute for "fetus," or "embryo," which terms she considers "cold and clinical" (164). She will not use the terms "unborn child," or "unborn baby," because her utilitarian approach will not allow her to equate the value of the "prenate" as equal to that of an "infant," "child" or "the woman."

Further, when I say, "The fetus is alive," or "Life begins at fertilization," I am making another biological – as well as theological - truth claim.[2] In the 21st century, all 8th graders know that biological life begins at fertilization. That the fetus is alive in the womb is also a basic and consistent Scriptural theme in Christian thought and witness. It is only the philosopher-class that prevaricates. Peters disagrees, because if the zygote/embryo/fetus/unborn is alive, it undermines her claim that the zygote/embryo/fetus/unborn is not a human being from the very beginning. She asserts, instead, the logical fallacy that "location" (in the womb versus a bassinette) and "dependence" (versus independent viability) prevent the moral status of "life."

When I say, "The fetus is a person," I am making a biological truth claim that the fetus has a unique DNA, distinct from either parent, that will (barring miscarriage or accident) develop into a distinct human being, with all of the attributes of personhood individually, communally, and as a bearer of the Imago Dei.[3] As Gregory Koukl writes, "If the unborn is not a human being, no justification for abortion is necessary. However, if the unborn is a human being, no justification for abortion is adequate." [4] Peters cannot advance her argument if she accepts that the fetus is a person, (since then no justification would be adequate for the killing of a person), so she must invent a new term, "human becoming," in order to kill with impunity. She must reject biological truth and claim that the liminal status of the fetal human precludes the labels "human" and "person." Additionally, in order to bolster her rejection of the idea that the fetus is a developing person, (as is a toddler or a teenager), she must add qualifiers to the definition of "personhood." These qualifiers are "consciousness" and "reciprocal relationship" (159-164), the use of which aligns her with the radical philosopher Peter Singer, who advocates for infanticide up to the age of two years, calling it "after-birth abortion."

Standard of authority: The author presents that her motivation and approach are purely scholarly and sociological; but when one removes the endless recitation of (questionable) statistics and obscure studies, it becomes clear that the book is sourced primarily in the author's personal feelings, personal experience and political worldview. For a book whose major premise is that those who choose abortion should not be compelled by society (family, community, government or church) to justify their decisions, the entirety of the book is exactly that: one long emotional justification for why abortion, (at any stage and under any circumstances, including ordinary birth control), is a moral good that should not be challenged, limited or qualified in any way.

Beyond the jettisoning of Scripture as a Christian standard, Margaret Atwood's novel, The Handmaid's Tale, (where women are treated as property and forced into sexual servitude as breeders), is appealed to as though it is a present – or imminent – reality. If dystopian fiction is to be the new standard of moral wisdom, it would be helpful to this discussion to expand the booklist to include George Orwell's Animal Farm (where all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others); Orwell's 1984 (doublethink: The act of holding, simultaneously, two opposite, individually exclusive ideas or opinions and beliefs; and newspeak: Newspeak contains no negative terms); Golding's Lord of the Flies, ("Which is better--to have laws and agree, or to hunt and kill?"); and Benson's Lord of the World, ("Men do recognise at last that a supernatural Religion involves an absolute authority, and that Private Judgment in matters of faith is nothing else than the beginning of disintegration.") For nonfiction, the Book of Isaiah is helpful: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!"(5:20).

Responses to a few major themes

The book touches on a long list of tangential matters, such as public policy, economic hardship, patriarchy, women of color, disabilities, the history of abortion in the United States, the Physicians' Crusade Against Abortion, decision-making, public health, the March for Women – and more. The following themes were repeated throughout in various contexts:

Misogyny and the unassailable female: As the contemporary #MeToo movement chronicles in social media, all women have their own versions of sexual risks, miscalculations and abuses. All women have their own ways of dealing with the fallout of the "Sexual Revolution," whether a pregnancy is involved or not. On the one hand, the #MeToo movement is about calling for justice for women by bringing the predatory and abusive men involved to public shame, and occasionally, prosecution. Oddly, this piece is missing in the pro-abortion reproductive justice movement. No men are involved. No men are held accountable, except for the 1% who are rapists. Men dare not comment, lest they be ridiculed for not possessing a uterus. The bent of the pro-abortion activist seems to be that all women with unwanted pregnancies are perpetual moral virgins, making their reproductive decisions from fully informed, unafraid, clear-eyed, unbiased, unselfish cocoons of certitude ("For many women, abortion is a morally good decision, a healing and life-giving experience." 206).

