In the fall of 1983, I didn’t know that there would be over 1.2 million legal abortions performed in North America that year, nor did I know that in 1984 another 1.3 million would also take place. I was newly married, just beginning my senior year at seminary, and nauseated around the clock. My husband and I had just traveled to New York and back on a Greyhound bus (we lived in St. Paul, MN), and I had attributed my sensitive stomach to the grease-laden food at the truck stops along the way. But now we were settled into our little apartment and ready to do some home cooking and I could barely stand the smell of food. Could it be, would it be, we hoped and prayed and bought a drug-store pregnancy test, whose results were ultimately unclear. Lacking a home physician, we made an appointment at the local Planned Parenthood clinic where I could have a pregnancy test.
Sitting together in the waiting room anxious for the results, a healthcare worker called me in and said that my husband would have to stay in the waiting room. I didn’t understand; couldn’t he come in with me? No, she said, they wanted to talk to me alone first. I didn’t understand. Even more anxious and worried that something was terribly wrong with me, I was finally given the news that I was pregnant. Overjoyed, I wanted my husband to hear, and that’s when I found out from Planned Parenthood that they always tell the mother alone first in case she does not want to continue the pregnancy. In fact, she was surprised that I did, for I had been the first woman in many weeks for whom the news was heard as good news.
Word spread like wildfire among the doctors, nurses, and technicians, who then treated us like royalty. Even those who dealt in death could yet be surprised by life, and in that moment our joy was contagious. I can only hope that in some small way it had a lasting effect to help turn their hearts to life.
In the Annunciation, the Good News given to Mary, Most Holy Theotokos, we come to know the gift of every life in a new way, and we come to know the holiness and sacredness of the womb as a sanctuary of mercy for all humankind. She who is our mother in the faith shelters the One who is the Saviour of the world with her very body, with her very womanhood. She gives her life for another, a model of trust beyond all fear, a model of obedience beyond all personal security, a model of faith in the One who is yet unseen, until the glorious day of His birth, when at her breast she revels in His radiant face.
In the kenotic movement of God in the incarnation, He was never more vulnerable, more helpless then when He was in utero, swaddled in amniotic fluid, yet He was also never more intimately protected, swaddled in the myriad layers of a mother’s love. And it is the vision of this love that is ever so needed, a death-defying love, an eternal love, a fierce love, a sacrificing love, that we are called to bear for the sake of generations to come. For in the disordered loving of a fallen world that removes sexual intercourse from the fidelity and delight of the marriage bed, there will continue to be the littlest among us, made in the image and likeness of God, who without such love, will be unprotected from the lies that say they are neither human or of any value.
If, as St. Paul teaches us, faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17), then we need to sing to all the world as the angel did for Mary, so that the anti-Gospel of self-determination, self-liberation, and self-exaltation (an un-holy trinity…) will not be the last word that any man or woman hears in the landscape of a time when abortion is legal and considered moral by many. From the moment of conception our Lord is fully human and fully divine, veiled in Mary’s flesh, His protector, His sanctuary. From the moment of conception, we are indeed who we are as well. It is only our relationship to others that will take on new dimensions as we grow into the world, for our humanity is fully present (i.e., all that is needed for faith has been given us as we have no choice but to depend upon another for life). And if the glory of God is man fully alive, then the rapid multiplication of your cells is as glorious as a Bach Cantata!
What if every woman with a child in her womb were to hear the angel’s words, “The Lord is with you”? The Lord is with you in this pregnancy whether you loved your husband or not, whether you had a husband or not. The Lord is with you, whether this child was conceived in love or whether you suffered through a horrific rape. The Lord is with you whether you were trolling for anonymous sex in a seedy bar or whether you were looking for comfort in all the wrong places. The Lord is with you whether your father sold you to this brute or whether your own father was the brute. Whatever unspeakable shame was done is not the last word because the Lord is with you and with your little one. The Lord is suffering with you and the Lord will lead you to that day when He will be rejoicing with you. In this pregnancy, however un-timed or un-planned, the Lord is with you, because no life is made without Him. As Luther’s Small Catechism attests, “I believe that God has created me and all that exists.”
With few exceptions, until the mid-twentieth century the church’s witness through the ages has clearly proclaimed to all who would hear that every child created has his/her origins in the love of God for the world He has created. While in our rebellion against His sovereignty we have not lived out His intentions for us, He has not given up on us, creating new life generation after generation. The testimony of the early church was clear: The Epistle of Barnabas speaks of those who seek to end the life of one in utero as “killers of the child, who abort the mold of God.” The Didache says, “Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion, nor again shalt thou kill it when it is born.” St. Basil the Great clearly proclaims that ones passage through the birth canal does not mark the beginning of life, calling men who arrange for the abortions of their illegitimate children “worse than murderers,” because not only have they murdered the child, they have made the prostitute mother into a murderer as well.
