Abortion and the Ninth Circuit


The recent ruling of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California regarding the three-judge panel's opinion that the "Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act" passed by Congress last November is unconstitutional gives rise to questions regarding church and state vis--vis their impact or infringement on the rights of women to participate in this medical procedure, thought by many to be the equivalent of murder.

A defining fundamental of religious fundamentalism is that governments should be the inculcators of the fundamentalist agenda. Regarding the public schools, this can be seen in the matter of school-prayer and/or other spiritual exercises, such as the posting of the Ten Commandments. Another example would be the governmental enjoining of employers to grant special considerations to some employees vis--vis their religious convictions, thus discriminating against other employees. Particularly the evangelical denominations view any kind of abortion as sinful, and have tried to get Roe v. Wade rescinded ever since its enactment.

There is nothing uglier than an abortion, whether the terminating of an actual or potential life, though one wonders if the bearing of an unwanted and consequently unloved child is even uglier. Moreover, there is something sinister in a government agency's absolute authority (as well as that arrogated to themselves by the pope and other religious leaders) to decree that a terrified fifteen-year-old must bring to term a crack-addicted/AIDS-infected fetus conceived in a back alley as a result of the animal instinct rather than the love of a married couple.

This is not an apologetic for abortion, but a reminder that abortion per se is not discussed in scripture, the sixth commandment notwithstanding, since scripture neither directly addresses the fetus nor describes how a fetus should live, think, be treated, etc. The scriptures deal with people. Indeed, the sixth commandment, regarding the prohibition of murder, actually does not apply to a fetus, since the "shall not" commandments, of which it is a part, dealing with lying, stealing, adultery, covetousness, and honoring parents represent behavior that can be applied only to "other people." There is no consensus as to whether or not a fetus is a person, however, so that determination must be the product of personal opinion. Legally, Roe v. Wade decreed that a fetus is not a human being. Perhaps Christ's only pronouncement regarding abortion (though subject to opinion) was that Judas would have been better off if never born. Christ did not say never conceived, so what conclusion should be drawn? Disavowing any possible planning by God in the matter, would it have been better for Judas if he hadn't been born?

There may be even among the "religious" an argument for abortion on the fundamental basis of the sacredness of human life. Is it fair to say that the only thing worse than an abortion is the bearing of an inconvenient, unwanted child, perhaps spawned in a passionate tryst, a drunken fraternity bash, a back alley, or at a crack party? The media is filled daily with accounts of brutal child abuse/murder occasioned by mothers of unwanted, unloved children, or their "significant others," insensitive stepfathers or live-in studs who bash in the heads of crying, wet, hungry kids who "get on their nerves," when their only interests are sex, drugs and food (often free). Yes, there may be a religious argument for abortion, not on the basis of a woman's (or her man's) convenience, but because children are too precious to be violated by an accident of unwanted birth. Life is too sacred for that.

Throughout scripture, particularly the OT, the trespass of Israel is consistently placed within the context of whoredom and the violent disposition of its products. Biblical condemnation of fornication and adultery is inordinately harsh, an obvious conclusion being that children, the natural products of these liaisons, should never be conceived, much less born, outside of marriage. Only in the animal world is indiscriminate breeding accepted as normal, though one wonders in current America, where bastardy (the biblical term for illegitimacy) is now not only considered normal, but even supported by tax money. Did God ordain the death of the illegitimate child of David and Bathsheba to punish David, or for the sake of the child...or both?

There is a New Testament insight furnished by Christ, though admittedly open to debate. The thinking of Jesus (John 10:10, KJV) is instructive in that, referring to people already alive, He insists that He has "come that they might have life, and...have it more abundantly." He did not refer to eternal life, since life everlasting could hardly be made more abundant. He did not refer to physical life, since His hearers already possessed that. It seems reasonable that Jesus did not define life exclusively as eternal or physical, but as an abstract something else, the absence of which comprises incompatibility with His concept of proper existence.

Since God is love (I John 4:16), John 1:4 is rendered "In love was life." Therefore, if a fetus is neither conceived nor nurtured in love, its birth may be incompatible with Christ's concept of life, or the proper existence. More than just a play on words, this approach could reckon abortion, despicable as it is, to be a viable option. The standard for birth (life) resides in whether or not the child is to be born in love. If not thus born, the tragedy is birth, and the morally bankrupt society of today, marked as it is by crime, divorce, the wholesale breakup of families, and the sanctioning by society of the very thing God warns against - illegitimacy - is proof.

Fundamentalists, having failed, as have all other Christians at least collectively, in both being good stewards of God's largesse and carrying out evangelism, look to government to reverse their failure and "save" the nation by fiat, rather than saving it themselves through making the witness and bringing about spiritual renewal, which eventuates in societal renewal. This is a pathetic philosophy by essentially apathetic people.

Should all fetuses, whether illegitimate or not, be born? Each individual must decide for him/herself. However, the fetus carrier should make the ultimate and binding determination. Any Christian who believes in the priesthood of the believer (determining one's own set of beliefs) should not presume to make that decision for her, or attempt to force government to make that decision, at least until the Supreme Court decides that abortion is murder. This may sound harsh, but this is a nation of laws.

Between 1960 and 2002, the number of married-couple households in the U.S. decreased by 30 percent, and the number of unmarried-couple households (shackups, mostly) increased by an unbelievable 463 percent (for a total of 4.9 million such households in 2002). From 1970 to 2002, the number of white children living with both parents decreased from 90 percent to 75 percent. For African Americans, the numbers were 59 percent to 39 percent, and for the Hispanic community the numbers were 78 percent to 65 percent. This indicates the trend plaguing this nation, assuming the family unit is basic to the society, without even considering the approximately 43,000,000 abortions since Roe-Wade went into effect (roughly 1.4 million on average each year) or the added millions the early-aborted would have added with their own households.

The hope for saving the nation is not found in government. It's found only in a reversal of collective notions regarding the importance of family. Fundamentalists should stop their whining, forget the "family values" Republican Party (which will sell them out, anyway, as would the democrats), and, along with all adults, get their house in order. In the meantime, let the stone-throwing begin only after the fundamentalist, or anyone else, has walked in the pregnant girl's shoes or considered the plight of being the unwanted child.