Recently, a friend of mine who is an evangelical Christian conservative shocked me by publishing an article about abortion subtitled, “Making Victims into Criminals.” His claim was that with rare exception, women who get abortions are victims, not criminals. This erroneous claim may be more commonly believed than one would imagine, so for the benefit of all, we will attempt to correct the record in this article.
Even in the 1970s and 80s, it can be argued that claiming victimhood was little more than a rationalization of the guilty, a self-defense mechanism that would allow those who purchased abortions to somehow live with themselves. We have received numerous notes and testimonies over the years from men and women who say they knew they were committing murder, but they did it anyway because it was legal.
Our culture says guilt is bad and we should avoid it. The constant refrain is, “It’s okay, you didn’t do anything wrong.” This leads to cognitive and emotional dissonance because the conscience knows abortion is wrong. God never says we should avoid guilt. On the contrary, God encourages us to confess our sins and own our guilt. He says if we will humble ourselves and repent, then he will lift us up, and we will be reconciled to him (James 4:9-10, Prov. 14:9). To ignore our guilt is to allow a dirty wound to fester. Responding to guilt with confession and repentance is to cleanse the wound and invite the Lord’s healing. The truth may hurt like hell, but it is actually the pain of hell being removed from us.
Even if it were true that a majority of abortion buyers in the early days were naïve victims, it has certainly not been true in recent decades. Volunteers with organizations like Love of Truth Ministries, Equal Rights Institute, Oklahomans United for Life, Justice for All, Missionaries to the Preborn, Abolitionist Society of Norman, and Operation Save America have interposed regularly for years in front of abortion facilities across the union. They report that the vast majority of abortion buyers, men and women alike, are hardened and know exactly what they are doing. Those purchasing abortions routinely hurl curses and insults at those who would help them and their preborn children.
The truth is that abortion providers in our state are meeting a demand. The parents and grandparents of an unwanted child seek out an abortionist and pay him to kill their child. Sometimes other family members, friends, or a boyfriend encourage the scheme. In any other crime we would recognize these participants as accomplices. In their history we read that the Israelites made their sons and daughters “pass through the fire” for Moloch (2 Kings 16:3; 17:17; 21:62; Chron. 33:6; Jeremiah 32:35; Ezekiel 20:26; 20:31; 23:37). God calls this practice of child-sacrifice “evil” and an “abomination.” In fact, it “provoked him to anger” and was a primary cause of God’s judgement and wrath upon their nation. Dare we call these Israelite parents victims?
Today we see people in various states of heart and mind coming before the abortionist’s altar of Moloch to “slaughter God’s children” (Ezekiel 16:21). Some are in denial. Some are hard-hearted, scared, evil, and twisted. Perhaps some have even been victimized. Regardless of their situations, we must not use their various mental and emotional states to justify their actions or excuse the heinous practice of legal child-sacrifice.
Now, many good people agree that abortionists should be punished, but they ask, “If we outlaw abortion, what about all the women who get abortions? Are we going to punish them, too?”
No one is going to start throwing people in jail, retroactively punishing those who solicited abortions in the past when it was legal to do so. In fact, some studies show that one in four Americans is directly affected by abortion. We are surrounded by people who suffer from the resulting loss, pain, and guilt.
In Ethics, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes,
“Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed… A great many different motives may lead to an action of this kind… All of these considerations must no doubt have a quite decisive influence on our personal and pastoral attitude towards the person concerned, but they cannot in any way alter the fact of murder.”
Here Bonhoeffer eloquently differentiates our two responses to abortion. On the one hand, we respond with pastoral care for the person who is suffering the hardships of fear, abuse, and poverty. We boldly preach to the victims and perpetrators the good news that they can be forgiven for the sin of abortion and reconciled to God. Yet even in the light of pastoral care for people in difficult circumstances, we must still recognize the sin of abortion as a criminal act of murder.
Every human being is intrinsically valuable, and that is why every homicide should be investigated and a trial commenced when necessary. Everybody involved must be prosecuted appropriately. What District Attorney would prosecute a naïve, thirteen-year-old girl who was abused and coerced? But the attacker, family members, friends, and doctor who victimized her and murdered her baby should certainly be held accountable for their actions. Let’s trust a jury of our peers to extend mercy when appropriate and to establish justice for preborn humans in cases of murder by abortion.
Some believe that rather than criminalize abortion, we should address it with education and birth control. Teaching in schools and person to person among family, friends, and Facebook connections is bound to change some hearts and save some lives, but ultimately it will not transform our broader culture of death. For example, the most effective way to keep people from speeding on the highway is not funding an educational billboard campaign; we keep people from speeding by posting the law and enforcing the law. Likewise, when it comes to abortion, education and birth control are of some value, but to effectively save the lives of thousands of our preborn neighbors, we must outlaw abortion and enforce the law. After all, the fundamental duty of government is to protect the lives of those living in its jurisdiction.
In conclusion, some of those who get abortions may be victims, but this should not be our default assumption, and it certainly should not be an excuse to keep criminal behavior legal or to vote against a righteous official seeking to establish justice. In fact, keeping murder by abortion legal only contributes to the victimization of women.