I find St. Basil’s word especially revealing when speaking to women who talk about legalized abortion giving them the freedom of choice, for “abortion on demand” gives women the freedom to have sex with men who think of them as no better than receptacles—truly de-humanized objects. It gives women the freedom to have sex with men who care more about their own gratification than the needs, concerns, or desires of anyone else. It gives women the freedom to have sex with men who won’t remember their name tomorrow, and for whom sex is not only disassociated with pro-creation, it is disassociated with any understanding that sexual intercourse is the union of two human beings. Not only is the child thought of as less than human, so is the mother. And as Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us, it is union, even more than pro-creation, that serves as a foundation of marriage. Men and women who engage in sexual intercourse to simply gratify a bodily urge without regard to the life of their momentary partner treat their partner as an object devoid of the human spirit and can thus easily project that same split to a child in utero. Augustine and Aquinas, following the rationale of Aristotle, would propose that there is a certain point in fetal development where a soul enters. While they never excuse early abortion on that basis, such argumentation is clearly in disagreement with the consensus of witnesses throughout the first millennium of Christendom and beyond. As St. Gregory of Nyssa (c.335-394) writes, “There is no question about that which is bred in the uterus, both growing, and moving from place to place. It remains, therefore, that we must think that the point of commencement of existence is one and the same for body and soul.”
When legalized abortion is used as a retroactive means of birth control, or as the antidote for “recreational sex,” everyone is diminished. The man, because he is not open to receiving what the woman, as a full human being, has to give him as a full human being: what he could learn from her in a relationship in which spirituality and sexuality are not divorced, what he could learn about being a man as he cares for his children, and what he could learn about the goodness of God who has given him someone to love him enough that would invite him into her own body. The woman who even in this femininely sexually aggressive culture would have to live in a perpetual state of denial that God made her in such a way that love and sexual expression cannot be rent asunder without doing damage to her primary identity and who would never know the joy of giving thanks to God for being gifted with the exquisite beauty and mighty strength of a womb, and who could never look at another child without regret. The sign of man and woman together, whose mutual fulfillment and complementarity are an eschatological sign of God’s intentions for Christ and His church, will have vanished. And also the child, the blessed and innocent child, no mere lump of tissue, but a living human presence, who even hidden in secret is the apple of God’s eye, the work of His hands, the delight of His heart, who is denied the fullness of body that was intended for him in this life and in the age to come, for it is bodies that will be resurrected. Everyone is diminished. Everyone loses.
It is then no surprise that in a day and an age when the revisionist church’s hermeneutic of suspicion trumps the Apostolic witness and it fails to preach bodily resurrection, that it also fails to proclaim the sanctity of all human life, for the two are intricately intertwined. When a church acts as if no longer believes that the resurrected Christ’s body is truly present at the altar, it would have no reason to believe that He is fully present as Lord in the tabernacle of his mother’s body. And if a church does not believe that He who is the Saviour of the world is fully human and fully divine from the moment of His conception, it would have no way to understand that there is a sacramentality to our bodies, to our lives as the enfleshment of His divine love. God did not create us apart from our bodies, nor will He resurrect us apart from them. God creates us in these bodies that we may live. For it is in a body that life is experienced. It is in a body that we see the world around us. It is in a body that we hear our names. It is in a body that we feel pain when we are cut or bruised. It is in a body that terror smells as foul as sweat. It is in a body that delight glimmers as a smile. It is in a body that the pressure of a hand’s touch tells more about a person’s heart then their words might ever reveal. It is in a body, as St. Paul preaches, that we will groan for redemption (Romans 8:22). Real presence does not evaporate because the world looks the other way.
The abortion industry has worked hard to convince us that life is not a good gift from a good God. For them, the earth is not the Lords’ and its fullness thereof. The flowering of this industry and its ideology in the twenty-first century is the fruit of an anti-theology void of sacramentality. And as with many social issues, it has gained purchase because it has cast itself as part of a justice issue, and like many such arguments it begins with the simple and moves to the complex. People nod their assent to a series of truisms or generalities, until, before they know it, they are caught in an ever-tightening web. This is how it goes: Men have had a power that woman have not had. All one has to do is read a classic history book or check the statistics on pay scales for men and women who work at the same jobs. You can look at the pay differentials for careers that have traditionally belonged to women and see of how much less monetary value they are as compared to those which have traditionally been associated with men. Upper body strength aside, pregnancy and the potential need for maternity leave and care of children are where crucial differences lie. If the playing field was equitable and just, and women could continue in their self-determined and commercial worth, well then, the society might value them as much as it values men. And then indeed women would be able to live as “freely” as men in all aspects of their lives from the economic to the sexual. Who can argue against that? Aren’t men and women equal? Access to legal abortion is critical for such equality.
