With the declaration by the Supreme Court today that there is no constitutional right to abortion, this is a historic day here in America.
The abortion of innocent life in the womb is a demonic evil, and anything that helps to end that is a gain for our repentance and for the general good of mankind.
It is also critical that even more support be given for crisis pregnancy centers and for any organization, ministry or person who provides help for women not only to bear the children God has given them but also to raise them in holiness and wellbeing.
June 24 is the feast of the Nativity of John the Forerunner, the saint who leaped in the womb of his mother at encountering the incarnate Christ still in the womb of His own. May we have the prayers of all these saints.
I posted the above on social media today, and along with many supportive reactions and comments, I got some pretty nasty ones, too. This is to be expected — it is the Internet, after all. Mean and even lying comments (e.g., that I want women to die) are not persecution, however.
But some raised some specific plausible objections, namely, life-threatening pregnancies, fetal alcohol syndrome, poverty, birth defects, and even the possibility for an average lower IQ in America.
The last objection is pure eugenics and so perverse that it does not even deserve a response. We should abort children so that we can achieve a higher average IQ? Really?
As for most of the rest, though, if you take each objection and then say “And the solution is to kill innocent children,” you can see how bankrupt these objections are. The solution to suffering is not to kill. The solution is to address the suffering.
And of course Christians and others who care are addressing this suffering, many through the broad work that crisis pregnancy centers do to support women and their families long after helping them give birth, but also through the many other charitable organizations dedicated to alleviating suffering. There is clearly a lot more work to be done, but the idea that the pro-life movement is merely “pro-birth” is a piece of modern mythology which falls to pieces the moment one actually examines what is being done by these organizations and ministries.
But even if the issue of ending abortion were the only one the pro-life movement is addressing, that is not objectionable in the least. The fireman who rushes into a burning building to carry out a child about to die — should he be vilified because he doesn’t then see to all that child’s needs for the rest of his life? Or because he isn’t putting out a fire in another neighborhood? There are many people and organizations dedicated to single issues (e.g., human trafficking, drug addiction, poverty, hunger, education, employment, etc.), and there is nothing wrong with focusing on one thing. That does not mean one is against helping people with anything else.
The only objection with any real merit is the one about threatening the life of the mother. It is medically the case that some pregnancies will lead to the death of the mother. Most of those also would lead to the death of the child. In such cases, obviously abortion is the only choice so that at least the mother can be saved. But we still need repentance even for this unavoidable sin.
There are some very rare cases in which a pregnancy brought to term would give life to the child and kill the mother. In those cases, we remember the teaching of Jesus, that there is no greater love than to give up one’s life for another (John 15:13). That is what Christian love is. When we ask whether this teaching should apply to saving the most innocent among us, the answer should be quite obvious. It is a hard thing for any of us to give up his life for another, but there are women who have done this, and great is their reward in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The abortion debate is now quite old, and of course the decision today by the Supreme Court does not end it. If anything, it will reignite it. It has never been a debate in the Orthodox Church, though, even if some members resist this teaching. For the whole history of the Church, abortion has been resisted. And it should be no surprise, especially considering that the Apostles began their work in a culture that had less than zero respect for the life of women and children.
As an Orthodox Christian, my task in this is not primarily about debate, however. It’s about helping to do what I can to make the conditions for life in God’s creation favorable for growth in holiness, for all of us to become saints.
Every human person is called to faithfulness to Christ in His kingdom. And not killing the innocent is certainly part of what it means to be faithful. But there is a whole lot more, too. We can’t just not kill. We have to practice active love.
Relatedly, here’s a piece I wrote a year ago: “Does the Book of Joshua Justify Abortion?“