Birth Control Part Deux: Abortion

I recently posted a topic-starter in the “catholic Dialogs” devoted to the issue of conception control and why Catholics and Protestants have different motivations and methods in the practice. In a moment of carelessness, I mentioned that in the case of rape or where coming to term would kill the mother, abortion is not beyond my ability to comprehend. Here’s exactly what I said. “…I am against abortion in most cases, but possibly understanding it when the mother’s life is at stake (as long as it is her choice) and maybe in cases of rape…

I stand by that position, but it unecessarily confused the issue I wanted to discuss with Catholic friends about conception-control. So I unintentionally invited people to weigh-in on abortion, all of whom (so far) have disagreed with me on what I stated above. I am ok with that, but instead of funneling those comments and the potential debate into that section of the “catholic Dialogs,” I just decided to create some new space for it here.

So, without any attempt to offer a comprehensive defense of my developing stance, let me briefly say why I am where I am on abortion in cases of rape and mother mortality:

1) There are worse things than being killed. Having a biological mother who doesn’t want you is undeniably (and perhaps unendingly) painful and has proven to lead to abuse, neglect and general destruction. Unwanted and unloved children oftentimes (but no, not always) grow up to be abusive, illicit sex-having and irresponsible types who perpetuate potentially abortive situations. Abortion is certainly abuse, but it is over quickly.

2) There are worse things than going to heaven. Babies get a one-way ticket to heaven. Even if an unwilling mother doesn’t neglect, abuse and destroy her child after he or she is born, this doesn’t mean that the child will grow up to be a Christ follower. Abortion is terrible, but the results are guaranteed in more ways than one.

3) I can encourage potential mothers to have a self-sacrificng attitude on the issue, but it is simply not my call to make for them. To become a mother or avoid it is up to them and it is an issue between them and God, not me and them and God. The same can be said of anyone or anything else we might substitute for “me,” like an institution or the government etc. Becoming a mother should always be the choice of the mother. Rape takes that choice away as does terminal pregnancy. Motherhood is a bit moot if you’re dead after all.

Some of my fellow believers, Catholic or otherwise, will undoubtedly say that the church must confront all types of abortion and seek to prevent them all. I understand this on the grounds that we are called to act on our beliefs and protect the defenseless. However, I cannot pretend that there is no conflict with well-meaning religious people who want to impose their beliefs and convictions on others who do not espouse similar faith and convictions. That is politely called “Theocracy” in Western circles. It has been tried, and it has failed time and time again. Western culture has already been down that bloody road more than once, and we need not repeat the error again. For those more familiar with Islam, Sharia Law is the name of that game, and I have little doubt that Christians chafe at the idea of having it imposed on them from without, yet this is precisely what some Christians want to do to others.

So, there is the preliminary gauntlet for readers to throw down. All I ask is that respondents keep the claws in and that you/they do not post a meandering, multi-page rant all at once. Break it down and we can discuss one (or perhaps two) issue(s) at a time.

in peace,

-CL

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About C_Lambeth

I currently live in the Pacific Northwest. I graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelor's of Science and from George Fox Seminary (now Portland Seminary) with a Master's of Divinity. In addition to knowing Christ and helping others know him, I am passionate about peace, the environment, Christian feminism, justice for all (not just the wealthy) and being a lifelong learner. Please feel free to comment on any of the posts here or to suggest new posts altogether. Thank you for reading me! -CL
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18 Responses to Birth Control Part Deux: Abortion

  1. Don S. says:

    Hey Corbin,

    I don’t know if you remember me, this is Don from Adams State College. I worked under you as an RA when you where running the Peak. O man, those days seem so far away but they were sweet. I hope that I am able to add some insightful thoughts to this dialoge. I know that you were looking for Catholic positions, which I won’t be providing, but I hope that I can affirm certain convictions that you have and kindly disagree with other aspects that you took a stance on.

    To begin let me say that I appreciate you starting up a blog that has its sole purpose in Christians wrestling through Scripture and Godly Doctrine in order that we might serve Christ. I appreciate your heart to see this blog, not as a tool to bash the other side, but as a mechanism in which we can fight for truth in order to glorify God.

    In order to address your comments from the top of the post down I am forced to begin with the only point that I disagree with in your post. (This is not ment to reflect an attempt to be combative or disagreeable simply a matter of fact that this came first.) I disagree with your statement “that I am against abortion in most cases.” I understand your apprehension to apply your view on abortion to a life threatening situations but I don’t believe that it is biblical. God’s morals and commandments do not change when our circumstances change. To justify an abortion because the mother “may” lose her life is not a biblical justification. I believe that it is attempt to justify a sin because it has a worldly “good” result from the sin, that being that the mother would live.

    I don’t attempt to say this lightly, as if it is an easy thing. I simply mean to clarify what I believe the Bible has to say. I don’t ever see Biblical evidence for God’s firm moral laws being changed because it gets in the way of what we think is best. We obviously would want to save a mother but we can’t justify saving her by taking the life of another. That being said I am operating under the assumption that the baby will live and the mother may die. If that is not the case then the conversation might change.