Here is an example of such an argument in classic form from the Pro-choice Action Network of Canada presented in an essay entitled, “Legal Abortion: the Sign of a Civilized Society”:
The process of becoming civilized is a long and painful one. 10,000 years ago, we lived short, brutish lives in caves. Although we soon advanced to huts and houses – and palaces for the privileged few – our lives largely remained short and brutish. Here and there over the past 2000 years, ordinary people were deemed to have some rights, too, not just kings, popes, and emperors. At first, these rights extended only to men, or to landowners, or to those of the right colour or heritage… Only 73 years ago, the world officially condemned slavery. The enlightened recognition that enslaving people was evil made it possible to actually try and stop it… Mandatory motherhood is a unique kind of slavery that specifically victimizes women and children. About one-third of the world’s women live in countries where enforced motherhood rules the day. Not too long ago, perhaps women’s biology was their destiny. But no more. With the advent of modern contraception and quality reproductive care, there’s no excuse for forcing women to bear children against their will, or failing to provide basic maternal care, or compelling women to seek out illegal, unsafe abortions…
Then after recounting the numerous health risks of childbirth and the relative safety and ease of abortion the essay shows its true colours:
When women can control their reproduction, it leaves them free to pursue higher education and careers, and to plan their lives and families. Women should not be expected to sacrifice their personal and economic freedom to have babies they don’t want.
The pro-abortionist argument has changed through the years, and the legalization and social acceptability of abortion is at the crux of the presentation of the ever-developing argument. When Margaret Sanger and her cohorts formed the American Birth Control Federation of America, the forerunner of Planned Parenthood in the early twentieth century, this “justice” issue was framed in terms of care for the poor and the lessening of the burden of the underclass on the general society. Then the rationale that existed fifty years ago, just before Roe v. Wade, when young unmarried pregnant women were still banished, was about removing the shroud of shame that colored a woman’s life or about how illegal abortions brought about death for poor women, but that rich (white) women could always find a clean surgeon’s knife. As the issue of societal and cultural shame diminished for unwed mothers, newer arguments were framed, arguments that would not be necessary if abortion were not a widespread legal practice and an especially an expectation in the North American context for women who do not want to bear the child with whom they are pregnant. Threads of the earlier argument remain but when abortion is a legal entity a different “justice” argument must be made in the face of those who seek to expose the fallacy of these presuppositions. The justice issue now is about the rights of the mother over the rights of the fetus, or even of the father. Again, it is precisely the opposite of what St. Paul has to say: “Present your bodies as a living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1). As the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) teaches, “focusing on the fetus always has dire legal and social consequences for women, and devalues women,” and “true justice demands that women not be compelled to bear children they don’t want.”
As we can once again clearly see, human justice is never quite God’s justice. The lack of focus on the fetus and the absence of any language that speaks of either the embryo or fetus as a life in relationship to his or her mother is standard in Planned Parenthood’s propaganda. Depending upon how advanced a woman’s pregnancy is, she can have either a medical (i.e. drug-induced) abortion or a surgical one. The instruction video explaining a medication abortion speaks about the abortion feeling more natural, as if the woman were experiencing a miscarriage, which she may now experience in the privacy of her own home, and if she wants no one else to know, is left to feel the pain alone.
Currently, in the United States, approximately one out of three women between the ages of 22 and 45 has had a legal abortion. Included in this group are not only young single poor women or women for whom the aborting of their child was considered the only means available to save their life, but married women, educated women, working women. Forty percent of women between the ages of 40 and 55 in the U.S. have had abortions. Following Roe v. Wade in the U.S. and the Morganthaler Law in Canada, the rationales for having an abortion multiply. This is yet another example of how we make the law (or seek justice) in our in our image and likeness when there is no external (i.e. divine) standard. Again, the ARCC now teaches, “women have the right to abortion even if the fetus is a legal person with rights, because a pregnant woman has the right to defend life and health with an abortion,” and most damning of all, “the pregnant woman’s opinion is the only one that counts. A fetus becomes a person when the woman carrying it decides it does.” The creation of life is no longer considered as God’s domain, but only the human’s.
