Abortion: Shadow of the Dred Scott Decision

by Steve Pruett

Abortion: Shadow of the

In 1857 the United States Supreme Court made a decision looks pretty ridiculous today, if not downright embarrassing. Seven out of the nine Supreme Court justices decided that a black slave named Dred Scott was nothing more than the property of his owner. And because of that, he had no personal rights as a citizen, and no protection under the law.

Justice Roger Taney, the man who delivered the opinion of the court, said that Negroes-slave or free-were not included, and were not intended to be included in the category of "citizen" as the word was used in the Constitution.

That one Supreme Court decision, as preposterous as it sounds, took several years and even a civil war to overturn.

Now today, in the twenty-first century, we are in the middle of another civil war, and this one, too, is centered on a Supreme Court decision.

Twenty-nine years ago, on January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court struck down the abortion laws of all fifty states, and decided that the woman's right to privacy gives her the right to abort her unborn baby for just about any reason whatsoever, even up to the day of birth.

In the court's opinion, the baby in the womb is not really a "person" as defined in the Constitution, and because of that, is not guaranteed the right to life. The baby then becomes nothing more than the property of the mother, to choose, along with her doctor, whether that baby lives or dies.

(Ironically, just one year previous to this, in 1972, an amendment was made to the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940, authorizing fines up to $500,000, plus a jail term, for destroying an unborn eagle in its egg!)

As a result of Roe V. Wade, an average of more than one million babies have been aborted every year in our country. Today the estimated total number hovers at about 41 million lost (based on estimates of the Alan Guttmacher Institute). That would average out to about one baby every twenty seconds of every day, for twenty-nine years.

There is no other human disaster, war, or tragedy that even comes close to this one. Counting all of the deaths in all of the American wars from the Revolution of 1775 until the Gulf War of 1991, we only come up with a little over 1.1 million deaths. Hitler's Holocaust, horrific as it was, claimed "only" 6 million lives.

(I realize that to many of you this may be an extremely sensitive issue. Some of you, for instance, may have had an abortion in your past...and a message like this will cause you to relive the guilt that you carry. I want to tell you right up front that this is not my purpose...and if I hurt you through this message, then please, please know that God's wonderful forgiveness and grace can cover every sin, including the sin of abortion. If you have not done so, confess this sin to Him and ask His forgiveness. Seek and ye shall find! At the same time, there is a need to tell the truth about God's views on this issue. It is only as we line our thoughts up with His thoughts that we gain the healing and forgiveness He wants us to have.)

I. Why Abortion Is Wrong

Many people still believe that the fetus is simply a growth of tissue, similar to a tumor, which is acting like a parasite attached to the body of the mother. Others would say that the fetus is not really fully human, since it is unable to survive outside the mother's womb. Others maintain that the mental health and well-being of the mother are the first priority, and her ability to give the child a full and satisfying life determines whether a baby should live.

But as Christians, we know from the Bible that:

A. The unborn child is a person whom God knows. God said to Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." (Jer. 1:5). The word He uses for "know" indicates an intimate, experiential knowledge, person to person. That little item in the womb is a person whom God knows and cares about. In God's mind, human life begins at conception, and to destroy the unborn is to destroy human life.

B. The unborn child is a project God is working on. God said to Moses in Exodus 4:11: "Who made man's mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?" Thus God declares that He Himself makes each human being (see also the beautiful passage in Ps. 139:13-16).

Who among us would even think about going into a studio where Michelangelo is working on his statue of David, and taking a sledgehammer to the statue? Nobody in his right mind would do that! Yet that is just what is happening every twenty seconds in our country. God is at work on a far better masterpiece than Michelangelo's David, and yet we go in to the mother's womb-God's studio-and we shove Him right out of the way, and destroy the work He is doing.

C. The unborn child has a purpose from God. In Psalm 139:16 David writes: "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (niv). God knows exactly how many days He wants you to live...and He has set the number to just the amount that will accomplish His purposes! God also said to Jeremiah: "Before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations" (Jer. 1:5). God had a special purpose for Jeremiah...and God has a purpose for every human being that is conceived in the womb.

In fact, God has a purpose for the handicapped (cf. John 9, the man who was born blind). Even though we may not see the purpose in the lives of some severely handicapped people, God does, and we need to trust Him enough to let Him work His purposes through every single child that is conceived.

So for me, there is no question as to why abortion is wrong: It is not just detaching a parasite or removing a growth of tissue. It destroys a project of God, a person whom God Knows, and a person who has a purpose in God's world.

II. What We Should Be Doing About this Tragedy.

Christians differ in their opinions. One approach is that of Operation Rescue, a group which has physically blocked the entrances to clinics. They believe Christians need to break the law in order to bring about a change in society. But I believe this has had a backfire effect, and has even brought disgrace on the name of Christ. Is this really the way God would have us approach the problem?

Whether or not you think it is, you have to admit that it has gone too far. A couple of people have taken it so far as to kill the doctors who are performing abortions. When we enter into illegal operations, we excite our sinful flesh and anger, and it is very difficult to keep from going over the line.

But I don't see in the Scriptures that we are supposed to do evil that good will result. Instead, Romans 13 tells us that we are to submit to the authorities that God has placed over us. Yes, if they ask us to do something wrong, it is okay to refuse, but we are not to do evil in order to make sure nobody else does something wrong.

But I also see some responsible and righteous ways that we can turn this tragedy around: First of all, you can voice your protest through your vote. I believe we have an obligation before God to vote, in ways that line up with God's thinking. This is one way that we can bring salt and light into our decaying and darkening world.

A second responsibility is to hold forth the truth. Even if people don't respond, our responsibility to be salt and light doesn't change. In a "crooked and depraved generation, [we are to] shine like stars in the universe" (Phil. 2:15).

Thirdly, we need to recognize that this is a spiritual problem. It is foolish for us to think that we can fight a spiritual battle with earthly weaponry (cf. 2 Cor. 10:3,4). We need God's power if we are to see this holocaust brought to an end.

I believe 2 Chronicles 7:14 gives us a good starting place for bringing about the healing of our nation: "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (niv).

God is talking to His own people-not to the government. And he gives them four things that they can do to turn things around:

First, His people need to humble themselves. As we do this, and take our place as channels of God's working, God begins to release His power and things begin to happen!

Second, God says we should pray! A spiritual battle needs spiritual weapons, and this is the most powerful weapon of all. "The Prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective and accomplishes much" James 5:16). Any major turnaround of a nation begins with a prayer movement. It is when God's people start to pray that He begins to unleash his power to change things.

Third, we need to seek God's face. That means draw near to God. Walk with Him, seek Him out, talk to Him. And look for His leading as to what He would have us do.

Fourth, God's people need to turn from their wicked ways...to turn from our own selfishness, our busyness, our secret sins, our laziness about voting, our slowness to support godly organizations.

I believe God hates abortion, and personally feels the loss every 20 seconds-probably every single second, if you include all of the abortions in the whole world. I sometimes wonder why God waits so long to judge us! But the fact is, that He often allows evil to continue until His people humble themselves and seek His face, and then follow His leading.

We need to get off our duffs and get on our knees and begin praying for a spiritual revival in our nation. Because it is only as people's hearts are changed on the inside that they will begin acting like compassionate human beings on the outside.

Based on a sermon about the 25th anniversary of Roe V. Wade, with statistics updated. Steve Pruett is senior pastor at Evangelical Free Church of Santa Maria, CA