Abortion 2015: Caution, diligence, and faithfulness

January 23, 2015

The theological basis for asserting personhood at conception has been articulated at great length. Given that one of the Enemy’s central delights is murder (John 8:44), the defense of human life is altogether fitting and proper for Christians at a time when, minimally, 2,700 unborn children lose their lives each day within America’s borders.

The Bible teaches that all persons are created by God in his “image and likeness” (Genesis 1:26) and that such creation is initiated at conception. That personhood begins at conception is confirmed by science and vindicated by reason, at least if logic has any sustainable meaning.

The presupposition of this article, then, is that personhood is a gift of God; that life is his creation and possession; that its demolition within the womb is an affront to him and cruelty to those he holds as precious (the unborn and their mothers); and that the need for compassionate, thoughtful, and effective Christian action to protect children within the womb and defend the well-being of the women who carry them should be incontestable for followers of Jesus.

This case for life is made in much abbreviated form not to diminish the profound significance of the case itself. Instead, since the great majority of the readers of this site are familiar with the essential arguments and can link to the sources provided above should they wish to explore them further, this brief overview sets the stage for a couple of consequent considerations:

Where does the pro-life movement stand on these wintry days in America, 2015? What can pro-life Christians anticipate in the months ahead?

Reasons for celebration

First, let’s count our blessings: Over the past several years, proponents of protecting the unborn have won marked victories in states across the country. The pro-life movement is gaining steam among many sectors of the electorate, including women. As my colleagues Ken Blackwell and Arina Grossu have written,

Women’s interests were indeed delivered this year by the resounding pro-life election victories around the country, highlighted by the fact that five pro-life women beat their opponents decidedly. They are Elise Stefanik, New York Republican; Mia Love, Utah Republican and Mimi Walters, California Republican, in the House of Representatives, and (Joni) Ernst in the Senate, as previously mentioned. The empty “war on women” theme falls flat in the face of the reality that there will be more pro-life women serving in Congress than ever before in U.S. history.

The prospects for ongoing pro-life action are strong. At the national level, “For the first time since the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act was passed in 2003, outlawing a late-term procedure, the antiabortion movement sees opportunity on Capitol Hill as the GOP prepares to take charge of the U.S. Senate,” Beth Reinhard reports in the Wall Street Journal. “At the top of the agenda: legislation that would ban abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later, pushing the legal boundaries set by the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. Activists on both sides of the debate are gearing up for a fight that will demonstrate the consequences of Republican gains in the 2014 election.”

“In terms of legislation, this just may be the most pro-life Congress Washington has ever seen,” writes Cortney O’Brien. “(Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have spearheaded former pro-life legislative efforts, as (have) representatives like Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ). What’s more, an historic 21 pro-life women are now serving in Congress – and they’ve already shown that is more than just a number. On the very day the 114th Congress was sworn in, legislators re-introduced a significant piece of life saving legislation. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, HR 36, would ban abortions after 20 weeks, when unborn babies can feel pain. The lead sponsors of the bill are Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona (R-AZ) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) of Tennessee.”

Outside of Washington, states have realized substantial gains in pro-life efforts in recent years. According to the Guttmacher Institute, “During the 2014 state legislative session, 15 states enacted 26 new abortion restrictions. Including these new provisions, states have adopted 231 new abortion restrictions since the 2010 midterm elections swept abortion opponents into power in state capitals across the country.”

These measures include such things as protecting pain-capable unborn children, informed consent and parental involvement laws, ultrasound legislation, banning web-cam abortions and prohibiting taxpayer-funded abortions.

The momentum in the states could well continue into 2015. As Paige Winfield Cunningham writes in Politico, “the GOP victories in the statehouses and governor’s mansions … are priming the ground for another round of legal restrictions on abortion.” Why? Because as RealClearPolitics says, “the GOP now controls 68 out of 98 partisan state legislative chambers — the highest number in the history of the party. Republicans currently hold the governorship and both houses of the legislature in 24 states, while Democrats have that level of control in only seven.” In actual numbers, Republicans – meaning, overwhelmingly, pro-life officials – now have 31 of 50 governorships and more than 4,100 of the nation’s nearly 7,400 legislative seats.