When unexpected pregnancies are presented as an exclusively women's issue, it negates the truth that all men are also affected by abortion. There is no cry from the streets or the clinics to bring men forward into the conversation to answer the hard questions of, "Why have you abandoned these women and their children?" "When will you contribute to their physical and emotional needs?" "Why should women and children pay with their lives for your pleasure?" But neither are the voices of the men who are prepared to be fathers heard: "Why didn't she tell me she was pregnant?" "Why won't she allow me to be a father?"

The persistent appeal to the individualistic context of the pregnant woman, (as economically distressed, oppressed, a struggling student, a rape victim, a career woman, not ready to be a mother, etc.), is in opposition to the insistence that the solutions are never to be found in the life choices or circumstances of the individual, but only in the social change of the larger community, whose collective voice - through legislation and ballot box – they would also silence. The pregnant woman is the only one who is permitted to speak; the only one with rights; the only one empowered. Men, children and the community are all demanded to sacrifice without being heard.

Eugenics. It is completely astonishing – and a glaring omission - that Peters discusses eugenics in the context of patriarchy and social control of women, without once mentioning Margaret Sanger, the infamous eugenicist and founder of Planned Parenthood. Even when pointing out that the Reproductive Justice Movement grew out of the lives and experiences of women of color (7) and that "control of women's fertility epitomizes an agenda of social control deeply marked by attitudes of racism, racial purity and eugenics," (98-99), Peters does not mention Sanger's proposal to reduce the black population. Peters completely ignores the common knowledge of Sanger's well-documented eugenics enthusiasms.[5]

Those who marched to gain their own voices now work, raise funds and march to silence the unborn disenfranchised, while pretending they are protecting "access to health care for women." Abortion activists who bewail misogyny, violence and the infantilizing of women – don't perceive that their actions mirror those of freed slaves who become oppressors themselves. The original spark for their protests – their public face of shared revulsion for misogyny – has been replaced by the flames of misoteknon[6] – their private face of shared revulsion for the "alien hostile force" (24-25; 152) that is the fetus. They put themselves first, at the expense of all others; and do violence, especially to females in the womb, all the while virtue-signaling about how compassionate they are.

Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, writes this about sort of counterfeit compassion:

"Take, for example, the virtue of compassion. It is an essential virtue—like the others. It can move us to work selflessly and even heroically for the good of our fellow human beings—especially those who are needy or suffering. We cannot do without it. We rightly praise the compassionate for their good deeds in caring for the least, the last, and the lost. But consider what can happen when compassion remains strong but other virtues, such as love of truth and justice, have eroded or disappeared. Operating by itself, in isolation from the other virtues, compassion can motivate every manner of evil—from the killing of the unborn in abortion to the killing of the disabled and the frail elderly in euthanasia. We can convince ourselves that kindness calls for these things.

"Well before the Nazis gave eugenics a bad name, well-intentioned, decent, compassionate people in places such as Germany, England, and the U.S. embraced eugenics, precisely out of a sense of compassion. It was they, not the Nazis, who invented the doctrine of lebensunswertes Leben—'life unworthy of life.' Because they did not want people to suffer, they supported mandatory sterilization for some classes of persons and even 'mercy killing' for those whose lives they considered so burdensome as to be 'not worth living.'"[7]

Planned Parenthood asserts that Sanger was a product of her times, understanding eugenics as a solution to the social ills of the day, when many other well-respected leaders were active in the eugenics movement.[8] Peters gives no such quarter to the male eugenicists she lists, most of whom were Sanger's contemporaries and colleagues. Neither does she document Sanger's posthumous success: Today in New York City alone, more black children are aborted than born; and 73% of the total abortions in NYC in 2012 were in the combined black and Hispanic communities.[9]

Shame: The author rightly calls out those who self-righteously point fingers, judge motives and heap shame on unmarried pregnant women, and women who have had abortions (particularly women who have had more than one abortion and married women who have chosen to abort.) But her only solution is to recast the decision to abort from a flawed moral choice into a moral good; to remove the need to justify the decision and thus remove any sense of remorse altogether. That the author uses no external standard of truth is most apparent when she asserts that, "Women's sadness and grief in the face of an abortion can be mistaken – even by the women themselves – as guilt, regret or shame about their decision to terminate a pregnancy." (206 emphasis supplied). This is basic to her argument for abortion as a moral good: When a woman thinks it is the right thing to do, that woman is de facto trustworthy. Conversely, a woman whose personal experience leads her to remorse, is prima facie mistaken. In a world where feelings have become facts, then, what the regretful post-abortive woman experiences, feels and thinks cannot be trusted as objective facts – because only the experiences, feelings and thoughts of the woman who aborts without regret or remorse are considered to be the legitimate facts.

