Why Roe v. Wade needn’t be a holy grail

Tuesday marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and a recent Time magazine cover story offered an interesting viewpoint on the current status of the abortion debate. The article outlines increasing state restrictions on abortion and suggests that Roe v. Wade could be overturned in the not-so-distant future.

As Christians who believe God creates all life, what should we think about overturning Roe v. Wade? For some it is their primary goal in addressing abortion. Other Christians believe Roe v. Wade should stand, even though abortion doesn’t line up with their personal morals. Most of us have very strong beliefs and emotions around the issue. But what does God want us to do about it? Is legislation our only means of making a change?

Women are not having abortions simply because it is legal. Yes, the fact that it is available means it’s easier for women to consider it as an option, but the reason most women consider abortion is actually the fear of shame and scarcity that surround an unplanned pregnancy.

We know from research that when a woman faces an unplanned pregnancy it turns her world upside down and alters her view of herself. “I had a feeling deep down that I’d just ruined my life. I’ve become that stereotype. I never thought I’d be that girl.”  These feelings of shame, combined with the lack of practical resources to support her child, can leave a woman feeling like her only options are abortion or overwhelming struggle as a mother. 

God’s heart in this issue is much broader than simply stopping abortions. It breaks His heart when women believe that their lives are over and their dreams have ended. He doesn’t want any woman to resign herself to face overwhelming struggle as a mother. That isn’t His plan for her or her child.

The negative story around unplanned pregnancy that is behind most abortions will persist whether Roe v. Wade stands or falls. But we can counteract that story with two things: acceptance and support.

Acceptance can break the power of shame and change the way a woman views herself. When a woman receives acceptance and empathy, doors open and she no longer feels isolated. Support can break the power of hopelessness and change the way a woman sees her future and the future of her child. When people help her get the practical resources she needs, it helps her see she can still have goals and dreams.

Working to make abortion illegal, or to keep it legal, does not bring the acceptance and support that can change the trajectory of the lives of women and children. The people best equipped to bring this change are Christians living out a theology of grace. We have experienced God’s total forgiveness through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We can level the playing field and bring a counter-cultural message that a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy is no different than the rest of us. We can see God bring transformation so that both the woman and the child can thrive.

Our calling is so much higher than anything legislation can accomplish. Our dream for God to bring a hope-filled future for both women and children won’t become a reality through any political platform. We can be grateful for our political system and engage in it to make a difference, but we can’t rely on it to bring a miracle in our country. We need a strategy from God Himself, lived out through people demonstrating His complete heart for both women and children.

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I’m a thirty-year-old single woman and a virgin, largely because I believe extramarital, or at least nonmonogamous, sex is sinful. I also believe it’s harmful for completely secular reasons, and if I was convincing a non-Christian friend to wait until marriage I think I could do that without relying on the Bible. I also believe that abortions are sinful in almost all circumstances and that women should be encouraged not to have them. That involves both finding other options once a woman is pregnant, but also preventing the need for abortions by doing whatever we can to prevent unintended pregnancies. IMO, both comprehensive sex education and making contraceptives available are great tools here, along with the push toward abstinence; I certainly think a woman - and a man - should avoid sex outside of marriage, but if they’re going to have sex we as a society need to give them the tools to do it responsibly.

All of that said, I have a problem in a major way with criminalizing abortions. For one thing, it just doesn’t work. I find it interesting that quite often, the same people who think if we make abortions illegal women won’t get them also think that if we make guns illegal, criminals will still have guns. Either outlawing an act (procuring an abortion, possessing a gun) will prevent it from happening… or it won’t. But on a more philosophical level, these laws are fundamentally unfair to women. If a woman loses autonomy over her body, if she gets pregnant for whatever reason. It is no longer her choice whether to go through a pregnancy or not. Men are not subject to the same consequences, they cannot be, and while that unevenness isn’t the fault of the law (it’s simple biology), this isn’t the kind of law women and men can ever really be equal under.

