Around 385,000 babies are born each day worldwide. On November 14, Analia Acevedo Castañeda was one of them. She was, however, the only one I know of to be born on an airplane.
Her mother went into premature labor an hour into their flight heading home to North Carolina from Mexico. A nurse on board helped her for more than three hours until the plane landed at the Atlanta International Airport. First responders then found the mother lying on the floor in the back of the plane and decided to deliver the baby there. When she was born, one of the flight attendants took the microphone to announce, “We have a baby girl.”
If the mother had chosen abortion, her “baby girl” would have become a “fetus” and her life would have ended in a legally protected act. If, however, her mother had been murdered and the unborn child had died, that child would have been recognized as a legal victim as well.
Whether the “baby girl” was murdered with her mother, her mother aborted her, or her mother gave birth to her, nothing whatsoever about Analia herself would have changed.
Herein lies the tragic contradiction inherent in Roe v. Wade and the abortion license it grants.
What happened at the Supreme Court
As you know, the US Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday regarding a Mississippi law that bans abortion after fifteen weeks. According to CNN, the court “seemed poised” to uphold the law, “but it is less clear if there is a clear majority to end the right to abortion nationwide.”
After the hearing, Fox News’ Bill Mears suggested the court would support Mississippi’s ban and remove the “viability” standard from Roe (see more on this below) as the constitutional standard. This would mean “Roe would neither be struck down in its entirety or upheld in its entirety.”
The New York Times reports that the justices will cast tentative votes at a private conference in the coming days. If there is a majority, the senior justice in that majority will write the majority opinion or assign it to a colleague. Draft opinions will be prepared and exchanged. A final decision is not expected until late June or early July, when major rulings tend to arrive.
Pro-life supporters should be praying for the justices in these crucial days of personal and private deliberations (1 Timothy 2:1–2), asking God to guide their minds and, where necessary, change their views and hearts (cf. Proverbs 16:9).
In the meantime, how can we persuade others that preborn life is sacred and should be safeguarded?
Six secular arguments
My position on abortion can be stated in two phrases: Abortion takes a human life and therefore abortion should be illegal. Yesterday, we discussed biblical and scientific evidence for the first phrase. Today, we’ll consider other relevant secular arguments; tomorrow, we’ll focus on the logical imperative of the second phrase.
1: The stare decisis (“to stand by things decided”) argument is that Roe is settled law and thus should be allowed to stand. This was the reasoning of three conservative justices who voted to uphold Roe in 1992. However, the Supreme Court has overturned previous decisions 230 times over its history, including the horrific Dred Scott decision that protected slavery.
2: The viability argument is that the unborn child should be protected by law once it could survive outside the womb but can be aborted prior to this point. This was the reasoning in the court’s 1992 Planned Parenthood vs. Casey ruling that kept the core of Roe but changed its trimesters approach to a “viability” standard. However, as Russell Moore and Ross Douthat convincingly demonstrate, this standard also applies to small children, those with significant developmental challenges, the elderly infirm, those battling severe disease, and so on. It is a slippery slope to devaluing all life based on its utility to those who do the valuing.
3: The imposing morality argument claims that the state should not legislate ethical standards on this issue, leaving the decision to the mother. But every law is an imposition of morality, from speed limits to seatbelt laws to prohibitions against murder. If a mother is to be free of all such “impositions,” should said freedom extend to infanticide? Where are such lines to be drawn?
4: The “no unwanted children” argument claims that a woman who does not want to bear a child will be an inappropriate or ineffective mother if the child is born. The mother is more closely involved with the fetus than any other individual and is the best person to determine whether or not this child is wanted and will receive proper care. However, it is hard to argue seriously that an unwanted child would rather be aborted than given life. This approach would also apply to infanticide and all forms of euthanasia. And it overlooks the positive and life-giving alternative of adoption.
5: The rape and incest argument claims that pregnancies resulting from these despicable crimes should be subject to legal abortion for the sake of the mother. However, just 1 percent of women obtain an abortion because they became pregnant through rape; less than 0.5 percent do so because of incest. Seventy-four percent of abortions are chosen because “having a baby would dramatically change my life”; 73 percent are chosen because the mother “can’t afford a baby now.”
6: The health of the mother argument claims that since the mother is clearly a person under the Constitution, her physical life, emotional health, and quality of life should take precedence. However, the medical risks posted by abortion should be considered as well as the guilt and long-term mental anguish reported by many who abort their children. Legalized abortion also subjects women to pressure from others to end their pregnancies. While pro-life advocates uniformly agree that pregnancy can be morally terminated to save the life of the mother, only 4 percent of abortions relate to her physical health problems.
“Our mouths wide open at his love”
Legalized abortion is a tragic symptom of the foundational spiritual disease of our culture. The fact that we are even having this debate and that I needed to outline the arguments above shows how far our culture has moved from biblical truth.
According to the word of God, every human is created in our Creator’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:27). Each of us can say with the prophet, “The Lᴏʀᴅ called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name” (Isaiah 49:1). Our Lord loved us “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8) and rejoices over us “with gladness” today (Zephaniah 3:17). He has a unique and providential purpose for each of us from the moment of our conception (cf. Jeremiah 1:5).
If we viewed life as he does, rather than debating the status of preborn children, we would be celebrating the miracle of their lives and ours with them.
Brennan Manning was right: “We should be astonished at the goodness of God, stunned that he should bother to call us by name, our mouths wide open at his love, bewildered that at this very moment we are standing on holy ground.”
When last were you “bewildered” by your Father’s love for you?
How will you share that love with someone today?