In 1973 I was a college pastor. On January 22 of that year, the American Supreme Court issued its Roe vs Wade ruling that abortion was a right guaranteed by the constitution. Soon thereafter I preached a sermon on the sacredness of human life.
My text was from Psalm 139 and as I recall it was the psalmist’s prayer addressed to God as follows: “For you created my inmost being;/ you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 139:13). The congregation was unusually focused because the Supreme Court’s action seemed to have taken the country by surprise and arguments for and against had not yet been martialed. Christians wanted help in sorting the issues out.
A day or two after that sermon, a young woman came to my study for help in dealing with the guilt the sermon had awakened. It was not that she had had an abortion but rather that she had advised a friend to have one as the way out of a difficult situation. She felt some measure of responsibility for the death of that unborn infant.
During the week after that sermon, I wrote about the abortion issue in the church’s weekly newsletter. This fell into the hands of the Catholic wife of a community doctor. Her response was a sensitive letter, warm with regard for human life, but expressing surprise that I would speak and write compellingly on the subject in what she regarded as a Protestant community. She thought that Protestants at that time had no conscience on the matter. Her letter affected me deeply.
On the following Sunday I preached on the subject again in the Sunday evening service. Christians wanted guidance from the Scriptures. Roe vs Wade had struck deeply.
Thirty-eight years have passed since January 22, 1973, and the national debate continues unabated. Roe vs Wade appears to have made the unborn into non-persons with no protection under the law and a growing majority feel their wrong keenly. Canada has no law at all regulating abortions although calls are rising again from some legislators for a parliamentary debate. Abortion has become virtually a global issue.
But it’s not just the incalculable loss of millions of babies “terminated” in the name of personal freedom that counts. It’s also the aftermath in the suffering of women and men forever emotionally wounded, the corruption the abortion industry has introduced into society, the tax dollars that have been siphoned off to support this corruption, and the polarization the debate has produced in the populace.
During the week of January 8 this year, two contenders for the nomination to the presidency of the United States, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, have each stated that Roe vs Wade should be overturned. The impression this gives is that should either be elected to the high office they would lead the fight for that action.
One point firmly established by this 38-year-long debate is that in the governance of any nation (or any other responsible organization) no official act should ever be considered beyond overturning if it is unlawful or immoral. In this case, the moral issue has been behind the debate from the start, and no number of judicial rulings will make it go away.