Without a sense of shame, regret or remorse there is no reason to seek forgiveness. The sad result of this scrubbing is that millions of women know an unrelieved suffering of the soul, brought on not by misogynistic cultural norms, nor inflicted by insensitive self-righteous Christians, but from the shame that smolders in every human breast as we lie awake at midnight, or that steals into our peripheral thoughts as we idle at stop lights: the acidic, soul-eroding drip of the self-knowledge of our worst acts and thoughts. The book has no chapter on forgiveness and redemption – neither is the currency of secular sociology or philosophy - but the Christian believer has access to a living Redeemer and a library full of forgiveness.

Church history and the sins of the fathers: "...abortion simply has not been a major theological concern until very recently in Christian history...abortion itself did not become a major ethical concern within Christianity until the twentieth century." (92-94)

Here again, the silence of the pro-life voice is essential to her cause. She attempts to portray the early church fathers as not being consistently opposed to abortion, because, "Little was written about abortion in the early centuries of the church...," suggesting that Augustine was "not only familiar [with abortion] but...apparently accepted it as a normative practice."[10] The author ignores that Augustine referred to abortion as a "lustful cruelty,"[11] and preached against those who secured abortions, saying, "Therefore brothers, you see how perverse they are and hastening wickedness, who are immature, they seek abortion of the conception before the birth; they are those who tell us, 'I do not see that which you say must be believed.'"[12] Even a simple search turns up an extensive collection of pre-Christian and early church sources that evidence a consistent condemnation of and opposition to the practice.[13]

However "little" the early church fathers may have written specifically about abortion, much has been written regarding prenatal life and ensoulment (personhood). The doctrine of Traducianism teaches that the soul is present in both sperm and egg, which forms a new soul immediately upon fertilization. This view has been held since the earliest days of the church by Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus the Confessor and Martin Luther. The logic is that since Scripture teaches that the incarnate Christ was like us in his humanity – and also fully divine - then from the first moment of His conception the spiritual soul was present. Alternatively, the doctrine of Creationism teaches that the soul is created and introduced into a fetus by God at some unknown point in God's sovereign will.[14] This is the view of John Calvin, who affirmed that the human soul is not eternal, but rather, is uniquely created by God at each moment of conception and possesses independent and immortal existence apart from the body.[15]

Both views have clear implications for conversations surrounding abortion, contraception, in vitro fertilization, and stem cell research. Both views involve God's sovereign will regarding the Imago Dei and humans interfere at our peril. Accordingly, the only way for a Progressive Christian abortion activist to silence the church, is to remove the church from the discussion entirely by falsely stating that it has always been disinterested.

The Missing Piece: Such a Church!

Who hasn't heard someone complain, "You Christians only want to talk about sex!" as though being a Christ-follower means being sexually repressed, bigoted, and laser-focused on the single issue of the sexual behaviors of others. Sadly, we have only ourselves to blame: for failing to teach the whole Word of God; for failing to frankly address and nurture the developing sexuality of children and youth; for finding it threatening to establish intimate supportive relationships with others unlike ourselves; and for neglecting to extend the mercy and forgiveness of God to confused and hurting generations. We have allowed many of our churches to become centers of "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism." (MTD). MTD adherents believe that: God created the world; God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and most world religions; the central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself; God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when needed to resolve a problem; and good people go to heaven when they die.[16] There is little room in such a worldview for processing the difficult and painful matters that fall along the whole spectrum of life.

