How Might a Potential Pro-life Law Define Christianity?

Dec 29, 2023 by David Fowler

How Might a Potential Pro-life Law Define Christianity?
Monday will mark the beginning of a new year, and soon I will mark my twenty-ninth year at the state legislature. Yet, this year I plan to take a whole new approach to lobbying. The need for change was brought to a head this month by a growing national dispute between two pro-life camps over legislation I suspect will be filed with our General Assembly.

The dispute has been laid out in two YouTube videos released by It is between those who are active with that effort, called “abortion abolitionists,” and those who they call the “pro-life establishment.”

The Visible Point of Contention

The founding pastor of released a video this month in which he says, “What you're about to view is an unveiling of what the main issue is, that is keeping abortion alive in this nation.” Now, that's a very serious statement: The main issue that's “keeping abortion alive in the nation.”

That issue, based on my understanding of that video and a previous one released in November, is that the abortion establishment has uniformly opposed legislation that includes the mother as a person subject to criminal sanction if she authorizes a doctor to perform an abortion or performs one on herself.  To the pro-life establishment, the woman is always considered a victim.

To my mind, the most recent video puts two issues before its viewers. First, what does justice require? Second, what is the gospel?

The Justice Issue

Enacted criminal laws can uphold justice, and asserts the criminal law is unjust if the woman is not subject to at least some criminal sanction if the doctor who performs it is subject to a criminal sanction. This would be true for two reasons.

First, it is hard for any woman to claim she didn’t know there is a human being in her womb. The days when the average woman thinks it is just a clump of cells in her womb during early pregnancy are long over. That deception may have “victimized” women in the past, but today women know what they are doing and do it for a variety of reasons.

Second, the doctor cannot perform the abortion unless the woman authorizes it. She has culpability.

But does justice require that the same level of wrong be imputed to the woman, whose life has been credibly threatened by someone if she does not abort the child, as is imputed to the physician who performs the abortion for pay? Should the penal sentence for all women be the same as for the physician, regardless of the circumstances?
Biblical justice, I submit, requires the wisdom to think through the differences before mechanically saying the nature of the crimes between the mother and the physician are the same. That’s not unusual; criminal law draws those distinctions. We have degrees of murder. I look forward to seeing how these issues are addressed if the legislation is filed.

However, apart from the justice issue, I have a concern with the way the gospel was presented by some in the video and whether the main issue that makes the gospel good news can even be addressed by a criminal statute.

The First Issue: What is the Gospel?

One of the pastors in the video said, “When we tell the mother who kills her own child by abortion, that she's a victim, we are depriving her of the gospel, which is the only hope for her to be forgiven. If she hasn't committed a sin, then the blood of Jesus is of no help to her. The only way that the gospel applies is if we confess our sin.” Another person with said something very similar.

This kind of statement seems to say something is required of a sinner, namely, repentance, before he or she can rightly claim what Christ has done for sinners.

I submit this dilutes the greatness and glory of the gospel’s message. “The proclamation of the gospel, with the call to faith in Christ, becomes conditional on something in the hearer.”[i] “[F]orsaking sin is no longer the fruit of grace,” but a “necessary precursor” for it.[ii]

For Protestants like those in the video, this is most interesting. The original “protest” against Catholicism from which Protestant theology was born was its doctrine that justification is grace plus something in the recipient of grace, namely, good works.

Now “repentance” seems to be substituted for good works so that possession of the love of God in Christ and assurance of justification (salvation) can turn on whether the person thinks he or she has demonstrated a sufficient level of sorrow or repentance.[iii] That idea encourages others to judge a person by what they think a sufficient level is. I have no idea what that level is, but at least Catholics had grace preceding anything the recipient brought to the table.

Second Issue: What Is the Sin Disclosed in the Video?

But if repentance by the mother is a desired goal, what does the gospel call her to repent of?[iv] I suspect from what I saw in the video it would be murder.  However, I don’t think murder is the root problem, not in relation to God anyway.

I think the root problem (other than our wanting to be independent of any authority outside of ourselves) is disclosed by the one abortive mother in the video who suggested to the interviewer a reason for why she was pleased with her abortion, “I’m a professor at this university, and I make more money than you.”

What she disclosed was her covetous desire regarding money (maybe position, too) in contradistinction to God’s gloriously profound desire for her, which was to bring into existence in her womb the life of another human being made in His image.

Of course, covetousness is not limited to money and things. A mother can desire all kinds of things other than God transforming her from a woman into a mother.

I believe covetousness keeps abortion alive. And the connection between murder and covetousness is clear: “You lust [often translated covet] and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain” (James 4:2, emphasis supplied).

However, that is not the worst of it. “Covetousness . . . is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).

Can Criminal Law Reveal the Real Sin?

Idolatry is our great sin against God, but I don’t think a mother will see in the proposed law or in her conviction a need to repent of idolatry. Yet that is her root problem in relationship to God.

Covetousness is everyone’s root problem, and here is why.

It was only when the great keeper of the Mosaic law, Saul, later known as the Apostle Paul, saw his covetousness that he realized just how sinful he was (Romans 7:7, 9).

Only when the Holy Spirit made the commandment against covetousness come alive in him (Romans 7:9) did he realize he had also broken the first and greatest commandment of all—to have no other god (desire) greater than our desire for God. That’s when Paul realized covetousness was idolatry. It’s also when he realized his law-keeping was “dung” (Philippians 3:8).

I suspect that’s also when he realized that in his very nature he was susceptible to breaking all the commands and all their lesser included offenses in relation to others in pursuit of what he coveted. His self-righteous goose was cooked, so to speak.

When that happens to us, then we, like the Apostle Paul, realize we cannot save ourselves. That’s when we see the love of God, as a Heavenly Father, revealed to us in Jesus because He alone, as the Son of God yet also man, could be the mediator of righteousness for us before God.

But the dots from abortion to idolatry will have to be connected by means other than a criminal statute if pro-life advocates want the gospel to break through to the point of having the mother think she can be good enough to keep the whole law of God. She broke the First commandment and the Tenth and that is what led to breaking the Sixth one—you shall not murder.

Christians can’t expect the criminal law to make up for what they may not be doing well-connected.


Offering and supporting the law will make Christians look hateful and mean-spirited, but they should never fear being hated by non-Christians.
But if Christians are going to be hated by non-Christians, I pray it is not because our advocacy for the law lacks or is divorced from true gospel grace, so that it is the love and goodness of God inherent in His grace, not just a law, that abortionists know they are rejecting.

I have not done that well in the past, and that needs to be part of my new approach.
[i] Sinclair Ferguson, The Whole Christ, 43.
[ii] Id.
[iii] This view of the gospel also leaves people with the nagging questions if they continue to struggle with sin, such as, “Did I repent enough?” The thought becomes, “Maybe I would not still sin if I repented enough.” I think that lies behind why some “go forward” or get baptized multiple times and some just give up on Christianity.
[iv] I think the establishment needs to stop using the word than victim unless they can provide a scriptural basis for the complete exemption of women and why all women are victims with no ethical culpability. If they provided that, I’ve not seen it.

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