An extreme form of the pro-abortionist’s argument posits that abortion is a form of self-defense against the invading fetus. With legalized abortion, they state that there is a higher risk of death for mothers during childbirth than there is during a legal abortion, and since no mother is under obligation to donate an organ or even blood to save a child’s life, neither is she under any obligation to risk her life for an unwanted child. ARCC states, “A fetus is not ‘innocent’…[for] it is co-opting the woman’s body and endangering her health against her will…The woman has a right to defend herself with an abortion.” Because modern medicine has given us a glorious view into the expectant womb, it becomes harder and harder to deny that there is life in there, so they try to move their rationale away from the discussion of the rights or life of the growing fetus. Part of their goal is to move the question of when does life begin to realm of opinion, to something which cannot be known in fact, but which is purely subjective. Because recent medical advances have given us the ability to view life in the womb as well as given us the ability to sustain early pre-term babies, abortionists have had to change the basis of their argument. For while a secular society may never agree on when life ‘becomes’ sacred, or even when life becomes viable, there is simply scientific evidence of life, real life, of a human person, in the tiniest form, so beautiful that all we can do is grab a sharp intake of air, now speechless with awe. Instead of denying that this little one is a person with rights they move the arguments to speak of how the presence of a fetus, even if it has rights, does not supersede the rights of the mother. If there ever was an anti-Marian theology, this is it. “Let it be to me according to your will” is not part of the pro-choice vocabulary, a vocabulary in which the self believes it is God. In “The Fetus Focus Fallacy,” Joyce Arthur of ARCC writes about her own abortion experience:
The thing that enraged me then, and still does today, is this single overriding thought: How dare they. How dare anyone tell me what I can do with my body, my life…Ultimately, I am the final arbiter when it comes to my life. And my decision-making ability includes deciding the fate of my embryo or fetus. Since it lives inside my body and is completely dependent on me and no-one else for its survival, it literally belongs to me and no-one else.
Among the many things she misses, including the sovereignty of God and the faith that every child belongs first to God, is that now the fetus is a slave to her whims, since she clearly states that the woman has de-humanized the child to an it. It is property that belongs to her, and she has the right to grant life or terminate it.
With the expansion of such an ideology, what was done in dire circumstances is now a fact for one-third of the female population and by extension to the males who impregnated them. We see the fall from Eden with a glaring clarity, as one sin compounds into another. Denial becomes a collective expression of anesthesia, for if, as psychologists have long reported, that the death of a child is the deepest grief that anyone can experience, then the minimization that this little one in the womb is truly a child of great value must be repeated at every opportunity. As one of the cornerstones of the abortion industry’s propaganda, it must be maintained at all costs. What happens to a woman who has undergone an abortion and a few years later “happily” finds herself pregnant? Now, once the pregnancy is confirmed, she receives pre-natal vitamins and specialized care. She sees pictures of the embryo and then fetus in development, she hears a heartbeat at her doctor’s office, she eats for two, she feels that first kick. Will her denial break down, that the one whom she aborted was more than mere inconvenience or just some unformed tissue? Will she try to come up with a rationale depending upon in what week of her pregnancy the abortion took place? Or will the new life in her speak with such clarity through his or her presence, that she can no longer deny that this indeed is life?
A fetus (which means “young one” or “offspring”), in the third month of his or her development in utero, in addition to having use of her arms or suck his thumb, has fully developed vocal cords—the ability to cry out. It is only the absence of air in that sea of amniotic fluid that keeps such sound from coming to fruition in our ears. A percentage of abortions that are performed in the U.S. and Canada are in women who have already born a child but who don’t want one more at that particular time. How great must their denial become in order to suppress the sound of their aborted child’s cry? How much greater will their shame be if anyone were to find out? Greater than that of the pregnant teenager? Abortion has not made life better for them in terms of their relationship with God and neighbor, for while it may have given them an opportunity for temporary economic stability or advancement, or it may have helped them exit an abusive relationship, it has not given them the means to live their lives in the peace that comes from trusting that God is the author and giver of life. If this now aborted life wasn’t God’s child, then any faith that their own life was, has disappeared. And living life apart from such faith is a living death, for living as if everything depended on them rather than on God is a heavier burden, a tighter yoke than they could have imagined. If they don’t buy into the pro-abortion culture of denial, they will be faced with the magnitude of their sin, which can only come to an end when it is laid at the foot of the cross. They, in particular, need a vision of Mary: thirteen, poor, on the edge of being dismissed from her betrothed, sheltering in her rounded womb One who would have made her un-marriageable to anyone else, One by whom no earthy gain could be had, One whom she would know from the start was more than her creation, One whom she would adore, One whose suffering and death would piece her soul. With love, there is always the possibility of grief and death, sorrow and loss. With love, there is always the possibility of healing. With love that trusts God so as to place the life of another above ones own life, there is always hope, (i.e., suffering, endurance, character, and hope) hope that causes us to move within His will (Romans 5:3-5).
