For the past two days I’ve reviewed Amy Laura Hall’s essay on the support some pastors and theologians gave to the eugenics movement in the United States. As others have also noted, Hall makes the connection between yesterday’s eugenics movement and today’s extraordinarily high rates of abortion of children with disabilities:
(M)any eugenic ideas have jumped the gap from yesterday to today, bridging the chasm between overtly coercive eugenics and purportedly voluntary parental and social responsibility in the land of the free. (Swinton and Brock, p. 78)
Purportedly is the right word. Many women feel the disapproval of society, medical professionals and even the fathers of these unborn children. Dr. Hall presented survey information on the expectations doctors have when an unborn child is diagnosed with a disability in Christianity Today in 2006:
Many of the mothers who responded to this survey never planned to terminate the pregnancy and were upset when their physicians provided detailed descriptions of pregnancy terminations without knowing whether they would like those options discussed.
Doctors frequently make such assumptions, unfortunately from uninformed perspectives. Doctors, without adequate information for themselves, are informing the expectant mothers about what ‘life will be like’ for the mothers and their children, creating the worst possible environment for that baby – easy access to his or her destruction supported by ‘science’ that claims to predict the future in a culture that hates people with disabilities.
And what if that mother turns to her faith community for guidance? Like the eugenics movement, the abortion industry has its own clergy who are ready to endorse this practice.
I will let them speak for themselves:
Paul Simmons wrote Personhood, the Bible and the Abortion Debate. Dr. Paul Simmons, Ph.D., Th .M., is Clinical Professor, Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine, University of Louisville School of Medicine, and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Philosophy, University of Louisville. He is an ordained Baptist minister and has also served as Adjunct Professor at the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary.
The essential difference between actual and attributed personhood is in the value of the fetus to those involved in the pregnancy (emphasis mine). It is not vitality but the acceptance, affirmation, recognition, and love of the fetus that grants it personhood and ensures that it will become a person.
Aborting a fetus that is radically deformed may well be a morally responsible action to prevent the greater evil of a child’s being born with a fatal, incurable disease (such as Tay Sachs) or totally incapacitating anomalies (such as anencephaly). People cannot be indifferent to the anguish and burden of genetic deformities and illnesses. Nor can they be passive in the face of increasing genetic knowledge. Mistakes—often horrible and uncorrectable mistakes—are made in nature. Genetic codes can be terribly confused. Being stewards with God requires us to make decisions about the genetic health of our children. Choice, not chance, is the divine mandate.
The children who will rise up and call their mothers blessed are unlikely to be the unwanted children of enforced pregnancies and shotgun weddings. Nor are the admiring husbands likely to be those who are angered by the birth of unwanted children, increased responsibilities, decreased prosperity, and sense of curse rather than blessing in their sexual and family lives.
But when my own daughter Jessica came home from her first semester in college pregnant, I had to catch myself. I knew what I wanted. I wanted that pregnancy to go away. I wanted Jessica to go through options counseling and decide to have an abortion. I wanted her to finish college and get everything in the “right order” to fit the future I had imagined for her. But the more we talked, I realized that Jessica, whose biological mother had given her up for adoption, had already made her decision to have and keep and raise this baby. I had to remind myself that it was her life-decision and that I needed to respect and support her choice.
What seemed so difficult at the time, and must have been hardest for Jessica, became a blessing – the life of Antonio, the coming together of our family, the deepening of our relationship with Jessica.Watching Jessica take responsibility for her decision, care for herself through her pregnancy, be a loving mother to Antonio, grow in confidence and find her way back to the University of Maryland where she graduates on May 20, confirms my trust in a women’s right and wisdom to choose what is best for her and leads me to march next Sunday to protect the right of each women to make her own decision.
And it is coming to seminaries:
Dr. Laurel Schneider, Associate Professor of Theology, Ethics, and Culture at Chicago Theological Seminary has created a course, Theology and Reproductive Choice. You can see the annotated bibliography for that course here. Seven seminaries now have “Seminarians for Choice” groups on their campuses.
The appeal to power and self-determination, disguised in language about respecting women, stands in direct contradiction to God’s sovereign authority, and his desire that we find our joy alone in him – not our circumstances, and certainly not in avoiding hard things that God frequently uses to make much of his name.
It also opens the door for men to run away from the responsibilities that come with fathering a child; after all, the ultimate ‘choice’ is the mother’s and not theirs. As has been noted before, men’s behavior has gotten worse in nearly every category since abortion was legalized in this country. That which is supposed to make women ‘free’ has actually served to make things worse for them and for their children.
We must pray. Not just for the families under the religious teaching of people like the ones quoted above, but for these religious leaders themselves. The Lord holds those in authority to a different standard:
And (Jesus) said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” Luke 17:1-2
Ultimately, this isn’t about abortion. It is about God’s authority over all things, for his glory and for our good.