by Peter Scaer
Abortion is tragic, a deadly and heartbreaking deceit. No bond is more sacred, more profound, than that of a mother and child. Life’s journey begins in the womb, given by God as a safe space, a place for shelter, warmth and nurture. The umbilical cord is a miraculous lifeline through which oxygen and nutrients flow. This umbilical cord offers an image of what fundamentally makes for a good life: not autonomy and self-expression but dependence and interdependence on others.
Roe v. Wade has been overturned, and we rejoice. Yet abortion is still with us. This is because we need a change of heart. We are told to be all we can be, to reach for the stars. Parents want their children to be happy and successful in the things most valued by the world. Many young people seek out life experiences, which may include trips to exotic places, perhaps a hike in the Himalayas, a visit to the pyramids or, closer to home, a visit to all 50 states. Our world today is most concerned with self-fulfillment and self-expression.
Satan, the father of all lies, has deceived our culture into focusing on our own self-fulfillment and self-expression. Consider how our fallen culture encourages us to think of children as obstacles, of pregnancy as a medical condition and of abortion as health care. Abortion has become an emancipation that allows a woman to pursue her dreams. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, was fond of saying, “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her own body.”
The child who lives in the womb has a body all her own. And yet, abortion culture treats children as expendable, leading us to think that our own worth depends on whether or not we fit into the plans of others. Those who defend abortion must dehumanize little children, even calling them parasites and intruders. They treat children as things that inhibit our personal, bodily autonomy.
But the idea of bodily autonomy is misleading. We are not our own. We belong to God who created us, to Christ who redeemed us and will come one day to be our judge. We also belong to one another, a husband to a wife, and a wife to a husband, children to mom and dad. The experience of the womb gives us insight in this reality. We depend on one another, and we are made for one another. We are more like preborn and newborn babies than we might like to think, dependent upon others for life. An illness or infirmity, or even the aging process, reveals how much we depend on others. Even now, we lean on others for many things.
This is in part why the breaking of a family is painful. When a child runs away from home, he has no idea what he is leaving behind. The father who abandons his children misses out on the joy of serving others.
The physical and the spiritual intersect and overlap. A child lives her first nine months in the body of her mother. Christians also live in the Body of Christ. God also created us for communion; this first happens as the child is at home in her mother’s womb. When we gather as Christians, we come as those baptized into Christ’s Body, completely dependent upon Him for our physical and eternal life. The church service culminates in Holy Communion, a drawing up into the life of the God who loves us: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Satan’s work is to divide and separate, to destroy and undo. God creates; the devil destroys. Satan seeks to separate us from God, to turn Adam against Eve, Cain against Abel, and even now a mother against her child. Satan pictures rebellion against God’s law as freedom, but its path leads to loneliness, despair and isolation.
True liberty comes in Christ who rescues us from isolation and death into a life of family and friendship, into dependence and service. Human relationships give us a glimpse into things eternal. In marriage, we see Christ’s love for His church. Good fathers give us a picture, however imperfect, of our heavenly Father. And as our spiritual families gather, we are drawn to the Lord’s Supper, the family gathering that has no end and will know no sorrows.
Abortion is not merely an ethical question, like gambling or smoking. Nor is abortion only a matter of the law. Remember, love is the law’s fulfillment. Seen in Christ, the Ten Commandments picture for us a better way — the way of relationships. In Christ, the Ten Commandments show us a world in which parents love their children and children honor their parents, a world where marriage binds man and wife to their children, creating a wonderful network of cousins and grandparents, aunts and uncles. That is to say, God knew that it was not good for man to be autonomous or alone.
The division of sin runs deep, but no sin is unforgiveable. Christ died for both Cain and Abel, for Uriah and David, for St. Paul who breathed out murderous threats. We have no need to justify ourselves. It would not work anyway. In our weekly gatherings, we pray for and receive God’s forgiveness. Then we work together for the sake of others, little ones especially. And in doing so, we become more human, more like Christ, who is the vision of the new way of life into which He invites us and for which He paid the ultimate price.
Selfishness ends in misery while love rejoices in being bound to one another. Sin leaves us in chains, but love is a blessed tie. Every abortion ends in death, in the severing of an umbilical cord, in the unravelling of the ties that bind us together. But true joy is found in mutual commitment, in hardship for the sake of others.
Life has never been about self-expression, as if we were the stars of our own reality shows. Our Father shows us a better way, giving up His Son that He might save us from the isolation of our pride and self-centeredness. We cannot remain silent. We trust in our Lord Jesus, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and made His home in Mary’s womb. With our lips, we defend all who cannot yet speak for themselves. And in this we are truly human, acting in the image of Christ who came to save the little children, who even saved us from ourselves.
This article originally appeared in the November 2023 issue of The Lutheran Witness.