But what both our critics – and too often, we ourselves – fail to perceive is that from beginning to end, the stories of the Bible take place beneath overarching theme not of niceness, but of romance. The Bible begins and ends with a wedding. Jesus' ministry begins with a wedding. The metaphors and vocabulary are the word pictures of the intensity of God's ardor and pursuit of God's people. They are the words of courtship, marriage and family: God is smitten, an earnest suitor, an impatient bridegroom, a jealous lover, a faithful husband, a good provider and a tender father. God sees God's People – the called-out-ones – as pure maidens hanging out by water wells, with "eyes like doves," and "hair like a flock of goats descending from Gilead." They are being prepared to be a royal bride, showered with gifts, responsive to the love of the bridegroom, longing for their wedding feast and the consummation of their love, followed by the blessing of children. And not just ordinary children: the children of this intimacy are children of the Promise, elected by God, drawn into the Covenant, marked by baptism for royal destiny and a share in a vast inheritance! People would flock to such a church!

But then, there is all the other stuff. It turns out that the Bride of Christ has issues. She doesn't want to wait. She looks at other men and invites them over. Sometimes she prostitutes for money, but other times she gives it away for free. She might be engaged, but she's a serial adulterer. Sometimes she wants children so badly she takes control of her reproductive rights through coercion and deceit. Other times she takes her precious children and sacrifices them in the fire. She is smudged and dirty – no longer a virgin – no longer desirable - cast off. But her Lover still comes around. Who would go to such a church?!

And in all of that mess, we aren't spared the vivid descriptions of the jealous – even murderous - rages of the cuckolded Bridegroom. He scours the dark streets, dragging her from another's arms, gathering up her clothes, berating her through the night as he drives her home. And then he takes her back. Because he loves her. And he makes a home for her and her children – at least he thinks they might be his children. And then she does it all again, and her Bridegroom drags her back home. But he never leaves her. Where can I find such a church?!

In all of this drama of "sitting and rising, going out and lying down,"[17] the women – unmarried, widowed and married alike – keep turning up pregnant and having inconvenient children. Everyone is needy and annoying. One took her inconvenient child and set out on her own, and got lost in the desert. But her Protector saw where she fell, and went to her and told her it would be okay, and then set it up so it was.[18] The women want their own tents, their own pots and their own mandrakes.[19] They want their sons to grow up and govern whole nations, and some even plot and steal to make it happen,[20] and the Great Provider says, "Let me take care of that for you." Some even have the chutzpah to try to jockey their boys into seats at the table next to the King himself, and the King doesn't punish her for asking.[21]

Like our modern world, the history recounted in the Bible shows that the world has always been a tough place for women. Sometimes they suffer physically. Sometimes they are ridiculed and shamed. Sometimes they almost die. But every time – every time – the Bridegroom shows up and picks her up and sets it right. And he's never embarrassed by her and he never leaves her and he tells her not to worry about how she looks or what she'll eat for dinner, because he's going to dress her in lilies from Solomon's gardens and he's cooking tonight.

This is not a lover/husband/father who leaves his Beloved in the dust. This isn't Someone who will leave you alone just because you tell him to go away, because, you "got this." This One gives good gifts that you weren't expecting – he's full of surprises.

And Jesus knows what you know. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Jesus experienced what you are experiencing. In his incarnation, the second person of the Trinity is male. But when the writer of Hebrews reminds us that, "...we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin," (4:15) it helps us understand that while Christ may have chosen to experience our human limitations, "every respect," tells us that he wasn't limited by his maleness. Somehow Christ understands – in a visceral way – the anguish (or even ambivalence) of the pregnant woman considering abortion. Jesus assumed every aspect of our human nature – all of its elements, all of our weaknesses and fears, the instability of our thoughts, the embedded shame that causes us to turn our faces away from our reflections in a mirror, and the sudden pain in our souls that jars us awake in the night.

He took it all. He knows the fear and pain of the woman lying in a hospital bed dying of ovarian cancer. He isn't just "with her in the trial," he felt on the cross what she feels now. He knows the uncertainty of raising a special needs child in a single-parent home. He feels the same fear of abandonment you feel. He knows how much you love your career and how much you've already invested in it. He knows what it feels like to hit a wall. To be found out. Gregory Nazianen wrote, "What has not been assumed has not been healed." Jesus assumed it all, feels it all, took it all to the cross and has healed it all, every last thing – finished it all. Nothing was left out – not this pregnancy, not the next pregnancy, and not you.
All the things that besiege you today – or tomorrow – will be conquered, "through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:37-39)

The entirety of what we know about God is contained in God's revealed Word to us – written in Scripture, incarnate in Christ and testified to by the Holy Spirit. The vast span of Scripture – sixty-six books – was written over more than 1,500 years, by 40 different authors, on three different continents and in three different languages. The writers came from different walks of life: kings, prophets, a priest, a general, fishermen, scholars, shepherds, and a cupbearer to a king. They wrote with differing purposes, to different people, using different genres. All of this diversity, and yet throughout it all, there is a coherent and consistent message in what it has to say about the value of all human life to our creator God.

