Editor's Note: The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
The desire to protect the sanctity of life is such a beautiful thing. It makes all the sense in the world to oppose abortion if you believe life begins at conception and see life as the precious gift from God that it is.
And it is noble to want to protect innocent lives and to stand up for the voiceless. Jesus did that.
It does seem logical to celebrate the overturning of Roe v. Wade because it could lead to nationwide criminalization of abortion, which could lead to fewer/no abortions and increased honoring of life.
But what I want to demonstrate here is that criminalizing abortion does not actually help serve this end goal. In fact, in many ways, it does the opposite.
Wanting fewer (or no) abortions is not the same as wanting to criminalize abortions. And that is why, even though I personally believe that life begins at conception, I do not support the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
1. Criminalizing abortion does not mean fewer abortions happen
Although logically it makes sense to believe that making abortions illegal will result in fewer abortions, that is not actually the case.
As Christians, we may believe in the sanctity of life, but there are many out there who do not and will get abortions whether they are legal or not. But when they are illegal, they are very unsafe and prove a real risk to the life of the mother (whose life, surely, is also precious, despite her choices).
In fact, there is a comprehensive study from the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute that shows that the abortion rate in countries where abortions are legal and illegal are very similar. That is because countries where abortion is legal are usually wealthier and have more access to contraceptives, which is one of the effective ways of lessening abortions.
Other factors that lessen abortions without abortions being made illegal:
- Comprehensive sex education
- Federal paid family leave
- Universal healthcare
- Affordable childcare
- Affordable housing
One of the most common reasons people get abortions is that they cannot financially afford to raise a child. So, more government aid through the avenues listed above could support low-income families in the ways they need to be able to care for the baby after it is born.
Although some might claim that unearned government support for the poor is socialism, helping the poor is something God is very motivated to do, and so were his priests in the Old Testament, and so we should be too (Deut. 10:18). God hopes for a world where those with the lowest income are taken care of by everyone else; not condemned.
2. Criminalizing abortion without other systemic change is not pro-life
Being pro-life doesn't mean just being pro-birth. If we are to consider ourselves pro-life (which is a beautiful thing!), we must be supportive of systems and laws that protect and uphold all lives, for the duration of all lives, not just the lives of people we agree with or the beginning of a life.
Although the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade is not directly linked to whether or not babies grow up to be provided for, the matter at hand is that our country is not currently set up to support the babies and the women that have them once the babies are born.
As mentioned above, one of the biggest reasons women choose to get an abortion is that they cannot afford to care for a baby. So, is forcing a mother to birth a child and then not supporting her afterward truly loving? Is it pro-life to be against laws protecting babies (especially gun laws) later in life? Or what about being against other types of government assistance that will allow the mother and child the resources they need to form secure attachments and thrive?
Maternal death rates for black women are three times higher than that of white women. Being pro-life also means going after the systemic racism in our country that leads to that statistic.
This helpful Crosswalk article also outlines 4 Ways to Practically Live Out Your Pro-Life Worldview. I think it is vital that, as Christians, we put our money where our mouth is when it comes to being pro-life for every one of God's children.
It is worth noting, too, that criminalizing abortions under extreme and vague laws means that women's lives are put at serious risk if they miscarried but need an abortion to discharge the body before it goes septic and proves fatal for the mother. Or in the case of ectopic pregnancies, which are dangerous to the mother and generally not compatible with viability. Doctors are unsure if they can legally perform lifesaving procedures, and the mothers suffer in the meantime. There is nothing pro-life about this.
3. Maybe the morality of abortion is not as black and white as we think it is
While wrapping my head around how anyone could be supportive of abortions, or even the choice for other people to get an abortion, I used to compare it to something we can all agree is evil: rape. I couldn't understand why anyone would say, "I would not get an abortion because I think it's wrong, but people should have a choice to," because I would never, ever say, "well, I would never rape, but if your conscience is clear about it, then it's okay if you rape."
That comparison makes sense if abortion is as black and white evil as rape is. But maybe it is not as black and white.
At my core, I do believe that unborn babies are precious to God and that Psalm 139 telling us that God knits us together in our mother's womb means our lives began there, possibly even at conception.
But … not everyone agrees with this. Not even all Christians agree with this. And this might be an issue of leaving it up to an individual's conscience, like in 1 Corinthians 8 when it was up to the disciples to decide if their conscience allowed them to eat meat sacrificed to idols or not.
Additionally, there is Jewish scholarship that explains that in ancient Jewish understanding, fetuses' lives did not have as much value as a full nafesh, or soul. We can see in Exodus 21:22-25 that a pregnant mother's life and that of her unborn child do not have the same value:
"When individuals fight, and one of them pushes a pregnant woman and a miscarriage results, but no other damage ensues, the one responsible shall be fined according as the woman's husband may exact, the payment to be based on reckoning. But if other damage ensues, the penalty shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise."
The life for life penalty only applies to if the mother dies, not her unborn child. This would not be the case if Jews (and, questionably, God) did not consider the fetus, while still valuable, to be of equal value to the mother.
I do not say this to say that all unborn children don't matter at all. But I am just trying to open a door for understanding that maybe we don't know for certain when God instills life in us or exactly how he sees it. And so, there is a chance that abortions, maybe at certain stages, maybe in certain circumstances, would be permissible in God's eyes.
To my beliefs personally, this feels like a punch in the gut. But I can't prove with absolute certainty when life begins. No one can. And so, with all gray areas in the Bible, I believe God wants us to wrestle with him and come to our own conclusions with a clear conscience – and trust the consciences of those around us because it is not our job to judge.
And, even if we could prove that life begins at conception, criminalizing abortions would not accomplish what we would want it to. Loving people as individuals and voting for a society that provides for the poor is what will meet that goal in the long run.
Forcing births without support is not pro-life, forcing our beliefs on others and causing them suffering is not pro-life, and putting mothers' lives at stake is not pro-life.
I may not agree with people's decisions to get an abortion. But overturning Roe v. Wade was not the way to accomplish what we want: a world where all lives are upheld as precious in the sight of God.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Violeta Stoimenova
Kelly-Jayne McGlynn is a former editor at Crosswalk.com. She sees the act of expression, whether through writing or art, as a way to co-create with God and experience him deeper. Check out her handmade earring Instagram and Etsy for more of her thoughts on connecting with God through creative endeavors.