How to be Pro-Living
Updated: Jul 26
Many people on both pro-life and pro-choice sides are trying to show love and save lives. Having only two opposing views does not allow for a full discussion on how to work together to be pro-living and save lives.
In a separate post, I discuss a middle way: being pro-love. To me, being pro-love means (1) showing respect and empathy for the woman with a crisis pregnancy and allowing her the full range of choices for her health and her life, (2) offering care and support, including counselling and aid for those experiencing life crises, including marriage and family breakdown, anger management, budgeting assistance, unplanned pregnancy, trauma recovery, and (3) Reducing the root causes of unwanted pregnancies, including cultural attitudes and social policies
In this post, I discuss options for saving lives.
Options to Save Lives:
Banning abortions does not save lives:
Banning abortions does not prevent abortions; it prevents safe, legal abortions. After the 1973 US Supreme Court decision, illegal procedures plummeted and deaths from illegal abortions also dropped. In fact, while abortions increased for a time after the US legalized abortion in 1973, the rate peaked in the 1980s and the number of US abortions have been decreasing since then. There is a concern that banning legal abortions will endanger the health and lives of women and reduce the rights of American citizens.
A ban means a woman's life is always valued below that of the fetus. It means a woman's value is only in the child she may bear, that she is disposable as long as she gives birth. This is in direct opposition to God's word. When Jesus was teaching, a woman called out from the crowd, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” (ESV). Jesus turned to the woman and corrected her, showing that a woman is more than a set of breasts and a womb, that a woman is valued for more than having children; a woman is valued rather for hearing God's word and following it (Luke 11:27-28). Women without access to abortion become subject to the will of others, and incubators - breasts and wombs - without liberty or freedom.
Criminalizing abortions does not save lives:
Criminalizing abortions means judging, punishing, and taking vengeance on a woman while leaving the man to go free. In some cases, such as rape, incest and abuse, she is paying a penalty for a man's sin. This is in direct contradiction to God's word which says, "The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them" (Ezekiel 18:20).
The criminalization of abortions does not reduce the demand for them. Decriminalization has occurred recently in Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia. Decriminalization recognizes women's rights and gives a woman autonomy over her own body. Criminalizing abortion means criminalizing women; it does not mean saving lives.
When men brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery, Jesus modelled love, not judgement. Jesus did not say, 'she made her choice and now she must suffer for it'. Jesus pointed out that the accusers had sinned and were in no position to punish the woman for her sin (John 8:3-11).
Prohibit abortions after 'six weeks' pregnant
Some states have put in place policies that are called 'heartbeat bills'. This would prohibit abortions after a woman is 'six weeks pregnant', even though at this stage the fertilized egg is only four weeks old (dating begins at the mother's last menstrual period), and has not yet developed a heart or cardiac valves. In most cases, women who are 'six weeks pregnant' may only be one or two weeks late in getting their menstrual cycle and may not realize they are pregnant. These policies would limit the decision-making and action to a short window of one or two weeks.
Medical and reproductive health experts say that the reference to a fetal heartbeat is medically inaccurate and intentionally misleading because an embryo has no heart and is not called a fetus until after ten weeks of pregnancy. A true fetal heartbeat cannot be detected until around 17 to 20 weeks of gestation when the chambers of the heart have developed.
The US first approved prescription pills for abortion purposes in 2000 and these are permitted until ten weeks into pregnancy. In the US, 44% of legal abortions were done via medication, with the remainder via surgery. Canada approved the abortion pill in 2015 making it available by prescription. Pew Research reports that nine out of ten abortions occur during the first trimester (before 13 weeks of gestation). Only 1% were performed later than 21 weeks.
Prohibiting Late-Term Abortions:
One way of regulating abortion would be no abortions after a certain time. In fact, the reason Roe v. Wade was overturned was that Mississippi brought forward a state law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Lower courts struck down the law because it conflicted with Roe v. Wade.
A June 2021 survey showed it is not a small fringe who are pro-life. The US is almost evenly divided on the topic:
49% of respondents said they believe anyone should be able to legally obtain an abortion if they “[want] one for any reason,” while 50% believe that should not be the case. A further 30% believe that abortion should be illegal in some but not all cases in the second trimester, and 26% believe it should be illegal but with exceptions in the third trimester.