Are happy days here again?

Recent history and current outlook militate for good cheer among pro-lifers in these opening days of 2015. And if in 2016 a pro-life President is elected, the prospects for dramatically reducing abortions and the distribution of abortion-inducing drugs through legislation, regulation and federal court appointments – most particularly, appointments to the Supreme Court – could produce a measure of success unknown to the movement since Roe’s pronouncement in 1973.

The victories of the past few years have led some pro-life advocates to envision publicly “The Beginning of the End of Abortion” and to write of “The Inevitable Triumph of the Pro-Life Position.”

Such a vision is gratifying but more than a bit premature. As Russell Moore wrote recently, “We must have a realistic view about how ingrained the abortion-rights worldview is in our culture.” Spot-on: The culture of death has become entrenched in the American mind-set. Abortion-on-demand is more presumed than not throughout our society.

As a result, it is not unlikely that when the movement to abolish abortion makes such inroads that the availability of abortion becomes truly minimal, many men and women who know in their consciences abortion is wrong will be upset. Access to abortion-on-demand is, for some, like a “house idol” stored away in a basement closet. They pretend to disavow it (“Oh yeah, I’m pro-life, sure”) but in a moment of crisis revert to it. This will be disconcerting to many and angering to others – angering to the point of newly-aroused opposition.

This is but one reason why tolling the bell for elective abortion is untimely. What are others?

Tough and recurrent obstacles

As to Congress and the White House: No serious observer believes that enactment of federal pro-life legislation is going to be easy, or even likely. President Obama seems publically delighted by his possession of a veto pen. An unequivocating advocate of abortion-on-demand, the President is committed to vetoing congressional pro-life measures.

It also remains to be seen how diligent the new Congress will be in its pro-life efforts. Some Members of Congress whose hearts are in the right place when it comes to abortion fail to work energetically for life once elected. They vote for pro-life and pro-family measures but never speak-out on them or lead in promoting pro-life bills.

Sometimes there are valid reasons for this; for example, in a marginal congressional district, is it not better to have a “silent partner” who will vote to protect unborn children while saying little publically than an avid pro-abortion advocate who will help lead efforts to quash right-to-life initiatives?

However, sometimes prudence can be a thin mask for political cowardice or simple disinterest. “Put not your trust in princes,” warns the Psalmist (146:3). That sage counsel is still poignant. The pro-life movement should watch closely to see if those who made pro-life professions during the last election are true to them during their time in Congress, in state legislatures and in governors’ offices.

As to the courts: The President has now had six years to appoint federal judges who (it might well be assumed) support his commitment to unrestricted access to abortion on demand. They will hold their seats, a good number of them, for decades to come. While their rulings ultimately can be overturned by the Supreme Court, that body historically has shown no inclination to correct the nation’s fundamental abortion laws (Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton). While this could change if, in the next several years, a pro-life President appoints Justices prepared to embed the sanctity of life into federal law, this outcome is by no means guaranteed.

As they have shown regarding state marriage laws, federal judges are no respecter of elections. Defeat for pro-life measures awaits on the benches of those jurists whose allegiance to the culture of death is undeterred by their elective allies’ demise at the ballot box. Twenty states now have same-sex “marriage” due to federal court decisions. Elections matter, not least because of who the winners appoint to the federal and state benches.

On the culture: As Moore noted in the article cited above, “It’s easy to identify as ‘pro-life’ when one sees nothing really at stake … A feminist leader once said that most Americans are pro-life with three exceptions: rape, incest, and ‘my situation.’ When the teenage daughter is pregnant, the theory is abandoned and bloodthirsty pragmatism rules. I fear this feminist is all too right.”

