Roe v. Wade.
Supreme Court leaks.
All of it is so emotionally and politically charged that it is hard to sort through, think through, or discuss without an argument.
But if you step back for a moment… if you separate yourself from the political crowds… if you try to take the emotion out of the issue… then you are left with one inconvenient truth.
Whether you like or not, when we are talking about the issue of abortion, we are talking about the taking of a human life.
Perhaps one can debate when “personhood” begins (which itself is a sticky debate with major philosophical implications), but, scientifically and medically, there is no question that a unique human life begins at conception.
As Dr. Maureen Condic, professor of neurobiology at the University of Utah, notes:
The conclusion that human life begins at sperm-egg fusion is uncontested, objective, based on the universally accepted scientific method of distinguishing different cell types from each other and on ample scientific evidence (thousands of independent, peer-reviewed publications). Moreover, it is entirely independent of any specific ethical, moral, political, or religious view of human life or of human embryos. Indeed, this definition does not directly address the central ethical question surrounding the embryo: What value ought society place on human life at the earliest stages of development? A neutral examination of the evidence merely establishes the onset of a new human life at a scientifically well-defined “moment of conception,” a conclusion that unequivocally indicates that human embryos from the one-cell stage forward are indeed living individuals of the human species; i.e., human beings.
When the sperm and egg fuse together, a unique human individual is formed. All the chromosomes and genetic information needed for the rest of that unique individual’s life are immediately and entirely present. The human embryo that is formed at that moment also has the inherent ability to direct its own development, powerfully and amazingly forming all the tissues, organs, systems, and eventually the heart and brain to sustain ongoing human life.
This is basic science if one truly follows the science.
It also reflects the beauty and sanctity of life expressed in the Hebrew Scriptures:
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)
If nothing else, step back and be amazed at the wonder of life and the incredible information packed into the single cell of the embryo.
Just 1 gram of DNA is theoretically capable of holding 455 exabytes – enough for all the data held by Google, Facebook and every other major tech company, with room to spare. (The New Scientist)
Now I realize that this reality alone does not solve the debate or make it any less emotional. In fact, it makes it even more emotional because in talking about abortion we are talking about the most important thing we can be talking about–human life.
What value is there in human life? When can a human life be taken? Is there a difference between human life and human “personhood”? Is there a fundamental change in the status of the fetus when it develops its own heartbeat? What role and decisions does the mother (the one supporting the human life in her own body) have in this process? Are there exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the mother?
These questions can be more difficult to answer.
Roe v. Wade was one answer given by our own Supreme Court.
But instead of solving the issue, Roe v. Wade inflamed the issue.
Even Ruth Bader Ginsburg acknowledged that Roe v. Wade went too far and created more of a mess than it resolved. She also argued that it was based on the wrong premise.
Doctrinal limbs too swiftly shaped, experience teaches, may prove unstable. The most prominent example in recent decades is Roe v. Wade. A less-encompassing Roe, one that merely struck down the extreme Texas law and went no further on that day … might have served to reduce rather than to fuel controversy.
The point is not to argue whether Ginsburg was right or not but to say that many legal scholars on both sides of the aisle see the glaring weaknesses of Roe v. Wade. As Dr. Solomon Stevens, a teacher of constitutional law at Boston University, observes:
Roe is vulnerable because it is a weak case based on weak precedent.
Columnist George Will, in a recent article in the Washington Post, concurs:
Intelligent people of goodwill disagree vehemently about the morality of abortion; defenders of Roe’s reasoning are, however, vanishingly rare.
Thus, whatever your view on abortion, the main role of the Supreme Court is to decide whether a law is constitutional or not, whether it honors our God-given rights and upholds justice for all. If Roe is indeed based on weak judicial reasoning and a poor interpretation of the Constitution, then it should be overturned. To react with emotional anger and protests against the Supreme Court says nothing about the merits or the constitutionality of the case. That’s the only thing that the Supreme Court should be deciding and the only thing that people should be debating when it comes to Roe itself.
