If you watched the VP debate you’ll remember the moderator asking the candidates a single question about abortion. “How has your religion affected your view on abortion?” Amid a flurry of questions about the economy and foreign policy, the question was as on-topic as orating Shakespeare at a hot dog eating competition so I’ll give Ryan and Biden some grace. However, I wasn’t impressed with either of their answers. Therefore, I offer my answer to Mrs. Moderator’s question.
Before I begin I want to say something to all the women and men who are living with the painful memories of having had an abortion. Having heard from and worked with people who share your story, I know how heavy a burden you carry. Please know there are skilled, loving people out there who can help you, and you aren’t alone in your struggle.
Now to your question. First of all, it’s framed to imply religion as the singular influence on someone’s position on this issue, and that’s simply inaccurate. My faith does influence my view, but there are many medical professionals, geneticists, biologists, etc who have a pro-life view based purely on the empirical evidence, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Secondly, religion does not influence my position. You may consider it an issue of semantics, but it’s incorrect to equate religion and faith. Religion may be an expression of someone’s faith, but it could also be put into practice by a faithless individual. I believe Jesus of Nazareth is the eternal, divine Son of God and He sacrificed His life on a crucifix just outside the city of Jerusalem around the year 1 A.D. He did it to fulfill the just wrath of God and provide a means of redemption to anyone who would believe His claims and works were true. Because He loved me so completely and unconditionally, I seek to follow Him and effort to be more like Him in thought and deed. By faith, I believe God exists and the affirmations of scripture are true. The book of Psalms proclaims God’s creating hand at work within the womb; a book held sacred by Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, and Mormons. Passages like these contribute to the belief that life begins at conception and it’s wrong for us to end it.
That being said, God is the author and sustainer of life and because of that, every life is valued and carries inherent dignity. That means you are valued and you have dignity that transcends your age, size, gender, location, ability, skin color, chromosome count, or ability to contribute financially. Every pregnant woman has value because God formed her in her mother’s womb, just as He formed the child inside her. He has value too.
In 1973, the year our country legalized abortion, ultrasound technology was in its youth. We knew very little about prenatal development and life within the womb. A lot has changed. Today we can watch three-dimensional ultrasounds, we can place miniature cameras in the uterus and Fallopian tubes to observe the development process, and with astounding computer technology we can recreate the process, from conception to birth, with remarkable accuracy. We now know the baby has a heartbeat as early as twenty-two days after conception. At that time, most women don’t even know they’re pregnant, but that heart’s already at work.
A female produces her own single cell reproductive tool with a lifespan of roughly forty-eight hours, an egg. An egg is not a life.
Should a sperm find an egg and unite, the two quite literally become one and everything changes. We now have a Zygote which literally means “to join.” Every necessary piece of information is present: gender is determined, eye color is set. A zygote is a life. If untouched, forty weeks after the two become one a baby will cry on the chest of her mother.
Think just for a moment about what the perceived need for an abortion says about the viability of the completely unique person developing inside his mother. If there is not an intervention to end the pregnancy a child will be born in a few months. Were this zygote, embryo, or fetus not a life there would be no need for the abortion. Said another way, the fact that abortion is necessary reveals the fact that the mother is with child.
My faith is the foundation of my belief, but the pro-life position is not a religious ideal. Almost forty years of research since Roe v. Wade have revealed the fact of pre-natal life and it’s incumbent on all of us to defend them. We must seek to honor the life of every mother, every father, and every child.