There is no doubt that men, hell-bent in their own way, have raped women in and out of marriage. They have pillaged and destroyed lives in a physical expression of earthly conquest. There is no doubt that they have defied God when they visited prostitutes, seduced young girls, or taken their sisters and daughters to their beds. There is no doubt that somewhere in every family history on earth there is a life that was the product of rape. Having women act like men when they are behaving at their worst is not the answer, in fact it will only perpetuate the problem. There will be no need for the man to change his rough and violent ways if abortion is an acceptable “final solution” to an inconvenient or inopportune conception. (This has been recently documented by the undercover work of Live Action, which shows how easy it is for a pimp to arrange an abortion at a Planned Parenthood clinic for an underage girl so that she can go back to work as a prostitute.)
The woman who aborts is no greater sinner than the man who impregnates a woman who is not his wife (Matt 5:21-22; 27-28). She has simply become like the man whom she despises, the man who has treated her as less than human. Ironically, it is she, not he, who will be undergoing the surgeon’s knife in an abortion. But in addition to losing the child and losing a piece of her humanity, she is losing what it means to have been chosen by God to have a womb, for of all the gifts with which He endows us is there anything greater than His entrusting to her the sacred place in which to care for another in her very body? How He must love her to have created her with such capacities. How He must love her to have created her to bear His most sacred possession, His children. How He must love her, for it is by a woman that He will choose to enter the world in a way that we could at last know Him. When the angel tells Mary she will conceive and bear a son we learn that He who will grow in her womb will share all of what it means to be human with us, even nine months in utero.
Those nine months, those holy months in which Mary sings of what God has done for her are remembered for our sake in the church’s witness through the liturgical year. Those months are remembered, because those are the number of our months, too, and because the one who comes to life in Mary’s womb spends those nine months there for each of us. Nine months between March 25 and December 25, nine months between conception and breath, nine months between an angel’s whisper and the heavens so full of glory that not one angel could keep silent. On March 25 our hope begins, for on March 25 the world turns on its axis, for just when day and night are divided at the vernal equinox, just as the lambs are being prepared for the Passover (Nisan 14 on the lunar calendar), just when the Jews are recounting the mighty acts of God, the name of our Saviour is sung into a Virgin’s ear. It is an annunciation for all the world to hear. All men and women who seek to use their bodies faithfully need to lean towards the sound of Gabriel’s voice until they, too, arrive at Mary’s heart. She will lead them to Jesus, for her body is the sanctuary in which He dwells, her womb is the place of mercy incarnate, and in the witness of her trust, she will help them to see the greatness of God’s love for them and for their children.
When I left my first call in Canada and moved back to the States I learned an odd form, a terrible form of what could only be called situation ethics. (Abortion was not yet legal in Canada, but was in the U.S.) The scenario went something like this: I would never have an abortion, but since I can’t walk in your shoes (or sleep in your bed or live in your family relationships), I can’t tell you what to do. There are many options, and the church documents which speak of abortion as a “tragic option/last resort” were ever before me. Even if I were to say that abortion were wrong for me in any circumstance, since it is a legal option I had learned that I had no right to make the determination for you about what path you should pursue. I could ask the woman (and it was always a woman who came to talk to me, never a man and woman together) what she thought her options were, and they would always fall roughly into four categories: (1) Have the baby and live as a single-parent. (2) Marry the father if she who knew who the father was and he wasn’t a dangerous or abusive man, or wasn’t already married. (3) Adoption, giving the baby a chance to grow in love in a stable and secure family. (4) Abortion, the end of the pregnancy. I could have a conversation about the outcomes of all four categories, but I had learned from my pastoral colleagues and from my wider denominational community to stop short at leading the woman to a decision.
After making the case in a generic way for one of the first three options, I would simply let her know that with whatever option she choose, she would have pain, and I would continue to walk with her in her pain and help her find the immediate resources she needed if she were to keep the baby. I also let her know that were she to bear this child, she would have joy, albeit in the midst of pain, but she would have joy. My concern in that moment was to keep her relationship with the church open and active, because almost every woman who came to see me came with her head bowed and heart filled with disgrace.
