On November 9, 2022, the day after the midterm elections, I awoke to the news that my home state (Michigan) had voted for Proposal 3, which added a “right to abortion” to the state constitution in ways that go well beyond what was possible before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Legislators will work out the language and nuances in the coming years, but this new law leaves the possibility of an abortion up to the moment of birth. For what reason? A mother’s mental health. This is concerning. A better word for it — wickedness.
Michigan is not alone. Other states have already passed similar laws. I suspect that in the coming years, more states will follow.
The rhetoric leading up to the election was typical. Cast a vote for women. Vote to keep the medical field out of a woman’s private life. Men shouldn’t be making decisions for women. Vote for the freedom of personal choice. If you’re against abortion, then don’t have one.
The right decision or side seems obvious when activists cast the debate in those terms. Who would be against those sorts of things? Some conservative ads urging voters to reject the abortion amendment used similar language. Voting against Proposal 3 is a vote for women.
But the abortion debate always comes down to this simple question:
What is growing inside the womb? What dies during an abortion procedure?
If the answer is a human life, then that baby deserves all rights given in our land—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
And if what is growing is not a human life? Then…well, the pro-choice movement is correct.
But this is the only issue. What the pro-choice movement has done so effectively is muddy the argument by introducing buzzwords and secondary issues to evade the real issue. Pastors and churches need to stay hyper-focused on the real problem as we move forward in the post-Roe world. We need to un-muddy the language to keep the debate clear.
What type of life is growing inside a mother’s womb?
By every theological account, we know the pre-born are, in fact, people. “We are knit together” in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). John the Baptist, while pre-born, was not just a fetus but already a worshiper of Christ. In the presence of the pre-born Jesus, the pre-born John leaped for joy in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:39-40). God’s inerrant and infallible word is clear that the pre-born are, in fact, people. To kill any innocent person violates the 6th Commandment (Exodus 20:13).
This is the Bible’s clear teaching.
It is also the teaching of the historic church.
The Didache is a first-century book that teaches the fundamental doctrine of the church. The early church taught, “You shall not procure an abortion, nor destroy a newborn child” (Didache 2:1–2).
Theologically, morally, and historically, God’s people have always held the conviction that the pre-born are not just an embryo or a fetus but are a person growing inside a mother.
If not a child, then what?
The pro-choice movement argues that a fetus, let alone an embryo, is not a baby because the brain is not yet fully developed. But what do we say then to our friends with Down Syndrome or those who have suffered severe brain damage through an accident? That they are somehow sub-human because their brain function isn’t good enough?
The pro-choice movement argues that a fetus or embryo is not a baby because of their location: inside a mother. But does it make sense that one’s humanity is defined by traveling a few inches down a mother’s birth canal? That a few inches determine life or death?
The pro-choice movement argues that a fetus or embryo is not a baby because they depend on their mothers for life. And yet, current secular culture celebrates breastfeeding over formula—a baby dependent on mom for their life. Why celebrate dependency post-birth and not pre?
Pastor, we must clarify arguments simply for our people to hear
Beyond the rhetoric of “choices” and “women,” the crux is this: what is growing inside a mother?
In the state of Michigan, while Proposal 3 has passed, this law still stands:
A person who [drives while intoxicated or visibly impaired] that involves an accident with a pregnant individual is guilty of a felony . . . Michigan Compiled Law 750.90d.
The law imposes increasingly harsh penalties for injuring or killing “the embryo or fetus.”
In a car accident, if there is harm to both a mother and fetus, the one who caused the crash will be held accountable for both. Why? The law says “fetus,” but we all know what the law is recognizing here. If a drunk driver takes two lives, then the law accounts for two lives when it comes to punishment. A fetus is a life.
The implication of the law clarifies what we all instinctively know to be true. Inside every mother, there is a beautiful child that is being knit together. A child worthy of dignity and respect. A child made in the image of God.
This image is not dependent on size or location, or mental capacity. This image depends on the creator who has willed this young person into existence.
Get beyond the rhetoric. Clarify words and arguments. And get to the clear heart of the matter. Push people to define what we know to be true. The pre-born are not just fetuses but young men and women made by God for life.