Evangelicalism’s Abortion Inconistencies: Guest Post by Pastor David Morris Grace Church of the Valley
Here is the second 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 2. We’ve never historically punished women for having abortions: therefore they shouldn’t be
A lot of pro-lifers jumped on Trump’s statement as evidence that he was out of touch with the
pro-life movement because the pro-life movement has never wanted or caused women to be
punished for having an abortion. In making the historical case, Joe Carter at The Gospel
Coalition points to an 1878 Minnesota Supreme Court case against an abortionist who killed
Helen Clayton in a failed abortion. Her husband who was in the room was deemed an
accomplice. Helen wasn’t because, besides the fact that she was dead, in the court’s mind “the
public welfare demands the application of this rule” and the “wisdom of experience” justifies this
exception. The exception was from calling a woman who has an abortion an accomplice,
despite the apparent inconsistency of passing over the fact that the woman is someone “who
solicits the commission of an offense, and willingly submits to its being committed upon her own
With little apologies to the Minnesota Supreme Court, I’m pretty sure Christians should know
better than to take our moral guidance from the highest courts of our land, even in 1878. Just
consider the history of how well our high courts have applied rules and used the wisdom of
experience to get us these 43 years and 54 million abortions after Roe v. Wade.
Just because women never have been punished doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be. It just means
we’ve always stopped short of truly criminalizing abortion. After all, what other crime do we allow
people to commit and not be penalizing for? Only the crimes we really don’t care about, if any.
Only anarchy says that laws shouldn’t be enforced, and if the blessed day ever came that
abortion was illegal it’d make sense to punish anyone who flouted that law.
In his article, Carter goes on to argue that the best case scenario in a fallen world is to hope for
an imperfect justice. He argues that “some justice is better than no justice at all.” Besides
sounding defeatist, it’s hard to see how we’d determine when to settle for such an imperfect,
godless justice. Carter wants us to be satisfied if we can slow abortion down, or pursue justice
for the unborn against some of our society. But what justice minimizes the crucial role of the
woman in this murder? No abortion doctor drags women kicking and screaming into his killing
room. Even under the coercion of family, culture, or emotion, the sad fact is that women really
are choosing. And it’s an evil, bad choice they make, a choice that ought to be illegal.
If it helps, consider a different issue long since settled. Let’s say the slavery abolitionists thought
about how costly a war between North and South would be. They considered how strongly
Southerners held to their sinful opinion that it was a right to own slaves. “Better some justice
than none,” they agreed. “Let’s just abolish slavery in the North and settle for allowing slavery in
the South.” Besides avoiding a lot of bloodshed and adding more years of sinful and shameful
treatment of fellow humans, the abolitionists would have sacrificed the rightful demand for full
justice. It’s right for us to want full justice, and for too long pro-lifers have tried to take partial
steps well short of the abolition of abortion. Limiting what trimester abortions can happen in,
making abortions “pain free” for the unborn, making exceptions for rape and incest—all these
still fall short of God’s standard to not kill.
A woman who asks, pays for, and chooses an abortion is directly culpable for the death of her
child. And if our laws were just, the abortion would be illegal and the woman’s moral guilt would
also include some amount of civil guilt. Ever wonder if our refusal to pursue civil guilt is part of
the reason pro-choicers remain unconvinced of a sense of moral guilt?
Go to argument 3 here