Article Aug 28, 2015

Christian, pro-life and black: Advocating for all of life

I love God. I love the Bible. So I hate abortion. Scripture is clear. God is the author of life. He alone has the authority to say when it can be given and when it can be taken away. This is why the clandestinely recorded videos of officials from the abortion-provider, Planned Parenthood, disturb so many.

The Planned Parenthood videos that have been released by the Center for Medical Progress (and more to come) leave no tender-hearted person unmoved. You can’t hear Dr. Nucatola saying, between bites of salad and sips of wine, “… we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact,” and not grimace in revulsion.

The Testimony of Scripture

Abortion horrifies us because the notion of life as a gift has been infused in us by our Creator. In the account of humankind’s creation in Genesis 2, it says, “the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Gen. 2:7). God endowed all human beings with inherent dignity when he created them in his image and likeness (Gen. 1:26-27). We have an instinct for life because existence itself images the Creator. 

Since God animates all humanity he has all rights over it. In Genesis 8, after the Flood he declares, “‘Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.'” God’s unrivaled command over the lives of all people as their Creator means he alone has the authority to declare the conditions under which life can be taken.

God’s prerogative over life unequivocally extends to the unborn. In Exodus 21, if two men are fighting and one hits a nearby pregnant woman and harms her child, he must pay the consequence commensurate to the injury done. “But if there is harm, [to the unborn child] then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe: (vv 23-25). Abortion advocates claim that a child in the womb is not a person; this text says different. The penalty for the death of a child in the womb is the same penalty as for the murder of an adult (Lev. 24:17-20). In the biblical view, there is no difference in personhood between the born and the unborn. 

Not only are unborn children considered persons in the Bible, they are also blessings. Psalm 127 communicates that children are a gift from God. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” (vv 3-5a). Scripture teaches that when pregnancy occurs the unborn child is an unequivocal grace and should be celebrated. The value of life in the womb is also affirmed by King David in the Psalms.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:13-16

David views children in the womb as a marvelous demonstration of God’s artistry and care. He understands that life from its earliest stages is reason to praise God. The Lord, as the only Lifegiver, is always concerned with life. He has determined when a child will be conceived and takes particular interest in every child even before birth. Children are precious in God’s sight, even when they are still hidden in the womb. 

Abortion and the Black Community

God loves the little children, but black babies are dying by the score. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an African American woman is almost five times more likely to have an abortion than a white woman. In the state of Mississippi, white women had 665 abortions in 2006, or 22.6 percent of all abortions in that state. By comparison, black women had 2,250 abortions or 76.3 percent of the total.

Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, and the crusade to legalize abortion has also been linked to the eugenics movement, an effort to perfect the human race by promoting reproduction (i.e. selective breeding) among human beings with desirable traits and to discourage reproduction (i.e. sterilizing adults or aborting children) with undesirable traits. African Americans were generally not viewed as having the traits necessary for the progress of humanity, so they were frequent targets of racist eugenicist ideas like abortion.

The disproportionate number of abortions in the Black community should cause outrage among African Americans. Instead, organizations founded to uplift people of color support institutions that tear those same people from the womb. The NAACP has openly affirmed a woman’s legalized choice to abort and Planned Parenthood financially supports NAACP national events. Another important organization, the Congressional Black Caucus partners with Planned Parenthood. In 2012, a former CBC chairman, Emanuel Cleaver even received the Margaret Sanger award from Planned Parenthood for his support of “women’s reproductive rights.” The affiliation of the NAACP and the CBC, though, should not be taken to mean that all Black people support abortion. It is an inaccurate and pejorative stereotype to say African Americans do not care about life in the womb.  Yet there are reasons some black people have aligned themselves with organizations like Planned Parenthood.

A Historical Alliance

In the past, and especially during the Civil Rights Movement, socially and politically progressive individuals were typically the more outspoken against racism than their conservative counterparts. This doesn’t mean that such liberals were blameless in their racial beliefs, but it was, for example, northern college students who helped run the Freedom Schools and took the Freedom Rides with African Americans in the early 1960s. People from more theologically liberal branches of Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Catholics were more likely to support the Civil Rights Movement than their theologically conservative co-religionists. The historical support liberals had for African Americans in securing racial justice has, for some, morphed into an uncritical allegiance to the modern-day organizations they populate like Planned Parenthood.

But the relationship is complex. One could argue that African American women have more abortions because they have more unplanned pregnancies. The higher rates of poverty, mass incarceration, inadequate education, in addition to lower overall health and struggles with fatherlessness all contribute to an intricate social web that increases the likelihood of desperate situations for a woman who becomes pregnant in such conditions. African Americans today may align themselves with abortion providers like Planned Parenthood because these organizations also address other social issues. They provide services like breast cancer screening, sex education, and address body image issues. Perhaps for African American supporters, the perceived community good these organizations provide outweighs their objections to abortion.

Life from the “Womb to the Tomb”

If Christians follow the Bible they will find themselves at times allies and at times enemies with all kinds of people. While the contribution of certain individuals and organizations during the Civil Rights Movement should never be forgotten, this advocacy is no reason to ignore the contra-biblical practices of abortion providers. Fortunately, many African Americans have consistently opposed abortion. Alveda C. King, the niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., has been a public advocate for life. The National Black Pro-Life Coalition spearheads many pro-life efforts among minorities.

Christians of all races must be concerned with life “from the womb to the tomb” (and beyond!). This is why Christians of any race cannot support Planned Parenthood as long as it conducts abortions. Believers must do this while continuing to creatively address other important issues. The struggle is for the right to life and the right to a quality life. Love for God and his word requires both.

ERLC2018