Evangelicalism’s Abortion Inconsistencies: Guest Post by Pastor David Morris, Grace Church of the Valley
Here is the third of four main arguments from pro-lifers explaining why women shouldn’t be punished for having an abortion even if it’s illegal. To understand the full context please read first argument here.
Argument 3. Punishing a woman for abortion won’t stop abortions; therefore they shouldn’t be punished.
In her National Review article, Lopez quoted Frederica Mathewes-Green who said, “The goal of
abortion laws is to stop abortion. And the person to stop is not the woman, who may have only
one abortion in her life, but the doctor who thinks it a good idea to sit on a stool all day aborting
babies. End the abortion business and you end abortion. The suggestion that it’s necessary to
punish post-abortion women reveals a taste for vengeance.” Lopez went on to argue that law
enforcement priorities meant hitting higher up on the food chain (the abortionists) and that
“common sense” tells us not to punish women for having an abortion. Joe Carter used similar
arguments from the law enforcement side, saying that it would be easier to prosecute
abortionists if women weren’t treated as accomplices.
No law will ever “stop” every human being from choosing sin. But it should be a deterrent to
those who want to do evil and, having failed to deter them, punish them as justly and fairly as
possible. The Romans 13 vision of a good government includes these words: “For rulers are
not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority?
Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good.
But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of
God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” Is paying for and getting an
abortion good conduct or bad? Should someone wanting an abortion have no fear of our legal
system? Are women agreeing to kill their children doing what is good, deserving to be approved
and recognized by God’s servant, the government? Or is having an abortion “wrong”, justly
making women afraid to have that abortion? Does God have wrath on those who get an
abortion? Does having an abortion make a woman a “wrongdoer,” justifying government for
enacting some version of earthly justice that reflects God’s moral pronouncement? And in
Mathewes-Green argument, is it really a small thing that a woman “may have only one abortion
in her life”? Do we really want our government saying, “You get one free kill in your lifetime. As
long as you only hire one hit-man, you won’t be held responsible.”
If that sounds overly harsh to you, you probably don’t particularly care for the concept of God’s
wrath and punishment in the first place. But good governments reflect God’s perspective on its
citizens’ behaviors. Have we stopped stealing by making it a crime? Obviously not, but stealing
should remain a crime because that’s an accurate reflection of God’s perspective. I am all for
prosecuting abortionists. But why say it is either/or? Is it really that inaccurate of a comparison
to look at laws that prosecute the hit man who does the killing as well as the murderous
husband who paid that hit man? Is the husband really free of guilt before God simply because
he didn’t pull the trigger?
To use another illustration with a crime that involves women, what about prostitution? (That is
still illegal, right?) Even though prostitutes often are victimized by pimps, and even though they
certainly suffer deep trauma and experience emotional pain, and even though their choice is
often influenced by societal factors like poverty, a just legal society would not punish just the
Johns and the pimps. Our laws haven’t stopped prostitution either, but I don’t think we would
argue that the person to stop is not the woman, who is just one prostitute, but the pimp who
thinks it a good idea to drive around all day pimping women. Why not stop them both?
To read fourth argument click here