A pro-life ethic: Miscarriages and misconceptions

January 20, 2017

“I’m calling to confirm you are miscarrying. I’m so sorry. You’ll need to take it easy the next few days and rest. We’ll schedule an appointment…” It didn’t matter what she said after that. Miscarriage. Death. Bleeding. Rest. I was not prepared for this.

I remember the excitement we experienced when we finally found out we were expecting. Tears of joy, sweet embraces and smiles filled the next few days for us as we began to plan for the next 9 months and how to tell our families the good news. We were downright giddy, and rightfully so.

But the thrill of preparing to bring a child into this world was broken by a phone call. We were devastated. Thrown into a pit of grief, we struggled with telling people our news.

By God’s grace, we had brothers and sisters around us who were a great support system, who wept with us and chose to enter into grief with us. These people breathed life into our broken hearts and lived out what it means to weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice. I praise God for them.

Surprised by the depth of my own grief, I recognized a missing piece in our pro-life ethic, to which I was oblivious until I experienced it. Language that is often used in hopes of bringing comfort to a couple after miscarriage can instead belittle a couple’s grief and deny the reality of the human life that once existed.

I have painfully realized this disconnect between our advocacy for unborn life facing abortion and honoring life lost in miscarriage. A recent survey conducted by Care Net, a non-profit organization, says “more than 4 in 10 women who have had an abortion were churchgoers when they ended pregnancy.” Unfortunately, I was not surprised by this statistic.

To see firsthand the deep sense of grief miscarriage brings, even at five weeks in the womb, can testify to the genuine belief that these babies have inherent value. Whether facing abortion or the unfortunate peril of miscarriage, every human life is valuable. Had these women witnessed the church grieve the loss of babies in miscarriage, I wonder if they might have made different decisions.

Not unlike crisis pregnancies, there is often a sense of shame that accompanies miscarriage. Many people remain silent about their loss to avoid it. Even when I receive a response that trivializes my experience, I choose to be cautious, calculated and many times silent to spare myself the unintentional hurt. Particularly regarding grief, most people are inclined to say or do something to minimize it because it’s uncomfortable. This is not, however, the example that Christ sets for us. He is, indeed, our great High Priest who can sympathize with us in every way, because he was a man acquainted with sorrow.

Responses to grief that lack sensitivity and deny honoring the life God says is valuable can effectually be to a person like a muzzle to a dog — silencing.

One such response my husband and I heard often was this: “At least you didn’t lose the baby later in pregnancy or after birth.” It was so often said, even I began to say it, but I felt in the pit of my stomach a sense of betrayal to my child each time the words crossed my lips. There is something wrong with this statement. To accept it as truth somehow denied the reality of the existence and the value of this precious baby. A person’s worth does not change from conception to his or her final breath. The pain of loss may increase with the amount of time you know a person, but pain is never removed from loss.

Another common misconception people often have is the assumption that miscarriages only affect women. Men desire to be fathers. Men get excited about being daddies. Men grieve when their babies die. Men need to be comforted. Watching my husband grieve gave me a greater appreciation for him, for fathers and even for brothers who chose to grieve with my husband. To expect a man not to grieve the loss of his baby, no matter what stage of gestation, is to suggest this child is somehow unworthy of fatherly grief. Our Heavenly Father demonstrated grief so great over the brokenness of His image bearers that He sent His only Son to redeem us.

And yet, it is because the Father sacrificed the Son that we can breathe life and hope into the depths of grief. Here are some ways we can minister well to men and women grieving over miscarriages and promote a pro-life ethic:

  1. Weep with those who weep. Following the loss of a child, a couple needs brothers and sisters willing to get into the muddied trench that is grief.
  2. Affirm the life of the baby. Words matter, so choose them wisely.
  3. Grieve together. If your church corporately celebrates the birth of babies, consider corporately grieving the loss of babies in miscarriage.* I believe this will do three things:

*In any case, be sensitive to a couple’s wishes. They may need time before sharing corporately.

Just as life is celebrated by births and adoptions throughout the year, honoring the lives of these babies and their parents after miscarriage should be part of the way we promote the sanctity of human life all year long.

The line is subtle, faint and perhaps unnoticeable at times. It is the hairline fracture of hypocrisy. We cannot protest abortion and demand to defund Planned Parenthood if we are unwilling to honor and acknowledge the lives of precious babies destroyed by the curse in miscarriage within our own church families. Christ says,

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

By honoring babies who die in miscarriage and caring for their parents, we demonstrate a love that is a testimony to Christ, and we reinforce our pro-life beliefs that all human life is valuable because every person is created in God’s image.

Only by God’s grace and mercy can we carry out a pro-life ethic. May he grant us all the more!

This was originally published here.

Laura Thigpen

Laura Thigpen is a pastor’s wife, mom, freelance writer, and an adoption and pro-life advocate. She and her husband, Joseph, serve City Church in Tallahassee, Florida. She has helped start women’s discipleship initiatives, and she writes on these and other topics occasionally for various outlets. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24