Yesterday was Sanctity of Life Sunday. Although the Biblical principle of the sacred nature of human life encompasses a much wider scope of issues than the hot button of abortion rights, that has been the primary focus of this designated day, at least in the way it is emphasized in most Southern Baptist churches, and by most members of the politically active “Religious Right.”
What would happen if the Supreme Court suddenly reversed the Roe v. Wade decision? Has that been the primary objective of the political efforts of the past three decades? Is that the point at which “victory” is declared, and a celebration of trumphalist attitudes emerges to stomp on the defeated “liberals”? Is it over at that point?
I’d say that, for the Christian church in America, including the conservative evangelical wing of it, in the unlikely event that the Supreme Court would ever overturn Roe v. Wade, it would not be a signal of the end of anything. It would be the beginning stages of a moral obligation that I’m not really sure the churches are quite ready to handle. I think it is something worth thinking about.
First of all, while I am personally opposed to the practice of abortion being a legally protected “civil right” of any kind, I’m also enough of a realist to know that it would be highly unlikely for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe. In any honest evaluation of the court, there are three justices that are likely to render a favorable decision to the pro-life position, four at the most. When it comes to the “settled law of the land,” as this decision has been described by the current chief justice, getting the votes to overturn it will be difficult.
But, let’s say that does happen. I’m only speculating here, but it is a speculation based on observation of the way this issue has developed over the past three decades. Overturning Roe doesn’t automatically make abortion illegal in the U.S. It simply means that states would be free to pass laws restricting it. The political energy and resources that have been directed toward getting Roe overturned would become directed at state legislatures. To pass any pro-life legislation, a state would need a pro-life majority in its legislature, on its supreme court to fight off the immediate, numerous legal challenges that will be filed, and a pro-life governor to sign the bill into law. That may amount to as many as 15 states, though 10-12 is the number that most of those who are well versed in the issue give as an estimate.
There will be no time or reason for triumphalism in those states that do restrict or limit abortion rights. Those who have the means will simply travel to the states where it will remain legal in order to have an abortion. Those in poverty will either risk the coat hangers and deliberate falls down the stairs, or the visit to the illegal, back alley clinics that used to be the most common methods of abortion prior to the Roe decision, or they will have their babies and create another welfare generation. That is precisely where the church needs to step in and do ministry. Are we prepared for that?
Collectively, considering our record on this issue in the current situation, I don’t think we are perpared. A lot of the resources that are now going to push for a political solution to to the issue will evaporate when it appears to be legally “solved.” On the other hand, how can we ignore such a tremendous opportunity to really change lives and make a difference? How many children could be adopted into loving, Christian families? How many young, unwed mothers could be loved into the Kingdom by Christian church members who were committed to their rescue?
In the meantime, what are we doing now? Are we putting ourselves in position to minister to as many young women in crisis as we can, meeting their needs and providing them with opportunities to choose life? Are we really teaching our young people the Biblical truth about their sexuality, and providing them with support and encouragement to keep themselves pure? Are we reaching out to win the lost and disciple them into the Kingdom so that we can teach them that God has a wonderful plan for their life, and they do not have to be slaves to the consequences of sin? Is the church seen as a place of refuge for those who have fallen victim to the lies the world has told them and who have had an abortion, or do we judge them unworthy of the same grace and mercy we have received? I believe we do have a moral obligation to go beyond our principles, to action.