Roe v. Wade, SCOTUS, and the Sanctity of Life
The Christian’s and Church’s Biblical Commitment to Life (to all of life for all of life)
On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) made abortion legal. This infamous decision, referred to as Roe v. Wade, effectively legalized abortion on demand. Since that time, approximately 63 million babies have been killed/murdered.
Dobbs v. Jackson and the SCOTUS Leak
Last summer the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) made a decision to address the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which can be read here, with a ruling expected this summer. The Mississippi law bans abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy, and the heart of the issue in the case is “whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.” If SCOTUS decides with Dobbs, it will also overturn SCOTUS’ decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) and their subsequent decision which maintained that right, Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992).
What was not expected was the leak of Justice Samuel Alito's initial draft abortion opinion from this past February. Based on the leak, which is not a formal ruling, Roe v. Wade would be overturned, as would Planned Parenthood v. Casey, for which we would give thanks.
This was a leak, not a formal, legal decision (which is to say nothing about how unconscionable this leak is, as it further undermines the notion of trust). Many have made conjectures and drawn conclusions about what this means or may mean, from both sides of this debate, those who are pro-life and those who are pro-choice (for the mother, yet not for the child). Some of that is to be expected. But it is important to remember there is no decision until a final decision. We must wait to read the final decision made by SCOTUS.
The Sanctity of Life
What are some things we can and should think about now? In brief, as Christians we believe and affirm the sanctity of life, granted by God to all of life and for all of life. This truth is acknowledged by us, not granted or determined by us. This is God-given, not humanly determined. And the bottom-line issue is this ultimate and absolute truth: the personhood of the infant in utero. From conception an unborn baby is a human being created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28), fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:13-17), with dignity and worth (Gen 1:26-27; 5:1, 3; 9:6; 1 Cor 11:7; Jas 3:9). Therefore, it is always, everywhere, morally wrong intentionally to kill an innocent human person.
The Possible Overturn of Roe v. Wade
If SCOTUS decides in favor of Dobbs, thus overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, it does not ban abortion by making it illegal. It just moves the matter of abortion from the federal to the state, placing the decision into the hands of elected officials.
Writing about this possible change a few months ago, “21 states are certain to attempt a ban on abortion based on current laws and constitutional amendments, according to an analysis from the Guttmacher Institute [26 States Are Certain or Likely to Ban Abortion Without Roe: Here’s Which Ones and Why], a research group that supports abortion rights. Another five states are considered likely to ban abortion, based on “political composition, history and other indicators – such as recent actions to limit access to abortion,” the analysis says.”
According to Oriana Gonzalez, in a more recent article, What abortion access would look like if Roe v. Wade is overturned, 13 states have a “trigger” ban in place, which means if Roe v. Wade is overturned by SCOTUS, abortion will be illegal in these states: Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.
Gonzalez also notes that “17 states and Washington, D.C., have enacted laws that would automatically keep abortion legal if Roe is overturned.”
This means there are 26 states poised to ban abortion, though with some exceptions and at different times (“trigger” ban, near-total ban, six-week ban), and 17 states, plus Washington, D.C., are prepared to keep abortion legal throughout pregnancy.
Abortion Is Unthinkable
We are prayerful Roe v. Wade will be overturned. And then if it is, Christians must continue to affirm life and to think differently about how to respond to the ongoing reality of abortion, now at the state level. We certainly want to do all we can to make abortion illegal, considering some exceptions, such as the life of the mother. But better yet, and that for which we pray and labor, is that abortion would be unthinkable.
The Scriptures and the Sanctity of Life
As we wait for the final SCOTUS decision, let’s remember the two key disciplines of the Christian life: Bible reading and prayer. God’s Word is always the place to begin and end as we ponder how we as the people of God are to think about life and the taking of life in abortion. And as we go to the Scriptures, that leads us to prayer.
- All human beings are created in the image of God, the imago Dei, and thus have dignity and worth (Gen 1:26-27; 5:1, 3; 9:6; 1 Cor 11:7; Jas 3:9).
- All of life is a gift from God (Acts 17:25) and therefore sacred, from conception to death, and beyond, and those who serve the “God of the living” (Matt 22:32; Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38) affirm the sanctity of life and care for all (Ps 139:13-18; Rom 13:8-10). Life is a gift from God, the Author and Giver of life, and is to be treated as such. Life is never ours to take (Gen 9:6; Ex 21:12; Lev 24:17; Num 35:31).
- Since life is a gift from God, from conception to death, and beyond, we acknowledge it as such and give him thanks and praise for it. Life and breath are in God’s hand (Job 12:10), the Spirit made us and God Almighty gives us life (Job 33:4; cf. Ps 100:3).
- God has compassion for those image-bearers who are most vulnerable (Deut. 10:18; Isa 1:17; Ps 68:5; Gal 2:10; Jas 2:14-17), and as his children we are to “be imitators of God” (Eph 5:1).
At the end of the day, as noted above, the essence of this moral matter rests in one absolute and ultimate truth: the personhood of the infant in utero. From conception an unborn baby is a human being created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28), fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:13-17), with dignity and worth (Gen 1:26-27; 5:1, 3; 9:6; 1 Cor 11:7; Jas 3:9). Therefore, it is always, everywhere, morally wrong intentionally to kill an innocent human person.
These biblical truths regarding life have been affirmed numerous times through the years by delegates at EFCA Conferences through Resolutions. For example, consider the following:
- 1977: “Abortion” (Declaration for Life and Morality)”
- 1988: “Sanctity of Human Life”
- 1990: “Fetal Tissue Research”
- 1991: “Birth Control As It Relates To Abortion”
- 1993: “The Myth of Choice”
- 1996: “Partial-Birth Abortion”
Although Resolutions do not carry binding authority in the EFCA, they reflect the decision of the delegates of a conference at a specific time. They are descriptive, not prescriptive. But they are consistent with the biblical truth and authority affirmed in the EFCA. This will remain our conviction and our commitment either way SCOTUS decides this summer.
We have looked at Scripture. We have summarized that Scripture is an absolute and ultimate statement of truth. And now we pray. Let’s pray SCOTUS decides with Dobbs, thus overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. And let’s also prayerfully ponder what our pro-life commitments may look like after the SCOTUS decision this summer. As we do this, let’s also remember to pray for those mothers who have aborted babies, some who live with a seared conscience with no remorse and others who live with a sensitive conscience who experience the ongoing pain of the loss of life. And let’s also pray for those who now may be considering abortion, that based on the human personhood of the infant in utero, the baby created in the image of God, fearfully and wonderfully made, these babies will be birthed and given life.
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