Numerous elected officials, organizations, even churches have spoken out against abortion over the years, aiming to ban it... unfortunately, often except in cases of rape or incest. President George W. Bush himself, seen by some as one of the most socially conservative Christian presidents in recent history, supports these exceptions.
On Monday March 6th, 2006, Governor Mike Rounds of South Dakota signed into law a bill that makes all abortion illegal, with a solitary exception to protect the mother's life. No allowances based on maturity of the pregnancy, no exceptions for rape or incest. Several more states are preparing to draft similar legislation. Many commentators are labeling this event as a transparent set-up to challenge the infamous Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court which legalized abortion in 1973.
This courageous act by Governor Rounds obviously leaves the "partial-birth abortion" debate/legislation moot in South Dakota. Supporters of abortion-on-demand (at any point during pregnancy without parental notice/consent) will be shifting arguments and protests away from defending a specific and fairly rare type of abortion to the acceptability of the general practice. I anticipate that many abortion-supporters will likely respond quickly to the governor's action with pleas for the health and well-being of the mother: "What about the poor teenage girl who is raped? What about the young girl who is impregnated incestuously? Don't you care about them?" This is a perfectly valid response and one which we who call Christ Lord must be prepared to answer.
God the Father, through Jesus' willing sacrifice of His blood and life, saved us from eternal torment, the second death. (Rev. 20:6, 21:8) This is not of our own doing! He has done it, simply because He chose to love us, to reveal to His children the truth held in mystery for so long. But just because we know the truth, does that give us freedom in Christ to withhold compassion from those still blind to it? Are we called to only encourage our brothers and sisters to the exclusion of the world? Certainly not! As His priests, His living sacrifices on earth, He commands us to "love [our] enemies and pray for those who persecute [us]...." (Mt. 5:44-47) We must have compassion on the suffering of those who do not know Christ or we essentially deny Him; we must have His compassion, that love that first reached out to us in our sin.
So, should abortions for rape or incest victims be legally approved? Well, basic psychology tells us that critical decisions are rarely made soundly when in the midst of such emotional, physical and psychological agony. With sadness, I sense here is where well-meaning politicians and some Christian leaders have gone astray. They have confused compassion and mercy with concurrence, almost feeling an obligation to provide exceptions for these victims. But how do we effectively help someone, share their burden and mend their wounds without giving them what they want? Well, those of us who are parents encounter this every day with our children. When my son comes to me crying because of a poor choice which led him to injure himself or someone else, I listen to him, hold him and comfort him. My greatest desire in that moment is to love him and take away his pain. But when he asks me for a cookie, as if food has some strange, spiritual power to cure his injury, do I give it to him? No! It is vitally important that I remain outside his perceptions, his pain-driven reasoning, to provide a source of objective reality for him to rest on until he recovers. If I capitulate to his urgent desire in the moment of pain, how am I helping? I only join him in his foolish attempt to cover the wound with salve that will not last.
In similar fashion, encouraging abortion because we feel pity for victims is not only ineffective, it is harmful and irrational. Commonly accepted exceptions for abortion have always bothered me. While I've always felt deep sorrow and even anger for those who suffer the complex pain of rape or incest--pain I could never fully comprehend--a problem tugged at my mind and heart. I spent many hours thinking, praying, reading, and consulting others' thoughts on the topic. Then one day, the reason for my discomfort burst into clarity.
In 1991, my wife and I met and began dating. As we grew closer, testing the waters of our relationship, we discussed many different topics. One day, the subject of abortion popped up (always makes for a fun date). We agreed on the essentially negative nature of abortion, but, to the dismay of my smitten heart, she leaned toward supporting the aforementioned exceptions. During a healthy debate, my stance was challenged by her heartfelt compassion for women who have suffered such injustices. Why should they be forced to carry and give birth to the resulting child, a constant reminder of their pain? Surely, raising the child, particularly for young teens, was out of the question. And what about all the potential health problems the baby might have? Why bring a baby into the world to start life unhealthy and unwanted?
Under this testing from the woman I love (a blessing I did not immediately appreciate)the dross of my thinking was scorched away. I suddenly understood why my mind and heart had resisted, and I responded with a question of my own which is in fact the key message of this article.
Why should that little baby be punished with death because her mother was raped? Why is it the baby's fault that his mother's father molested her? How does destroying that little growing life bring healing? In fact, it strikes me that abortion actually obliterates the best opportunity for some glimmer of blessing coming out of such a horrible event. The "unwanted child" argument never has held water either; millions of loving couples are longing to adopt children every day in the U.S. alone.
Each of us then, in contemplating our own response to abortion, must consider which scenario seems to provide the most potential for healing and a future: terminating the unborn child's life, or allowing the child to enter the world? Perhaps that little one might be raised by Mom after all, or be adopted by loving parents. Perhaps she might grow into the kind of radiant woman her mother always sought to be in her own heart, providing powerful inspiration to others. Perhaps his life might blossom into a great fountain of blessing, healing his mother's heart and overflowing to many more who travel the same harsh road of suffering. Wouldn't you like to find out?
Scripture Taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.
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