The Hebrew prophet Jeremiah cried out on behalf of his people and his nation. It was ravaged by rampant greed and deceit, and the lives of the poor were trampled underfoot. “Is there no balm in Gilead, is there no doctor there?” cried the prophet (Jeremiah 8:22).
We can shout the same words today.
In Margaret Atwood’s horribly prescient novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, Gilead is the fictional land where women live under the subjugation of men. At a time when many women have become sterile, young fertile women, called “handmaidens”, are forced to bear the children of men whose wives cannot conceive.
As the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, handing over the lives of women and girls to the states, the women cry out in righteous rage as their bodies have become the property of the state. Men who love them should join in their rage. A woman’s most personal moral choices are taken away. Forced birth becomes the law of the land.
The question debated for centuries is revisited: When does life begun in a woman’s body become a human person? It is a moral, legal, medical and philosophical question.
“Medicine and philosophy have not determined a ‘magical moment’ when the human personality begins.”
We begin by saying that medicine and philosophy have not determined a “magic moment” when the human personality begins. Some points of the gestation continuum that have been discussed are:
- At conception when the genotype is defined.
- At the post-match time, when the match occurs or not – 4 days.
- During implantation, when the fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus — 14 days.
- At eight weeks, when the cerebral cortex begins to form and all internal organs are formed. (Aristotle, reflecting the major position of Greek philosophy, said that the male fetus received a soul, or “soul”, at 40 days and a female fetus at 90 days, which informed the legality of abortion.
- At the “acceleration”, when the mother feels the child move in her womb – 16-18 weeks.
- At viability, when an unborn child can survive outside the mother’s body. Today, with advances in modern medical science, that point is somewhere between 20 and 21 weeks.
- At birth, when the infant takes its first breath.
There was not and there is no longer a consensus by answering this question. Those who have sought to make abortion laws over the years have focused on one or more of these developmental moments in their decisions.
Contraception laws have also been based on this issue: condoms, the “morning after pill”, IUDs. The new contraceptive laws will now become the arena of fierce public and legal debate based on the question of when human personality begins.
The second point to consider is that there is no Christian or religious consensus on the matter. The main Jewish position, shared by some Christians, is that the human personality begins at birth, when the child draws its first breath, following the passage in Genesis 2:7: “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
“The only passage that speaks directly to the question of the value of the life of the mother versus the life of the unborn life is Exodus 21:22-25.”
Other biblical passages have been quoted support one position or another. The only passage that speaks directly to the question of the value of the life of the mother versus the unborn life is Exodus 21:22-25. It states that if there is a fight and a pregnant woman miscarries because of the injury, whoever injures her is fined. If, however, the pregnant woman dies from her injuries, the death penalty is demanded. Many religious traditions say that if one has to choose between the life of the mother and the life of the unborn child, the life of the mother takes precedence.
Members of the “right to life” or “pro-life” movement generally use three passages of scripture to support their position:
- Jeremiah 1:4-5: “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you. »
- Job 10:8 – “Your hands fashioned me and created me.”
- Psalm 139:13 – “For you formed my private parts, you wove me in my mother’s womb.”
The Christian New Testament remains silent on the issue of abortion.
For those looking to the Bible for guidance or proof, the humble wisdom of Ecclesiastes can be helpful to all of us: from God who does all” (Ecclesiastes 11:5).
The church as a whole has held a number of differing views as to when abortion should be permitted, for example in cases of rape or incest or to preserve the life, health and well-being of the mother. Notably, the Southern Baptist Convention in the early 1970s took a moderate stance, supporting abortion in such circumstances. Now in thrall to the religious and political right, they take the most extreme stance on abortion.
States are in the process of passing legislation that prohibits abortion upon detection of the fetal heart rate (six weeks), with few or no exceptions. Texas’ “Fetal Heart Rate Law” passed in 2021 is a sign of things to come. A religious doctrine that human personality begins at conception is being enacted into law.
“Should we, as a nation, enact into law the biblical interpretation of a group of Christians?
But what if you’re a citizen of the United States and the Bible is not your only moral authority?
What if your individual conscience leads you to another conclusion? What if you don’t belong to a religious community? Should we, as a nation, enact into law the biblical interpretation of a group of Christians?
So now we come to the last issue – the separation of church and state. It is enshrined in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. The “freedom clause” maintains that the religious life of its citizens should be free from state control. Our nation was founded on the principle of freedom of religion. In a modern liberal democracy, like our nation, freedom of conscience is protected for all.
The “establishment clause” says the state cannot favor or establish one religion over another or a religion over a non-religion. In its new decision, the Supreme Court favored or established one type of religious belief over others. Women are forced to obey laws derived from the religious beliefs of the few.
The founders of our nation feared theocracy because they had experienced the long years of religious wars in Europe, where church and state were intertwined. Today, the rise of Christian supremacy is leading the nation towards theocracy. Because of the Supreme Court decision, women and teenage girls will lose their lives. The civil war has only just begun. A new civil rights movement is on the horizon.
Stephen Shoemaker serves as pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Statesville, NC He previously served as pastor of Myers Park Baptist in Charlotte, NC; Broadway Baptist in Fort Worth, Texas, and Crescent Hill Baptist in Louisville, Ky.
Why I’ve Never Written About Abortion Before Now | Review by Mark Wingfield
Welcome to Galaad | Review by Susan Shaw
Why Men Should Worry About the Abortion Ruling | Opinion of Darrell Hamilton III
Christianity: where the end justifies the means | Opinion of Philippe Thomas