    Applying those principles too rape provides an even less extreme example from the one above. I don’t think you can allow abortion if you have been raped. If you do it now becomes justifying sin because it inconveniences us. The only reason you are getting an abortion, in the case of rape, is because something happened to you and it wasn’t your fault so thus you can kill a human. I don’t see much difference between that and all the other abortions that justify the abortion in that way. “We just can’t afford the kid right now”–justifying the sin because something inconveniences us. I don’t believe that is biblical.

    Okay enough said on that topic for the moment. I look forward to hearing your response.

    Now on to the true nature of your question, the role of birth control in the life of a Christian. I agree with you that Birth Control should be permitted in the life of a Christian but if some don’t want to use it then that is okay. I believe that the Birth Control should be non-abortive. There is a helpful website (http://www.abort73.com/abortion_facts/which_birth_control_methods_cause_abortion/) that list all the birth control methods that are non-abortive. If birth control is abortive in nature then naturally I don’t believe it is Biblical.

    In a quick summary here are my affirmation to your point that restricting birth control is not biblical.

    “The Bible nowhere forbids birth control, either explicitly or implicitly, and we should not add universal rules that are not in Scripture (cf. Psalm 119:1, 9 on the sufficiency of Scripture). What is important is our attitude in using it. Any attitude which fails to see that children are a good gift from the Lord is wrong: “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them” (Psalm 127:3-4).” -Matt Permen

    This whole article by John Piper’s ministry Desiring God does a really good job on summarizing why we shouldn’t restrict Birth Control:

    http://www.desiringod.org/resource-library/articles/does-the-bible-permit-birth-control

    I would really encourage you to read the article, its short and give really helpful insight that I don’t want to retype because they were said well in the first place.

    Well brothers. Thats all I have for now. I hope I added to the conversation in a Biblical and truthful manner. I hope that everything I said will not come off as harsh or belittling but instead as an attempt to understand God more.

  2. C_Lambeth says:

    Thanks for your reply, Don. Of course I remember you! I am glad that you shared your thoughts, and I welcome them, but please try to keep to a single topic at a time and as briefly as you can state it. These things can get pretty unwieldy very quickly and be a huge burden to casual readers, respondents etc. Just a suggestion.

    I understand and welcome your pushback on the issue of abortion as it pertains to the life of the mother and rape. If it makes you feel better, I will never get an abortion for either of those reasons. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist, but this does highlight my conviction that it isn’t really my place to tell other people what they can and cannot do with their own bodies when their circumstances were not of their own making. I feel very differently about people who engage in the only activity known to humanity that can result in pregnancy who then terminate that result out of a desire to shirk the consequences of their decision(s). Alternatively, in a case where the mother to be is likely to die if the pregnancy is not terminated, who am I to tell a woman that she has to do so just so her baby can be born? Even if I held that conviction as a Christian, it is not our job to force our religious convictions on those who do not share them. The argument for the sanctity of life in elected pregnancy merits legislation in my mind, but not just from a Christian perspective. Either way, rape and the imminent death of the mother are exempted from that conviction as far as I am concerned.

    However, if we shift this back into an in-house debate amongst Christians, then I think your case is much stronger, even if not perfect. If it were my wife who would die if she came to term, there’s no way I can see this other than trading life for life. Since someone will die, it is a lose-lose situation that I would ultimately leave up to my spouse. That being said, if it were my choice, it would be a pretty easy one. I’d pick my wife to live 10 times out of 10. We can have or adopt other kids, but there’s only one Mrs. Lambeth, and I am unwilling to lose her for someone I don’t even know. I admit that perhaps this is calloused and selfish, but like I said, it’s a lose-lose with no perfect solution either way.

    I also can’t help but wonder how much of our kid-centered convictions on this issue are a result of modern, Western cultural trends and at odds with the history of humanity where a mating pair have always been the center of the family unit. How often do kids today become THE centerpiece of families, even at the expense of the parents’ finances, marriages and sanity? Throughout history (ancient and modern), kids were seen as means to an end (heirs, workers etc.). I am not saying that the ancient situation was ideal, but I would like to suggest that what I have described here are two unnecessary extremes. The balance is somewhere in the middle, and I would like to remind all my contemporary parents that when our kids grow up and leave home, we still get to/ have to live with our spouses. If we completely sacrifice our lives and relationships for our kids, then we are setting ourselves up for disaster when they leave home. That being said, I will always choose my wife over my kids, even as I hope that I’ll never have to make a choice between them.

