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The Abortion Debate Isn’t Over

With Roe’s demise, the nine unelected judges on the Supreme Court no longer have sole legal authority to determine abortion policy. The individual states will now decide how the practice is governed. Put simply, the American people—your friends, your classmates, your coworkers, and your family members—will now decide if unborn humans enjoy the same legal protections as you and me.

The good news—good news indeed!—is that pro-life advocates working through their elected representatives are now positioned to legally protect unborn humans in ways that Roe didn’t allow. The bad news is that the worldview assumptions that make abortion plausible to millions of our fellow citizens are deeply entrenched in the culture and aren’t going away anytime soon.

Reversing Roe isn’t going to fix that problem. Since Roe was overturned in June 2022 (a good thing), pro-lifers have lost every single time the abortion issue has been put directly to the public for a vote. Even in Montana, a red state, voters rejected a modest ballot measure that didn’t ban abortion outright but only protected children who survive abortion procedures and are born alive. A larger March for Life isn’t going to fix the problem at the ballot box. More pregnancy centers won’t fix it.

To position ourselves for eventual political victory—the kind that results in legal protection for unborn humans—we must engage the public with a persuasive case for life that confronts abortion at the worldview level.

Two Worldview Questions

Consider this: right now, as you’re reading this sentence, people in the U.S. (and to some degree, in the U.K. and Canada) are having a huge worldview argument over two key questions that will affect you, your children, and even your grandchildren for decades to come. How we answer these two questions will do nothing less than determine the future of human beings.

The worldview assumptions that make abortion plausible to millions of our fellow citizens are deeply entrenched in the culture and aren’t going away anytime soon.

First, we’re arguing about truth. Is moral truth real and knowable, or is it just a preference, like choosing chocolate ice cream over vanilla?

Second, we’re arguing about human value. Are you and I valuable for who we are intrinsically or only for what we can functionally do?

The question of truth and the question of human value are driving our national debates on abortion, cloning, and embryonic stem cell research. The debates are contentious because they involve deep worldview commitments that get to the heart of who and what we are as people. But the debate itself isn’t complex. Either you believe that each and every human being has an equal right to life or you don’t.

Pro-life Christians provide one answer. Although humans differ in their respective degrees of development, they’re nonetheless equal because they share a common human nature that bears the image of their Creator. All humans have value simply because they’re human.

Some leading abortion advocates provide a radically different perspective. They say that although you’re identical to the embryo you once were—the same being now as you were then—it doesn’t follow that you had the same right to life then as you have now. Being human is nothing special; your right to life is strictly accidental. You enjoy the right only because of some acquired characteristic you have that embryos don’t have.

But here’s the problem with that thinking. If humans have fundamental value only because of some characteristic they possess in varying degrees, then those with more of that characteristic have greater value than those with less. So-called human equality is only a myth.

Engage Robustly and Graciously

My thesis is twofold: (1) a biblically informed pro-life view explains human equality, human rights, and moral obligations better than its secular rivals; and (2) rank-and-file pro-life Christians can have immediate influence provided they’re equipped to engage the culture with a robust but graciously communicated case for life.

We must clarify the abortion debate and set ground rules for engagement. In an increasingly subjective culture, things that were once givens—the rules of logic, the nature of arguments, and even what it means to be pro-life—are up for grabs. Failure to define terms and weed out distractions can short-circuit a pro-life case before it gets a hearing.

Either you believe that each and every human being has an equal right to life or you don’t.

Debates over abortion and embryonic stem cell research aren’t morally complex, though they’re often presented that way. Can we kill the unborn? Yes, I think we can, if . . . If what? If the unborn aren’t human beings.

What worldviews idle beneath the abortion debate? Ever feel like you’re talking right past a friend or colleague on abortion, as if you’re coming from radically different worlds? You most likely are. Once you figure that out, get ready to be grilled incessantly on every one of your starting points. You’ll be pressed to explain how a right to life can stand apart from fundamental religious underpinnings, why those underpinnings should be allowed to inform public policy, and why anyone should suppose that just because I exist as a human, I have a right to life that others are obliged to respect.

Both sides bring prior metaphysical commitments to the debate and are asking the same question: What makes humans valuable in the first place? The abortion issue—now more than ever—is becoming a worldview fight. You need to be aware of the big ideas idling beneath the surface.


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