“How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
(Psalm 82:2-4 ESV)
Today, in Washington, D.C., thousands upon thousands of people will participate in the March for Life, the largest pro-life rally in the world. The march is built on the conviction that unborn babies are made in the image of God, and, as such, deserving of the rights God has given to all people.
I want to outline here the two key reasons why we—pro-life advocates in general and The Summit Church specifically—believe this, and why we take it seriously. Then, I want to address some of the “red herrings” in the discussion. Finally, I want to offer a word of hope to you, wherever you stand on the issue and whatever your history. All of this is meant to serve and love both the unborn and those of you who have abortion as part of your story.
To state it as simply as I can, we believe that the unborn are humans worthy of protection. Here are two reasons:
1. Science and Logic
Scientifically, the human embryo, from the point of conception forward, is already a whole human entity. As Dr. Maureen Condic, a professor of neurobiology at the University of Utah, states,
Embryos are not merely collections of human cells, but living creatures distinct from a group of cells; embryos are capable of growing, maturing, maintaining a physiologic balance between various organ systems, adapting to changing circumstances, and repairing injury. Mere groups of human cells do nothing like this under any circumstances.
This isn’t a minority opinion, either. Every science textbook recognizes that human embryos are not merely an extension of the woman nor “collections of cells” but rather independent human beings. If they are not “human,” what else could they be?
Scott Klusendorf helpfully points out that many of the distinctions that are made to imply that the unborn are not “human” enough to be deserving of the protection of life fail to hold up with even the slightest application of logical consistency. He uses a SLED acronym to show the inconsistency of saying that unborn babies are not people yet, with each letter standing for something pro-choice advocates bring forward to deprive the unborn of their humanity:
S: Size. Yes, you were much smaller as an embryo, but since when does body size determine value? A 5’2” woman may weigh half as much as a 6’5” man, but we don’t think of her as less human as a result.
L: Level of development. You were less developed as an embryo, but infants are less developed than teenagers. Do we think infants have less value? Of course not. What level of development quantifies as human? Is it “consciousness?” Unborn babies possess some type of consciousness at 15 weeks. But does a temporary lack of consciousness deprive one of their humanity? If you lost consciousness in a coma, with the doctor saying with reliable certainty that you’d regain consciousness within three to four months, would you believe others had the right to kill you in your unconscious state?
E: Environment. Where you are has no bearing on what you are. Does an eight-inch journey through the birth canal change the essential value of the unborn? What exactly is the difference between a baby 10 minutes before birth and one 10 minutes after birth, such that we are allowed to kill one but not the other?
D: Degree of dependency. Sometimes it is stated: Unborn babies rely on their mothers for survival. But does dependence make a person un-human? Those with disabilities have a higher degree of dependency than you do. So do the elderly. Newborn infants, left alone, would die within days, if not hours. Humans are humans not by their function but by their nature.
When you push the reasoning of pro-choice advocates to its logical end, the results are horrifying. Peter Singer, the famous Princeton bioethics professor and staunch pro-choice advocate, for example, has said that parents should have the right to terminate their children until they are 2 years old. That’s gruesome, and most people reject his conclusion. But isn’t it just taking the logic to a necessary end? As Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, says, “Name for me one argument for abortion that cannot be used to justify infanticide.”
For those who are Christians, there can be no doubt that the unborn are full persons. Bible writers consistently talk about unborn babies in this way. King David says God knew him before he was born: “You [God] created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13 NIV). Or take John the Baptist, who was filled with the Spirit in his mother’s womb. Not only was he alive, but God was also dwelling within him. And consider this: The Hebrew word for “child” is the same, whether referring to children outside the womb or children inside the womb. The Bible teaches that all human beings are image bearers of God (Genesis 1:27; James 3:9) and that the intentional killing of innocent human beings is forbidden (Exodus 23:7; Proverbs 6:16-19). Intentionally killing any innocent human made in the image of God is an assault on God himself (Genesis 9:1-5).
For the Christian, there can be no doubt that abortion is the destruction of a person made in God’s image. Yet, nearly two-thirds of the women getting abortions say they are Christians!