The most profound affirmation of human life, alive and bearing personhood in the womb is the record of the birth of Jesus: Inconvenient. Unexpected. Publicly shameful for both his mother and her husband and both families. An economic hardship. The pregnancy required a change of plans for a lot of people – not just his mother. Then, targeted at birth – certainly a "special needs" infant. An uncertain future. No one knew she was pregnant except Mary and even then there were ways to "take care of it," and no one would have to know. But she didn't, and here we are, because the Great Lover never left her, or us, alone.

CONCLUSION

This, then, is the classical Christian response to the progressive Christian argument for reproductive justice – the Christian argument for life: Our faithful Bridegroom paid a heavy price for us, His wayward bride. Certainly, even in Peters' utilitarian economy, the life of the Son of the Creator God of the cosmos is of greater moral worth than the life of a liminal creature like me. The Christian God is a self-sacrificing God – he does not demand our sacrifice for his sake. The Christian God defends the weakest. He rescues the helpless. Our Christian God seeks us out and makes room at the King's table for all of us lame and orphaned Mephibosheths.[22]

No Peters' book is not a Christian book. It is a misrepresentation – a perversion, even – of Christian thought and ethics. Neither is it a book about justice: Because justice rolls downhill and all the justice for which she advocates is paid for by the weakest ones at the bottom.[23] That's not how justice works – ask Jesus about it.

So no, the Bible is not silent about abortion – it shouts "Life!" Even life for our enemies[24] who would kill us as a favor to God.[25] All people of faith are to tell our descendants in the next generations – even children yet to be born – about the love story between God and God's people. So they will teach their children. And they will teach their children. And they will teach their children.[26]

The Gospel is for every human being – indeed, it is the Gospel that makes each one of us a fully alive, completely human, person.

(Don't miss Heather's Story ,Scripture Appendix, and About the Author below the footnotes.)


[1] Russell-Kraft, Stefanie, The Nation, “A Christian Argument for Abortion: A Q&A With Rebecca Todd Peters,” https://www.thenation.com/article/a-christian-argument-for-abortion-a-qa-with-rebecca-todd-peters/ (accessed 6.8.2018)

[2] The broad consensus of the scientific community is that biological life begins at fertilization. She is confusing categories and is conflating her view of personhood with biological, human life: https://www.princeton.edu/~prolife/articles/embryoquotes2.html. For reference to personhood imparted in the womb by God, see the Scripture Appendix to this article.

[3] Ibid.

[4]www.ReasonableTheology.org, "Words Matter: Rejecting the Vocabulary of the Abortion Industry," https://reasonabletheology.org/words-matter-rejecting-vocabulary-abortion-industry/, (accessed 6.9.2018)

[5] Letter from Margaret Sanger to Clarence Gamble, dated 12.10.1939“Wedo not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members."

[6]Misogyny is from the Greek combination of miso-(hatred) + gyny (women). For purposes of this paper, I propose miso+teknon (child)as a similar combination meaning "hatred of a child/offspring."

[7] George, Robert P., First Things, June 11, 2018, "Solzhenitzen's Prophecy," https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2018/06/solzhenitsyns-prophecy (accessed 6.11.2018)

[8] "Opposition Claims About Margaret Sanger," https://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/4114/7612/8885/Sanger_Opposition_Claims_Fact_Sheet_2016.pdf (accessed 6.11.2018)

[9]Torres, Alec, National Review, 2.21.2014, "More Black Babies Aborted Than Born in New York City," https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/more-black-babies-aborted-born-new-york-city-alec-torres/

[10] Peters 93

[11] De Nube et Concupiscentia 1.17 (15)

[12] Sermon 126, line 12

[13] "Early Church Fathers: Excerpts Pertaining to Abortion," http://www.priestsforlife.org/magisterium/earlychurchfathers/fatherscover.html

[14] Disney, Lindsey and Poston, Larry, Anglican Theological Review, "The Breath of Life: Christian Perspectives on Conception and Ensoulment," http://www.anglicantheologicalreview.org (accessed 6.10.2018)

