Abortion, morality and the failure of Christianity

By Senate Democrats — 7W9A9324, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92666722

With the overturning of Roe V Wade, a common criticism amongst the pro-choice community is that unborn children seem to have greater protection than those in schools, who are under the constant threat of a school shooting.

Such a claim, whilst often used as a provocative aphorism, does also contain a deeper truth about the function of evangelical Christianity in the West.

The moral standard

It’s often hard to tell whether those who preach religion the loudest, have ever actually scrutinised the texts on which they base their beliefs. To claim, as many of the ‘righteous’ do, that the Bible is the ultimate source of moral authority only works if they actually follow what it says. The moment one chooses to re-interpret, cherry-pick or dismiss any part of the good book, one also ipso facto surrenders their ability to claim it is indeed a moral authority. This is because they are, implicitly or otherwise, imposing their own morality onto the so-called objective standard set by God.

To be clear, it is not the responsibility of non-believers to help the religious resolve conflicts and contradictions within their holy book. If texts claim two different things, the burden is on the religious to resolve which is the ‘truth’, without relying on moral intuition. If you accept the Bible as the divine word of God, rather than as a haphazard collection of re-tellings of myths, mistranslations and cherry-picked texts, then you must also accept it at face value. To do anything less (or more) would be to accept that God did not have the foresight to make the book accessible to humans a few thousand years after it was written and that it is up to the subjective moral intuition of humans to correct God’s mistakes.

The Bible on abortion

In Numbers 5:11–31, a wife who is accused of being unfaithful must undergo a test that will cause her to miscarry if, according to God, the accusation is true:

Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband” — here the priest is to put the woman under this curse — “may the Lord cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.

Here, the Bible explicitly advocates for abortion. It does not matter whether it is the ‘bitter water’ that causes the miscarriage or the direct intervention of God, here is a clear situation in which the Bible offers a morally permissible situation for an abortion to take place.

In Hosea 9:10–16, the all-loving God loses his temper and says he will punish the Israelites by killing and aborting their children:

Even if they rear children, I will bereave them of every one.
Woe to them when I turn away from them!
I have seen Ephraim, like Tyre, planted in a pleasant place.
But Ephraim will bring out their children to the slayer.”

Give them, Lord — what will you give them?
Give them wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry.

… Even if they bear children, I will slay their cherished offspring.”

Again, this is another clear instance of God condoning the aborting of children in certain circumstances. The pro-life community must explain why this part of the bible is not as important as those they use to deny abortions to women in need.

The dangers of pro-life

Of course, there are many more verses like the above. However, it only takes one explicit allowance of abortion, by God, to falsify the case that Christians must support the pro-life argument on the grounds that the Bible is morally against abortion.

Yet this is not the only basis on which the pro-life argument disintegrates. The very fact that abortions can save the lives of women in many instances, makes a clear case that pro-life was never truly pro-life.

If a woman has cancer, they may need an abortion to start chemotherapy to save their life. An ectopic pregnancy could be fatal for a mother and requires an emergency abortion. If a woman’s water breaks early in pregnancy and they have an infection, she may become septic which can lead to death if the pregnancy is not terminated. If the placenta separates from the uterus — a placental abruption — the condition could be fatal.

And what about instances where the damage to a living person is so great that giving birth is clearly a worse option? The list goes on.

Arguments to the effect of: ‘you might have never been born’, may feel compelling at first, but fail to take into account the billions of children who will never be born at every single moment because a particular sperm doesn’t reach a particular egg. If conception took place one month later, or a day, or even a second later or in a multitude of different circumstances, you also would not have been born. Should we mandate that every available opportunity be used to conceive, lest a child that could be born is not? Of course not.

Pro-life is about controlling women

The truth is, pro-life, at its core, is not about morality and saving children. Throughout history, religious casuistry and impunity has been used to allow powerful people to do abhorrent things to those in need. Whilst the more witless might think they’re fast-tracking their way into heaven by stealing healthcare from the vulnerable, the truth is that pro-life has always been about power and control.

Fundamentally, it allows them to stand at the antithesis of progress, with archaic arguments, and claim that they are doing something good. Arguments from ancient texts are a thin veil for men being able to take on more power and control. To get what they want at the expense of the vulnerable.

Sound familiar?

The claim made by the pro-gun community is that taking away guns violates a freedom codified by the constitution. Disguised behind the casuistry of upholding documents that should not be used for moral decisions, those few men who seek to gain a lot can do so at the expense of the lives of children. They can drag out arguments about freedom or protection from the state, but really it’s about standing as far from progress as possible and dragging everyone back with them. At the same time, they amass wealth and power and everyone else suffers.

The stark contrast between the way children are treated by the pro-gun and pro-life community, despite their shared supporters, clearly shows it was never about the children, or women, or helping the masses at all. It has always been about a handful of men, trying to increase their wealth and power as much as possible, regardless of how much death and suffering they can cause along the way.

Arguments that fail to take into account the suffering of people, in lieu of a set of rules that you are not allowed to question, should always be an immediate red flag. The flourishing of humans and animals will come not from the tolerance of failed, archaic moral teachings, but from the common acceptance of practices that put the good of sentient creatures first and not those of a few powerful men, fairytales and pseudoscience.

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