Abortion Is Murder Even in the Case of Rape
Todd Akin, a U.S. Congressman from Mississippi and that state’s Republican nominee for the US Senate, recently stirred up controversy about abortion in the case of rape. Below is an article by Trevin Wax that provides strong arguments for why abortion in the case of rape is immoral in an imagined “do-over” of Congressman Akin’s interaction with the news media. The article is entitled What Todd Akin Should Have Said About Abortion and Rape.1
Abortion is front-and-center in the presidential campaign due to a congressman’s flub on national TV.
In case you’ve missed the news, Todd Akin, a Republican congressman from Missouri running for the Senate, was asked about abortion in the case of rape. His response:
“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare . . . . If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Needless to say, such remarks proved offensive. Akin appeared to be making distinctions between violent rape and other forms (statutory perhaps?) as he sought to answer the question about abortion. Other Republicans are calling for him to pull out of the race while the Romney-Ryan campaign quickly tried to distance itself from the remarks.
Rape is a horrific crime with countless emotional and psychological repercussions. No one should ever speak of such an atrocity without having their heart gripped with sympathy for the victim. Any time we speak about such an unspeakable act of violation, we ought to consider the weight of our words.
Even so, as disturbing as Akin’s remarks are, I am concerned about the conflation of issues that suddenly appeared in the aftermath. Once the comment went viral, Republicans all over the country began distancing themselves from the remarks (rightly so) while also claiming to be pro-life except in the case of rape. (Romney is an example.)
The media circus moved quickly from discussion of Akin’s remarks to a wider discussion about the legitimacy of abortion in a tough case. And some “pro-life” politicians took the bait, not only condemning Akin’s unfortunate remarks but also declaring their support for abortion in this particular case.
Let me be clear: Allowing abortion in the case of rape is not the way to express sympathy toward a victim of this crime. Abortion only destroys the life of another victim.
That’s why I wish the conversation with Akin had gone more like this…
Host: So you also believe abortion ought to be outlawed in the case of rape?
Akin: Rape is a horrible crime, and a rapist ought to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I stand for human rights over against anyone who would violate the life of another—from the rapist to the abortionist.
Host: So you’d outlaw abortion in the case of rape?
Akin: Absolutely. As I said, I stand for human rights for all, including the unborn.
Host: But why should a woman who gets pregnant out of no fault of her own be forced to carry a pregnancy to term?
Akin: It is a tragic situation indeed. And my heart goes out to any woman in such circumstances. That’s why I could never recommend that she abort her child. Inflicting violence upon another innocent victim, in this case the baby, is not the way to move past the tragedy of her own innocence being taken.
Host: So you’d pass laws that would force her to carry on the pregnancy?
Akin: Like I said, I stand for the rights of all human beings. Even in a difficult situation like rape, the unborn child should have human rights. We must not let circumstances dictate to us when humans have rights. Otherwise, we could justify all sorts of atrocities in the name of “difficult circumstances.”
Host: But having a child as a result of rape would be a terrible reminder of the crime, wouldn’t it?
Akin: That’s possible. But let me ask you another question. If a woman chose to carry her child to term and then found that every time she looked at her infant she remembered the horror of the rape, would we allow her to smother the baby?
Host: Of course not!
Akin: You’re right. Because no matter how difficult her circumstances, we recognize the humanity of the infant. Unfortunately, many in our society refuse to recognize the humanity of the unborn.
Host: But your opinion on the humanity of the unborn shouldn’t be forced upon a woman who doesn’t hold that view.
Akin: Biology textbooks and scientists tell us the same thing we see when we look at a 4-D ultrasound: the fetus is human. Now, you can make the case that the unborn human should not have rights. And many do. That’s why unborn girls are aborted at a much higher rate than unborn boys, not only in places like China but in the United States as well. That’s why the number of children with Down Syndrome has plummeted. That’s why so many abortion clinics target inner-city areas with high minority populations. You see, once we begin to discriminate against some human beings, we are on the fast track to denying human rights for others.
Host: So you stand by your conviction that abortion should be outlawed even in the case of rape?
Akin: I believe that all innocent human life should be protected. So, yes. This difficult situation is about three people: the rapist, the mother, and the baby. Currently, there is no death penalty required for the rapist. I refuse to believe we ought to give an innocent victim a sentence more severe than the perpetrator of the crime.
For the most part I agree with the arguments Wax suggests should be made in favor of banning abortion even in the case of rape. What I say below does not take away from the fact that I am in agreement with his fundamental point that abortion even in the case of rape is morally wrong. However, I do not believe that even a politician should speak of abortion as a mere “human rights” issue. In his hypothetical conversation between Akin and a TV host, Wax would have Akin say nothing about God or about abortion as the unjust snuffing out of the life God has given. Wax also avoids explicitly referring to abortion as murder, a move that is too politically correct in my judgment.
If I allow myself to indulge in thinking about what I wish a politician would say about abortion in the case of rape, I would also speak of the providence of God. Life in the womb does not come ultimately from the rapist. God gave that life. Aborting the baby in such a case is murderous rebellion against the will of God. Indeed God wills things to happen that we do not will and that are certainly difficult for us in this life. But sin is never an appropriate response to hardship in life. A lazy husband does not justify divorce, a rebellious child does not justify abuse, a sickness does not justify suicide, and pregnancy as the result of rape does not justify murder—which is exactly what abortion is.
