“The Ministry of Magic has fallen.”
That’s the apocalyptic phrase that a good friend of mine used yesterday to convey to me the news of Justice Kennedy’s retirement.
If you don’t speak “Potter,” it’s a quote that signals the totality of the Dark Lord’s takeover of all branches of Government.
And according to CNN, my friend was right—especially when it comes to “Abortion Rights.”
According to Jeffrey Toobin, “Roe v. Wade is doomed” because of Kennedy’s departure.
And while I wish that were true, I’m not so sure.
ROE v. WADE
My aim here is not to evaluate the full scope of Kennedy’s influence, or even the net gain or loss because of his departure on other legal matters. If you’re interested in that discussion, please see the comments section on my MySpace page.
My interest here is narrow.
It is merely to explain (without hyperbole or divisive WWE-inspired rhetoric) why young, Pro-Life Christians like myself think it would be a good thing if Roe v. Wade were overturned—despite the fact that I am about the furthest thing from a so-called “Court Evangelical” as is imaginable.
Here is the basic line of reasoning:
- All human beings have basic human rights.
In this way, my reason for opposing Roe v. Wade is the same as my reason for opposing slavery, Jim Crow, the Nazi holocaust, human trafficking, sexual assault, and the “ripping” of small children from their immigrant mothers to create a psychological deterrent bolstered by some out-of-context Bible verses (see here).
It’s about “human rights”—not merely “reproductive rights.”
- Unborn children are human beings.
This, of course, is the sticking point.
It is not that my friends who disagree with me on abortion are “moral monsters” who want to murder kids. The issue is that they differ with me on what constitutes a “human being.”
This is where the conversation must take place, because this is the point on which the whole validity of Roe hinges.
And let’s be honest, if one looks at an embryo shortly after sperm and egg unite, it is not hard to differentiate between that zygote and, say, my one-year-old son.
They look very different.
But the problem is that even if one grants this point, almost all abortions take place after this very early stage. They take place later, when it is often quite obvious that the unborn child is, indeed, a human life.
With the advent of, say, 3D ultrasound technology, it is now far more difficult to speak of a fetus as “just a lump of tissue.” Hence many women who are contemplating abortion change their minds upon sight of an ultrasound.
We are talking about babies with heartbeats, some of which can recoil from pain, and some of which can even respond to the sound of their own mother’s voice.
Heartbeat – 3 wks.
Hear sounds – 16 wks.
Recoil from pain – 20 wks.
Roe v. Wade says that killing those babies is permissible. I disagree.
The reason, however, is not because I want to tell women what to do with “their bodies,” but because of a conviction over the baby’s right to live.
- Current law is inconsistent.
As it stands now, the dividing line between “human” and “not human” is determined, in some cases, by whether one wants the child.
And this position is inconsistent with other laws.
Case in point: If a pregnant mother is hit by a drunk driver en route to an abortion clinic, the guilty driver can legally be convicted of the “homicide” (sometimes called “fetal homicide”) of the unborn child.
Yet if the mother arrives safely, the same death of the same fetus is now fully legal.
The problem here is that human rights are not determined merely by the question of whether someone wants you to exist.
And while we may forfeit our rights, say, by committing a crime and going to jail, a fetus has done nothing of the sort.
- No one has unfettered rights over “their own” body.
One of the more common arguments in favor of abortion is that a woman ought to be allowed to do what she wants with her own body. And in many cases, I agree. One of the great values of the #MeToo movement is its reminder of how frequently (and violently) women have been deprived of basic bodily respect.
Yet having said that, no one gets to do whatever they want with their body. No one. That’s actually what laws do—they regulate what you can and cannot do with your physical “self.”
Every law does that: from traffic violations, to burglary, to criminal assault. You can’t do certain things with your body; and the most basic thing you cannot do is to unduly deprive another “body” of their right to be (See #2).
The mere fact that a baby is inside its mother does not erase the child’s unique humanity (See #3). The unborn child has her own heartbeat, her own fingerprints, and her own right to go unmolested by others (See #1).
Of course, none of the these arguments would eliminate abortion in the extreme case that a mother’s life is in grave danger. Nor do they give Pro-Lifers permission to fight violence with violence.
Many women contemplating abortion have been placed in a terrible position.
Hence Christians especially should be known for responding to all pregnant moms (and indeed all people) with grace and truth.
Nothing hurts the Pro-Life cause more than the sense that its adherents are suspiciously selective in deciding which “lives” deserve love, respect, and hospitality (See this fantastic piece by Karen Swallow Prior).
Still, my argument does mean that Roe v. Wade should go.
If it did, it would not end abortion, but rather throw the decision back to the states (and the people) to decide which persons are worthy of protection.
And for many of us, the decision would be very difficult. Not because the “Ministry of Magic” is fallen—but because we are.
 In case it’s not obvious, I’m not equating every violation in that list as equally heinous.
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