    Now I am tempted to plow right on through and address the rape-pregnancy thing as well, but I want to create some space for you to respond if you’d like. I really hope that we’ll get some [other] voices in on the conversation, but we can always come back to this later if we’d like. However, before I go, I am curious about your stance on capital punishment. You sound as if you want to let Scripture be your guide, so I’d like to hear how you let it influence your position on that issue. You can find the discussion here on the blog at: When Religion and Politics Mix

    Thanks, Don. Good to hear from you!
    -CL

  3. Carrie says:

    [CL,]
    You also made a point earlier that you do not think you can impose your beliefs and feelings on someone else, re: abortion in order to save a mother’s earthly life or in cases of rape. From a Catholic point of view, this is a problem. Yes, YOU may not impose your view, but GOD certianly can, and thus the Church, as His pressence in the world, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, can. We do believe as Catholics (and this is supported by scripture) that every man’s sin affects teh entire Church, and that we are responsible to some degree for our brothers’ souls. (What’s that scripture about if another sins and you do not correct him, you are as much to blame as he is? I am not good at quoting scripture, just remembering what it says.) So, if it is wrong to murder, then it is wrong to murder, period, and we cannot help but proclaim that gospel to the world, and try to help others see the truth and act accordingly.

    Also, regarding the mother vs. the child, I do not think anyone explained yet the nuances of the Church’s teaching regarding that situation. The Church says (and scripture supports) that killing another person with the intention of killing them is morally wrong, all the time. However, if a person is killed as a “side effect” of another, moral goal, the death is still an intrinsic evil (as all death is) but the culpability, and therefore the sin, may not be there or may be less. For example, in an eptopic pregancy, particular surgeries may be performed licitly that do not directly kill the baby. 99.999% of the time, the baby will still end up dying, but it will not be the direct result or intention to kill the baby. In this case, there was 100% that the child AND mother would die if nothing was done. By surgically removing the baby from the tube and giving it the chance (however slim) to implant elsewhere, the intention is clearly to save both lives, not just one. The problem is that in many cases, there is a possibility of death for the mother, but not a guarantee, and instead the guarantee of the child’s death is chosen. Even from a gambling point of view, if you have a guarantee of losing 50%, versus a possibility of losing 0% or 50%, which do you choose? From a Catholic point of view, all life is equally precious, so the mother and baby really are 50-50, so to speak.

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Carrie,
      The problem with your first paragraph here is two-fold:

      1) You merely presume that there is no difference between whatever “the church” does and whatever it is that God wants. That is a problem.

      2) While I affirm that God’s sovereignty means that he CAN impose his will on people, clearly he does not do so. The only way around this is to go in for a John Calvin/ John Piper approach whereby literally EVERYTHING that happens is God’s will. As a Catholic, I assume that this is not a route you’ll choose to go (especially since it means that abortion is God’s will for some). So what are we left to say? Well, if God does not force his will on people, then why would you have the church rebel against him, take control out of his hands and bully people into behaving in ways that override their God-given free will?

      As for your second paragraph, I hear what you are saying, but if it is really a 50/50, then I would prefer to have my wife… every time. We can look at a terminal pregnancy abortion as “killing”, but we can also view it as “saving.” Clearly you feel passionately about taking one course of action on the issue over another. I am glad that you are so resolute on the issue, but it is not your place to decide for others anymore than it is mine.

      -CL

  4. Corbin, if I may, I also have some input.

    First, I would say there must be some sort of distinction between what the Church expects from its members and what the Church expects from those who consciously opt out of following Christ. St. Paul wrote about the propriety of judging only those in the Church and leaving all non-members in God’s hands. Although the Church can and should influence society toward moral integrity, it rightly only retains authority over those who belong to her. There’s no sense talking about theocracy since we do not live in one, and the only one we know of endorsed by God is separated from us by time and culture.

    You mentioned that the exceptions for abortion you list above (i.e. rape) are probably not exceptions you would exercise yourself, but you feel you have no place to impose them on other women. Within the limits of the Church, I believe if you were a layman you might have some wiggle room to hold a position like that, but as a man of the cloth, God has given you responsibility to guide the lives of others who entrust themselves to Him, and by extension you, as His steward. I do not think, if a young woman in your parish came to you looking for answers, it would make sense for you to say, “This is what I would do myself, but only you, my child, can determine what is right for you in this case.” I realize that is probably an oversimplification and may very well be nothing like what you would say. And indeed, I am certainly in no place to decide what you should/shouldn’t say to your own flock. Since I am a layman myself, tact and protocol forbid it. But that is what I understood from your post. My argument here is that within the Church, formal leaders are obliged to guide and teach people, and it seems a little off for a leader to have high standards for him/herself but not for those they lead.

