President Obama’s speech yesterday at the University of Notre Dame, together with the decision of Chief Justice David Souter to retire from the Supreme Court, will heat up the abortion issue this week.
Followers of Christ will once again find ourselves in the middle of a debate that will test our wisdom.
It will test our wisdom because for many of us the matter will not be whether we believe abortion is wrong, or whether we will abort our own flesh and blood. The issue is whether we believe the government should continue to extend to citizens of the United States the protected right, and even financial assistance, to have an abortion.
The abortion debate will further test our wisdom because as a nation we already have expressed our political voice on the ultimate “sanctity of life issue.” There is not a greater “right to life” and “choice” issue than the “freedom of religion” that allows us to accept or reject Christ.
The abortion debate will also test our ability to remember the experience of past attempts to make unenforceable laws. The era of prohibition in the 1920s showed us as a nation what happens when a law ends up having the unintended consequences of making a moral problem worse rather than better.
In the decades that followed we also gradually realized as a nation that, even though the 10 Commandments criminalize adultery, it is impossible, under present conditions, to enforce the law against consenting adults engaging in the sin that produces unwanted children.
Seems to me that this is not the time to engage in scandalous, lies about our President (such as “this president never saw an abortion he didn’t like”). Instead it is time to pray for our President who in his speech at Notre Dame acknowledged that, while the moral debate should continue about whether abortion should be legal, we can “agree that the decision on whether to get an abortion is heart-wrenching, not made casually, “with moral and spiritual dimensions.”
So what can we do? We can (1) affirm and live as if accepting and maintaining a right relationship with Christ is the ultimate answer to the sexual sin that produces unwanted children– or that subsequently decides to abort them. (2) To pray that those who have already had abortions will experience the life-changing forgiveness of our Savior. (3) To speak carefully and compassionately about all of the issues that contribute to unwanted pregnancies and children. (4) To recognize the difference between Church and Government, and that while as a church we are free and encouraged to live in a manner consistent with our faith, democratic government is by nature “the art of compromise.”
When President Obama called on both sides of the abortion debate “to tone down their rhetoric and search for common ground,” he was speaking as a president, not a pastor. He was speaking from the office of one who is elected to uphold the constitutionally protected religious freedoms-which are at the root and heart of the abortion issue. He was also speaking to “two sides” that historically have been so unwilling to give an inch of “political common ground” (that no side wants) that civil debate has given way to a culture war that is as self-defeating as abortion is morally wrong.
Note: To provide help for those who are experiencing the lingering aftereffects of an abortion we have a booklet: “When the Pain Won’t go Away.”