Some anniversaries are meant to be celebrated. Others, like the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, can only be lamented. In January, 1973, without any legitimate legal, political, moral or medical justification, the Supreme Court of the United States of America voted to legalize abortion.
What have been the consequences of that decision, and what spiritual lessons have been learned?
The main consequence of Roe v. Wade has been the slaughter of more than thirty-five million human beings. We cannot mention this fact without pausing to feel its enormity. Thirty-five million lives! This means, in turn, that some twenty million American women bear the guilt for taking human life, not to mention all the men who advocated or helped perform the abortions.
Twenty-five years of Roe have cheapened the value of American life in general. The thinking goes like this: If we can dispose of fetuses, then why not infants, or the elderly, or the sick, or the retarded, or other people who “don’t count?” So infanticide and euthanasia have become increasingly acceptable in America society. This is the way sin operates. One immoral act smooths the downward path for the next.
It should come as no surprise that a recent article in The New York Times Magazine defends killing children after they leave the womb. The writer is Steven Pinker, a psychology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the article is called “Why They Kill their Newborns” [11/2/97].
To make his case, Pinker employs one logical fallacy after another. First, he changes the vocabulary. Instead of “infanticide,” which sounds like baby-killing, he calls it “neonaticide,” which sounds like the latest medical advance. Next he uses the world’s oldest argument for bad ethics. He claims that infanticide “has been practiced and accepted in most cultures throughout history.” In other words, “everybody’s doing it.”
Finally, Pinker appeals to evolutionary determinism. The desire to kill offspring, he says, is a natural desire “built into the biological design of our parental notions.” Such morally repugnant arguments are the logical result of the discount placed on human life twenty-five years ago in Roe v. Wade.
What Christians have learned during this quarter-century is to sanctify human life. That is to say, we have learned to receive life as a gift from God and to cherish it because human beings are made in God’s image.
We have learned to sanctify all life, not simply the lives of the unborn. Our conviction is expressed well by “The Guiding Principle of Focus on the Family:”
We believe that human life is of inestimable worth and significance in all its dimensions, including the unborn, the aged, the widowed, the mentally handicapped, the unattractive, the physically challenged, and every other condition in which humanness is expressed from conception to the grave [Focus on the Family, January, 1998, p. 2].
I believe we have learned during these twenty-five years that spiritual battles cannot be waged with worldly weapons. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12). As American citizens, we have the freedom to protest against abortion. But not every protest is equally persuasive. The heart of a nation, we have found, cannot be won by angry words or party politics.
Abortion was at the height of its popularity a few years back, when confrontations at abortion clinics were most violent. But as pro-life citizens have shifted to more persuasive tactics, especially adoption and care for unwed mothers, popular support for Roe is gradually eroding. Although many battles have been lost, the fight for life may yet be won in this nation.
The past twenty-five years have also taught many lessons in the freedom of God’s grace. Men and women who were involved with abortion in one way or another have come to faith in Christ and received forgiveness for their sins. Doubtless some of them are here tonight.
Among the new believers is Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff known as “Jane Roe” in the original court case. At the time of her conversion, McCorvey was working in a Texas abortion clinic. Abortion protesters surrounded the clinic; angry confrontations were commonplace.
Then one day local pastor Flip Benham said something which hurt Norma’s feelings. Later Pastor Benham returned to apologize to McCorvey in person and to tell her that God loved her. She writes:
After that talk, I went back into the mill and I went into my office and I closed my door and I turned off my lights and I cried. And I thought to myself, “If this big, bad, radical man of God can come to me, little insignificant me, and say, ‘I’m sorry. I was out of line’ and mean it”—That got me [The Life Guardian, Vol. 3, No. 3, January, 1998, p. 2].
Some time later a little girl named Emily invited McCorvey to church. Emily and her mother had prayed for Norma’s conversion on their way to school every morning. Eventually, McCorvey relented and went to church with them.
There she asked God to forgive her sins and she received Jesus Christ as her Savior and Lord. Her favorite Bible verses are these:
I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame (Ps. 34:4-5).
(Incidentally, little Emily herself had been an unwanted pregnancy, and people had tried to pressure her mother into an abortion.)
This shows that no human being is beyond hope of redemption. We are reminded on this lamentable anniversary that God’s grace can overcome the greatest evils. All is not well, but all is not lost, either. While we must grieve for twenty-five years of Roe, and counting, we do not grieve without hope. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is still at work in the world.
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