    Concerning your exception for rape, it seems there is a bit of inconsistency in your reasoning. As I understood it, you wrote that a mother who doesn’t want a baby can lead to neglect, abuse, etc, and this is (some of?) your reasoning for conceding to exception for abortion of a woman pregnant by rape. But if we were to apply this reasoning across the board, we would be making room for every abortion that was done because the biological mother didn’t want the baby, for whatever reason. And it is no understatement to say there are many women (even married women) pregnant with a baby they do not want. There are many reasons why people have strong objections to raising a baby, (giving up career, disliking children, financial difficulty, marriage problems, being a single parent, lack of personal freedom, difficulty in dating, and the overall fact that having a baby pretty much changes one’s life forever). Women pregnant by other processes than rape can have these reservations and are just as capable of resentment leading to child abuse as the next person. I would add that a women pregnant from rape also has the God-given capacity to love and nurture the child, and endorsing her abortion is contributes to robbing her from taking a higher road. It also makes the presumption that the child will have poor quality of life. Considering we are told we cannot know what tomorrow will bring (James 4:14), how much less can we know what a life might or might not bring?

    Concerning the reasoning for babies getting a one-way ticket to heaven, this sounds like a justification for capital punishment of an innocent person. If you will forgive the hypothetical, consider what you would do if you found a man about to rape a woman and the only way you could prevent it is by killing the rapist. If you are like me, you would engage with deadly force as your only option to prevent the rape. But under the reasoning above it would make more sense, (after exhausting all options but deadly force,) to allow the rape to take place and opt for the abortion later. This would be a win-win because the baby would go to heaven and the rapist would have an opportunity to repent later in life. Cold reasoning. I know that is a dramatized example, but I believe it demonstrates the point. It is a TRAGEDY when a woman is raped, but once it is done, nothing can take it back, and it seems to me that an abortion, even if it wasn’t considered murder, would do nothing to change reality. The victim still must go through an awful healing process. Even further, I have read about several well-adjusted people who were conceived through rape, and are grateful to their mothers to be alive. If it would make no sense to take their life now, how would it make sense to do it in the womb? Unless we reason like a naturalist, they are the same people, with only time being the distinction.

    I am aware that I may have misunderstood, or misrepresented your position, and if so I apologize, and hope to hear any clarifications you may have.

    Thanks again for sharing your blog.

    Russ

  5. C_Lambeth says:

    Russ,
    I appreciate the distinction that you make between those who place themselves under the leadership of Christ and those who do not. You and I are apparently together on this issue (for which I am thankful). However, there are few other posters in this thread who sound as if they believe churches SHOULD impose their convictions on those external to it, and that necessarily warrants a reference to the inappropriateness of theocracy. There is sense in talking about it when people want to impose it. I just happen to believe theocratic regimes are a terrible idea. Would you not agree?

    Concerning my own church leadership, I would like to reference the third point in my initial “article” that started this thread: “I can encourage potential mothers to have a self-sacrificing attitude on the issue, but it is simply not my call to make for them.” Perhaps I should have been even more aggressive and said, “would encourage” rather than merely mentioning the passive, “can encourage.” However, even as 28% of Roman Catholic parishioners have demonstrated for the world, church leadership only has as much authority as people grant to it. This goes back to the issue of theocracy. Since we do not live under such a regime, the church has no legal right to enforce its convictions on anyone, inside the faith community or those external to it. I do have high standards for myself and those who trust me with even a little authority in their lives, but I would be naive to pretend that such influence and authority was absolute. At the end of the day, it is still the potential mother’s decision to give me ear or show me the door.

    As for rape and the alleged justification for abortion because the potential mother merely does not “want” the child, you have neglected the ancillary issue of choice when it came to being impregnated in the first place. I apologize for not making this more clear above, but I do not believe I am being inconsistent at all, so please let me try to do a better job here.

    Aside from some very rare test-tube/ surgical procedures, there is really only one activity known to humanity that can lead to pregnancy: sexual intercourse. Those who willingly engage in that activity are making a choice about (potential) pregnancy, especially when they decide what kind of birth control they will use if any. In my mind, when people choose to have sex, they are inextricably also choosing to accept the (potential) consequences that come with it. So, for a woman to choose sex, become pregnant and then abort the embryo or fetus merely because she did not choose it is a non-sequitur. I can mince no words when it comes to this situation; it is very clear to me that this is completely inappropriate from both a church perspective and possibly a human-rights perspective. So to better state my position, it isn’t just the unwanted child that gives me pause about abortion in rape cases, but also the removal of the initial choice of the rape victim on the issue of (unchosen) sexual intercourse.

    Similarly, the parallel to capital punishment suffers from an inconsistency of its own. It presumes the execution of an innocent victim with no extenuating circumstances, and that is never the case with rape. Secondly, it presumes personhood at the moment of conception, and that is also debatable. Thirdly, for all the talk of allowing the rapist to repent later and the recognition that babies get an express ticket to heaven, a parallel with the death penalty fails to make mention of the crime perpetrated on the woman and the concurrent destruction/ removal of her choice. Contrary to your assertion, this is not a “win-win” in the least. It is never a “win” situation with rape.

