If you do not read the blog of progressive Christian Fred Clark, aka “Slacktivist“, you should. You will not always agree with him, and he will infuriate you at times, but his ideas are often worth considering. Yesterday I checked Slacktivist and was surprised to find him citing the late evangelical apologist Norman Geisler on abortion. Fred cites this passage from Geisler’s Christian Ethics:
The one clear thing which the Scriptures indicate about abortion is that it is not the same as murder. … Murder is a man-initiated activity of taking an actual human life. Artificial abortion is a humanly initiated process which results in the taking of a potential human life. Such abortion is not murder, because the embryo is not fully human — it is an undeveloped person.
When it is a clear-cut case of either taking the life of the unborn baby or letting the mother die, then abortion is called for. An actual life (the mother) is of more intrinsic value than a potential life (the unborn). The mother is a fully developed human; the baby is an undeveloped human. And an actually developed human is better than one which has the potential for full humanity but has not yet developed. Being fully human is a higher value than the mere possibility of becoming fully human. For what is has more value than what may be. …
Birth is not morally necessitated without consent. No woman should be forced to carry a child if she did not consent to intercourse. A violent intrusion into a woman’s womb does not bring with it a moral birthright for the embryo. The mother has a right to refuse that her body be used as an object of sexual intrusion. The violation of her honor and personhood was enough evil without compounding her plight by forcing an unwanted child on her besides. … the right of the potential life (the embryo) is overshadowed by the right of the actual life of the mother. The rights to life, health, and self-determination — i.e., the rights to personhood — of the fully human mother take precedence over that of the potentially human embryo.
I had no idea that this was Geisler’s position on abortion.
Clark agrees with Geisler, but he also cares about protecting “potential” personhood:
What does that mean in practical terms? It means, for most of us, working to create a context for their choices in which they are never constrained by desperation or duress, by the market-worshipping coercion of penury, by fear or want or threat. It means working to establish a context in which financial support, vocational opportunity, human potential, human thriving and human dignity are not contingent or conditional or inconstant. It means creating a context which is hospitable to welcoming new life, and therefore a context in which the choice of hospitality is possible and promising. (If I were to choose a text for a sermon on the politics of abortion, it would be the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath.)
Sometimes, when I describe this role and this obligation, those who wish only to deny subsidiarity by a top-down decree criminalizing all abortion will accuse me of just trying to change the subject. But this is the subject. Subsidiarity teaches me that what is best for “the unborn” will be what is best for their mothers. The only way to “protect the unborn” is by protecting those carrying them — protecting their health, dignity, wellbeing, financial security, agency, and freedom.
Read the entire post here.