A few weeks ago I read a blog post at OfDustAndKings that talked about abortion and some of the hurdles the church faces when it addresses this controversial subject. I thought the original article was a very thoughtful and gentle discussion of a fraught issue that is usually handled brusquely and with a heavy-handed misogyny. From the get-go I appreciated that.
I took exception to a sentence or two in the post. In my comment I suggested that because I believed abortion should be legal and accessible that Mr. Hanna and I might disagree. In fact, I simply assumed that we disagreed.
Mr. Hanna and I don’t disagree on the important and practical necessity of abortion remaining legal. While I was assuming Mr. Hanna fit the stereotype of an evangelical Christian I was fitting the stereotype of the church outsider who assumes that all evangelical christians are adamantly anti-abortion. Double-oops.
Mr. Hanna pointed out a very valid issue that comes up when we discuss abortion. A baby is a person with rights and a recognized individuality. A fertilized egg is not even recognized as a pregnancy by medical doctors until the zygote implants into the uterus. (Can a person exist before their mother is even considered pregnant with them?) But somewhere in between something happens. At some point the amalgamating flesh becomes a teeny tiny person. Mr. Hanna asks the important question, when is that? And how do we respect that new life if we know when it starts, and how do respect it if we don’t?
There is a mystery to the beginning of life. There’s no developmental age at which everyone agrees flesh becomes human. When do enough cells accumulate to create a soul? Is it the first heartbeat? The first breath? When we use the word “I” for the first time? Life is strange, very strange. It is no simple task to bend all the mysterious strangeness to fit into human laws.
But it must happen. And once that line is crossed, if it occurs before birth, abortion does become a dicier issue. A dicey issue because we must respect the bodily safety and integrity of the woman as well . I don’t think that people who advocate for abortion rights ever forget how precious and sacrosanct life is, but we can fail to express it as often as we should.