Article

How abortions restrictions protect human dignity

The importance of legislation for the pro-life cause

Jun 24, 2019

Over the last few decades, abortion advocates have argued their desire to live in a world in which abortion is “safe, legal, and rare.” This mantra betrays the tension that most abortion advocates live with on a daily basis. Why is this the case? Because deep down we know that abortion snuffs out another human life. This is why most moderate advocates of the practice claim that they want abortion to be “rare.” Abortion is fundamentally an attack on human dignity.

However, in recent years the abortion lobby has dropped the word “rare”, and instead advocated for safe and legal abortion at every gestational stage. All you have to do is look at recent legislation that’s been introduced or passed in certain states like New York and Virginia to see their shift. Yet, recent polling shows us that the majority of Americans are opposed to late-term abortion.  

Our legal policies affect moral issues like abortion. Those who value human life cannot be indifferent to legislative efforts to restrict and ban abortion. To be indifferent to this legislation is to be indifferent to human dignity. Functionally, this is an outright rejection of loving one’s neighbor, even if that neighbor is still in the womb. If all people at every stage of life bear the image of God, then Christians should care for and work to protect them, which includes working through proper channels of legislation.

Here are three reasons why abortion restrictions promote human dignity:

1. Laws are necessary because laws help restrain evil. Historically, vulnerable populations have needed the protection of the law in order to restrain injustice against them. However, at this point, one might raise a common objection: “You cannot legislate morality.” This objection is often raised by religious people who are focusing exclusively on the role of the heart in moral issues. To be sure, only Christ can transform the hearts of people. No law in the land will ever be able to give the new birth or transform a person. But that is not the purpose of a law.

Government is a God-ordained institution, and laws are intended by God to not only point us to our need of a Savior, but also to maintain a society that reflects his goodness and justice in the world (Rom. 13). So, while it may be true that restrictions or bans on abortion will not eradicate abortion, it is demonstrably true that such restrictions and bans would limit and decrease the number of abortions, which, by even the mantra of some abortion advocates, would be a good thing. A decrease in abortion would mean that human life would be elevated in society— and this is something everyone should celebrate.

2. Laws are necessary because laws reflect our view of the vulnerable. To say that we don't need laws against killing unborn babies, we only need other social structures around them, is to say we are okay with a legal structure that doesn't recognize the dignity of the unborn. We are saying that the law doesn't see the humanity of the unborn. But do we want laws that consider some groups of people as human and others as discardable?

Our work against abortion should be two-fold, helping to restrain injustices against the unborn, but also helping to change hearts and minds. Laws that restrict abortion are necessary because they save the lives of unborn children. They are a big step in the right direction in helping restrain injustice against the vulnerable. We should redouble our effort to help pass laws that reflect our worldviews, and help protect the innocent lives of the little ones in the womb.

3. Laws are necessary because laws are effective. It is illogical for one to argue for the legality of the practice of abortion at one moment while also arguing for the desire for its rarity in the next breath. Legal abortion always leads to abortion being more commonplace in society. As Michael New, writing in his article “How the Legal Status of Abortion Impacts Abortion Rates,” for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, concludes,

“There are several reasons why abortion rates increase when abortion becomes legal. Physicians who are willing to perform abortions can publicly advertise. The economic costs of obtaining an abortion decrease. There is some evidence that public support for legal abortion increases once abortion becomes legal. Additionally, when abortion becomes legal, sexual mores often change, resulting in more unintended pregnancies and more abortions. Overall, the existing academic research paints a very clear picture.  Legal protections for unborn children reduce abortion rates and save lives.”

In other words, one cannot fight for both legal abortions and fewer abortions. This type of moral math simply does not work. Michael New’s research demonstrates how societal opinion about a practice tends to change in relation to legal realities. In other words, laws are effective not only in protecting the vulnerable but also in shaping society’s opinion about a practice.

As Christians, while we must not place our ultimate hope in legislation, we must also not neglect the God-ordained role of government in restraining evil and shaping the conscience of society on vital issues like human dignity. Here are three ways that Christians can influence and shape pro-life legislation:

May we work toward the day when our laws reflect what we know to be true, that every life is created in God’s image and has innate dignity and value. We should work to ensure our public policy respects life, from conception to natural death.

Chelsea Patterson Sobolik

Chelsea Patterson Sobolik serves as a Policy Director in the Washington, D.C. office of the ERLC. Previously, she worked in the U.S. House of Representatives on pro-life policies, domestic and international religious freedom, adoption, and foster care issues. Chelsea is... Read More

Casey B. Hough

Casey B. Hough is lead pastor at Copperfield Church in Houston, Texas, and a Ph.D. student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He also blogs regularly at www.CaseyHough.com. Casey and his wife, Hannah, have three sons and two daughters.  Read More