But somewhere along the way, I lost that post-modern spirit of pastoral “neutrality” for I realized that if the woman choose Option 4 she would be choosing death, a literal death for her child, a spiritual and existential death for herself and maybe also for her baby’s father. Were she to seek an abortion she would be guilty of a great sin, but so would the constellation of people who had part in shaping her path—a father or uncle or teacher or friend of the family who first sexually abused her, a mother who sided with a step-father after he had abused her, a boy who date-raped her. When I trained as a chaplain in a juvenile chemical dependency unit, I met thirteen- and fourteen-year-old girls who would go drinking with groups of boys, naively wanting some male attention, and then when the girl was incapacitated and inebriated each boy would have his sexual turn with her. Some of these fourteen-year-old girls had had sexual intercourse with more than a hundred boys, and not once did any of them describe receiving any sexual pleasure from those encounters, just pain and shame, which they would try to hide in alcoholic obliteration.
It took me along time to know how to speak to a young woman in such a way that she could see her own complicity in the sin – remember St. Basil and the prostitute who has now become a murderer – without placing the weight of everyone else’s sin on her shoulders. That didn’t happen until I started hearing the experiences and finally the confessions of women who had had abortions ten or twenty or even thirty years earlier, who were still in pain until they left it in confession at the cross, still in pain until they were embraced by the love of the Resurrected One. And from the testimony of those women I finally returned to the Apostolic witness and truly learned to speak of the love that is greater than sin.
For with my eyes now opened I could see that Option 4 (abortion) was no option at all as it was the only one that would lead to more pain because it involved the death of another. Regardless of whether or not the woman had been a willing participant in the conception, this pain would simply go on, either actively or in the form of denial.
When I look at the evolution of the social statements from the ELCA and ELCIC and their predecessor bodies I can now see where the persuasion began. The church bodies were being reflective of the prevailing society which approved of “therapeutic abortion” and which gradually moved found more and more reasons that could be included under therapeutic. There is a point where the statements move from the declaration that abortion is an option only to save the life of the mother to stating that there is no consensus, which leaves the individual with the ultimate decision. What happens then is precisely what I mistakenly did, for in announcing that there is no consensus, we are collectively saying that all sorts of behaviors are acceptable. The decision about abortion becomes not only personal but privatized. No one else can validly comment when human experience is privileged over Apostolic witness. What is missing from the church’s social statements is any sense that the full humanity of Jesus, the sacramentality of His life even in utero, and the witness of Mary is where the discussion should start. And when a discussion starts at the wrong place it is more often than not likely to end in the wrong place. At the root of the social statements is an ethics based on the current cultural and legal situation, masked in a generic concept of love and a myopically human concept of justice, not one that is divine.
What happens to a woman who has had an abortion and then seeks to talk to a pastor when she is overcome with sorrow, guilt, or despair? If the pastor understands abortion to be a morally acceptable option, the woman’s confession and repentance will not be answered with absolution. She will be denied the forgiveness of sin that she so desperately needs in order to begin anew, and her misery will lead to some inwardly or outwardly destructive expression. The pastor, unwittingly, and the even the denomination are then extensions of an abortion industry in which during the era between 1980 and 2000, 99.3% of legal abortions performed were for non-therapeutic reasons.
Our silence becomes consent to continued fracturing of the family through the misuse of the good gift of sexuality. The woman did not become pregnant alone, so there is at least a community of two whom God intends to use to care for every child conceived. Men and women are called to guard the life of every child in the womb, just as Joseph did in sheltering a pregnant Mary. Joseph becomes a participant in the life of Jesus as the guardian, a true model of manhood, so that Mary can be the mother she was intended to be. As the Liturgy of St. Basil sings, “From you, God took flesh and became a little child, He, who is from eternity our God. Your womb, He took as throne. Your body, He made wider than the heavens.” Your body, He made wider than the heavens—The Lord is with her, so that He may be with all of us, from our conception unto eternal life. Sanctum, Sanctum Sanctorum: In the mystery of God’s will, her womb surrounds the only Son of the Father from eternity. Sanctum: In the mystery of God’s will our wombs are His sanctuary of mercy for all the world.
The Rev. Dr. Amy C. Schifrin serves as pastor of Mission in Christ and Faith Lutheran Churches in the Iowa Mission District of the North American Lutheran Church. This piece was originally published in The Lake Louise Commission: The Sacred Family (Delhi, New York: American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, 2011), and is reprinted with permission.
 Lilo T. Strauss, M.A., Joy Herndon, M.S., Jeani Chang, M.P.H., Wilda Y. Parker, Sonya V. Bowens, M.S., Suzanne B. Zane, D.V.M., Cynthia J. Berg, M.D., Division of Reproductive Health National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, “Abortion Surveillance—United States, 2001,” CDC/National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion/Division of Reproductive Health, http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5309a1.htm .
 Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.) “We confess the Holy Virgin to be the Mother of God because God the Word was made flesh and became man from the moment of conception.” See also Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article VII.10, “Therefore we believe, teach, and confess that the Son of man according to his human nature is really (that is, in deed and in truth) exalted to the right hand of the omnipotent majesty and power of God, because he was assumed into God when he was conceived by the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb and his human nature was personally united with the Son of the Most High.” Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, trans. and ed. Theodore Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959), 488.
 “Our particular concern here is what the being and nature of the unborn child as a besouled body or an embodied soul from the very beginning of existence in the womb of the mother. The unborn child is already a human being “in germ,” as it were…That is to say, the human being is already genetically complete in the womb from the moment of conception, when the body and soul of the new human being grow together in the womb of the mother and in living relation to her. The human genome thus come into being is laden by the Creator with all the information that is needed for development.” Thomas F. Torrence, “The Being and Nature of the Unborn Child,” Theology Matters 6, no 4 (Jul/Aug 2000): 2.
 St. Irenaeus
 Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, trans. and ed. Theodore Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959), 345.
 The Epistle of Barnabas 19:5
 Didache 2:2
 Abortion: What Does the Church Teach? The Orthodox Perspective on Abortion, as Presented to the United States Supreme Court in THE AMICUS CURIAE* (*Friend of the Court) BRIEF, (Ben Lomomd, CA: Conciliar Press, 1989): 7.
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics (New York: Macmillian, 1965): 179.
 Roe v. Wade attempts to show that “Abortion was philosophically and morally grounded in Judeo-Christian tradition. To the extent such perception is the foundation of Roe, the Orthodox Church bears an undivided witness to the fact that it is a perception which is utterly inconsistent with the experience of historic Christianity…The Church’s teaching represented a significant departure from Aristotelian thought, and from the beginning regarded abortion as abhorrent and an abomination before God.” Abortion: What Does the Church Teach?, 5-6.
 Abortion: What Does the Church Teach?, 8.
 The easy availability of legal abortion is only “necessary” when it is indeed used as birth control. Now that it is legal, pro-abortionists are not afraid to uphold this practice. ARCC literature states that, “It’s only in the last 50 years or so that women, at least in the western world, have really achieved the means to control their own fertility. Many reliable methods of contraception exist to choose from, and when all else fails, we now have legal and safe abortion. Abortion is a crucial backstop for contraception, it’s the birth control method of last resort. It’s impossible for women to really control their fertility without access to abortion because no contraceptive is 100% effective, and because women can’t always access birth control or may not use it correctly.” Joyce Arthur, “Paternity, Patriarchy, and Reproductive Rights,” Speech given 12/2/06 at the Remember me” memorial in Vancouver, BC, http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/action/paternity.html
 “The Blessed Virgin Mary was the first human person who could say of Jesus, “This is my body, this is my blood.” She was the first altar of the Incarnation’s mystery. Her body a fitting temple, she was the prime analogate for those who know and live the mysteries of transubstantiation.” John F. Kavanaugh, “This Is My Body,” America, 169, Issue 19: 23.
 “Our God is the God who gives life instead of the death of the world. Right there, it seems to me, is the most radical contradiction to abortion—that God desires that al persons, whom he has created, live and not die. And surely the child in the womb is included in that number…We clever human beings may fertilize human eggs in a petri dish and even clone ourselves, but God furnished the initial cells and the DNA, and apart from his creation of life, our science would be impossible. We come from God, and his purpose for all of us—born and unborn—is that we live.” Elizabeth Achtemeier, “Abortion and the Sacraments,” Theology Matters 5, no. 3 (May/June 1999): 2.
 For a comprehensive study on the change in the Christian communities attitudes towards abortions and societal influences see, Mark G. Toulouse, “Perspectives on Abortion in the Christian Community from the 1950’s to the Early 1990’s,” Encounter 63, no.4 (Autumn 2001): 327-403.