[15] Calvin, John, Psychopannychia

[16] Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is a term coined by Sociologist Christian Smith in connection with his research at Notre Dame

[17] Psalm 139

[18] Gen. 21:8-16

[19] Gen. 30:14-16

[20] Gen. 27

[21] Matt. 20:20-28

[22] 2 Samuel 4; 9

[23] Amos 5:24

[24] Matthew 5:44

[25] John 16:2

[26] Psalm 78


Heather's Story

The following was written by a strong Catholic believer who is the friend of a ministry colleague, who wrote, "This is not my story, but this is Heather's story. It may be the most important story I've read in a long time." With her permission, I share it here.

At 14 years old, my mom conceived me, although she had no idea she was pregnant with me until she was 5 months into her pregnancy. Of course, I wasn't planned, but still, she had told me that abortion didn't even cross her mind, and that she knew, "Life was going to change in a big way, and that was okay."

I was born on August 8th. Two weeks before that, my Dad was murdered. At the time of my birth, my Mom was 15. She was forced to drop out of school to be able to work two jobs, in order to raise me. (My grandparents helped her by taking care of me while she was working.) The timing of my conception was horrible. I was born into absolute chaos... but I was born. Not aborted.

My brother was born when my Mom was 17 almost 18, and he was a special needs baby. He didn't have a specific diagnosis, other than having fluid on his brain, and stones in his stomach. They just said he is developmentally delayed. He will be 28 this summer, in 2018, but he's mentally 14 or so. I think it's more than just the mental aspect, but doctors do not agree, he has had endless surgeries, and he almost died twice, once from the surgery as an infant, and once from a severe sinus infection that went to his brain in 2006...but he is here... yet, she knew something was going on when he was still in the womb. She knew the challenges that were about to come, and she was trying to care for a 1 1/2 year old... but he was born. Not aborted.

My sister was born in 1992. She was conceived as a twin, but my mom had miscarried the boy. His name was Anthony. This was an early term miscarriage, but she still had my sister. At this time, she had a son that was in and out of the hospital, a daughter who was beginning kindergarten, and all the while, she was mourning a miscarriage ... but my sister was born. Not aborted.

My mom knew she had a choice, and I thank her for deciding to give us all a chance at life. Even as a young teenager, who did not (and still doesn't) practice religion, although she does believe in God; she knew that you couldn't put a price on life, and she knew we all deserved a chance.

My brother and I were not planned. My sister was, but she was born just a little sooner than my mom had intended.

A baby born, whose dad was just brutally murdered at 18 years old. A baby born with high medical needs, and special needs. A baby born sooner than expected, as a twin with her brother not making it...

This is a prime example of why people claim that abortion is necessary. I want you to tell me why YOU think abortion is necessary... Tell me how a young girl grasps the pro-life concept, never having been taught one way or the other. How do grown adults not understand the value of life?

My mom's mom, whom I call Nana, God rest her sweet soul; she had given birth to 6 children, 2 of which were born out of wedlock. She was sent away to a Catholic home for unwed mothers in Wyoming. She decided to give both of her sons up for adoption, and kept all four of her daughters. She had a choice to abort the babies, since a child out of wedlock at that time was seen as an abomination, but she didn't. She was ridiculed, judged, and frowned upon, which is why she was sent away. Her mother was ashamed of her, but Nana still chose life. She chose adoption.

All 3 of us were perfect cases for abortion. "Too young" "Hasn't gotten life figured out yet" "Whoops" "Special needs" "Born too soon with already having a high medical need child" "Life is hard".... only, these are not reasons to abort. No reason is. Some people say, "If I don't get an abortion, my baby will be a ward of the state, and he/she will be in the system their whole life." That's not true. My mom's best friend had adopted her youngest. My sister's preschool teacher, who became a family friend, has adopted numerous children from around the world, including the ones who were given up because they had special needs.

A baby is a baby from the moment of conception, it is not a clump of cells. It is not just a fetus, it is a human life, and it is wrong to murder your children. If a 14-year-old girl can understand that, so can everyone else in the world. "Just because you can't hear them scream, doesn't mean they don't." There is ALWAYS another option besides abortion. If you cannot love your baby, someone else will.


Scriptural Appendix

The following references are not exhaustive, but are intended to serve as an introduction to further study.