About 60% of Americans agree with abortion being legal in the first trimester but would like some restrictions on later pregnancies. Abortions at or after 21 weeks were only 1% of all abortions in the US. In other words, if a woman does not want a pregnancy, she likely does not carry it beyond 21 weeks. In many cases, the late-term abortion is a medical procedure required by evidence that either the mother's life is at risk or it is not possible for the fetus to live.
Some regions prohibit abortions up to the time when a fetus may become viable. A fetus would not be viable outside the womb unless the pregnancy has progressed to 23-24 weeks. Usually, a woman who has carried a pregnancy for five months wants a baby, but health complications may require a medical procedure. Some anti-abortion laws would prohibit this type of necessary treatment.
Prohibiting Prenatal Testing:
Another way of regulating abortions would be to prohibit prenatal testing, which sometimes triggers the decision for an abortion based on the rejection of a fetus that may be born disabled or a fetus that is thought to be a girl. This is hardly different from the practice of abandoning infants to exposure during the Roman Empire. The reasons for abandoning a child at that time were similar to our reasons for abortions today:
a parent is poor and cannot afford to care for the child
a parent does not want the cost and energy to care for an imperfect or disabled child
a parent is ashamed, guilty, or paternity is unknown, and the child is unwanted
baby-daddy insists on getting rid of the child
exposure could result in the child being adopted
Prenatal tests may be able to detect Down Syndrome or chromosomal abnormalities, and while these are not completely accurate, parents often choose an abortion unless the tests show their child will be able-bodied.
In addition, prenatal tests reveal gender, and Canada has observed the practice of sex-selective abortions, where parents abort girl fetuses more often than boy fetuses.
"...sex-selective abortion is one extreme manifestation of a continuum of sex discrimination that is prevalent in many aspects of Canadian society at large. Country-wide, the gender wage gap continues to persist, women still engage in the majority of uncompensated care work, and while there are [in 2016] a record number of women in Parliament, only 26 per cent of sitting MPs are female. In contemporary Canada, women simply are not treated as equals
However, prenatal testing is often required for the health and safety of the fetus. Regulators believe any attempts to regulate sex-selective abortions would interfere with access to abortion generally and that over time the culture will come to equally value sons and daughters and the trend will dissipate. The problem is not so much sex-selective abortions, but a culture where parents openly prefer and desire boy children. We need to look at why girls are less valued.
External Ethical Rules and Internal Moral Issues
When is it Ethically Right to coerce or legislate an adult's actions?
It is illegal to coerce an adult to give up an organ in order to save the life of another human, even though giving up a kidney or part of a liver, pancreas, or lung can be done without killing the living donor. It must be done voluntarily with informed consent.
Yet it is legal to legislate for an adult to give up a part of herself and her life to save the potential human in her womb. In some cases, abortion is illegal even if it kills the mother. Making abortions illegal removes voluntary choice or informed consent.
The Bible says you should not murder (Exodus 20:13) yet the children of Israel have capital punishment for a variety of offences and we justify killing in certain situations such as war. When is it justified to end the potential human in the womb?
When does a fetus become a human?
When does the fetus become a human, entitled to human rights of life and security? There are biblical arguments that a fetus becomes a living person on drawing his or her first breath.
the Lord God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life’s breath into his nostrils. The human came to life. Genesis 2:7
Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it Isaiah 42:5
Nor is God served by human hands, as though he needed something since God is the one who gives life, breath, and everything else. Acts 17:25
The Bible has verses that show that God knows all of us since before creation, and God values us: Psalm 139:13-16, Jeremiah 1:5, Job 31:15, Psalm 22:10-11 and Luke 1:41-43. However, in other passages, the Bible does not treat an aborted fetus as equal to a living being (Exodus 21:22, Numbers 5:11-22).
No doubt, fertilization begins at conception, but the fertilized embryo usually takes about 14 days to implant in the uterine lining. Between one-third and one-half of all fertilized eggs never fully implant (spontaneously abort, miscarry). The medical community would not consider a pregnancy established until after implantation is complete. Many who have suffered miscarriages know how difficult it is to establish a pregnancy and bring it to term.
Save Lives by Treating Women as Equals:
If we show we value the human rights of pregnant women, it is more credible that we value the human rights of the baby they may bear. If we value girls equally to boys, it will naturally reduce the desire to abort girl babies. If we regulate abortions, we effectively treat women as children, treating them as incapable of making moral or financial choices, subjugating women under the choices made by masters or authorities, and imposing women to obedience. Abortion regulations are a form of patriarchy based on inequality. This inequality and the way we have treated women in crisis may be the real root of sexual violence and unwanted pregnancies. We need to ask ourselves whether abortion laws are truly about giving life to its fullest to the potential baby, or about subjugating women.
