On June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson announced its landmark decision overturning Roe v. Wade (1973). The decision made clear that the United States Constitution does not confer the right of a pregnant woman to have an abortion. The Dobbs decision granted the right to individual states to regulate abortion in their respective jurisdictions. Finding the right answer to the agonizing question of when to allow for a legal abortion has done more to divide Christians than any other political issue.
The place to begin is to admit a hard truth for many Christians: the Bible will not tell you so. The Christian scriptures have nothing to say about abortion. Despite this significant omission, liberal and conservative Christian writers select different biblical passages to lend support to their preferred positions in an attempt to create the impression that God is on their side. Unfortunately, the arguments in both cases fall short because that is not how God works when it comes to issues like abortion.
With regard to the abortion debate, I had an experience forty-five years ago that changed my life. When I witnessed the birth of our second child, goodness, beauty, and love spread throughout that hospital delivery room. I was awestruck, deeply humbled, and so much in love with my wife and our new daughter. The experience changed the way I looked out at the world. Watching my beautiful wife hold our precious new daughter did me in. The message from God contained within that experience was both simple and powerful: life is sacred. The idea of aborting that fetus would have been repugnant to me.
Bill Clinton once said that abortion should be legal, safe, and rare. I agree with him. Let’s look at the safe part of the formula and create an imaginary scenario. With Roe v. Wade overturned, many states have already passed very restrictive laws outlawing abortion. Imagine a terrified teenager who becomes pregnant, lives in a state where abortions are prohibited; and, in desperation, has an abortion from an unqualified provider. The teenager dies as a result. Because she is the daughter of a close friend, I attend her funeral. What is my heart telling me now? I can imagine a very different message from God.
Let me create one more imaginary example in an attempt to answer a difficult question. How do we hear God’s voice when the message goes against deeply held values? How does God speak to a prolife Christian about abortion? That Christian will not hear God’s voice in a sermon, in a Bible study class, or at a prolife rally. God does not make public pronouncements on political issues. Instead, God sends out messages of goodness and love that we can then apply to deciding political issues if we choose to do so.
Here’s the situation. A thirteen year old girl is raped in the back seat of a car. The girl is deeply traumatized and embarrassed by the experience which makes her unable to report the assault to her evangelical Christian parents. Her fear and dread increase as she misses her period and begins to experience persistent bouts of nausea. In desperation, she eventually confides in her parents.
Any parent with a healthy heart would reach out to their daughter under those circumstances with deep compassion and concern for her future wellbeing. Ideology breaks down when one’s heart is overflowing with a sense of God’s goodness and love. Such an encounter causes you to direct your focus on what is good for the other and not on what is important for yourself. Under such conditions, loving Christian parents would consider allowing their child to have an abortion if they thought it would be in her best interest.
God communicates to humans through messages of goodness and love. These messages contain no specific instructions, which leads to the possibility that different individuals will interpret the experience in different ways. There are no black and white answers from God to complex human dilemmas like abortion. As a result, it is best for government to remain on the sidelines and allow those directly involved to make the very difficult decisions regarding what is the most loving response for the specific situation they are dealing with.
Dr. Rick Herrick (PhD, Tulane University), a former tenured university professor and magazine editor, is the author of six published novels and two works of nonfiction. His three latest books are: A Christian Foreign Policy, A Man Called Jesus, Jeff’s Journey and A Second Chance – you can find him at www.RickHerrick.Author.com. His musical play, Lighthouse Point, was performed as a fundraiser for the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. Herrick is currently retired, living in Bluffton, SC. He is married with three children and seven grandchildren.