    As for the inconsistency within your argument, you mentioned “exercising all options except deadly force” in the effort to prevent rape. If you read my previous reply to Mandy P. in the other thread, you would see that emasculation of men and spaying of females would solve this problem (and the Catholic hang-up on conception-control altogether). I am being amicably facetious, but I think the point is a fair one. To be less objectionable though, would not “all options except deadly force” also include pulling the rapist away from the victim before the damage was done? This is where your inconsistency comes through, for you said that you “would engage with deadly force as your only option to prevent the rape,” but that is simply not the only option. This is as faulty as the pro-capital punishment folks who argue that if we don’t kill the killers we just let them go scott-free. It is a false dichotomy.

    You are right when you say that nothing can change the reality of the rape. However, the extent and duration of the consequences of that damage can be changed, or at least lessened, and not just for the rape victim, but also for the potential child. Maybe that means the child is born and raised with love and acceptance, but maybe it doesn’t. Who are you or to decide for the rape victim (or the unborn)?
    Who am I to decide?

    Thank you for your thoughtful and friendly, passionate engagement, Russ. I hope we can meet someday (this side of heaven that is).

    -Corbin

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Sorry, Russ. It took a drive to work to let your recent post percolate. I imagine that part of your point was precisely that with abortion, there IS no middle ground or option: the fetus comes to term or it is destroyed. However, to make your argument better, it is not the rapist who must either be killed or allowed to rape, but it is the pregnancy itself that must either be killed or allowed to be completed. I’m not sure that changes my stance at all, but I do see your point.

      -CL

    • Hello Corbin, and thank you for your friendly engagement as well. If we do ever get a chance to meet I would consider that my own good fortune. Perhaps one day. My family and I are in Hawaii now but we have some property in Texas and maybe one day we will return.

      Thank you for clarifying how freedom of choice makes the difference in your position. So if I understand you, it is not the fact that an unwanted pregnancy is grounds for legitimate abortion, it is more about how the pregnancy was out of the control of the mother.

      This makes me realize we might be comparing apples and oranges. Can you clarify what we are debating? Are we debating, (a) what, if anything, can make an abortion morally legitimate in God’s eyes? or (b) the power the Church has/should have in enforcing women to comply with what is moral?

      These are two different things. Because, of course, the Church cannot physically or legally force parishioners into compliance on this, but She can guide and inform them what they *ought* to do.

      And to add a further wrinkle, there is the question on how to handle the issue once the offense is committed. Here I believe we all would agree. We are commanded to forgive and accept the contrite offender. But this is where the Church teachings MUST be sound, because how can a person be repentant and contrite if the Church affirms to the sinner that the deed was benign?

      So the questions I think we should clear up is not what the Church should have the power to do/enforce legally, but what deeds are an offense to God’s order, and require repentance and forgiveness. Answering this question will affect how the person reacts to an abortion.

      My position: I believe we should make clear to the body of the Church that abortion, even in the case of rape, is morally culpable (even if circumstances lessen culpability) because it is an intentional act for the purpose of causing death to a human life. In these cases the Church should make clear to women that there are other options, such as adoption, and others in the Church are willing to help. (As for my wife and I, we would be prepared to adopt a local child in this circumstance to avoid his/her death.) However, if a person in this position goes through with the abortion, that person should also know the Church is ready to forgive and offer support, love, acceptance, counseling, etc.

      Since God has explicitly told us that a contrite heart is what he desires from us when we err, I think it would be an extreme disservice to convince a person that a certain act, such as abortion, is something to be winked at. It removes the ability for the person to experience contrition, which is part of what reconciles us back to God. And that is what the Church’s mission on earth is, to guide people into reconciliation with their Maker.

      Thanks again for the opportunity. Please forgive the length of the post.

      Russ

      • C_Lambeth says:

        Russ,
        Thank you so much for your sustained and cordial engagement. I appreciate your passion, level headedness, critical thinking skills, and above all, your civility. We will indeed meet someday, (but hopefully we won’t have to wait for the other side of heaven).

        Let me apologize if I have insinuated that we should just “wink” at abortion. That’s not what I want to communicate, so I’d like to back away from it. Pregnancy being out of control of the mother (as in the case of rape), is a better pretext to “legitimate abortion” as you say, but I am unsatisfied with that as well. As for your question about what we are debating (A: legitimate abortion or B: the power of the state -and church- to prevent abortion), the answer is… both. Thus far, it has depended on the various voices in this conversation and how I’ve responded to each, but let’s get to your particular question: “What, if anything, can make an abortion morally legitimate in God’s eyes?

        To be honest, my gut reaction is: “Nothing.” I understand why many people feel this way and I don’t begrudge them for it. It certainly seems like an easy position for a Christian to take. The problem is that it seems to be a little naive or simply presumes a “perfect world” phenomenon wherein the child to be is raised in a loving and nurturing, healthy environment (and if Christians are in the conversation, they often just presume that the unborn will come to be a Christ-follower too). As you well know, this is not always the case. I don’t know the statistics, or even if they could be known, but I am guessing that rape victims are at significantly greater risk of resenting, neglecting and abusing their rape-child. We could go on about that, and talk about how many of them become Christians etc, but it might be a little too hypothetical, so I’ll cut right to the chase.

