Reflections On Abortion, Sexual Freedom And Autonomy And The Meaning Of Pro-Life

Jun 15th, 2019 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

In 2019, America finds itself once again  in the midst of an intense national debate about abortion.  It centers on law, the Supreme Court and rights—the rights of the mother and those of the fetus.  I have been reading extensively on various aspects of this emotionally wrenching ethical issue and believe, that as Christians, there are other considerations that should be factored into our thinking.  I want to share some of these in this Perspective.


  • First of all, Noelle Mering helps us think about the Postmodern ethic of sexual autonomy and its impact on the value of human life: The advice column over at The Cut has published a letter that is some version of a complaint I’ve heard for years from numerous women: ‘I have been on nearly 40 first dates in the past couple of years since I’ve been single. At first, casual dating was exactly what I needed. I tried casual relationships a handful of times with guys I had chemistry with, but I realized that they just made me feel bad about myself. I was always so painfully aware of the fact that the only reason these guys were talking to me was because I was letting them sleep with me…I felt like a sex doll. That might have been improved if the sex had been good, but it was mediocre at best. I tried to ignore the feelings and spice up the sex, but nothing worked.’  It makes perfect sense that no one wants to introduce a baby into such a dismal dating scene. A baby requires all sorts of responsibility, sacrifice, devotion, and permanence. That is to say, a baby requires real love, a love that the modern dating scene might try to mimic but cannot embody.  She goes on:  “The promise of the sexual revolution was that sex can be meaningless. Indeed, it has to be meaningless to preserve our autonomy. If it has intrinsic meaning, independent of whatever we desire it to mean, then that might signify that we have duties that affect our autonomy.  This revolution has thrown human relationships into chaos from the inside out, most tragically the relationship between parent and child. A baby is a glaring, obtrusive, manifestation of meaning interjected into our autonomy.


Mering considers the unintended results of a lifestyle of sexual autonomy:  “A funny thing happens when we contort our thinking in a way that denies basic reality: people sometimes accidentally reason their way backward into the truth. This is what we saw when Alyssa Milano, in response to recent laws limiting the availability of abortion, called for sexual restraint in the form of a sex strike—the implication being that if men want sex they’d better give us abortion in case we get pregnant. The less intended implication was that sexual abstinence is possible for a worthwhile end.  Another feminist tweet that went viral called for men to be responsible for both the women they have sex with and the children who might follow: ‘If abortion is illegal then men abandoning their child should also be illegal. If this was a permanent decision for me then it is for you as a father also.’  Both of these implicitly concede that because of the nature of sexual intimacy, and without the backstop of abortion, we all might have to realize our duties toward one another and our responsibilities to those to come.  With the camouflage of abortion under threat, the lie of the sexually autonomous lifestyle and the deep injustice it has imposed on men, women, and children is exposed and threatened. We can somewhat cover up the emotional and psychological toll of casual sex, but we can’t quite cover up a baby unless we get rid of it.”


Powerfully, she quotes Anthony Esolen who recently wrote:  “If the child lives, the mother’s life will not be the same, because if we accept the principles that allow the child to live, none of our lives can be the same. There is no way to guarantee a world safe for the unborn child that is also a world of total sexual and economic autonomy. In any world in which autonomy is the highest ideal, the child—that incarnate sign of our dependence and existential poverty—must go.”   Therefore, we might look at the modern dating world and ask ourselves if this life of illusion that we are fighting so hard to preserve is worth protecting at the price of innocent human lives.  “We cannot protect both.  The revolution is said to be in part a reaction to a puritanical repression and hatred of the flesh. We didn’t anticipate that the hedonism that replaced it is just a new type of hatred and distortion of our flesh.”


  • Second is the matter of a man’s responsibility when a pregnancy results. Teri Carter writes poignantly of her father who abandoned her and her mother:  “I met my father at my mother’s funeral. I was 36 years old.  I was standing next to the open casket, greeting family and friends, when Aunt Mary grabbed my arm and pointed to a bearded man pacing back and forth behind a row of metal chairs. ‘Well, look who’s here,’ she said. And when I failed to recognize the man she was pointing to, said, ‘Girl, that’s your dad!’ and waved him over.  My father left my mother when I was a baby, before my first birthday. He was only 22, but his leaving marked both his second divorce and his second abandoned baby, providing no support, financial or otherwise. He simply disappeared.”

Carter forces us to reflect on the various abortion laws recently passed in a number of states:  “But who’s missing in all of this? Men.  What I have yet to see in a single line in any of these new abortion bills — Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Georgia, Utah, Mississippi, Ohio, Arkansas — is accountability or penalties for the impregnators.  I was born and abandoned by my birth father in Cape Girardeau, Mo. When I was 6 years old, he signed away his parental rights — my stepfather wanted to adopt me — which had the added bonus of making him legally immune from both past and future child support.”

