By Rev. John Sheldon, President of PPL Board of Directors
Happy New Year from Presbyterians Protecting Life (PPL)! Our mission in 2019 is to equip Presbyterians to champion human life at every stage. Can we count on you to be a champion for life in 2019? If so, you need to be confident that an unborn child is a person worthy of our respect and protection.
The very first stage of the unborn child’s life is fertilization when Mr. Sperm meets Mrs. Egg and voilà, a human person comes into being. If the sperm has a Y chromosome, the baby will be a boy. If it has an X chromosome, the baby will be a girl. This fusion of chromosomes into a unique human person is an amazing creative moment! The biological term for this tiniest human being is 'zygote'. But herein lies the greatest social justice issue of our age: not everyone is convinced this tiny fertilized ovum is a human person worthy of our respect and protection. The consequence of that notion has resulted in the widespread acceptance and practice of human abortion. In 2018 alone there were an estimated 42 million abortions worldwide.
If you believe that little zygote is nothing more than a speck traveling down the fallopian tube towards the rich environment of the uterine wall, or - even more abstractly - a microscopic dot in an IVF petri dish, then you find it irritating that some people want to ban abortion. In fact, you find it more than irritating: You view it as a case of willful ignorance that would obstruct laboratory experimentation on that zygote to discover, for example, a possible cure for Parkinson’s disease.
On the other hand, if you believe that a fertilized human egg properly implanted in his mother’s womb will become, in 270 days, your adorable little Johnny or Liam or Naomi or Ruthie, then you are deeply troubled by what you perceive is the willful ignorance of those who say the zygote is not a human person: A person who, if protected and nurtured, might grow to become your child’s dear school friend or your daughter’s beloved husband.
The digital revolution may prove to be the unborn child’s best advocate. Forensic investigators are beginning to use computer-generated images from DNA samples left behind at unwitnessed crime scenes, in combination with artists’ sketches, to develop rough visual profiles of criminal suspects. Richard Stith, a Valparaiso University Law School professor, has suggested that applying such technology to gestational DNA, obtained in a non-injurious way, might become a way to project the future face of that tiny embryonic speck - even its eye and hair color - and thus be a persuasive challenge to the agnosticism of those who doubt the personhood of the unborn child.
Ultimately, it is the Spirit of God unleashing the truth of Scripture that opens the eyes of the human mind and heart. The Hebrew Psalmist declares, “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” (Psalm 139:13-14).
Theologian Thomas F. Torrance wrote,
“Think of the importance of [Christ’s] incarnation, then, for our understanding of and regard for the unborn child. Every child in the womb has been ‘brothered’ by the Lord Jesus. In becoming a human being for us, he also became an embryo for the sake of all embryos, and for our Christian understanding of the being, nature, and status in God’s eyes of the unborn child. So, to take no thought, or no proper thought, for the unborn child is to have no proper thought of Jesus himself as our Lord and Savior or to appreciate his relation as the incarnate Creator to every human being.”
May 2019 be the Year of the Unborn Child, whereby God’s mercy we become “champions of human life at every stage.”
1. Stith, Richard, Facing the Unborn, First Things, August, 2015
2. Torrance, Thomas, F., “The Being and Nature of the Unborn Child” quoted from Bowen, Marie H., Pregnant With Promise, 2010