“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.” - Ruth Bader Ginsburg
The Bible says God created men and women, both in God's image, both capable, and both authorized to have dominion over the earth. Women and men are co-regents in charge of the planet.
Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.” Genesis 1:26
God did not command women to have babies; he blessed them and enabled them to share God's creative nature. Having children or not having children are both valid paths in life.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply". Genesis 1:28
God made men and women equally capable of making moral choices. God did not curse women or increase their pain. After the serpent deceived the woman and the man disobeyed God's command, both ate the fruit, God cursed the snake, saying a woman's offspring would strike the serpent's head. God cursed the soil, increasing its infertility and increasing the toil on the land for both the man and the woman. The fall meant increased infertility of the soil, but God compensated with increased fertility and conception for the woman. God did not make men rulers but warned Eve that though she had a healthy desire for her husband, he had a selfish desire to rule over her.
Unto the woman He said, `Multiplying I multiply thy sorrow and thy conception, in sorrow dost thou bear children, and toward thy husband [is] thy desire, and he doth rule over thee.' Genesis 3:16 Youngs Literal Translation (1898).
I will multiply your toil [in the fields] and your conception. With effort you will bring forth children. Your affection is for your husband, but he will rule over you. (Genesis 3:16 by www.tru316.com)
The misinterpretation of these verses has contributed to many incorrect conclusions, including the subjugation of women, the portrayal of the woman as a deceiver or temptress, unable to make moral choices, deserving of physical pain, especially in childbirth, and that it is fitting that men rule over women.
Women deserved pain. In 1591, Eufame Maclayne was burned at the stake for asking for pain relief during the birth of her twins. Attitudes did not change much when safer anesthetics were discovered in the middle of the nineteenth century. Most people thought they were fine for surgery but not childbirth. Devout men and women believed that the pain in childbirth was a heavenly duty.... Pain relief became somewhat acceptable when Queen Victoria asked Dr. John Snow for a whiff of chloroform to ease her delivery during the birth of Prince Leopold on April 7, 1853. -Randi Hutter Epstein.
Is it possible that some people today believe women should suffer in pregnancy and childbirth, and deserves pain as punishment, particularly if they think she is guilty of being sexually immoral?
That is not God's way. God comes to us in our times of trouble. Sarah and Abraham abused Hagar and she became pregnant against her own will. Then Sarah was harsh with Hagar and Abraham abandoned Hagar. But God appeared to Hagar; God saw her suffering, saw she was in crisis, saw she was vulnerable and reached out to protect and shelter her (Genesis 16:13).
Forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy is a type of human punishment:
To insist a woman must carry a pregnancy, regardless of her health or the situation that made her pregnant seems a cruel type of punishment. It seems similar to the past notion that it is God's curse and that women must have pain in childbirth. What if we have the difficult choice of saving only one life or the other? Is the choice to save an 'innocent baby' made because the underlying assumption is that the pregnant woman is not innocent, and is guilty? What if the woman is an innocent victim and the consequence is unjust?
Do Christians want to punish a woman for having an unwanted pregnancy? Do Christians want to take vengeance on her for 'sexual sins'?
Jesus commanded us to love one another; he did not command us to judge one another. In fact, Paul teaches that we should not take revenge or punish those who have done wrong; leave that to God (Romans 12:10).
Does the Bible treat Women as Equals?
Jesus engaged women in theological discussions, encouraged them to work out their own salvation, equipped them to make their own decision about what they believed about God, and invited them to be co-heirs in God's family. Jesus blessed women who make their own moral choices to hear God's word and follow it. God created women to be capable and authorized them to make their own choices. Humans should not take away that which God has given. I have written about where the Bible says women and men are equals here.
Jesus came to Fulfill the Law
No matter how courts regulate abortions, the regulation does not result in the best choice, every time. It distances the decision from those who are most informed and most able to make the best decision: the woman and her doctor.
When a law or court makes the decision, it treats the woman as untrustworthy or incompetent in making her own decision.
Realizing that legalism and external codes of ethics were causing more problems and burdens than they solved, Jesus gave full meaning to the laws. When we let God reign in our hearts, we have an internal moral compass that is more effective than external regulations. God has granted women and men the ability to make their own choices.
I love life, and I love my children. I long for a time when people will choose life more often. But we cannot take the choice from them. All we can do is support and love one another.