By Jenny Fulton, Crosswalk.com
Abortion is a hot-button topic, capable of producing passionate and inflammatory responses from people on all sides of the issue. This topic has lately taken center stage in the American political arena with a leaked draft suggesting the Supreme Court will overturn the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade.
What is the Christian stance on Roe v. Wade? According to Scripture, how does God view this issue?
Before we get into the Christian stance on Roe v. Wade, it’s best to define our terms.
What is Abortion?
For the purposes of this article, and especially since we’re looking into the Christian stance on Roe v. Wade, I’m going to define abortion as the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy.
What is Roe v Wade?
Background: In 1969, Norma McCorvey of Dallas, Texas was pregnant with her third child and wanted to have an abortion. However, the Texas abortion laws only permitted the procedure if it was medically advised by a licensed physician for the purpose of saving the mother’s life or if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest. Since McCorvey didn’t qualify for the first condition, friends advised her to claim the second. When this failed due to the lack of a police report, Norma went to an illegal abortion clinic, only to find it had been shut down. This determined woman then sought legal counsel and was referred to lawyers Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, recent graduates who were already working to fight the state’s abortion laws. They gave Norma the alias “Jane Roe” and brought a lawsuit against Dallas County district attorney Henry Wade.
Ruling: In December of 1971, Roe v Wade made it to the Supreme Court. On January 22, 1973, the court ruled in favor of Roe that, based on the First, Fourth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments, the Texas abortions laws violated Roe’s constitutional rights to “zone of privacy,” which, they said, included abortion, and were therefore unconstitutional.
Impact: The decision moved the question of abortion rights from the state to the federal level. The justices declared the state has “two legitimate government interests: protecting the mother’s health and protecting the potentiality of human life." To this end, the court allowed states to place some restrictions upon abortion procedures. They created the pregnancy trimester framework followed today and issued legislative-type laws describing what kinds of abortion restrictions states could include and when they could include them.
1st Trimester: absolutely no restrictions allowed. The choice is to be made by the mother and her doctor.
2nd Trimester: the state may regulate abortion in a way that “reasonably relates to the preservation and protection of maternal health.”
3rd Trimester: the state may place any restriction they want for the purpose of protecting “potential life.”
Bottom line: Historically, in the United States, abortion laws have included exceptions to allow for women’s health, and states have been legally allowed, in some capacity, to legislate restrictions on the procedure.
What is the Christian Stance on Roe v. Wade?
Roe v. Wade focused on the woman. It looked at whether or not her right to privacy included the right to an abortion and whether or not the state violated that right by restricting her ability to legally have one. Nowhere in the decision was the word ‘baby’ mentioned. The baby was viewed and described as ‘potential life,’ rather than being fully alive and fully human.
With facts in order, we can discern that a Christian stance must:
1. Take God’s View, Seeing the Unborn Baby Wholly Alive and Incredibly Valuable
God loves all people, of all ages. Psalm 127:3 proclaims the worth of babies and children: “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward” (NASB).
Psalm 139:13-16 reads:
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them” (NASB).
If babies in the womb are this precious to God, shouldn’t they be precious to us too?
Even secular authorities acknowledge unborn babies’ personhood. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many studies about the impact of talking to your baby and playing music for them when they’re still in your womb. Ultrasounds, which weren’t nearly as developed in the 1970’s as they are now, show how incredibly aware and active babies are, even in the early weeks of pregnancy (Venes, M.D).
At the moment of conception, each baby has its own unique set of DNA. This means they are a distinct, separate body and person from their mother and father.
At 24 days, the baby has a heartbeat.
At 6 weeks, brain waves are detected
At 8 weeks, all organs are present.
These facts demonstrate that an unborn baby, though completely dependent upon its mother, is fully human and fully loved by the God who created him/her.
2. Love and Demonstrate Care for the Mother
Although the baby is the most obvious victim of abortion, this act impacts and hurts the mother as well. Pregnancy is unique to anything else in human existence. Through it, two people are joined so closely together, both physically and spiritually, that the well-being of one directly impacts the well-being of the other.
Our care for the woman must begin before she is pregnant, continue while she is pregnant (regardless of marital status), carry on after she gives birth (regardless of whether she gives birth to a live baby or a dead one via abortion), and be maintained throughout her life following the birth.
Why? Because God loved the mother before she was conceived and throughout every stage of her life.
Roe v. Wade and groups who support a woman’s right to an abortion don’t address the beauty and potential joys of pregnancy. Pro-life groups tend to overlook its challenges. Both sides often neglect to consider the detrimental, life-threatening impact the procedure can have on the woman.
Being pregnant is an incredible time when a woman experiences a new life growing within her. Mother and child are closely and intimately joined to one another in a manner unlike any other relationship. But it can also feel scary. The woman’s body does crazy things, changes, and produces a wide range of emotions. Her life is no longer her own (for a Christian, it wasn’t to begin with, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). She’s completely responsible for a tiny person, even when they’re still inside her, and this can feel like a heavy burden. The future can seem terrifying. How will she care for such a helpless baby and still take care of herself as well?
