The ongoing abortion debate in our country has seen spikes in contention among the general public in recent weeks with the news out of New York State about their abortion expansion legislation, as well as a bill introduced in Virginia that would relax existing constraints on abortions in the last trimester of a pregnancy. In fact, democratic Delegate Kathy Tran, who introduced the bill, stated that her bill would allow for the abortion of a baby while the mother is in active labor. Even more surprisingly, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, at best, insinuated that under the bill (which he supported) if an infant was born alive after a failed abortion, or with a birth defect, the parents and physician would keep the baby “comfortable” while they decided what to do. Or, to put it another way, the baby would have to wait while the group of adults decided if the child’s life should be taken.
Much digital ink has been spilled regarding the moral impermissibility (or permissibility depending on your convictions) of such actions, so I don’t intend to speak to that—not directly anyway. Instead, I’d like to turn our focus to a mostly lost group families that are affected in this whole debate—even if that effect is implicit rather than explicit—and how that effect potentially tints how we see the whole of the conversation surrounding human dignity. The group I’m referring to is those that have suffered through a miscarriage.
My wife and I suffered a miscarriage in October of last year. By God’s grace we were covered during this hardship with his love, assurance, and provision through his word, Church, and victory through Christ. As if it weren’t already evidently plain, but just so that all my cards are on the table, we’re Christians. We have no problem calling ourselves Christians—Reformed Christians at that! This, of course, means that we have a traditional view of human life beginning at conception. That being said, when we lost our little girl in the first trimester of my wife’s pregnancy, we lost our daughter. Not a clump of cells, not just a fetus, but our own flesh-and-blood child.
This tragedy hasn’t necessarily changed what I believe about abortion—that truth remains defined by God’s word, but it has had a lot of influence on how I now view the abortion debate. I can’t help but see it through the lens of our loss. I’m sure many others on the other side of the ideological divide might say they view the debate based off of their own experiences as well, which makes sense. Experiences are powerful, but they don’t, or shouldn’t, define truth. Not mine, and not yours. Experience alone is subjective and doesn’t allow us to approach anything without presuppositions.
On the other hand, truth is objective and, when realized, it powerfully shapes the subjectivity of our own individual lives. It’s our responsibility to allow truth to define our experience rather than create a truth based on our experiences. Because, you see, if we do the latter, what is lost in this ongoing, and subjective, debate about when our humanity objectively starts, or what constitutes a person, is the value and dignity of our little girl.
In our view—grounded in God’s word, every person, from conception, has inherent dignity that can’t be stripped away from them because they are made in the very image of the Almighty—the Imago Dei. This is the same worth, value, and dignity that all people throughout history have had regardless of their race, place, or socio-economic status. We believe that God knows us and even while we are in our mother’s wombs he is intimately, and intentionally, knitting us together.
When starting from this position, I contend, it’s illogical and profane to degrade, objectify, or dehumanize any other human being at all and at any point of development. Full stop.
This of course includes people from both genders, all stages of life, any skin color, any country of origin, any documentation status, any anything. Nothing can strip anyone of this dignity—though we may try, and it’s out of this understanding of the value and worth of our fellow men and women that we’re compelled to treat all people with respect, love, and kindness—especially the most vulnerable. And what is an unborn (or newborn) baby if not the most vulnerable among us?
In contrast, the ideological liberal’s inconsistent, at best, understanding of human worth and value leaves someone like me wanting. Where does our humanity begin? Is it okay to mourn this loss? Was she actually a baby we lost, or just a clump of cells? These questions would be answered differently depending on who I talked to, I suppose. Perhaps some would argue humanity begins outside of the womb, some after viability, and some after a different marker other than conception. Maybe there would be those that say it is okay to mourn because we wanted our baby, and it’s this wanting that makes our lost child a person.
Forgive me, but our little girl that some might dehumanize and call a “clump of cells” had eyes, fingers, and a beautifully beating heart we heard just a day earlier. These same anatomical features would be evident in an “unwanted” child as well, and it all points to more than “just cells,” but we all already know that.
A view of humanity that places the worth outside of a self-defined truth and in something greater is the only thing that can bring people like us comfort. It allows us to grieve confidently. People like my wife and me don’t have to wonder if our baby was in fact a baby, and therefore if she had any value. What the proponents of abortion are saying with their rhetoric about the unborn, albeit implicitly, is that our mourning doesn’t matter—at least not as much—because it wasn’t a baby we lost but the simple hope of one. While we certainly lost hope that day, we also gained hope. Hope that we will one day meet, and hold, our little girl, but it will just have to wait until eternity.
As anyone that has ever grieved knows, when you’re in pain, you don’t want subjective answers. Instead, you want something strong and sturdy you can build your hope upon. You want truth, and despite what our culture tells us about defining our own truth or using “alternate facts” to support our own interests, truth comes from without, not within. Truth is given, not invented. The truth is, all of those babies lost—to miscarriage or abortion—are just that: babies. We all know it to be so, it’s just a matter of yielding to the truth, and acting accordingly, even if it presses against our own self-interest.
This is how people like us are able to make it through such a loss: we have built our hope upon the sturdy truth of our daughter’s given worth ascribed to her by our Creator. No other worldview offers such a consistent hope for all people, born and unborn.