The conversation about abortion really should hinge on one question: Are the unborn human or not? If they aren’t, then you don’t need much reasoning for abortion. But if they are, then the reasoning behind the pro-choice cause falls apart. The arguments become “red herrings,” distractions that aren’t relevant to the issue at hand. (A red herring is a fish that has been brined until it turns red, which makes it smell particularly odorous. The origin of the term is a helpful metaphor: The story goes that a person might be able to use the scent of the fish to distract hunting dogs, who would lose their trail.)
Here are some of the most common red herrings used in the discussion about abortion:
A. If you’re so pro-life, why do you only care about babies before they’re born?
This comes in a variety of forms, but the basic implication is that those who are pro-life are hypocritically so: They say that don’t want women aborting babies, but they also won’t do anything to help those women or babies after birth. For example, pro-choice advocates might say: “Are you willing to adopt all these unwanted kids you don’t want aborted?”
The charge is carefully engineered, but it is both a logical fallacy and utterly inconsistent with the facts about pro-life advocates.
Logically, this is an ad hominem argument. It’s an attack on pro-life advocates, not on the pro-life view. These objections are carefully engineered to silence pro-life advocates, because who ever feels that they have done enough for women and children? If you imply that people aren’t truly loving, the honest person will say, “You’re right. I could do more.” That’s the power of the “argument.” But remember, it’s not an argument. It’s an attack. The question of the humanity of the baby isn’t even addressed. It’s a red herring that diverts the discussion away from logical reasoning to moral judgmentalism.
But this attack also misrepresents the facts. Pro-life Christians do care, and not just in a don’t-get-abortions kind of way. Pro-life pregnancy centers, for instance, outnumber abortion clinics two to one. They provide parenting classes, clothing, and adoption service. Pro-lifers adopt more often than pro-choicers. And they give far more to charity than their pro-choice counterparts. Who can forget Mother Theresa turning to Bill Clinton at the 1994 prayer breakfast and saying, “I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child and be loved by the child.”
We want to promote a culture of life, and that means caring about life from the womb to the tomb. So if we aren’t caring for the poor and needy and marginalized among us, we need to repent. But that should never lead us to stop caring and fighting for the protection of the vulnerable and voiceless unborn.
B. Only women can speak on this issue.
This is often hurled at male pro-life advocates because the discussion touches on issues affecting women’s bodies, not men’s. But again, this is a logical fallacy: Whether it is right or wrong to intentionally kill someone depends on the person being killed, not the gender of the person making the argument. Remember: The central question is, “Is the unborn one of us?”
To answer that question, we must examine the validity and soundness of the respective arguments. Arguments don’t have gender.
Maybe an even more appropriate response is to ask, “Which women?” What about the women who are aborted? Or the millions of pro-life women? “Women” don’t have one view on this. And, in fact, the statistics show that women are more pro-life than men. If we’re only listening to women, then we should accept the pro-life position.
Justice means speaking up for any who are voiceless, regardless of their gender or yours.
We want to promote a culture of life, and that means caring about life from the womb to the tomb. @jdgreear
C. Shouldn’t we spend more time speaking out against the poverty system that creates the need for abortions?
As with most of the red herrings, there’s an element of truth here. Yes, we should work to fight the poverty that can create the despair that makes abortion feel necessary. But again, this is logical fallacy. Whether or not abortion is wrong is not contingent on the environment surrounding it. Imagine a Southern slave owner explaining why the economic system Northerners created demanded slavery. Even if that had been true, we’d maintain that the practice of slavery was wrong anyway.
If we truly love people, we should do everything in our power to help them. So we speak out against the poverty system and we speak out against abortion. It’s not an either/or.
D. If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one!
This argument stretches the limits of the word “like.” We’re not talking about a preference (“Don’t like Pepsi? Don’t drink it!”). We’re talking about people’s lives. I don’t oppose abortion because it violates some preference of mine; I’m opposed because I believe it ends human life.
To imagine how absurd this statement is, change the variables in it: What would you think if someone said, “Don’t like slavery? Well, don’t own a slave!” or “Don’t like sexual assault? Don’t do it!” Pretty insensitive, right?