Unwed mothers need an especially large amount of support since they can easily feel alone. Christians can help by embracing these ladies and not condemning them. I’ve known several unwed mothers of various ages and circumstances who carried their babies to term and are doing well. The common thread among these women: they had supportive communities to help them along the way.
There is no easy, risk-free, pain-free way to give birth, whether a woman is delivering a full-term baby or an aborted one. Even the abortion pill, which constitutes most abortions in America today, is described by Planned Parenthood as having symptoms similar to a miscarriage. Speaking from the experience of two natural miscarriages during the first trimester, it hurts. Badly. And the surgical methods of killing a baby are even more invasive, painful, and risky for the mother.
The woman endures psychological and spiritual harm from abortion as well. She may experience Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS) which may present in a number of harmful and life-threatening behaviors including an increased risk of suicide.
All this to say: when we think about abortion, we must consider its impact on the woman and the child. We must love and care for her as much as we do her baby.
3. Love Those with Opposing Viewpoints
It’s easy to either attack or completely disregard someone with a different viewpoint. But this isn’t how Christians should respond. Instead, we should find points of agreement, show humble respect when we discuss our points of disagreement, and love those who think differently.
Find Points of Agreement
Somewhere in the American abortion debate, people defined the two main views as Pro-Choice and Pro-Life. Those who consider themselves Pro-Choice focus on the woman and her rights, while those in the Pro-life camp emphasize the importance of the baby’s life. While it’s easy to make sweeping assumptions, we can choose to behave/respond differently. We can focus on what we have in common.
Christians have always been a diverse group of individuals who haven’t agreed on everything. Every letter Paul wrote to the churches began with an acknowledgment of their bond in Christ. Today, there are Pro-Choice and Pro-Life Christians. As fellow believers, the first thing that connects us to those in the opposing group is that, regardless of our differences, we have all been called into fellowship with Jesus Christ our Lord.
In 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul encouraged the believers to agree and not be divided. The Greek word for "agree" is taken from the word "gather," which carries the idea of picking out what is good, or “to pick out things which from some standpoints are alike" (Louw and Nida). The rest of 1 Corinthians shows how Christians can disagree on various issues and still be united.
Pro-Choice advocates value and feel compassion for the woman. This is good. Some people are Pro-Choice because they’ve witnessed child abuse and neglect and are concerned for the well-being of an unwanted child after they’re born. This empathy is also good. Pro-Life proponents can agree with these points of care. Both groups can also agree that the woman should have the right to make choices about her body. This is also good. The point at which they differ comes when the woman’s choice about her body impacts the life of a body that isn’t hers—that of her baby’s.
Pro-Life Christians believe babies matter. Most Pro-Choice advocates agree. In fact, many protest the Pro-Abortion label because they don’t support the practice. They simply think women should have the choice to go that route.
As you can see, there are more commonalities between believers on opposing sides than it seems. If you remember that you’re all fellow Christians, and take the time to genuinely listen to the reasoning behind the viewpoints, you’ll likely find more to love and respect in each other than you realized.
Show Humble Respect in Our Discussions
Although we should find and appreciate our commonalities, we will still disagree. It’s good to be passionate about what we believe is right. The key is learning how to discuss our views in a godly way. You can do this by:
Praying before you enter a discussion of this nature. Ask God for wisdom, peace, and for His Words to flow through you. “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord” (NASB).
Don’t fall into the ad hominem fallacy. Focus on the issue, not your opponent.
Be gentle with the person, steadfast in your belief. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (NASB). Similarly, Colossians 4:6 instructs us to, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (NASB).
Let your knowledge, speech, and actions be filled with God’s love. Knowledge alone doesn’t win arguments for God. Without love, all the knowledge in the world is empty and meaningless (1 Corinthians 8:1,13:2).
Love Those Who Think Differently
We may not succeed in convincing members of the other side to think differently. But we can still show each other love by respecting the person behind the belief and by not beating each other down with insults and accusatory assumptions.
4. Trust and Serve God No Matter the Outcome
Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding Roe v. Wade, Christians need to remember that God is still in control and working. Whether the abortion issue remains at the state or federal level, we should seek to love and help women and their babies. Our behavior as Christians shouldn’t be determined by the unstable political winds of this world, but by our steadfast, heavenly King whose Kingdom never changes. May all that we do be done in love.
Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, 24th ed. (2021), ed. Donald Venes, M.D.
Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon, 349
Photo Credit: ©Heather Mount/Unsplash
Jenny Fulton is a wife, mother, writer, and member of Wholly Loved Ministries who enjoys studying God’s Word and sharing what she has learned with others. She is the author of Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye, A Princess’ Guide to the Alphabet, and Striving for Unity: a Study on 1 Corinthians (upcoming release). An enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, Jenny developed a keen interest in language and cultures. In 2007, she graduated from Grace University with a B.S. in Bible, a B.S. in elementary education, and an endorsement in K-12 ESL. For the next seven years, Jenny worked as a teacher in a variety of cultural and educational settings, both abroad and in the United States. Her days are now spent raising her three young daughters and writing as much as time and opportunity allows.