        When is abortion morally legitimate?My answer is that abortion is morally legitimate when the alternative (being born) would lead to even greater pain and suffering for the child and maybe for others too. I understand that this is not a satisfying answer, and I will own that fact, but I have no other way to see it. As I said in my original entry, there are things worse than dying. All of us can recognize the appropriateness of a “mercy killing” at various points in our contexts, and yes, even Jesus indicates that this might very well be the case for some individuals in Mark 14.21:The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.

        But what does my assessment look like in life? How does it play out? Please get me on this. I am not suggesting that we have some sort of form for potential mothers to fill out so that we can determine if they will abuse their kids or not and then grant them an abortion-pass (or not) pending the results. Neither am I suggesting that we say abortions are “bad” as we “wink” to the patient and usher them to an abortive clinic. What I am saying, however, is that I’m not confident in proclaiming that, in all times & places, it is always the best thing to let an embryo develop into a baby/ person. For the sake of almost everyone involved, I have little doubt that abortions have been blessings to the aborted in at least a few cases. This is terrible, and I recognize it, but we live in a terrible world where dying is not the worst thing that can happen. The problem, of course, is that we don’t know how things will end up until they do. All of life is a crap-shoot that involves an insane amount of risk and dumb-luck. God’s action and providence is also part of our experience on earth, but there can be little doubt that he lets innocents (and not so innocents) suffer and die in unspeakable ways. Who are we to say that it will be better or that it won’t if a certain child is born? I don’t have any answer to that question.

        So what are we to do as responsible Christians and church leaders? STRONGLY encourage potential mothers, even rape victims, to bring their pregnancies to term and love the child as best they can (or at least offer him or her up for adoption). That cannot be overstated enough, but if these women decide to terminate their pregnancies, that still remains an issue between them and God, not me (or you) and them and God, and this doesn’t change our mission to guide people into reconciliation with their Maker.

        That’s an incomplete answer, and it is much shorter than it could be, but I hope it helps you understand my position better, even if only a little bit.

        your friend,
        -Corbin

  6. Mandy P says:

    Oooooh….Don’t like the reference to contraception as a Catholic hang up. Indeed it is the world that is more fixated on this point. The Catholic Church’s “hang-up” is a consistent ethic of life and following the moral/ natural law created by God.

  7. C_Lambeth says:

    I beg to differ. Conception-control isn’t a problem for me at all, and it wasn’t even on the radar until I learned that (some) Catholics had a problem with the practice.

    As for the assertion that being against conception-control is “following the moral/ natural law created by God.” How do you know? And could you please explain what you mean by “natural law”?

    Thanks in advance,
    -CL

  8. Mandy P says:

    Did my bit on Natural law on the other page.

  9. Mandy P says:

    But Corbin, women already are choosing which children they should abort. When have been selectively aborting girls (and not just in China anymore, just read an article about it happening in Britain) for years now as well as special needs children. As a parent of a special needs child I can attest that I have endured a lot of struggle and worry regarding Bethany Yes, her needs are not considered severe (she can talk, now, and walk) but she is different than typical children her age. Yet I have never regretted her birth a day of her life. Nor have my two “normal” sons being a piece of cake to raise! You have to let go of selfishness as a parent. Who’s to say that something won’t happen to either of my sons and put them in a more dependent state. By your given logic, I should have them euthanized so they or I don’t experience pain or suffering. That sucks. I don’t like the logic and lack of value of life. Seeing as how abortion harms the baby, the mother, and if he is told about it, the father I don’t see how “removing pain and suffering” is really a legitimate argument.

    Yes, Churches have every right to try to stop abortion. They are called to defend the defenseless. And I am not just talking about aborted babies. Frequently these women feel they have no other option and it would appear that abortion providers offer little other information to them. There are numerous religious organizations that care for pregnant women who are in abusive relationships, help women pay for maternity care, hook them up with adoption agencies, as well as parenting skills building. This seems more like caring for women then abortion providers. Oh, and they also counsel the women who have been victimized by having an abortion.

    How about getting out of your head and following your gut? Why do have this need to find a rational answer for this? God gave us emotions in addition to intellect…perhaps they have some insights that you are ignoring because your head doesn’t have all the facts. (Hey, Counselor Mandy made an appearance!). There is no guarantee that any parent is going to be compassionate and never abusive. Am I am perfect Mom? Absolutely not! My kids are close together in age and Jonah was born when I didn’t a job and Bethany was only 18 months old. Money was tight for the family. Should I have had an abortion? And then Simon came 19 months after Jonah…maybe he should have been the abortion? I mean we were living in a tiny apartment in an expensive community, we 2 kids already and one had special needs. Women have gotten abortions for less pressing reasons.