E. I’m personally opposed to abortion, but I don’t think we should overturn Roe v. Wade.
This statement is similar to the above, and it’s often offered on college campuses with good intentions. But logically it falls apart with the slightest investigation. Abortion either deprives an innocent human being made in the image of God of life or it doesn’t.
The question to ask here is: Why are you personally against abortion? Is it because you know it is the wrongful taking of human life? If that’s what you think, are you really willing to sit back and do nothing while innocent people are murdered? That sounds a lot like Pilate, washing his hands and hoping that the evil of others won’t splash onto him.
Again, try applying the logic with different variables. Would people ever say something like this about child abuse? “I’m personally opposed, but let’s not get the law involved.” No! Why not? Because no one’s “rights” includes the right to harm someone else. If the baby is a child, our right to make choices does not extend to taking its life.
F. Abortion needs to be legal so that it’s safe for mothers.
The narrative surrounding abortion rights goes something like this: Back in the 1970s, women were dying by the thousands in back-alley abortions. Then Roe v. Wade happened, and now women are much safer. They’re going to do it either way, so we might as well make it safe.
The truth of the matter is that maternal death had been in steady decline—from 7,267 to 780—in the years between 1942 and 1972. And of those 780 deaths, 140 were related to abortion (though that also included spontaneous abortions caused by miscarriage). So the idea that abortion was overwhelmingly common—but dangerous—simply isn’t true. What we can be sure of is that the death rate for babies in abortion procedures is 100 percent.
G. What about situations of rape or incest?
The number of pregnancies that arise from the tragic instances of rape or incest may be small, but they are nonetheless painful. Our hearts go out to anyone in this situation. For you, we recognize that this question is less of a red herring and more of a reflection of a heart-rending situation. We grieve with you.
The heart of this question is about the way we respond to pain and tragedy. A woman in this situation may be saying, “This baby came to be through the most horrific event of my life. Why should I be forced to bear the burden of something that only reminds me of that pain?”
The answer, in brief, is twofold: First, it’s actually not healing for the mother to pursue abortion. When faced with tragedy, the most healing path forward is not to push away any evidence of the pain. It is to bring that pain to God, allowing him to heal us. We’ll get more to that in a moment.
Second, this objection, like the others, shifts the terms of the debate. We aren’t debating whether rape is heinous. We agree that it is and that it leaves deeply wounded victims. But is the child at fault for how he got there? How do we, as a civil society, treat innocent human beings that remind us of painful events? We don’t help anyone by harming one human simply because he reminds us of another human’s sin. The question, once again, hinges on whether the unborn are human or not.
H. I have a right to my body.
No one is arguing against that. But does your right to your body include taking the life of another for the sake of convenience? Aren’t there competing rights at stake? What about the rights of the unborn child?
Advocates of slavery doubled down on slavery based on similar reasoning in The Dred Scott Decision of 1857. They admitted that the slaves had a right to freedom. But they also argued that the slave owners had a right to their property. The justices in the Dred Scott case reasoned, tragically, that the right to property superseded the rights of the slaves to freedom.
In the question of abortion, we also have competing rights—that of the right to privacy and that of a right to life. Are we going to follow Dred Scott and reduce people to property that can be disposed of?
The rights and safety of women are precious and important. But pregnant women aren’t the only people involved. It reminds me of a Planned Parenthood boast I saw recently: “Abortion is safe, with only one death per 100,000 procedures.” Shouldn’t that say 100,001 deaths per 100,000 procedures?
Where do we go from here?
Our efforts to defend the life of the unborn need to move beyond mere statistics; we have to recognize how deep a scar abortion leaves for all involved. I read a piece recently by a woman who marched in support of abortion rights in 1973 and had an abortion a few years later. She admits that her decision has haunted her for 30 years. She writes:
It certainly does make more sense not to be having a baby right now—we say that to each other all the time.
But I have this ghost now.
A very little ghost that only appears when I’m seeing something beautiful, like the full moon on the ocean last weekend.
And the baby waves at me.
And I wave back at the baby.
“Of course, we have room,” I cry to the ghost. “Of course we do.”
Abortion leaves victims. Not only the child, deprived of life, but often the woman, who can’t escape the regret of the decision.
