[In late 1983, I founded the New England Christian Action Council (NECAC) when I lived outside Boston, completing my M.Div. at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. The motto of the NECAC was “biblically committed to protecting the unborn” and my initial newsletters were entitled “Contrabortion,” written for grass-roots pro-life Christians. I started my engagement with the subject in a reactive posture, that is, defining and critiquing it. But being committed to the biblical foundations in Genesis 1-3, I grew consistently more proactive across the years. So here are the original unvarnished articles, as my thinking was at the time.]
Contrabortion Vol. 1, No.1, June, 1984
Abortion as the Ultimate Male Chauvinism
John C. Rankin
Abortion is hailed by many as the “linchpin of modern society,” that indispensable ability to get rid of inconvenient or troublesome pregnancies. In this way, many women contend that they can overcome the “blind forces of nature.” It is seen as a necessary element in women’s liberation. Yet it would be well for abortion advocates, especially women, to consider how this “linchpin” really serves the interests of male chauvinists, of men who enjoy a selfish domination of women. In fact, an early feminist in mid-nineteenth century America, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, regarded abortion as “the degradation of women.”
When pregnancy occurs outside marriage, or in a marriage that is already in trouble, many men find it easy simply to leave. There commitment is low or nonexistent, and they do not want to embrace the responsibility of fatherhood. To a greater or lesser degree, the woman has become a sex object, a dehumanized piece of property. In this “gallant” absence of the man, the woman now faces three options; have the child, adopt the child out, or abort the child. Like Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter, she is forced to stand alone.
The first choice is made in favor of life, but it can be a hard choice too. For so many, this means living on welfare, with parents or relatives, or with a friend. The poverty rate for single households headed by women is very high, while the man trots along his merry way. What of adoption? Though the best option for some, especially teenagers, it still militates against the mother-child bond with its God-given strength. It too is a hard choice, which the woman faces because of the “sexual revolution.” Sexual “freedom” thus turns into financial, social, emotional and spiritual slavery for the woman. The man trots along.
And thus abortion is hailed as the deliverance from this slavery. But is it? What of the dead child? He or she was descended from the mother as well as the father, and in abortion, motherhood is also killed. The man has treated the woman as property, and this is evil. But in abortion, the woman in turn passes this evil chauvinism on by treating the child as a piece of property — to be disposed of as she was disposed of. One evil is made worse by another evil, and in the end the woman suffers the violation of her womb and cervix, faces emotional trauma, and the child gets trampled in the dust. Abortion is the ultimate and most horrible form of male chauvinism. The woman and the child suffer the pain, the anguish, the death. And the man trots along.
In Genesis 2:15-25, we learn that freedom is only possible within certain boundaries. As a toddler needs a fence to protect him or her from wandering onto a busy road, as a river needs its banks to channel its flow and energy, so also God has created marriage between one man and one woman as the boundary in which sexual love has freedom and fulfillment. As God designed the protection of Adam and Eve from death by prohibiting the fruit of one tree, he also designed the protection of true love by prohibiting sex outside marriage. Sex brings forth children in the order of God’s creation, and the boundary of marriage protects their freedom to see and enjoy the light of day.
Accordingly, when marriage is honored, and both husband and wife assume their biblical roles and responsibilities to one another, male chauvinism and abortion are prevented. Pregnancy is a particularly vulnerable time for women. And yet, through it, we have all come into life. The husband is called to honor his wife in this time, as always, providing for and protecting her. This gives her the freedom to embrace motherhood, since he is embracing fatherhood. To remove responsible fatherhood is to attack motherhood, leaving the woman and the child[ren] exploited. Only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is justice and joy to be found.