Once during a pro-life outreach at the University of New Mexico, I was confronted by not only pro-choice students but also pro-choice adult activists, who came to campus to reinforce the student efforts to oppose us.
These included representatives from Planned Parenthood, an Albuquerque atheist group, and a group called the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). I was talking to a young woman when one of the RCRC volunteers interrupted us.
“You shouldn’t talk to him,” she said to the young woman. “He’s been trained by this group to lie to you.”
I looked at her shirt with the RCRC logo emblazoned across the front, “Ma’am,” I said, “have you been trained by your organization to do what you’re accusing me of doing?”
She simply smiled, and as she walked away I noticed the motto of her organization on the back of her T-shirt: “Pro-faith, pro-family, pro-choice.”
It might surprise you to learn that sides in the abortion debate are not neatly divided by religious demographics.
There are atheists who oppose abortion and Christians who defend it. In this chapter, we’ll examine the arguments offered by pro-choice Christians who say that abortion is not only not a crime; it’s not even a sin.
Is God pro-choice?
One general religious argument in defense of legal abortion claims that because God is “pro-choice” (i.e., he gave humans free will), he would want humans to be able to exercise that free will, so abortion should not be outlawed. On page 35 of RCRC’s booklet Prayerfully Pro-Choice, actress Whoopi Goldberg is quoted as saying, “I talk about God because God and I are very close. God gives you choice. God gives you freedom of choice. That’s in the Bible.”
Goldberg is right that God gives human beings choices, but he also expects us to live with the consequences of our choices. In Deuteronomy 30:19, God tells the Israelites, “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live.” Jesus makes it clear that in the final judgment we will be judged based on the choices we made in life. Those who failed to love their brothers as they love themselves, Jesus says, “will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matt. 25:29).
Because God gave human beings free will does not mean he condones everything we choose to do. Is God pro-choice when it comes to humans who choose to murder, rape, drive drunk, steal, or commit any other immoral act?
Pro-choice advocates would say no one should outlaw abortion even if they think God wants them to outlaw it; so even pro-choice advocates believe there is a limit to actions we may perform with the free will God has given us.
It’s true God gave us free will, and pro-life advocates believe women should exercise that free will. Outlawing abortion does nothing to inhibit free will, because people are free to break the law. It is simply the right thing to do when unborn children are being threatened by abortion.
Other pro-choice advocates claim that if embryos are human beings, the high number of miscarriages (some say as high as 50 percent of all pregnancies) means that God is the greatest abortionist in history. But that makes as much sense as saying that the high number of born people who die makes God the greatest serial killer of all time. God has the right to take human life as well as judge people in the afterlife. These are rights human beings do not possess, and so human beings may not take innocent human life.
Some writers claim these embryos are not human beings precisely because God would never allow such a high mortality rate. According to professors Thomas Shannon and Allan Wolter, saying these embryos are fully human is almost “sacrilegious” due to the “bungling” it implies on the part of an all-wise Creator. But would Shannon and Walter deny that infants are human beings even though there have been times in history when the infant mortality rate was as high as 50 percent?
It is not even certain that large numbers of fully human embryos are miscarried. What may have died in a miscarriage is human tissue that could never develop into a fully mature human being due to a genetic defect. Embryologists Keith Moore and T. V. N. Persaud write in their textbook, “The early loss of embryos appears to represent a disposal of abnormal conceptuses that could not have developed normally."
My Brother’s Keeper?
Another argument made by some religious pro-choice people is that they have no business telling women to not have abortions because that is “between her and God.” But abortion is not a matter solely between a woman and God. It also involves the man who helped conceive the child, the woman’s family, the abortion provider, and most importantly, the child.
Some of these critics think abortion is homicide, but they reason that in the afterlife God will punish those who commit abortion, so when it comes to persuading women to not have abortions it is, in their words, “none of our business.”
But would the religious critics say the same thing about rape, murder, or arson? If they saw someone about to burn down an orphanage, would they simply say, “Well, they’ll burn in hell anyway, so what business is it of mine to try and stop them? It’s between them and God.” God calls us to root out injustice now and to not wait for him to do it later. Or, as Proverbs 24:11 exhorts us, “Rescue those who are being dragged to death.”
Finally, some religious pro-choice advocates say that abortion is not wrong because aborted babies will go to heaven or be reincarnated and have another life. Of course, this argument would justify killing any baby, or even an adult in the state of grace. If we wouldn’t justify killing born children in a nursery in order to send them directly to heaven, then we cannot justify aborting unborn children.
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