I remember the day they told us we could kill our daughter.
We had just been informed our unborn child, Ellie, had severe cranial malformations. The prognosis was grim. We were told our daughter would either die in utero or be profoundly physically disabled. At this point we were given the option of ripping our daughter limb from limb (or burning her to death with chemicals).
Of course, these words were not used outright. Instead, like a medical mafia don, the doctor said, “If you would like to pursue other options, we can give you a referral.” Even through our tears, we could read between the lines. If we needed a hit carried out on our deformed daughter, our doctor knew a guy.
I hesitate to write with such bluntness. My intention here is not to belittle or mock those who find themselves facing the difficult and brutal realities that so often surround the abortion debate.
Instead, I speak bluntly because I know the near-blinding fog that settles in when a pregnancy seems to derail the future. I write these blunt words because, in the presence of brutal realities and complicating factors, the morally unthinkable can gain plausibility; the perverse logic of ___ + ___ = abortion can seem sensible.
I write these words because of my daughter, Ellie. And because of my friend, Josiah.
In high school, I had the rarest type of friend. Josiah was rare because he was unusually mature in Christ for his age (thank God for these kinds of friends), but also because he belongs to one of the rarest human subsets on the planet. Josiah is an abortion survivor.
Two months into her pregnancy, Josiah’s mother most likely underwent a curettage abortion. As a part of this procedure a metal rod was inserted into his mother’s womb with the purpose of tearing Josiah apart. For some miraculous reason, Josiah survived this attempted murder. To this day, Josiah has no idea why he escaped. It’s possible the abortion was botched. Or, it could be Josiah was an unknown twin and his sibling was murdered in his place.
However, Josiah did not survive without scars. His left arm was seriously injured during the attempted abortion. Today, his left arm is much smaller than his right. He only has two partially developed fingers on his left hand. Having Josiah as a best friend has graciously added an emotional and personal weight to my hatred of abortion. Again, I make no apologies for my bluntness.
My wife and I know what it is like to be given the option to abort at the most uncertain and terrifying moment in life. Although we declined this option, we understand what it is like to feel pushed into this decision.
Now, I want to push back.
Even though the humanity of life within the womb is undeniable, many attempt to justify abortion by appealing to its contributing factors.
Undoubtedly, brutal realities and hard decisions run both upstream and downstream from abortion. There are a host of heartbreaking factors that can motivate a mother to take the life of her child (an unplanned pregnancy, the discovery of a disability, rape, incest, maternal poverty).
Myriad issues arise when a mother chooses not to murder her child (all the same examples can present intense difficulties to mothers and fathers). To ignore or oversimplify these factors is both naive and unloving. Christians must think deeply, act purposefully, and love selflessly in order to prevent and alleviate these sorrows.
However, neither upstream causes nor downstream consequences should cause us to kill our child in the middle of the river. No matter how complicated the moral algebra, we must reject any equation that gives “kill your child” as the answer. We must refute and clearly expose all such demonic math. No matter how convincing the equation, “X” must never equal “kill your baby.”
Sum Total of Christ
Only the father of lies would present the murder of one’s child as an appropriate response to rape, poverty, Down syndrome, or cranial malformations. Only a God-hating serpent would present the destruction of an image-bearer as an appropriate response to the violation of an image-bearer. The lie at the center of abortion is the serpent’s lie in the garden—that God’s commands are not meant for our joy. Believing this lie, we attempt to pragmatically rebuild the world on our own idolatrous terms.
Only a God-hating serpent would present the mutilation of God’s image as an appropriate response to the abuse of God’s image.
In the face of all this deception stands a glorified Christ and the promise of eternal life.
In the crucified and risen Jesus, we have a future free from uncertain outcomes. He is our chief upstream cause and our ultimate downstream reward. He is the river’s fountainhead and its glorious final destination. Yes, under the curse of sin, all of life’s rivers are polluted. However, it is only the Christian river that ultimately flows into a crystal-clear ocean of unending life and real joy.
Real joy is not found in calculated risks; it’s found in a promised future. Lasting joy is not found in pragmatic optimization; it’s found in promised glorification. Christian joy is not found in the sum total of life’s pleasant things; it’s found in the sum total of Christ.
It’s this unshakeable hope that frees us to choose life and empowers us to fight for the unborn.
Treasuring the Image Forever
My wife and I chose life, and our daughter died. Josiah’s mother chose death, and he lived. Neither of these downstream realities has any bearing on the rightness or wrongness of abortion. We do not have the authority to unknit what God has brought together within the womb.
Image-bearers are not ours to deface. Instead, they are ours to protect. And, in Christ—the perfect image of God—we can treasure that image forevermore.