Gloucester Daily Times Debate on Abortion (30), January 23, 1986
Abortion: A Religious Issue
(Tom Griffith of Essex, and area resident since 1980, teaches and history at Fairhaven Christian School in Essex)
Readers of this paper have been treated lately to a war of words on the issue of abortion. That’s good; that’s the free press performing its highest function. Yet the arguments and slogans have sounded so familiar that you wonder if anybody is communicating.
I propose reviewing the basic disagreement. Having spent years in either camp, I know that most pro-lifers are not reactionary bigots, nor are most pro-choicers callous baby killers. In fact, the latter include some of the most idealistic, personally humane and well-represented people in such demanding fields such as social services, health care and education.
Yet they serve a world view, the implications of which they may not realize. Consciously or not, they are on the wrong side of the religious war.
Sound ridiculous? Religious wars, after all, are supposed to have ended centuries ago. And most pro-choicers would dent having any religious basis for their views.
Nonetheless, we all act from some set of beliefs that, for practical purposes, amounts to a religion. No one is above it, and no one is neutral. The systems of belief inevitably clash, and from those clashes come wars, revolutions and political strife.
In our day, the clash derives from a classically religious issue: the nature of the human soul. One one side are the western democracies, where individual rights are based on the Biblical idea that we are souls made in the image of God, and “endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.” On the other side are totalitarian states, chiefly communist, which deny the existence of the soul, define human life as purely materialistic and sacrifice individual rights to the collective good. In the one life enjoys divine sanction and is protected in the name of God. In the other, life is devalued and often destroyed in the name of man. One may be termed “God-ist,” and the other “humanist.”
It’s no accident that one of the first results of a communist revolution is a rather drastic “separation of church and state.” They know what’s at stake far better than naive secularists. And while they gradually abolish traditional rights (Nicaragua, most recently), they are quick to establish the new one: the right to abortion.
And why not? If there is nothing sacred about human life, let it be curtailed, at one end or the other, as requested by the needs of the state. Take, for example, the well-documented policy of forced abortion in China. To cut population growth, couples are limited to a single child. Women are pressured to abort any more than one, failing which the newborn is left to die, untreated. If twins are born unexpectedly, the mother is asked which one she wants to keep.
It all begins by denying the sanctity of the soul. That, in turn, opens a Pandora’s box of disregard for human life, that has made this century the bloodiest in history. The best safeguard of our liberties, with their religious foundation, is to uphold the reality of the soul. And it is real; to know this, you have only to view a body in a casket and ask honestly, “Is this all there is?”
Once the fact of the soul is grasped, the debate over “when life begins” drops quickly away. Life in its spiritual aspect begins with conception, as affirmed by 2,000 years of Western Civilization. But that fact can be denied; America can sink to the level of a totalitarian state. That is the vision which escapes pro-choicers, but haunts pro-lifers, and makes the context so bitter. And that is the dirty secret: it may be downplayed, but the abortion issue is religious. The pro-life movement fights for eternal souls — the innocent ones of the unborn and the imperiled one of our nation.