Unapologetically Pro-Life—From the Moment of Conception Until the Last Breath on Earth
Two Sundays ago I spoke at the Chicago March for Life, where several thousand people gathered to celebrate life and speak out on behalf of the thousands of unborn lives lost in America each year.
If you haven’t yet, take a look at the figures sometime—they’re quite staggering. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regularly releases a surveillance report indicating the number of abortions performed in the U.S. each year. The most recent data indicates that in 2014, 652,639 abortions were performed in the United States; in other words, 186 abortions per 1,000 live births. This works out to be over one a minute.
Stop and think about that.
Roe v. Wade was only one example of our nation saying one thing while practicing another. We say we care about justice. We say we care about the protection of rights. Our founders themselves sent a letter to the King of England telling of their belief in the concept of God-given, inalienable human rights that no political leader had the power to strip away.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, according to the signers of that notorious declaration, were central to the American identity.
But still, despite these many ideological commitments, we live in a nation where the defenseless are discarded. The unborn are often euphemistically called tissue or formless clumps of cells instead of the human beings that Scripture—and science—tells us they are.
Weaved throughout the Bible is a narrative of God’s love and grace shown to sinners. But we mustn’t miss another important theme: God is our Creator. As our heavenly Father, he knows our hearts and numbers the very hairs on our heads. Amidst our deep fears of inadequacy and nagging insecurities, he calls us his beloved—a reflection of his own image.
While this might be a radical, revolutionary thought to many living in our world, Christians must declare the truth: what the Creator makes is always good. He doesn’t make mistakes; there are no lives he couldn’t love or stories he wouldn’t redeem.
Every human being, from the child with Down syndrome to the senior citizen with Parkinson’s disease to the unborn infant, is deeply loved and intimately known. All are created in the image of God—and this is why we march.
That is also why I encourage all who champion the pro-life cause to do so in love. Friends, we won’t win hearts and minds when we shout, scream, or chant in judgment over our community members. As Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:
Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Passion is good. Deeply caring about our mission is also good. But let us, as Christ’s followers, learn to replace hatred with hope, anger with understanding, and guilt with God’s grace as we work to defend and protect the unborn.
Real ‘Choice’ Matters
As Christians, we should feel compelled to love and defend life in all its forms—those inside and outside the womb. We do this not because we’re trying to shame or guilt those who disagree or have made different choices, but ultimately because we want to inspire change.
Someday, all of us hope to live in a world where babies are born instead of aborted and where women are truly respected and empowered.
Ultimately, I believe the word ‘choice’ is a misnomer in a world where women often feel that abortion is their only option. As Christians who care about the pro-life cause, we must ask ourselves a critical question: What are we doing to provide for the needs of these pregnant women? Are we doing what we can to make caring for and sustaining that unborn youngster financially and emotionally plausible?
That means caring about infants and it means loving their mothers and seeking their welfare just as much as the unborn babies’ welfare. And, importantly, I heard that again and again at the Chicago march.
So, for us, as individuals and church bodies, we support these women and give them access to prenatal care, childcare, and other resources as they embark on their journey. When we forget these things, our distinctly pro-life mission loses credibility.
I truly believe that decades down the road, future generations will look back on this moment in confusion. How, they might ask, did 21st century Americans not recognize the harm they were doing? They will wonder why we did not see children in the womb as, well, children in the womb.
Thankfully, with medical advancements moving forward at full steam, we now have a window into the human womb that Roe v. Wade era advocates couldn’t have imagined. Ultrasound technology today allows women to hear their baby’s heartbeat as early as six to seven weeks’ gestation; this is changing the game for pro-life advocates.
Minds and hearts are finally being opened to see a new and different side of this decades-old debate.
The tides are changing. From here on out, our mission is to capture a new audience—one that is ready and willing to understand what is actually going on inside the womb: the growth and development of a human being made in the image of God.
And, as the tide changes, maybe we need to be reminded that the unborn need our voice. It seems that it’s become trendy to talk about broadening the pro-life agenda, and you can see my article on refugees here. But, it seems that, for some people, broadening the agenda means discarding the unborn. For some avant-garde evangelicals, maybe they are a little embarrassed about the religious right pro-life cause when there are refugees, children, immigrants, and the environment before us.
But I’m not embarrassed. We can be pro-life and whole life.
As the tide is turning, maybe we need another reminder—broadening the pro-life agenda does not mean discarding the unborn.
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.