    I disagree with you on your hypothetical points. I feel like on this issue you are more willing to ride the fence than I am. Perhaps this could be because I am a mother and have never in my life been able to consider abortion as a plausible option. It is a gut reaction. I believe with my entire being that abortion is never the best solution. If a woman doesn’t want a baby then all she needs to do is be pregnant…9 months and then she gives the baby to a family who wants one. We commend people who train/practice for months (or longer) and excel at athletic or artistic endeavors…why not have the same admiration for women who complete a pregnancy and are able to give another family the greatest gift of all? Why are we so willing to sacrifice for things like career, fame, and fortune but not for an innocent life?

    Finally we have a Christian example for this: Mary. She was an unwed mother (teenage to boot). Obviously her circumstances differ from other women but to the outside observer they are scandalous. However, she gave birth to a child of unusual origins without knowing his outcome. I look to Mary’s example to remind myself that motherhood is difficult.

    I’m tired now. I think it’s your turn…or maybe Russel’s.
    Mandy

    • C_Lambeth says:

      Mandy, I am confident of your loving ability as a mother and do not doubt that you have struggled and worried etc. about your daughter. You have done well, and I commend you. Similarly, I would encourage all other mothers to follow-suit and never ask that they abort their pregnancies. There is no doubt that mothers who care and sacrifice and want the best for their children are wonderful people, and even though nothing is guaranteed, they should certainly honor their pregnancies by carrying them to term, childhood and on into adulthood with continued love and investment.

      However, I take exception to your insinuation that “by my logic” you should have had your children euthanized to preclude pain and suffering. This misses the point I was trying to make, which remains that not all would-be mothers are as loving and caring as you are. I think this may be my chief complaint about many of your messages on this thread: you write as if your feelings and capabilities and adoration of human life are universal for all potential mothers everywhere, but this is not the case. What I hear you saying in your universal condemnation of abortion is that death is the absolute worst thing that can happen to anyone. I simply disagree, not just because EVERYONE ultimately dies, but also because there are many MANY humans who suffer unspeakable damage (physical, sexual, emotional and verbal abuse) only to “live” miserable lives and/or inflict similarly agonizing torture on others before they themselves are killed. I contend that death is not the worst thing that could happen to anyone, but rather that Hell (on earth or hereafter) is the worst thing that could happen. Would you have me believe that babies don’t go to heaven or that Heaven is worse than Hell?

      The church: No, Mandy, churches do not have the right to impose their beliefs / convictions on those who do not call themselves Christians. That is called Theocracy (or the joining of church and state), and it has no place in free societies. That being said, I do affirm your right to vote your convictions, to advocate for the defenseless and to care for pregnant women while encouraging them to be good mothers during and after their pregnancies. This is all good and we are apparently on the same page here. We should vote our convictions, but on this issue, I think the Constitution will overrule any law that tries to reinstate a ban on abortion. Even if it were signed into law, that would not eliminate the deplorable practice. It would just make it more dangerous.

      You are welcome to disagree with me on my hypothetical (or any other) points. You are right though, I am riding the fence on this one. Just like so many other issues, this one isn’t black and white. I know you see it that way, but I can’t.

      your friend,
      -Corbin

  10. I agree with Mandy. It seems (although I am unsure) that you (Corbin) don’t consider abortion a form of murder by what you said about the decision being between the mother and God. We don’t come to the same conclusions about a murderer of victims outside the womb. The reason is because people (you and me) have an obligation to protect third parties from murderers. If in the end, we consider abortion a personal decision between the mother and God, this can only makes sense if we don’t consider a fetus an individual human with personhood. And, if we only have the Bible to go on, several places imply a human attains personhood at conception. And if this is the case, humanity has an obligation to protect the fetus, who has inalienable rights.

    We all experience misery on earth, and most to extreme degrees. But I think God sees value in the life process and experiences of people from conception to adulthood. There is something to be gained by being born and living on earth. This must be because God wills it, even though it guarantees hardship and suffering and sin. If this weren’t the case, the logical conclusion is unreasonable: to arrange for every person conceived to be terminated before birth, assuring them paradise, and let the remaing human race die out. This, of course, is a ridiculous idea because I think we all agree that life is a precious mystery and a gift.

  11. C_Lambeth says:

    Russ,
    Thanks for the friendly push-back. The issue of fetal personhood is also a gray area for me. I think a much stronger case can be made for it (and against abortion) in the 2nd or 3rd trimester. Even so, if we measure independent life as that which can survive on its own (outside the womb), this muddles the issue a little. Also, we should consider that many fetuses and embryos are self-aborted by the body without any conscious decision on the part of the potential mother. We don’t call that “murder.” What is the difference between the body terminating the pregnancy on its own, or its acting in conjunction with its brain (also part of the body)? As for the Bible verses I think you may be alluding to, it may be a mistake to take them as literal descriptions or, even if that is what the original author intended, it may be a mistake to assume that what applied to that specific individual automatically applies to everyone else in all times and places.