 Pro-abortion activists will blame all the world’s ills on this differentiation of the sexes. “…in my view, the biggest difference by far between men and women, the only one that’s really important – is that women can bear children and men cannot. I think that difference, in one way or another, directly or indirectly, accounts for virtually all the oppression and violence against women we see in the world today.” Joyce Arthur, “Paternity, Patriarchy, and Reproductive Rights,” Speech given 12/2/06 at the Remember me” memorial in Vancouver, BC, http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/action/paternity.html
 Elizabeth Achtemeier clearly posits the opposing Christian view, “…the siren song of our society is very strong: women should be able to maintain control over their bodies and personal lives; lifestyles, education, future plans should be undisturbed and left in comfort; the weak and helpless can be sacrificed to the able; there are some who will never contribute to the material wealth of the nation or who will cost it money, and who therefore should be eliminated. Control, comfort, ability, wealth—these characterize the goals of our society and prop up the demands fro abortion rights. And everyone of them contradicts the unique life asked of Christians, for Christians are called to turn over control of their lives to God in Jesus Christ and to look for all their ability and welfare from their Lord.” Elizabeth Achtemeier, “Abortion and the Sacraments,” Theology Matters 5, no. 3 (May/June 1999): 2.
 Pro-choice Action Network was subsumed under the Abortion Right Coalition of Canada (ARCC) in 2005.
 Joyce Arthur, “Legal Abortion: A Sign of a Civilized Society, c. October, 1999, http://www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/civilize.html
 Joyce Arthur, “How to Think about the Fetus,” http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/presentations/fetusposter.pdf . NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) Pro-Choice America calls their upholding of federally funded abortions in the face of current house bill H.R. 3 as a “War against Women.” http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/media/press-releases/2011/pr03032011_hr3.html
 Johnston, W. R., 4 June 2008, “Historical abortion statistics: United States,” on line, Johnston’s Archive, http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/uslifetimeab.html . See also Alan Guttmacher Institute, Jan. 2008, “An overview of abortion in the United States,” Guttmacher Institute, on line http://www.guttmacher.org/media/presskits/2005/06/28/abortionoverview.html
 Ironically and tragically, as the availability of early sonograms and legalized abortion spread throughout the world, female fetuses are being aborted at alarming rates. The issue of sex selection as a basis for abortion will hold unforeseen consequences for the global community. See Joe Carter, “The Global War Against Baby Girls,” First Things: On the Square, March 16, 2011. http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2011/03/the-global-war-against-baby-girls
 Johnston, W. R., 4 June 2008, “Historical abortion statistics: United States,” on line, Johnston’s Archive, http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/uslifetimeab.html
 Joyce Arthur, “How to Think about the Fetus,” http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/presentations/fetusposter.pdf . See also Joyce Arthur, “The Fetus Focus Fallacy,” Pro-Choice Press, Spring 2005, http://www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/articles/fetus-focus-fallacy.shtml
 Joyce Arthur, “How to Think about the Fetus,” http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/presentations/fetusposter.pdf .
 Eileen L. McDonagh, “Adding Consent to Choice in the Abortion Debate,” Society 42, no. 5. (July/August 2005): 18-26.
 Joyce Arthur, “The Fetus Focus Fallacy,” Pro-Choice Press, Spring 2005, http://www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/articles/fetus-focus-fallacy.shtml
 Lila Rose, President of Live Action, http://www.watchglennbeck.com/video/2011/february/glenn-beck-show-february-18-2011-planned-parenthood-exposed/
 Mark G. Toulous, “Perspectives on Abortion in the Christian Community from the 1950’s to the Early 1990’s,” Encounter 62, no 4 Aut 2001: 342-343.
 http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/Social-Issues/Journal-of-Lutheran-Ethics/Portfolios/Social-Statements-of-the-ELCA/Predecessor-Church-Body-Documents/American-Lutheran-Church/Abortion-A-Statement-of-The-American-Lutheran-Church-1976.aspx ; http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/Social-Issues/Social-Statements/Abortion.aspx
 Shades of ELCA CWA 2009, where there is also “no consensus,” so that anything becomes acceptable.
 “When the Church bases its morality in circumstances rather than the Law, it puts human beings in peril, both physically and spiritually. When a young woman enters an abortion clinic and finds and attractive religious brochure with her denomination’s name on it, sanctioning her abortion decision, the defenses of her own troubled conscience are broken down. The church has abetted her spiritual peril. When the Church then denies her need for forgiveness by regarding abortion as morally equivalent to preserving innocent human life, it has set up a barrier to her healing and reconciliation with God.” Terry Schlossberg, “The Duties of Love: A Christian Response to Abortion,” Theology Matters (May/June 2005): 13.
“1,506,770, or 99.3%, of the annual number of 1,517,290 abortions from 1980 through 2000 were “lifestyle,” or non-therapeutic abortions. (Therapeutic abortions include the “hard cases,” abortions performed when the mother’s life or health is at risk, when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest and when testing predicts fetal birth defects.)” Marybeth T. Hagen, Abortion: A Mother’s Plea for Maternity and the Unborn (Ligouri, Missouri: Ligouri/Triumph Press, 2005): 55.
 Liturgy of St. Basil