As part of this year’s 4,000 Steps Experience, Human Coalition hosted a panel discussion about abortion April 27 at Imago Dei Church (IDC) in Raleigh. The annual event features training for pro-life advocates and celebrates Human Coalition’s fundraising efforts.
Seth Brown, content editor of the Biblical Recorder and a pastor at IDC, moderated the conversation with Daniel Darling, vice president of communications for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and Jay Watts, president of Merely Human Ministries. Below is an edited transcript.
Q: Do you think it’s accurate to say that abortion is merely a women’s health issue?
JW: They’re assuming that the unborn are not human in the same way that you and I are, that they’re operating at either no value or greatly diminished value in comparison to more mature human beings. By doing this, what they’re doing is saying that a woman has no more need to get our approval from the state, or interference from the state or the community, in her right to have access to an abortion than she would to have access to a tooth extraction.
There’s no moral component to it whatsoever. The single question that is most important in dealing with the morality of abortion, whether abortion is good or bad, is how we answer the question, “What is the preborn?”
Q: Pregnancy obviously affects women in ways that it does not affect men – physically, to be specific. Some may say that presents an undue burden on women. Do you think the availability of abortion creates more equality for women in society?
DD: This is all based on a Darwinian premise that the flourishing of one group of people is an obstacle to the flourishing of another. … The narrative through scripture is that we can all flourish together … we don’t need to press this group of vulnerable people down in order for us to rise. So women can flourish, and they don’t have to destroy unborn human life to flourish. I think they can flourish together.
Q: Abortion is often described or presented as a no-hassle, outpatient procedure. How does abortion affect women emotionally, physically and spiritually after the event?
DD: It’s something that, in my experience talking to post-abortive women, they’ve had to live with for the rest of their lives. It’s a real weight on their conscience, a sense of guilt, shame over what they know instinctively is a moral decision.
This is where I think the church is really important, to come in and say the church is the exact place where people who feel shame and guilt for their sin can come and find hope and restoration in the cross of Jesus. … We all come to the cross with shame and guilt that Jesus bore. Our pro-life conversations have to be coupled with the Good News of the gospel.
Q: As many women’s care workers will attest, whether at Human Coalition or elsewhere, parents who have determined to abort often find themselves in very difficult and heartbreaking situations that are leading them down this path. How should we think about issues like rape or fetal abnormalities?
JW: We have to recognize the moral evil of rape. … Even though we recognize that the evil of rape has put a terrible burden on another human being, we as a community are going to come alongside them and help them to make the life-affirming choice and to recognize that this is not their fault that this has happened to them. So it’s our responsibility to help them to carry this burden as much as we possibly can.
Q: How should we think about issues like poverty and healthcare as it relates to abortion?
DD: We have to think about these issues when we think holistically about communities. What are the factors that lead women to have abortions, and how can we help alleviate those, whether through economic policies or even through, in our churches, the way that we come alongside the most vulnerable?
At the end of the day, the least compassionate thing to do for a child is to kill it. So don’t ever think that you’re not compassionate because you want a child to live. Making an argument that a child’s going to grow up in poverty, so we might as well just kill that child – that’s the least compassionate option.
JW: It imagines that our happiness is also tied to our financial prosperity, which simply isn’t true.
Q: Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court decision from 1973 that legalized abortion nationwide, has been and continues to be one of the primary topics of discussion in the pro-life movement. Theoretically, tomorrow, if Roe v. Wade were overturned, what happens after that?
JW: There’s a common misconception that if Roe v. Wade ends, suddenly abortion is illegal throughout the United States. That’s simply not the case. … If Roe v. Wade goes away, then it’s your responsibility … to equip [yourselves] to go into their community now and make the case, because for the first time since 1973, we can make a huge difference in the laws of our community.
DD: If Roe was overturned tomorrow, that’s not the end of the pro-life movement, it’s the beginning. Then it obviously goes back to the states, and what you’re seeing right now is actually an acknowledgement by both sides that there’s a chance it could happen with a more conservative leaning court.
Q: I would love to hear you guys address our posture and our tone as we speak to people that we disagree with on this issue.
DD: One, let’s always remember, when we’re talking with people, we’re talking with people – with whole people. We’re not talking with arguments, we’re not talking with principles. … The more we consider the humanity of even the people we disagree with, the more they are likely to listen to our arguments. Number two, the way we talk about other people groups has to be in a way that affirms their dignity. … If I’m dehumanizing them … I’m actually undermining my pro-life argument over here, and I lost my moral credibility.