But I am not a legal scholar. I understand that. I am also not a woman who has been put in the position of carrying a child in pregnancy. I can’t imagine the difficulties that a woman might face in certain circumstances, such as an unwanted pregnancy. Compassion, understanding, and grace are always in order. And sometimes answers are not easy.
But the inconvenient truth remains: abortion is the taking of a human life.
Jean Garton was an abortion advocate faced with her own unwanted pregnancy. She was a firm believer in abortion until one night, while observing the medical slides of an aborted two month fetus, her three year old wandered into the room and asked innocently, “Who broke the baby?”
Her three year old saw what she didn’t want to see.
And it changed her perspective… and her life.
She went on to oppose abortion not only because it ends a human life but because it also harms women.
When one studies the history of abortion, oftentimes the person who wanted the abortion the most was the man who fathered the child. Abortions in the Roman Empire were almost always forced on the woman by the man and most of the children aborted or killed right after birth were girls. Thus, the ratio of males to females in the Roman Empire was estimated to be as high as 140 males per 100 females. In the nations of China and India today, the ratios are similarly skewed because of the prevalence of abortion against females.
In many cases, the women who are having abortions are doing so because the father is not only unwilling to be involved or to be a help but also actively pressuring the woman to abort. These are the men who want to gratify their sexual desires but not be responsible enough to love the woman they impregnated or raise the baby they fathered. This is the side of abortion that is rarely talked about. What a pregnant woman wants is often not an abortion but the commitment of a husband and a father and the support and love of a family and community around them to help them be a mom.
Thus, a culture of abortion not only devalues human life but also reinforces the irresponsibility of men. And often the biggest victims of this kind of culture are women.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, then it will not be the end of abortion…nor the end of the difficult debates and choices that face us as a nation. It will merely put the issue back in the hands of the States where the issue can be debated among legislators elected by the people they represent.
Ultimately no law can solve all the issues. Only changed hearts and a society bent on acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God can bring about the best solutions which not only honor the life of the child but also honor and support the life of the mother.
But perhaps it is fair to ask: “Who are you to speak?” I am not a woman. I am not a mother. I am not the one facing some of the difficult realities that a woman might face during pregnancy.
That is true. I cannot speak as a mother.
But I can speak as the child of an unwanted pregnancy.
In 1968, my mom found out that she was unexpectedly pregnant with her sixth child.
She had been on the birth control pill when I was conceived.
I was not in her plans.
With the overwhelming stresses of five kids ranging in age from 12 to 5 years old… living in a new city far from her own family… and being in a marriage that left much to be desired at the time, she was not wanting another child.
She was devastated with the news.
As my mom tells it. She sat down and cried in the doctor’s office. She was not shedding tears of joy but rather tears of sorrow… tears of frustration… tears of disappointment.
I don’t know all that went through my mom’s head the day that she discovered that I was in her womb. She doesn’t remember everything either.
The age of Roe v. Wade had not dawned yet. Abortion was certainly known and becoming more accepted but it still wasn’t legal in most of the United States nor ingrained in the minds of the culture.
Transport my mom into a different time period… into a different context with a different mindset… and there is a good chance that I would not be here today.
Based on common reasoning today, she had every reason to abort.
I am thankful that she didn’t.
I am thankful that she sacrificed so much to give me life.
I am thankful that her tears of sorrow eventually turned to tears of joy.
I am thankful that I have the mom that I have today.
I don’t take any of it for granted.
She sacrificed. She loved. She bore the pain. She gave me life.
That’s why deep down I think we all have such profound gratitude for our mothers.
We know that they did what no one else could do.
And we know that they love to an extent that few humans ever do.
No one in your life will ever love you as your mother does. There is no love as pure, unconditional and strong as a mother’s love. And I will never be loved that way again. (Hope Edelman)
So on this Mother’s Day, I praise my mom.
Because she faced the inconvenient reality of an unwanted pregancy, the inconvenient truth of another human life inside her womb, and she made the inconvenient choice to give me life.
And such love is the most beautiful choice that any person can make.