The right to life amid a culture of death


I am often asked why I speak out on the abortion issue as frequently as I do. To me, that question would be analogous to asking Martin Luther King, Jr. why he focused so much of his life and ministry on fighting for equality under the law and in society for all Americans (and I thank God every day that He gifted our country with Dr. King).

Abortion is THE compelling moral issue of our time. Abortion is the leading cause of death in America each and every day.

Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court made up a supposed right to abortion out of whole cloth in 1973, thousands of unborn Americans have been killed every day (somewhere between 65 and 70 million unborn citizens so far).

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The abortion issue has become perhaps the most bitterly divisive issue in American society. Why? Even the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that Roe was bad jurisprudence because it took the issue out of the political process and attempted, as the late Walter Cronkite infamously intoned, “decided the contentious issue of abortion” for the American people.

Americans have been increasingly frustrated that they have not been able to further restrict abortion on demand in their various states. This division has been exacerbated by the incredible advances in embryology in the intervening decades. We now have a whole generation of children who have grown up with sonograms of their siblings etched in their memories.

Knowing what we know now about human embryonic development in the womb, approximately two-thirds of Americans favor limiting abortion after the first trimester (13 weeks), and 80% favor limiting abortion after the second trimester (26 weeks). Furthermore, as a result of rapid medical advances, premature babies are surviving outside the womb often as much as six weeks earlier than was the case when Roe was decided in 1973. Premature babies are now surviving at 21 and 22 weeks gestation outside the womb and developing into babies just as healthy as their full-term brothers and sisters. Incredibly, surgeons are also now successfully treating our tiniest citizens while they are still in their mother’s womb.

Now, Mississippi has passed a law, the Gestational Age Act (2018), which has been overturned by lower courts and now comes before the Supreme Court as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.  Oral arguments are scheduled for December 1 with a decision due before the end of June 2022. 

Expect the heat to rise exponentially on the abortion issue in the weeks between now and that fateful date. Americans should also be alert to the linguistic battles that have been, and are, raging among us. For instance, when pro-abortion forces are confronted with fetal heartbeats at four-and-a-half weeks gestation, they refer euphemistically to “fetal cardiac activity” or “flutters in the region where the heart will form.” It is called a “heartbeat” and the baby’s heart will beat approximately 16 million times by the time the baby is 15 weeks gestation.

You notice the pro-abortion forces never talk about babies and they never refer to pregnant women as expectant mothers. Whenever you want to kill people, you must first seek to de-humanize those you wish to exterminate. The Nazis raised that type of propaganda to an art form.

The Mississippi law is good and it broadly represents where the American people are on the abortion issue. The bill provides an exception for threats to the mother’s life or “substantial or irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” and also allows for an exception for a “severe fetal abnormality” that is “incompatible with life outside the womb.”

Science is clear. Life begins at conception. All biology textbooks written before 1973 stated the fact, “the sperm enters the egg and life begins.” A new life, genetically unique and never to be duplicated, begins every time conception takes place. Unless violently interrupted, life will progress through the various stages of human development including birth, puberty, adolescence, maturity, and geriatric old age.

As we have this even more heated debate over abortion in the next few weeks, most Americans may be shocked to know that very few countries in the world have abortion laws as draconian as we do in the U.S. In fact, only 10 countries in the world have abortion laws as radical as ours are, including most notably Communist China and North Korea.

For example, 47 out of 50 European countries have paid attention to the scientific fact that human babies have heartbeats at five weeks, and at six weeks the baby’s face is beginning to form. By seven weeks, they have measurable brain waves and by 15 weeks they have lips, eyelids, fingers (with unique fingerprints) and they can feel and be observed reacting to pain (i.e. the “Silent Scream” sonogram depicting a child’s reaction to being rent asunder in his or her mother’s womb).

In France and Switzerland, abortion is limited to 12 weeks. Belgium, Germany, Luxemburg, Romania, and Spain have limits of 14 weeks. No European countries allow abortion on demand, through all nine months of pregnancy or up until birth, which is shamefully the case in New York state.

The illustration of just how badly abortion on demand has demagnetized our nation’s moral compass jumps out from Tuesday’s USA Today sports page: “Hundreds of female athletes call on SCOTUS to reject abortion law.” The story tells us that “over 500 current and former female athletes urged the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to reject a Mississippi law that would prohibit abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.”

These female athletes filed an amicus “friend of the court” brief citing “the importance of bodily integrity and decisional autonomy,” stating that “to have forces within this country trying to deny us control over our own bodies is infuriating and un-American and will be met with fierce resistance.”

The athletes are arguing “that limiting abortion could derail women’s athletic careers, academic futures, and economic livelihoods at a large scale.” Really! Women in the rest of the civilized world manage to live with the restrictions outlined above without the draconian impact envisioned by their brief. French, German, Swiss, Italian, Romanian, and Spanish women athletes compete without sacrificing the lives of their unborn children. Are American female athletes really that selfish and self-absorbed?

No one is forcing women to get pregnant. If they choose to engage in consensual behavior of which they surely know pregnancy is one result, why should they then continue to demand to have absolute right of life and death over another human being, namely their child? There are other options for these athletes. They could choose birth control or celibacy. Why choose child sacrifice?

America’s reason for being a nation was stated on July 4, 1776. “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

As the great Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft observed, “America’s Civil War was about liberty. Our current abortion war is about the even more fundamental right, life.”

This is a struggle between the Culture of Life and the Culture of Death. The right to life precedes the right to liberty in the Declaration’s preamble. Why? If you are not alive, you cannot have liberty.

Let us constantly remember, every abortion stops a beating human heart.

Even if the Mississippi law is upheld, that is not the end of this titanic struggle between the forces of life and the forces of death in our culture. Many years ago, the night the historic 1964 Civil Rights Law was finally passed, a very tired and weary Senator Hubert Humphrey went over to the White House where groups of supporters had gathered. He walked up to Billy Graham and said, “Billy, we now have the law on the books, but it will never work unless you and others like you can get people to love from the heart.” It was true then and it is true now. Only a spiritual awakening that changes hearts and minds can deliver us from the vortex of death that threatens us. The law is only the beginning.

Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 until July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as an Executive Editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.

Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.

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