Feb 28, 2022
With the Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization expected this summer, panic is rising in pro-abortion ranks.
There is real possibility that the Court could overturn or at least severely gut Roe v. Wade, curtail abortion rights, and throw the issue back to the states. Because abortion advocates see this as denial of basic women’s rights, their arguments are increasingly shifting from legal ground to moral ground. Instead of claiming that abortion is a constitutional right, some are even arguing that it is a “theological right”—in other words, sacred.
In 1939, Margaret Sanger recruited ministers for her “Negro Project,” which sought to promote birth control and sanitized eugenics ideas to African Americans. Today, in an attempt to sanctify another cause rooted in eugenics, the killing of the unborn, progressive clergy are recruited to promote abortion. This has been going on for years, for instance, when mainline Protestant pastors hold “prayer services” outside of abortion clinics in order to bless the “work” going on inside.
Earlier this month, The Washington Post intensified the effort to baptize abortion with a thinly veiled advocacy piece entitled, “The Threat to Roe v. Wade Is Driving a Religious Movement for Reproductive Choice.” In it, Michelle Boorstein profiled a young pastor of a mainline church in Maryland who calls the practice “holy.” The Reverend Kaeley McEvoy says she has “never felt more known and heard and loved by God than when [she] entered the doors of a Planned Parenthood.” Two of those times, she entered for her own abortion.
According to Boorstein, this pro-abortion minister is part of “an increasingly bold and more visible religious movement for reproductive choice, a hard shove back to the decades-old American narrative that a devout person sees abortion only as murder.” And this really is her argument: that Christianity is not necessarily opposed to abortion, and that any perception otherwise is just a “narrative.”
As proof, she points to a gathering of “clergy and other advocates” back in January who met virtually for an event called SACRED. For these 450 pro-abortion advocates—again, mostly mainline Protestants and liberal Jews—abortion is “a theological right of women to bodily autonomy and health.” To take away that “right,” these clergy believe, is “theologically wrong,” since it means choosing “a fetus over a woman.”
For Boorstein, the very existence of such gatherings, even if dramatically smaller than the many pro-life gatherings held across the United States each year, proves that pro-lifers have hijacked Christianity and that an honest look across Christian traditions yields “more nuanced and varied perspectives about abortion.” She even (rightly) points to the sad history of some evangelical denominations, who signed on to pro-abortion statements in the days before Roe only to reverse course and join Roman Catholic ethicists later in opposing the practice.
Boorstein’s analysis, however, hinges on whether Christian history began in the 20th century. Of course, it didn’t. A casual investigation shows that it is religious abortion supporters, not pro-lifers, who have radically departed from historical Christian morality.
As early as the beginning of the second century, Christian documents condemned abortion. The Didache or “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” admonished readers, “you shall not kill a child by abortion nor kill it after it is born.” The first- or second-century Epistle of Barnabas says, “Thou shalt not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shalt thou destroy it after it is born.” The fifth-century Church Father John Chrysostom called abortion “worse than murder,” asking, “Why then do you abuse the gift of God…and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given childbearing unto slaughter?” And Tertullian, who lived in the second century, even described an abortion using a copper instrument strikingly similar to what one might find at a Planned Parenthood—and he condemned such killing in the strongest terms.
Throughout Christian history, far before modern, liberal theology came along, Church teaching was anything but nuanced on abortion. And it’s little wonder, given Scripture’s own testimony about the unborn: that they are “knit together” and “known” by God in the womb—that they sometimes “leap for joy,” and that God, Himself, once came to dwell with us as an unborn Baby.
It’s true that Christians haven’t always been faithful in upholding the value of unborn image-bearers of God. But such failures have been in spite of millennia of clear teaching, not because of them. Liberal clergy may call the sacrilege of abortion “sacred,” but the evidence from Church history that Christianity was pro-life from the beginning is as clear as the evidence today that babies in the womb are human beings.