Finally I would add there is hope for the rape victim who is raising a child resulting from that crime. God’s grace is sufficient even for such a case (II Cor. 12:9). And the Christian mother, relying on the grace of God, will say, “I can do all thing through Christ which strenghtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).
We could wish this was the testimony of politicians. This must be the testimony of the church!
Church Membership Priorities
Brian Pikkaart saw the need to join a church. That is a good start. Many “Reformed” Christians do not believe in the necessity of joining a church. When Pikkaart and his family moved to Washington DC (from another unnamed location), he was determined to join a church with his family. But which church? What should be looked for in a church? Pikkaart, writing for the Banner, explains how he answered these questions and encourages others to follow his example in an article entitled “Peanut Butter to Potblessings: A Guide to Finding a New Church Home.”2 Sadly, many Reformed people do not know what to look for in a church and are in need of a helpful guide. Unfortunately, Pikkaart’s guide is not Reformed and therefore is not helpful. His advice is to do what so many are wrongly doing today—find the church that suits you.
Why did Pikkaart move his family to Washington DC? For a job. He writes, “We thought we were destined for lifelong membership in a Reformed church—that is, until a job change brought us to the suburbs of Washington, DC.” This sentence is loaded. First, it expresses that a job takes priority over church membership. Second, it denies the necessity of membership in a Reformed church. Third, it approves of and even encourages leaving a Reformed church for flimsy reasons—such as one’s career prospects.
Pikkaart claims that he is against “church shopping” because it “has always implied to me a lack of commitment to a local church family, or an unhealthy, ‘consumer’ approach to church attendance (‘this isn’t meeting my needs’).” “This isn’t meeting my needs” is exactly what Pikkaart said when he left his church for his job. His job and whatever it offered in terms of financial gain, career advancement, and self-fulfillment became more important to him at that point than membership in a particular church.
That Pikkaart shopped for a church that would suit his needs (or fancies) is evident from the options he listed. “Deciding we’d prefer the stability of a denominational church, we eventually visited churches representing the Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopalian and Presbyterian denominations.” What about the church’s teachings? Pikkaart says that he wanted to join a church that is “theologically sound.” But Pikkaart’s list of options demonstrates that a church’s doctrinal positions are not important to him. If Pikkaart was truly committed to Reformed doctrine he would not be able to join churches in a Baptist, Lutheran, or Episcopalian denomination. And if he was committed to Baptist doctrine he would not join a Lutheran, Episcopalian, or Presbyterian denomination.
Pikkaart’s advice comes down to this: make visits—until you find the church that suits you. This was basically the advice Pikkaart received from a pastor before he moved.
Before moving, one of our pastors gave us some good [sic!-CWS] advice. He recommended visiting a church for three or four consecutive weeks, arriving at different times and sitting in different locations. That way you’ll be sure to meet different people and experience multiple worship services from varying perspectives. Otherwise you could easily be greeted by the only friendly greeter in the church (or perhaps the only grumpy one), sit by the only nice family in the church (or the only rude one), or hear the pastor’s only good sermon (or only his worst one). By attending on consecutive weeks, odds are you’ll be able to make a more accurate assessment.
This pathetic pastoral advice says nothing about the Reformed, biblical way of evaluating a church. It says nothing about Belgic Confession Article 29 and the three marks of a true church. The pastor does not insist on finding a church where the Word is truly preached, the sacraments are purely administered, and where discipline is faithfully exercised. The pastor says nothing about how these three marks are only to be found clearly displayed in a Reformed church.
This pastoral advice is evil. It is evil because it denies the sin of leaving a Reformed church for a church that does not have the three marks of a true church. It is evil because it approves of and encourages people to look to join churches that do not possess these marks. It is evil because where such pastoral advice is given it is inevitable that members of Reformed churches will leave for Baptist churches, where the sacraments are not purely administered (the sacrament of baptism is corrupted), for Episcopalian churches where discipline is not properly administered (church government is unbiblical hierarchy), or any church regardless of its doctrinal positions as long as it is in a convenient location and has friendly members.
Pikkaart followed this wicked pastoral advice. He visited and potentially could have become a member of various false churches. Finally, this advice led him from a Reformed church to an Anglican church, which lacks at least one of the marks of a true church, the proper exercise of Christian discipline, since its system of church government is hierarchical. Pikkaart gives guidance to others to follow his example. Thus, astoundingly, the CRC, by publishing this “guide” in its official magazine, also encourages others to follow his example.
Belgic Confession Articles 28 and 29 is the Reformed “guide” for choosing a church. Article 28 establishes that church membership comes before everything else. “All men are in duty bound to join and unite with” and not “withdraw” from the true church of Jesus Christ. In other words, one must not look for a church that is close to his job and home, but one must look for a job and home close to a true church. Secondly, the confession “guides” us to look for and remain committed to membership in Reformed churches where the three marks of a true church are found. Joining and staying in such a church is not a matter of suiting us, it is a matter of pleasing God.
1 The article can be found at: <u>http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2012/08/20/what-todd-akin-should-have-said-about-abortion-and-rape/</u>
2 The strange reference to “potblessings” in the title of this article stems from the Pikkaart family’s visit of a church that, denying there is any such thing as luck, referred to the meal shared by the congregation after the service as a potblessing rather than a potluck. Cf. <u>http://www.thebanner.org/departments/2012/08/peanut-butter-to-potblessings-a-guide-to-finding-a-new-church-home</u> (viewed on August 30, 2012).