Lesson 4: A Critique of the Pro-Life Argument (Part 2)

Last week, I suggested the Po-Life argument makes me feel I am engaged in an abstract, academic, moral dissertation rather than an attempt to solve a real-life human problem. I find resorting to moral absolutes represents Kant more than Jesus. And I wince whenever advocates preclude intelligent conversation by claiming it leads to an inevitable “slide down a slippery slope.”

For instance, the argument says that a genuine ethical position never weighs one person against another. We certainly will not do that in the future Kingdom of God, but in our present world, we do it all the time.

In a modern technological society, we constantly give those with special knowledge and skill more value than others in resolving particular problems. The epitome is when doctors were chosen to depart in the lifeboats at the sinking of the Titanic so they would be available to care for the women and children. However, we make the same kind of decision in many little ways every day.

Certainly, a child after birth can be regarded as of more value than a fetus simply because he or she is far more engaged in social relationships. And if saving the life of the mother or the child during a dangerous pregnancy is necessary, giving the mother priority makes sense as she already has responsibilities.

I am also bothered that the very people who, in one moment, insist they are taking the higher ground with abstract arguments, in the next moment, engage in nasty accusations and name-calling. In the conclusion of the article I critiqued last week, Robert Jenson said he wanted to drop cool analysis and reveal his passion. He then accused the Pro-Life movement of being an “eruption from hell” itself.

He felt justified in doing this because he regarded the claim, “My body, my decision,” as an assault on the foundations of humanity by regarding the fetus as the mother’s property. As much as feminism moaned about the father considering his wife and children his property, it now grants this right to the mother regarding her children.

Remember, Jenson claimed the mother should be the last to decide to abort because she is in no way a disinterested party. I think women are claiming the right because there are no disinterested agents in the current situation. It makes good sense to give the pregnant woman more say because she is the one who has to pay the price. She takes on the responsibility for her decision. To deny her the decision means nobody takes responsibility, and doing nothing is hardly laudable.

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8 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Rick Foltz says:


    This series is excellent! The last three paragraphs in this post say it all! Living here in Florida where women have little choice and the recent laws that make this decision even more emotional is a travesty!


  2. paul wildman says:

    Fritz, very well argued (I agree with Rick here) – we look askance at the US crap from Australia – still more polarised crapola. The US is in rapid cultural decline. It is good you take this bs on mate.

    I am further askance at our obsession herein where as we are killing the planet that gives us life. We are in the midst of the 6th great extinction. We happily kill other sentient animals and eat them destroy their habitat poison our mother Gaia with destructive fertilizes kill soil and so forth yet obsess about one species uber alles

    We have to dig deeper to start say at an ontological level before we come to the litany that is .

    Hope this helps and keep up the good work ciao paul

    • paul wildman says:

      Folks – In Aust abortion is a NON ISSUE – ALL parties strongly support that.

      Stupid America destroying itself over this issue as the US destroys countries it doesn’t like as well as the planet (with a little help from us in Oz). In Afghanistan the US and its allies killed hundreds of thousands of women and children. To my mind the US has NO moral capital left.

      I am sooo sad as the US saved Australia in WW2 and it was a beacon of moral hope and justice and i have watched it destroy itself since then…….
      ciao paul

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Fritz,

    1) Jenson wrote, the church “must, privately and politically and on pain of apostasy, fight the “pro-choice” movement as an eruption from hell itself.” Not the pro-life movement. He was pro-life.
    2) He claims that Lutherans believe that life begins at conception (traducian), but this is where the ALC and LCA differed. The ALC agreed with a variation of Jenson’s argument, but the LCA upheld the traditional idea that life begins with the first breath. I would argue that Luther would agree with the latter position-despite Jenson’s reference to Johann Gerhard.
    3) Finally, is abortion really about abortion or is it about controlling women? Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel wrote in her book, I Am My Body (1995), “Women are seismographs for changes in culture, and their bodies are the places where conflicts become unmistakably evident.” And further, “Independence in dealing with one’s body also includes responsibility in questions of pregnancy. In the end the woman must decide whether a life coming into being can be accepted or a pregnancy has to be aborted. For it is her body which bears and has to give birth to the child. It is her body through which she gives it care and security. It is her dedication through which a human being becomes a human being.” The debates and statements and declarations about abortion largely “failed to recognize these connections between the personal dignity of the woman, her body and the child in putting the emphasis firmly on the unborn life and giving the woman above all the function of enduring.” Her life is only considered “life in relationship.”
    I offer Dr. Moltmann-Wendel’s words for consideration, and as a counterpoint to Jenson’s nearly misogynistic article. After all, not only does he claim that a woman (and father) should have no say in the decision to abort, but he refers to the woman’s body as “plumbing”-a disgusting and crass reference unworthy of Christian conversation.

    Your sister in Christ,
    Pastor Liz

    • Susan Luther Koon says:

      Pastor Liz, your thoughtful and reasoned analysis is appreciated by this Ithacan, especially your final question, Is abortion really about abortion or is it about controlling women?
      Keep up the good work. And vote November 8.

      • Elizabeth says:

        I live in Pennsylvania where the Republican legislature has approved putting an anti-abortion constitutional amendment on the ballot. But they are planning for it to happen in the Spring (May) on the Primary ballot, when voter turnout is lower, because non-affiliated voters (e.g. independent) are not allowed to vote in party primaries, and Republican turn-out is always higher. In effect, they are counting on people not paying attention to get the amendment moved forward (they have also included a voter suppression amendment). I am infuriated, and am looking forward to getting out the vote, not only on November 8, but also in the Spring for May 16, 2023 to vote NO on these amendments.

  4. Rita Yeasted says:

    It’s almost 3 a.m., and I am not going to write a lot, but I could. I would just attach an essay in today’s NYT. It spoke volumes to me about the question from a woman’s perspective. The words of Jenson were so academic that I wondered if he would have written them if he were able to have a baby, and was up against some of the problems that pregnant women face. The high percentage of male Congresspeople making anti-abortion laws (and that goes for those at a local and statae level) is congruent with the totally male body making laws in my Church. It is easy to be abstract when you cannot be part of the problem in a personal way. Women see this problem very differently many times. Granted not every anti-abortion person is male, but most choice advocates are femlae… Here’s a link to the essay if you missed it: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/18/opinion/abortion-pregnancy-child-roe.html.

    • Elizabeth says:

      The “Christian Century” had a series of articles along the lines of the NYT article you cite (July 27, 2022). Some very personal, and some more academic.
      As a pastor who has been privy to the discernment of families and women in the course of their discernment regarding abortion, I find myself awkwardly stuck between the confidentiality of the pastoral office and the prophetic need for advocacy in our culture. What the end of Roe has unleashed in my congregation has been remarkable. Nearly every woman in my congregation has come forth and shared an abortion story of friends, their own, or family. The SCOTUS decision has opened the closet and mouths of women everywhere and the stories are spilling out. Most importantly, we have to give room for those voices to be heard in the churches, as well as the public square, like the NYT.
      Thanks for sharing the article.


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