I am very deliberate about keeping political commentary far from my weekly blog postings. People have strong opinions about issues of faith, and often, even stronger ones about issues of politics. For me to combine the two is a bit like smoking a cigar while fueling up my lawnmower.
This week I am making an exception to that practice, and doing so in response to an asinine statement made recently by a young woman from the political arena who has unwisely, or perhaps, ignorantly dipped her toe into the world of faith. I am not suggesting that one should never do such a thing, but rather that if one chooses to do so, one should know from whence one speaks, lest one come off demonstrating a significant measure of idiocy.
I also recognize that I am a month delayed in issuing my response to the inane statement to which I am responding. That is intentional. I needed time to allow my incensed incredulity to wane a bit so that my response can be thoughtful and measured, rather than emotional and reckless.
The Precipitating Statement
During a 9/13 SiriusXM radio interview, Chelsea Clinton went on record saying, “When I think about all of the statistics that are painful about what women are confronting today in our country and what even more women confronted pre-Roe and how many women died and how many more women were maimed because of unsafe abortion practices, we just can’t go back to that. That’s unconscionable to me, and also, and I’m sure that this will unleash another wave of hate in my direction, but as a deeply religious person, it’s also unchristian to me.”
I make no secret of the fact that I detest the slaughter of the unborn, and I am equally appalled at the casual practice of human euthanasia. but for Mrs. Clinton (Mezvinsky) to label my convictions as “unchristian” is both disingenuous and naive.
But here is the bomb. As odd as it may seem (at first), I am now going to state my objection to those on the side of life who assert that life begins at conception. I do not believe that to be the case, and here is why …
Probing Science for Answers
Recently, I was neck deep in a friendly debate/discussion with the wife of a couple with whom Alean and I are rapidly becoming dear friends. As the discussion evolved, our friend became highly animated, and frustrated with me as she labored in futility, appealing to “science” to buttress her staunch anti-abortion position. The reality is, science cannot resolve the abortion question (for or against). Furthermore, much of what masquerades as “science” today is not science at all.
Attempts at bringing clarity result in our wrestling with the question of “personhood,” drawing a line of distinction between life and personhood, but this is not a question science has yet been able to answer. When, exactly, does a fetus (arguably alive) become a person? And let’s be intellectually honest here – consensus of opinion has nothing to do with true science. Saying “Eight out of ten scientists agree…” is meaningless. Science deals with facts and disprovable hypotheses. In this case, science has no answers.
The available options for transitioning from non-person to person are typically presented as at fertilization, at birth, or at some quantifiable point between the two. Interestingly, one would think that the impressive advances in technology would bring definition and precision to this question, but in reality, technological advancement has served to further complicate the matter.
Where it was once believed that life was confirmed with the feel of the first kick in the womb, current-generation technology allows us to define myriad points at which the transition may be said to have occurred. Modern medical technology now allows us to both see and hear the heartbeat. We can count fingers and toes, trace the outline of the baby’s face, determine gender, and all of that long before that first kick is felt.
If, like most in the Christian camp will assert, life or personhood begins at the point of fertilization, then we must wrestle with more questions. If fertilization occurs in the petri dish or a test tube, is that life and/or personhood prior to implantation in a host body? Many would argue that it is. Others would argue that it is not. Science cannot resolve this debate.
Or even in the case of physical intercourse between a man and a woman, quite often the fertilization does not occur for hours, or even days after insemination. Once fertilized, the egg travels down the fallopian tube to the mother’s uterus where it is implanted. Is it a person prior to that implantation?
What if the implantation fails? The mother passes the embryo without ever knowing she was pregnant. I have read medical estimates stating that fifty to eighty percent of fertilized eggs fail to implant. Was that life? A person? How do we make such a determination scientifically?
From there, the arguments expand to issues like gastrulation, the ability to measure brainwaves, or finding that discernible heartbeat mentioned above. Each of these is measurable, quantifiable, but science has yet to definitively identify any or all of these as personhood or lack of personhood. Thus science, by its own admission, simply has no answer for the abortion question, and I assert that it is absurd for us to look for answers in that arena.
Probing God for Answers
As is the case in every investigative undertaking, we are best served by gleaning our data from the source. In this case, we need to query the author of life himself.
Know that the LORD Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. – Psalm 100:3, NASB
Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the One who formed you from the womb, ‘I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself, and spreading out the earth all alone.’ – Isaiah 44:24, NASB
But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand. – Isaiah 64:8, NASB
Why I do not believe life begins at conception:
It is my firm conviction that those who claim life begins at conception arrive at the party far too late. I will agree that something begins at conception, but that something is not life or personhood. Personhood antedates conception by a significant measure.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations. – Jeremiah 1:5, NASB
The personhood of Jeremiah long predates his formation in his mother’s womb. God knew his personhood before the formation of his physical body ever began.
David remarked of God, “Your eyes saw my unformed body” (Psalm 139:16a, NIV). God saw the body of David before it had even begun to be knitted together. Jeremiah was consecrated as a prophet in the mind of God long before fertilization occurred.
Given these realities, I do not believe life and personhood begin at conception. I believe they begin long before that event. To assert that there is no personhood prior to egg fertilization is to assert that Jesus is not a “person” in the godhead because his egg had not been fertilized. Such an assertion is, to me, a serious eyebrow-archer.
Posting With No Expectations
Among those who support abortion as a practice, I expect to have convinced no one. I’m speaking an FM signal to an AM receiver. There is no faculty for understanding that of which I speak.
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. – 1 Corinthians 2:14, NASB
The man or woman outside of Christ, without the indwelling Spirit of God, has no point of reference to even begin to understand this discussion. It strikes him or her as nonsensical.
But for those of us in whom the Spirit of God dwells, we have discernment. We have the ability to make a spiritual appraisal. It is my hope and prayer that you have been made to think just a little more deeply regarding this idea of life and personhood, and when that begins.
I believe the day will come when society looks back on the five-plus decades since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision with the same supercilious disdain we have today toward those who performed the infamous Salem witch trials and executions. With equal strength of conviction as those who protected society by murdering the witches, we adamantly proclaim that we must protect the reproductive rights of women by extinguishing the growing embryos in their wombs.
I say none of this in anger, but rather with a broken heart and a grieving spirit over the sixty million lives lost in the United States alone. There is grace available to forgive, but the slaughter must end.