"Did God really say..." (Gen. 3:1). "Christian scripture is completely silent on the topic of abortion. Jesus never once addressed it, and abortion is not a major topic of concern in the church until the late twentieth century." (94) After dismissing the relevancy of Scripture, would she change her position on abortion if Jesus had explicitly stated, "Love your neighbor as yourself and do not abort them?" In dismissing Scripture, the author argues from silence, with the familiar refrain of everyone who discounts God's word: "Jesus never said..." It would be impossible to list all of the things Jesus never addressed, from Netflix to bestiality (yes, it's that absurd), but no serious student of Scripture would claim that the limited recording of the words of Jesus are the isolated total of the overarching, consistent teachings of Scripture about the value of all human life. Timothy Keller is correct when he writes, "We must be so immersed in God's written Word & truth that we are trained to choose rightly in cases which the Bible doesn't speak directly."

God is the Sovereign over all life: Ez. 18:4 "Look! Every living soul belongs to me—the father's as well as the son's."Acts 17:24-28"The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for 'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we are indeed his offspring.'"Colossians 1:15-17"He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together."

God creates human life in God's image: Gen. 1:27-28 "And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth'"; Gen. 17:1-21 God's promise to Abraham and Sarah that she would bear the child of the promise; Job 10:8a "Your hands fashioned and made me,"; Ps. 119:73a "Your hands have made and fashioned me; " Ps. 138:8 "The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands." Ps. 139:13-16 "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." Isaiah 44:24 "This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself..."

The fetus is human, alive and has personhood imparted in the womb by God: Gen. 25:23 God's declaration to Rebecca: "And the Lord said to her, 'Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger"; Jer. 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations"; Is. 46:3; 49:1b "Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb;" "The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name." Luke 1:41-44 "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.'" Acts 17:28 "'In him we live and move and have our being'"; Galatians 1:15 "But when God, who set me [Paul] apart from my mother's womb and called me by his grace, was pleased..."

God does not put a relative value on lives: Ps. 127:3 "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward"; Mark 12:31 "Love your neighbor as yourself." [The positive declaration inferred in Ex. 20:13]; Romans 2:11 "For God does not show favoritism"; Acts 10:34 "So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality"; I Cor. 7:23a "You were bought with a price."
God hates/forbids murder: Exodus 20:13 "No murder." Prov. 6:16-17 "There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood"
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About the author: Since ordination as a Presbyterian Minister of Word and Sacrament, I have served three congregations and two hospital systems. I am an adult convert who came to faith in my late twenties. I lived for a time as a single mother and delayed fulfilling my call to ministry. Prior to ordination, I worked as a paralegal for seventeen years; followed by another seventeen years as an elected judge in a suburban Texas Justice Court, with jurisdiction that included both civil and criminal cases, as well as juvenile and truancy matters. As a judge, I have thought deeply about the purpose and application of law. I have had to apply both bad laws that made bad family situations worse, as well as good laws that provided avenues for justice, restoration and healing. As a minister, I have been active in the prolife movement since my first ordination as a Ruling Elder in 1989: walking with women in three congregations through in utero death and stillbirth, deaths of children, infertility, unplanned pregnancies, abortion and post-abortion grief, adoption, birth anomalies, hospice care, spousal abuse, pornography addiction (their own and their spouses), rape, attempted suicide (and suicides of spouses, parents and children) and mental illness. I have experienced several of these crises myself and I am a breast-cancer survivor. I am dedicated to championing life wherever it is threatened, by supporting the disenfranchised, giving voice to the voiceless and protecting the defenseless.
I describe myself as a "classical Presbyterian." For the limited purposes of this paper, that means that I believe that: God creates and is sovereign over all of life; humanity is created in God's image; the substitutionary atonement of Jesus was necessary, complete and effective; the Bible is God's revealed Word to us (written), God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness; Scripture is to be read literally, but not literalistically; while an individual's or community's context informs their reading of Scripture, care must be taken to engage in exegesis and not eisegesis; the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth; in response to the gospel, we are compelled by the love of Christ to no longer live only for ourselves. I believe every life is worth the price that Jesus paid for it.

Rev. Hollifield is a current board member of Presbyterians Protecting Life. This paper represents her own thoughts exclusively and is enthusiastically endorsed by PPL.
©2018 Deborah Hollifield

 

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