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The Role of Emotions in Saving the Preborn

As we learn more about fetus development, many of us are amazed at how we are fearfully and wonderfully made. At about five weeks, a fetus has a heartbeat; at 11 weeks, a fetus is almost fully formed; and at about 18 weeks, a fetus is able to hear sounds outside the womb.

But even with our increasing awareness of biology, babies are still killed in the womb. How do we seek to convince those desiring an abortion to preserve the life of their preborn children, especially if they already know the facts of human development in the womb?

Value of Emotions

God has given us an advantage that we can make better use of in our appeals to those who are pro-choice: emotions. Despite the presence of sin, humans are still emotional beings who love, weep, and rejoice. We’re compelled not only by factual arguments, but also by what our various senses tell us. These sensory experiences, in turn, inform our emotional responses.

We may imagine a hungry child in a destitute situation and feel some compassion. But seeing, touching, and listening to a hungry child has a far greater emotional effect. Thus, various aid organizations make use of actual footage of starving children in their television commercials (sight), with music playing in the background (hearing), in an attempt to appeal to our emotions. It often works.

When Jesus wept over Lazarus’s death, he was “deeply moved in his spirit” (John 11:33). Others recognized how much Jesus loved Lazarus due to his tears (John 11:35–36). Lazarus was known to Jesus. He had been his friend and companion. Jesus had spoken with him and enjoyed his company. Lazarus’s death, and all of the surrounding events, moved Jesus to express his emotions publicly. Didn’t Jesus rejoice to see his friend walk out of the tomb, resurrected to life?

Jesus’s emotions were part of the whole narrative of Lazarus’s resurrection. Jesus desired to glorify God, but he also desired to see his friend alive, which prompted his emotional response.

Well-meaning Christians sometimes say, “Don’t trust your emotions; trust God’s Word,” as if emotions are never to be trusted or valued as a legitimate source of human experience. Whether we’re Christian or not, our emotions are gifts from God. They aren’t infallibly accurate, but neither are they necessarily full of falsehood. If we see a hungry child and feel compassion, we can both lament the plight of the child and also be thankful that God grants us an emotional state that prepares us to help. Even unhappy emotions such as pain, guilt, and mourning have value. As Augustine observed, “So long as we wear the infirmity of this life, we are rather worse men than better if we have none of these emotions at all.”

Calling on Emotions for Saving Life

Emotions can also aid our attempts to convince expecting parents—though often, sadly, it is mothers alone making this choice—to keep a child they may not want or feel equipped to raise.

What would I say if I had the chance to speak to someone who wanted to have an abortion? I could make an argument based on scientific evidence or hard propositional truths. Or I could make an argument that appeals to her emotions.

Personally, I would try to humanize the child as much as possible by asking several questions of the mother.

  • What would you name your child, if she were born?
  • If your child could speak to you right now, knowing she may be aborted, what would she say?
  • What characteristics in yourself would you most look forward to seeing in your own child?
  • What would you wish to be your child’s first word?

Imagine gaining a hearing by asking these simple questions. As we appeal to mothers, we should appeal to their God-given emotions. Such appeals can help them think more carefully not about what but about whom is inside their womb.

Clumps of cells are easier to dismiss than a being with an identity. A woman may feel she has the prerogative to make a choice in regard to an unidentified piece of flesh within her. But what if the fetus could speak to her mom? What if the mom could look the fetus in the eyes and explain what she’s doing? What would the fetus say? Surely she would say, “No, Mommy.”

Countering Fear with Love

Pro-choice advocates also often appeal to a woman’s emotions. For example, mothers are frequently told they should abort their child because they will not be able to give the child a great life. Admittedly, this has an emotional pull that often convinces the pregnant mother considering an abortion. It is rooted in fear.

When we speak to pregnant mothers about protecting their child, we can appeal not only to their emotional inclination to protect the child. But we also need to be prepared to understand their fears of being unable to provide for the child.

Tangible help offered by counselors—the love of strangers who are willing to offer solutions and assistance—needs to be our counter to the emotion of fear that sometimes leads to the death of the preborn. Love is our emotional response to a mother’s real fears.

Humans are emotional beings. We don’t need to apologize for that. Naturally, our emotions are sometimes misguided, and sin can pervert how we think, talk, and act. But our emotions also reveal a great deal about the care God took in making us with the capacity to appropriately respond to various situations.

The image of God still remains in those who are estranged from God. Even the wicked generally love their parents and children. We have a great deal in common with unbelievers, perhaps more than we would care to acknowledge. And when we speak truth and appeal to their emotions it has the potential to resonate deep within an unbelieving person. God has left us without excuse; he has not left us without emotions.

In the case of a pregnant mother considering an abortion, don’t be afraid to work with the mother’s natural God-given emotions. In doing so, we are simply acknowledging God’s own glory in how he has designed us.

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