Now, as a Christian I certainly believe continuing the pregnancy is the right choice. I think we should work tirelessly to develop the good character that will help women make this choice, support women through that choice, and prevent them from having to make that choice under bad circumstances as much as we can. But I also believe quite strongly that taking away the choice isn’t the road to take. And my Christianity plays a big part in this position, because Christianity is all about choice. God could have created a world without suffering, without choices, where there was no forbidden fruit and we all just lived in Eden forever. He didn’t do that - in fact, He died as payment for a bad choice on our part, because the other option was to take away our choice or abandon us to its consequences, neither of which He was willing to do. When I read about Jesus’s ministry, I see that He worked with people, both to educate them so they would also choose the right things and also to address the situations that made those choices difficult or even impossible. I can’t remember him ever lobbying for an anti-adultery or pro-feeding hungry people law.

So thank you for this. I found it a very good way to approach this situation. As a pro-choice Christian (and that’s not a contradiction!), I am very glad this important topic is getting a more nuanced discussion than you often see.

Thanks for posting this, Marta. Your comments illustrate how we as Christians can work together to communicate God’s heart for both women and children - regardless of our political approach to abortion. If we believe He has a plan that transcends politics, we can see him bring much healing…

To Marta – I admire your commitment to your own chastity and your thoughtful consideration of this topic, but I think you are wrong about criminalizing abortion. I believe abortion should be illegal not because it will end abortion (I know it won’t) but because it is an act that victimizes another person.

You are also comparing two dissimilar ideas when you liken abortion laws to gun control. Gun control laws are more like criminalizing adultery than criminalizing abortion. Those who oppose gun control laws will almost always agree that using a gun to murder someone is and should always be illegal.  Similarly, we do (and should!) have the freedom to choose to commit adultery, even though it’s sinful. But if we choose to commit adultery, we should not have the legal choice to end the life that results.

My 3 year old grandson is 3 years old today on the anniversary of Roe v Wade. In 1978, 5 years after Roe v Wade was the law, I sought an abortion for the daughter who become this precious boy’s mom. The grief, shame, and uncertainty this article so clearly describes is exactly what motivated my search for an abortion provider.

That experience is why I so applaud this article and its focus.  I was in sin and had no knowledge of the Lord I now serve.  Only grace prevented that abortion and allowed me to celebrate my only grandson’s birthday today.  Providentially, his birthdate is the same as this anniversary. I did not even realize the dates were the same until the media focus of the last few days.  Roe v Wade is the wrong focus.  Grace of salvation represented in the gospel is the only true answer.  Thanks for starting me thinking about how I, through my story, can help.

Thank you for your beautiful post, L Ann. I believe that through your experience with grace and your story, you can make a real difference. God bless.

Marta, I am glad to see that you have had some responses to your very thoughtful post.  I have had nearly all of those same thoughts myself but have never taken the time to articulate them so clearly.  Even so, I have to say that I agree with Shannon, in that it is one thing to commit a sin such as adultery and another altogether to take a human life.  So I still believe there should be some definitive legal guidelines as to how to weigh choices between the life of the mother and the life of the child, and the circumstances under which one or the other may be sacrificed.  With all the other aspects of your message in place, [appropriate love and support] it should make those constraints bearable.  I would give special consideration to situations involving incest and rape.  While I think it could be possible to endure pregnancy and childbirth under those conditions, I would NEVER want to sit in judgment of another who faced such a dilemma.  Nor would I want to force any woman to carry to term an infant with no medical chance of surviving outside the womb.  But that’s me.  Regardless of how the laws are formed, or what choices are made, as Christians we are called to respond with love not condemnation.

Abortion is a great moral and Christian wrong, regardless of the circumstance surrounding it. Clearly, having an abortion out of “convenience” is a violation of the child’s right to life and liberty, but even in cases of rape and incest, the child still has a right to life. He or she is not responsible for the actions of his or her parents. In a Christian society, individuals who commit heinous crimes, such as rape, would not be put to death. As such, it only follows that the child conceived through such horrible circumstances should not be put to death, as well. After all, he or she has not committed a crime; he or she is merely an innocent human being and not a party to such offenses.

I am more than willing to help mothers who need help bringing up children conceived inadvertently, but killing the child is not a solution, and the mass genocide of countless children is certainly not the answer. As I said before, abortion is both a moral and a Christian wrong.

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