The Atlantic Journal Constitution published an editorial (free registration required) today, by C. Joshua Villenes that implies that the only reason to oppose abortion is a misguided and mistaken religious belief. He repeats many of the fallacies that we’ve read before and answered before.
Here’s an excerpt:
Those who seek to outlaw abortion often use the rhetoric of “protecting the most vulnerable and helpless” in our communities. Many of them are Christians who see their opposition to abortion rights as inextricably linked with their faith and their understanding of Christian ethics. After all, wouldn’t a God of love and life want us to protect life wherever we found it?
If only it were that simple.
In practice, there are other questions we must ask. Does a God of love and life ever support war? Does such a God understand that some innocent civilians will die when we fight to protect our freedoms? In other words, does God approve when we make the decision to kill other people to protect our quality of life? What about when we kill to prevent genocide? Does God have a holy balancing scale that weighs intangibles like “intent” and “the greater good” or one that compares the number of innocent lives lost against the number of innocent lives saved?
We do not know. For every Christian with a “God Bless Our Troops” sticker on their bumper there is another with “Who Would Jesus Bomb?” on their rear windshield.
If my experience as a pastor is any indication, it is unlikely that the driver of either car would be making their point from the kind of complex theological arguments I learned in seminary. In practice, our upbringings, our biases and our circumstances have much more to do with what we believe God thinks; and we are often inconsistent.
How else could we spend millions of dollars to oppose abortion — despite no clear biblical argument for or against it — and ignore the overwhelming number of biblical texts that explicitly command us to care for the poor?
For the vast majority of Christians, it is not about consistency — it is about convenience. Even those of us who speak passionately about protecting the weak often forget that our willingness to purchase cheap goods produced by exploited workers sentences children to poverty, disease, violence and death. The cars that we drive, the food that we allow to be marketed to children, the tax breaks we support or oppose, they all have a life-or-death impact on the most vulnerable among us. It is not only in war that we make decisions to value one life over another. Consciously or not, we do it every time we go to the supermarket.
The issue of abortion is not about whether life starts at conception. There are convincing arguments either way. The issue is which carries more weight: the life that may be in the embryo, or the life and needs of the woman in whose body that embryo was conceived?
After spending time in women’s health clinics, I have come to realize that the “most vulnerable and helpless” who need our active protection are the women and couples who are faced with the agonizingly difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy. . .
Yes, we are inconsistent and we do not all have the sophisticated education that Mr. Villenes is working toward. But, we can look at pictures and know when life begins. (And I’m convinced that capitalism is undermining poverty, even where human rights violations such as child labor and abortion are occuring.)
The advocacy for abortion is harmful to women and the children they do have, as well as killing at least one member of our species. The very fact that humans are inconsistent and not as smart as Mr. Villenes should lend some doubt as to our ability to weigh all the good, now and in the future, of our children and find any convincing evidence that intentionally causing some of us to die before birth is “for the greater good.” Abortion does not replace or supplement caring for the weak, the disabled, the poor or those who “know not what they do.”
I wrote and sent both a letter to the editor and an editorial to the AJC and Mr. Villenes. I hope that they will read the non-religious arguments in the email, on this site and on others, including the opinions of such groups as “Feminists for Life”, “ “Libertarians for Life” , “The Compleat Heretic”, “ProLife Alliance for Gays and Lesbians” and “Atheist and Agnostic Prolife League.”
And, rather than harming women by assisting them to “choose” between killing their children and a hoped for future, perhaps Mr. Villenes could give his time and money to relieve the pressures that make abortion seem necessary: Teach abstinence in the schools. Teach the benefits of abstinence, monogamy and non-abortifacient contraception in his church. Make sure the local food bank is full and help provide homes and furnishings for mothers and their children during and after pregnancy. Send money to missionaries who preach to – and feed – child laborers, rather than support organizations that advocate forced abortions, such as the UNFPA. (Here’s Mr. Villenes name on a .pdf letter from “Religious Leaders” and a .doc letter from “American Humanist.org.”)
He could even babysit! With or without his clerical collar and degree.