    I agree that God values life and wants what is good for all his creatures (not just humans). Even so, the Bible speaks on several occasions that it would be better for some people to have died before they could have done their damage (Mark 9.42), and in one case, even before they had been born (Matt. 26.24). To say that “everyone” should be terminated at pregnancy is not warranted, but neither is merely assuming that death is the worst thing that could happen and, as such, should be avoided at ALL costs. I have never said that abortion is good, only that it may be the lesser of several evils. I don’t know any way around this.

    your friend,
    -Corbin

    • Thank you for your patience, and continued correspondence with me Corbin. I think I understand where you are coming from on this. And I believe that you, Carrie, Mandy and I all have driving our positions the same motivation: love and respect for life, and the best intentions in mind for the most people. This is our common ground — and it is good common ground.

      My concern is that people can never know how one’s life will turn out. To predict disaster, even when the odds favor it, doesn’t mean disaster will result. God seems to make a habit of turning a bad, and often impossible situation into good. We can examine the past and make decisions and formulate disciplinary actions and consequences based on our findings, but only God knows the future. I can’t see how taking a life based on the odds of something going wrong lends credit to our faith that God will make all things right. I would be more inclined to see it your way if we could study the future like we can the past.

      Your last paragraph is the most convincing and supports you well. But concerning your earlier analogy, I see a difference in the body aborting a fetus vs the self (or brain). Usually a body aborts a fetus because it is already dead. But even if not, there is a distninct difference between the programming and/or malfunctioning of our bodies and the true self who can discriminate and make judgments based on belonging to a transcendent nature (the supernatural).

      Finally, you mentioned viability as determining personhood. This is what Roe argued in Roe v. Wade as a good place to determine when it is no lonfer appropriate (or moral?) to abort a fetus. My concern with this position is that we hinge our timeless moral conviction on a cornerstone that has proven to shift as technology changes. And this position cannot be taken to its logical end without serious complications, because even a full term baby isn’t viable outside the womb without the rigorous care of the mother, or other people. It makes more sense to me to base personhood on the beginning of a distinction from the mother: 46 chromosomes and independent DNA. All this is present at conception.

      Thanks again for allowing me an opportunity to post. As I wrote above, I take heart in knowing that although our conclusions may differ on a few things, our hearts are aligned in the love of God, the good of our neighbors and the good of all humanity.

      • C_Lambeth says:

        Russ,
        Thank you for understanding that I do indeed love and respect the life that we have been given by God. As you said, this IS good common ground.

        Given your second paragraph, I want you to know that I completely agree with you. Arriving at the decision to abort because of a mere probability that the forming human will “go bad” ethically is ridiculous, not least of which is because the person with the decision to make is inextricably biased and directly influences the way a baby is raised and invested in. Talk about the ability to create self-fulfilling “prophecy!” That you rightly point this out indicates that I have not done a sufficient job explaining the “why” of my continually forming position on abortion. In an effort to be clear, I want you to know that most of my statements above regarding the pragmatics of abortion were created from the perspective of “looking back” AFTER a hypothetical abortion was carried out, rather than “looking ahead” to rationalize a decision to abort BEFORE the procedure was elected. My position has developed out of an attempt to see something (anything!) good from a process that is inherently NOT good. It’s anecdotal, but oftentimes we hear Pro-Life voices ask if we’ve aborted (or will abort) the person who would have cured cancer or developed cold-fusion etc. If that is a reasonable question, so too is it reasonable to ask if we’ve possibly aborted the next Charles Manson, Pol Pot or Hitler. All I am saying is that, de facto, the argument cuts both ways.

        I hear you (and agree once again) when you delineate the differences between purely physical processes in our bodies and those that have their origins in cognitive volition. Perhaps my point is more from a pragmatic perspective. In both cases of abortion (natural & volitional), an embryo or fetus is destroyed. The result is no different. Saying that one is ethically ambiguous while the other is ethically corrupt seems too… I don’t know, unbalanced maybe. That being said, I accept the criticism against “ends justifies the means” arguments and rarely find them persuasive. Like I said, none of this is particularly easy or black and white for me.

        Regarding the “personhood” of a fertilized egg, I understand the convenience of believing that all it takes is the initial combination of 46 chromosomes for this to be. I don’t have a particular Goldilocks number of months, days or hours etc. when “personhood” actually happens in the womb, but I nevertheless doubt that an embryo is a “person” at the moment of conception. It seems to me that arguments like this, and especially its cousin (the no-sex-using-conception-control), are only one step in the wrong direction towards an extremism regarding “personhood.” As with my previous hyperbolic argument discussed with Mandy, I can just hear people (most likely Catholics) decrying the “waste” of sperm and eggs because they were/ are the building-blocks of human “personhood.” If it is extreme and unwarranted to say that “personhood” doesn’t occur until birth, then I find it equally extreme and unwarranted to say that it instantaneously occurs at conception. I hope that makes sense.

        I appreciate your continued input and friendly conversation, Russ. I am always glad for more friends in our faith and Christian community, especially those who are peaceful, reflective and intelligent in their disagreements. Well done, Friend.

        -Corbin

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