Over the past two years, a wave of state level abortion legislation has resulted in a record number of clinics closures and a sense that the tide may be turning on abortion. Public opinion, according to a recent poll, favors at least some restrictions on abortion, with the majority of Americans (55 percent) supporting restrictions on abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy. Only 30 percent support unrestricted legal abortion up to 24 weeks (the default set by Roe v. Wade). Evangelicals are the most supportive of these new restrictions, with 65 percent of “born again evangelicals” favoring restrictions on abortion at twenty weeks as opposed to 24 weeks, if forced to choose between the two options.
North Carolina was the most recent state to pass new restrictions on abortion and clinics, but even before the regulations went into effect, one of the major clinics was at least temporarily shut down after a routine inspection. It was the 42nd clinic to be shut down this year, and is part of a pro-life strategy to target abortion at a state level, in the hopes that in addition to reducing abortions, eventually a court case in response to limited abortion access will make it to the Supreme Court.
Although these developments are good news for every woman and child spared the horror of abortion by them, our cultural view of life remains deeply corrupted. This week, Time Magazine’s cover article is titled “Having It All Without Having Children,” which profiles and celebrates well off American couples who deliberately choose not to have children. The concept is nothing new, but it highlights how children have come to be seen as a “lifestyle choice,” whether one wants them or not.
On one side, some couples choose to never have children to advance their careers, travel the world, or many other reasons. While simultaneously the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) industry generates billions of dollars every year through the buying, selling, and manipulation of “genetic materials.” The two trends – avoidance of children and artificial creation of them – may appear diametrically opposed, but they represent the same philosophy of “children as choice.”
The ideology of abortion is rooted in the idea that women must be able to “have it all,” that sex need not result in a child if one is not desirable at the time. Children are viewed as one lifestyle choice among many, and are completely detached from sex and marriage, placing the most vulnerable persons at the whim of adult desires.
Traditional Christian thought contrasts this thinking, holding that God is the author of all life and we humans are not to interfere, and that sex belongs in the confines of marriage that welcomes new life with self-sacrificial love.
As the legal tide shifts on abortion in America, I am grateful for the lives saved of course. But seeing stories like the one in Time and hearing about the unflinching acceptance of ART, it is clear the cultural view of children and life is far short of what Christians should hope for.
Although evangelicals are vocally opposed to abortion, many have no problem with the concept of choosing a “child-free” marriage, creating embryos in labs, or employing surrogate mothers. In a recent article about ART, donor-conceived advocate Alana Newman said “Catholics are the only non-donor-conceived people interested in this topic.” She is right. Short of Dr. Russell Moore, the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, there are virtually no evangelical voices speaking to broader life issues beyond abortion in our “brave new world.”
Christians of all denominations need to refine, articulate, and live out their beliefs about life, sexuality, and marriage. Abortion is crucially important, but it is not the only threat to fragile human life. These concerns are not merely about old fashioned morality, or imposing beliefs on others, but about the weighty and delicate matter of human existence.