While many principled believers and people of conscience will live by their profession even at great personal cost, the history of the church and history generally show that when things strike close to home, professed conviction often flees. Thomas Paine never would have warned of “summer soldiers” had belief in liberty universally animated General Washington’s infantrymen to remain in the Continental Army.

To put meat on contemporary bones, consider this example: Your daughter is about to start college and finds herself pregnant. Her ability to be in school in the fall will be delayed if she carries the baby to term, and adoption seems too painful of an alternative. So, while you don’t condone abortion, you care too much about your daughter’s happiness and future not to support or even encourage her decision to terminate her pregnancy.

This is all self-deceptive rubbish, but is sadly not atypical of the kinds of responses family crises can generate. Morality and rationality too often are boxed-up and hidden when emotion and sentiment triumph over them. Human nature, being what it is, will take the lesser, weaker, easier course much too often – which is why foreclosure of the abortion-on-demand culture will threaten those who secretly prefer it. We in the pro-life movement need to consider seriously how to prepare such persons for the day when the culture of life is legally preponderant.

In tandem with this, court decisions have animated sexual behaviors that many Americans have come to value. Sex without consequences, grounded in the Left’s conceit that radical personal autonomy is the final and supreme moral good, is now engrained in myriad American hearts. As George Mason University law professor Helen Alvare’ has written, “the Supreme Court’s abortion opinions very likely have contributed to current cultural mindsets and practices regarding relationships and parenting. These exhibit strongly the acceptance of the notion that sexual activity, partner commitment, and parenting are quite separate matters.”

Two centuries before Professor Alvare’, Paul the Apostle wrote that law is a teacher (Gal. 3:24). What our law demands and allows it thus fosters in the behavior of those it governs. A dramatic shift in abortion law, while needed and welcome, will produce social disruption. That’s pretty much unavoidable.

As to the political left: Purveyors of the notion of enduring political triumph are selling a false product (and often seem to be deceiving themselves). Should the pro-life movement succeed in ending Roe’s grip over law, culture and personal conduct, our opponents will not just shrug and go home. They will retrench, recalibrate – and fight.

In other words, the idea of permanent victory in the battle for life is illusory. There will never be a time when vigilance in defense of life is unnecessary. To maintain the victory we seek once it is won means that watchfulness and quick action will always be in season.

When in the midst of a battle, it is hard to envision how to keep winning once the immediate fight is won, especially when the current battle is widespread and complex. But if social conservatives really want not just political victories but a shift in the cultural mindset such that abortion-on-demand will become as anathema as slavery, we need to think hard about what we can do to keep changing hearts and minds as we wage our present war against anti-natalism and human indignity and, once victory is achieved, how to sustain it indefinitely.

Does any of this mean pro-life advocates should decelerate our efforts? Not at all. But it does mean we need to expand the reach of our arguments about the dignity of human sexual intimacy as something reserved for two-gender, life-long marriage and the dangers of sex outside of the marital covenant. Education, persuasion, political activism and Godly prayer must always be our companions in this effort.

Triumph, failure and faithfulness

Outcomes matter. Consider Paul’s approach to the ministry of the Gospel:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:24-27)

Those of us who campaign for the lives of the unborn and the protection of their mothers from a predatory abortion industry need to be shrewd even as we are compassionate. We want to win on Capitol Hill and in the state legislatures, in governors’ offices and in the federal courts – and in the court of public opinion.

But whether or not our tally of wins exceeds that of our losses, we press on: Our duty, regardless of outcomes, is to stand faithfully for the most vulnerable and endangered persons in our midst, the unborn, and for the well-being of their mothers. The glory of God and the dignity of those he has crowned with honor calls us to no less.

Rob Schwarzwalder

Rob Schwarzwalder is a senior lecturer at Regent University.  His op-eds have been published in numerous national publications, ranging from TIME and U.S. News and World Report to Christianity Today, The Federalist, and The Public Discourse, as well as scores of newspapers and opinion journals. Read More

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