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Passing judgment before the proper time can make faith look like fanaticism, or extinguish a life, or lead to gross injustice. Parts 1 and 2 in this series of posts looked at these themes in very different ways: first, the polarizing and often fruitless “culture wars” that drive well-meaning people to face the world with mean-spirited condemnation; and second, the hasty assumptions that can drive two young men into a confrontation that leaves one dead.
Now I’m veering back to the subject that I first intended to be Part 2. As I venture into a 40-year-old debate, I hope by this one issue to shed light on judgment that’s destructive, and on judgment that is just. Not to dance around the point, I’m talking about unborn human life.
Here, actual lives hang in the balance. I will plead for them first of all as a Christian, but also with any moral appeal that may possibly resonate. I will voice judgment on this issue and not apologize.
Speaking of judgment, ponder this: An old chestnut of Planned Parenthood is the slogan, “Every child a wanted child.” The idea sounds both practical and compassionate until you start to unpack it. It’s hard to find fault with preventing unwanted pregnancy. But we know that in practice the Planned Parenthood mantra also involves the liberal use of one very draconian judgment.
Every abortion on some level is a judgment of the unborn child’s worth by some external measure. The prospects for its home environment are too bleak. Its defects are too severe. It will cost too much – financially, emotionally or in terms of the mother’s life or health.
Those latter situations, and cases such as rape or incest, introduce some shades of gray. Such instances call for the wisdom of Solomon, and he’s not available. But by and large, the judgment of death to the child is made on grounds that while serious, are far less drastic than the exchange of one life for another.
In any event, the decision to abort is a judgment made not on any merit of the child, but on factors completely apart from him or her. And it’s a judgment in which the child has no say.
Time has a finger on the scale as this judgment is made. Abortion immediately lifts the responsibility for another life, grants financial relief and removes a physical burden. If you don’t find that a little chilling, consider how the same ethic could be applied to other people whose quality of life doesn’t meet some arbitrary standard, or who might be judged more of a drain than a contributor – in terms of time, energy or resources.
Unlike abortion’s “upsides,” the rewards of parenthood are slow-ripening fruit. Especially to a young, single woman, the judgment becomes easy when that fruit appears distant, and she has a flawed moral conviction – or none at all – about the object of that judgment.
If a person were brought forth who had somehow lived in a moral vacuum, with no opportunity to knowingly do good or evil, wouldn’t it be unjust to issue a death sentence based on other people’s subjective judgments of the person’s worth or prospects? Yet that is done with every abortion. And a life ends.
Some will ask, is it really a life? A fair question, which I’ll answer with another. Suppose there is an extremely premature infant in a neonatal ward – premature enough to have been aborted via a late-term procedure, had it not been born. This kind of overlap is not some future fantasy – it exists today. Now, supposed a deranged person breaks into the ward and kills that infant. Wouldn’t it be murder? And yet, had the mother judged it impossible to let that baby live, she could have had it aborted, legally.
The point is, we can try to compromise by setting some arbitrary, legal threshold of viability outside the womb, and drawing the line on abortion there. And as surely as the sun will rise, medical science will push that threshold back.
The pressures, subtle and overt, that drive the choice to abort make it important to withhold our judgment of the people involved. As with anything else, it’s for God to judge people, and for His servants to extend compassion, speak truth and seek justice.
In most of my posts, I leave plenty of space for the possibility that I’m wrong. On this issue, I can only leave a very small space. If there is any point at which a fetus is not a human being (I don’t think so), we are not wise enough to find that boundary. The safest moral ground is to treat every fetus as a person, too young to judge unworthy of life. With a few very narrow exceptions, to kill that child intentionally is a terrible injustice.