Is she correct when she asks, “Where is the list of actions required, under penalty of law, for fathers? If life starts at conception, shouldn’t the father be required to pay for 50 percent of the medical bills incurred during pregnancy? If the father is not married to the mother, will she be allowed to use his health insurance plan? Can she claim the fetus on her taxes? Can she take out life insurance immediately and, if she miscarries, collect death benefits? Can the father? If the mother has a difficult pregnancy and cannot work or has to go on bed rest, will the father be required by law to support her financially? What will be the penalty for a father abandoning a fetus? How many years in prison? Will he have to pay a fine? If he has no money, will the state cover his child support payments? For how long? . . . With these new antiabortion laws, we have prison time for doctors. We have humiliation and punishment for girls and women. What we don’t have are laws to address the impregnators, the abandoners, the shirkers of personal, social and financial responsibility.”


  • Finally, Christianity Today asked four pro-life leaders to share how they believe Christians can build trust in the movement in the face of current critique, cynicism, and challenges. The challenge is to consistently maintain a pro-life position across the entire spectrum of life.  Here is a summary of each:


  1. Kelly Rosati, consultant, foster care advocate, former Focus on the Family vice president:We must walk our talk and care about all life, born and unborn. If we are as serious as we say we are about saving the lives of unborn children, we must come to terms with the reasons for women’s abortion decisions. At the top of the list are two glaring ones Christians could help change: an inability to care for dependents and an inability to afford a baby . . . And, in the same way abortion rights supporters have no right deprioritizing the lives of unborn children because every life matters, pro-life supporters also have no right deprioritizing the lives of already-born children because every life matters. When we fail to demonstrate in word and deed that the lives of children in foster care, at the border, or in jeopardy from preventable death in a developing country also matter as much as the lives of unborn children and their moms, we hurt our pro-life credibility, we hurt our Christian witness, and we hurt our cause to save unborn babies.”
  2. Chelsea Patterson Sobolik, policy director at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission:Truth and tone must go hand in hand. We should advocate for pro-life policies in a way that communicates both our care for the woman and her unborn little one, not one above the other. In seeking to build trust, we must be mindful of the way in which we discuss pro-life issues.  Pro-life Christians must also take care not to vilify the one in four women who’ve had an abortion. God’s grace extends to every kind of sin and every person who would place their trust in Christ. His cross offers forgiveness of sin. The world is watching and will be able to tell if our public witness reflects or obscures his love.”
  3. Roland C. Warren, president and CEO of Care Net: “While many pro-life Christians are excited about the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned in the foreseeable future, there is fear in the culture that pro-life people are only interested in a political solution and that the well-being of women and families will be at stake should this political victory come to fruition. Therefore, there is an important question we, as pro-life Christians, must ask ourselves during this pivotal time: Are we prepared for a post-Roe v. Wade society?

Here is what the pro-choice movement thinks: “If abortion becomes harder to access after Roe is overturned, pro-life people will simply stand by and let women and men struggle, without any support, through difficult pregnancy decisions. Accordingly, the antidote that we as Christians can use to overcome this fear is for us to not just be pro-life but to be ‘pro abundant life’ (John 10:10).  What does abundant life look like to a child we desire to save from abortion?” As Christians, these are the tenets we should encourage and build into people’s lives:

  • Because the only source of true and lasting transformation is the gospel, we must lead people into relationships with Jesus Christ.
  • Because 86 percentof abortions in the United States are among unmarried women, we must promote healthy marriage as a critical factor in preventing abortions and as the optimal environment to raise children.
  • Because the father of an unborn baby is the most influential factor in a mother’s decision to abort, we must work to break the cycle of abortion by engaging fathers and helping them be involved, responsible, and committed contributors to their families.
  • Because our culture no longer values the sanctity of human life and the sanctity of the family as God designed it, we must seek to influence it by compassionately transforming hearts and minds.
  1. Amy Ford, president and cofounder of Embrace Grace: “For years, some pastors have been apprehensive about speaking up about life because they may view it as a political issue or because they desire the church to be known more for what we are for rather than what we are against. But as pro-life Christians, we are for life, and we are for  We can build trust in the movement by serving single and pregnant moms and loving them right where they are. Being pro-life is a stance, but pro-love is an action. The church can play a powerful role in saving them both—the mom and baby—and supporting women with unplanned pregnancies, not only during the pregnancy but forever because we are a spiritual family.”

I am pro-life and have written on the issue and preached on the issue consistently throughout my adult life of ministry.  However, I have been challenged in my recent reading to advocate for a consistent pro-life position, especially as we face a potential of a world without Roe v. Wade.  These various summaries I have provided must be taken seriously for those of us who seek to represent Jesus Christ well in our increasingly dysfunctional and harmful culture.

See  Noelle Mering, “Is Sexual Autonomy Worth The Cost To Human Lives?” in The Federalist (20 May 2019);  Teri Carter, “Men who impregnate women don’t face any consequences in the new abortion laws,” in the Washington Post (21 May 2019);   Kate Shellnutt, “How Can Today’s Pro-Life Christians Build Trust in the Movement?”  www.christianitytoday (24 May 2019).

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