To those of you who have abortion in your past, we know that you are hurting. We don’t want to make this any harder than it is; we simply want to prevent others from enduring the same pain that you have had to endure. If abortion is part of your story, you need to know that we serve a Savior who died so he could make us whiter than snow and whose resurrection has the power to restore beauty from ashes.
Each one of us, on some level, has dismissed the value of human life. We may have had different ways of doing it, but we’ve elevated our desires over the life of another. Furthermore, the entire human race that rejected and murdered Jesus. Yet through that murder, God brought salvation and restoration. Because of that, there is no tragedy, no mistake, that he cannot redeem, no sin that he will not forgive. Through the victory of his resurrection, he can make all things new.
None of us need live a second longer trapped in the past.
If you’ve had an abortion, your baby is with Jesus today. Both Jesus and that baby forgive you, if you will receive it.
To all of us: Jesus’ redemption of us should forever change our attitude toward those around us who are hurting. It shows us our dignity. The value you place on something is shown by what you’ll give up for it. We were so valuable to Jesus he gave up his life to redeem us. Furthermore, it shows us our responsibility to those who are hurting. If anyone ever had the right to terminate another human being, it was Jesus. Instead, he willingly let himself be terminated in order to restore God’s image in us. Jesus looked at the ruins of our lives, and he saw the potential for glory. He beheld despair, and brought hope. He saw our tragedy, and he came to our rescue.
If we’re following Jesus, reaching out in mercy will characterize our lives, too.
If you’ve had an abortion, your baby is with Jesus today. Both Jesus and that baby forgive you, if you will receive it.
Here are a few practical ways we can get involved:
Pray. Our work should not end with prayer; it should start there. It is our greatest ally in the battle for life (Ephesians 6:19-20).
Some of us need to consider this a calling. God doesn’t call every Christian to be involved in every cause equally, but for some of you, God will make this “your” cause. He’ll put ministry to women considering abortion on your heart, and you’ll get involved in their lives while you advocate protection for the unborn.
Join with one of the many organizations doing great work for pregnant mothers and their children, like Pregnancy Support Services and Human Coalition. Studies show that 85 percent of women considering abortion would change their minds if they were allowed to see an ultrasound of their baby. These organizations make that possible.
Consider the work of fostering and adoption. My friend Russ Moore says, “Think of how revolutionary it is for a Christian to adopt a young boy with a cleft palate from a region of India where most people see him as ‘defective.’ Think of how odd it must seem to American secularists to see Christians adopting a baby whose body trembles with an addiction to the cocaine her mother sent through her bloodstream before birth. Think of the kind of credibility such action lends to the proclamation of our gospel … What if we as Christians were known, once again, as the people who take in orphans and make of them beloved sons and daughters?” I’ve heard it said that the cry of the pro-life movement is, “Don’t kill them.” But the cry of the Christian goes further: “We want them.”
Work to promote the family. About 85 percent of women who have abortions in the U.S. are unmarried. The stronger the family gets, the less the perceived need for abortion becomes. Maybe the best way to fight against abortion is to fight for the family.
History will judge us—indeed, eternity will judge us—by how we respond to this moment. And we can move forward with confidence that, regardless of the situation around us, God defends the cause of justice. In the words of Abraham Lincoln,
“I am convinced that the Lord is on our side in this great struggle, for the Lord is always on the side of the right; but it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation may be on the Lord’s side .… Lord, give us faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it.”
 Scott Sauls, “In the Image of God,” sermon on Genesis 1-2
 Much of the material in this section comes from Scott Klusendorf and John Stonestreet, 21 Days of Prayer for Life.
 The literal use of “red herrings” to distract dogs from a trail is almost certainly apocryphal. (Mythbusters, in all of their scientific prowess, declared this one “busted.”) Still, the image is a helpful metaphor for any claim that distracts from the argument at hand.
 Adapted from Klusendorf and Stonestreet, 21 Days of Prayer for Life
 Clarke D. Forsythe, Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade, 102.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWKqeJxzeBc&app=desktop. I owe Tim Challies for the insight, in a tweet!
 Adapted from Scott Sauls, “In the Image of God,” sermon on Genesis 1-2
 Klusendorf and Stonestreet, 21 Days of Prayer for Life
 Russ Moore, Adopted for Life, 79, 20