A New Perspective on Pro-Life

Sharon Pro-life 4 Comments

Pregnant mother and child A couple months ago I came across an interesting quote from one of my former professors at Duke Divinity School about the pro-life discussion. His name is Stanley Hauerwas and he’s a noted Christian ethicist. I appreciate his work because he always offers a different perspective on things I take for granted. He’s got an uncanny knack for stepping outside the typical discussions that Christians have and looking at them from a fresh angle.

This quote is no exception:

“When you frame the abortion issue in sacredness-of-life language, you get into intractable debates about when life begins. Notice that is an issue for legalists. By that I mean the fundamental question becomes, How do you avoid doing the wrong thing? In contrast, the Christian approach is not one of deciding when has life begun, but hoping that it has. We hope that human life has begun! We are not the kind of people that ask, Does human life start at the blastocyst stage, or at implantation? Instead, we are the kind of people that hope life has started, because we are ready to believe that this new life will enrich our community.” (from “Abortion Theological Understood”)

What I like about this perspective is the idea that hope, not pragmatism or science, is the primary lens with which he approaches the issue. We know that every human being is a miracle and that every human being has been made in the image of God, so there is no point at which such a miracle is a blight on our community. There is no point at which we should aim to short-circuit such a miracle.

Instead, we should hope to see this miracle all around us. And it is no less a miracle when and where it occurs. The child born to a poor family of 10 in Bangladesh is no less precious in the eyes of God and no less a reflection of Him, than the child born to a wealthy American family that is having trouble conceiving.

Such a perspective also has implications for discussions about population control. Can we ever have too many “images of God” running around? We are, after all, talking about humans, not deer.

What do you think about this perspective? I’m still processing it but it certainly turns the discussion on its head. I especially wanna hear from some of you med students and doctors out there. What would this perspective mean for dealing with contraceptives if Christians are always called to hope that the miracle of God’s image has come into being? It’s certainly something to think about.

I will close with this verse from Jeremiah 1:5, which also takes this whole discussion out of our hands and puts it into God’s:

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”

Perhaps life begins long before we give it credit for.

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Comments 4

  1. Amanda

    You can be pro-life and still think that abortion should be legal. I’m anti-smoking for instance, but I don’t think it should be banned. I am pro-life in that I believe that it is wrong to have an abortion because you are, in essence, ending a life. However, I am also pro-choice in that LEGALLY I believe that it sets an unsettling precedent for two human beings to have equal say over the same body. If someone needed your kidney, let’s say for the sake of argument that it’s your child to have a stronger parallel, and they would die without it, should you be legally obligated to give that person your kidney? Morally, sure – but LEGALLY? Most people would argue that the great majority of parents would gladly give up their kidney to save the life of their child and it would be a poor parent indeed who would not. However, should the law require you to do so? I see abortion in the same light. By creating a law that forces a person to yield their own right to their body over to another human being is unconsionable. I believe that up until a child’s body is capable of sustaining life on its own it is, and I hate to sound clinical here, a parasite of the mother’s body. As much as we may hate the decisions that mother may make regarding her body – it is HER body. I truly believe that life begins at conception and that it is most certainly a sin to abort a child. I agree that a child, any child, is a miracle of God. However I do not think these reasons alone are enough to outlaw abortion. In the same way as the person who does not provide their kidney is not killing the person who needs the kidney, a woman who aborts her child is not killing it. She is merely removing her body from the equation. If the fetus cannot sustain life on its own, that is not LEGALLY her problem. I hope I did not offend. Great blog by the way.

  2. Rachel

    The choice of becoming pregnant starts with the choice of having sex. Knowing pregnancy is a consequence of sex, when someone chooses to have it, they are also choosing to accept the possibilities of these consequences. Believing that life begins at conception means that abortion is murder. No one has the right to murder another simply for the inconvenience of having to accept a consequence of their actions.
    Legally, you have the right to pursuit of happiness as long as your right doesn’t infringe upon the rights of another. Looking at the case of carrying a child for 9 months or the life of a person that will live on average 76-78 years. I would have to say that the greater infringements of rights here is on the life of the fetus.

  3. Bob

    I’m a med student, and I find the hope-approach to the abortion issue interesting, but maybe a little too basic and beside the point. It is very right, but it lies outside of where the problem really is. I think that anyone, christian or not, scientist or not, will agree that a new life is a wonderful miracle, and that it is only worth hoping for. And if there was always only hope for a new life, there would be no problem (except for the demographic one, as you mentioned 😉
    The problem begins when there is no hope for this new life, or when it is even actively unwanted, which can happen (and happens) for many different reasons. If the question of abortion rises, it means that the needed foundation of hope has already failed.
    So I do think that Hauerwas’ approach to new lifes is right, of course, but it doesn’t help much when the question of abortion is already posed.

  4. liam

    ” What I like about this perspective is the idea that hope, not pragmatism or science, is the primary lens with which he approaches the issue. We know that every human being is a miracle and that every human being has been made in the image of God, so there is no point at which such a miracle is a blight on our community. There is no point at which we should aim to short-circuit such a miracle. ”
    That’s what the Church is fighting about here in the Philippines. Never ending issue of the government and the church. No to Abortion but others are fighting for those who were rape victims who’s got unwanted pregnancy. That’s why the government wants the people to be educated about contraceptives and the church won’t let it. It’s because it’s against the law of the church. So here we are, suspended between the two major obstacles.

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