This Saturday will be the 49th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which has so bitterly divided our country over the intervening five decades. In one draconian decision, the Supreme Court overturned most of the abortion laws in the great preponderance of the individual states and opened the door for the avalanche of abortions that rapidly ensued (within two years the number of abortions in America exploded from around 250,000 per year to over 1.5 million).
The abortion issue is the societal equivalent of the chemical process of “distillation” whereby mixtures are distilled into their various separate component parts. Abortion is the issue, more than any other, which has distillated the various elements of our culture into their component parts. In other words, the abortion issue divides the American people on a very basic level on the most important question an individual or a society can ask itself: “Who and what is a human being?”
Historically, American society was based on the foundational precept that “All men are created equal.” Unfortunately, at the time of our founding, that foundational truth was not applied to all human beings. Racial minorities and women were not included. However, over time and with the courageous leadership and sacrifice of millions of our fellow Americans, we have continued, and will continue, to expand our understanding until “all God’s children” are recognized as equal.
Beginning in the late 1960s, many Americans have come to believe the country took a tragically wrong turn as too many Americans of the “Woodstock” generation increasingly emphasized personal rights and privileges at the expense of personal obligations and responsibilities. Many of these very same people who now believe this was a foolish and destructive direction to go took that wrong turn themselves and now understand the tragic damage it has inflicted on their personal lives and on their country. Unfortunately, many Americans have continued headlong down that self-absorbed road to destruction.
This spirit of highly inflamed self-regard has metastasized in our culture, generating powerful centrifugal forces exerting threatening, perhaps lethal, pressures on the essential baseline of common agreement that allows our republic to function.
First, we have a burgeoning belief among many of our citizens that human beings are really no different in value from the higher mammals, just more highly evolved, but still just the happenstance of evolution, without purpose or meaning beyond this earthly existence.
If you truly believe that, then abortion, euthanasia, and genetic engineering are all perfectly permissible morally and ethically. On the other hand, if you believe that human beings are unique as the special creation of the Creator, each one possessing the image of God, marred by the Fall, but still present, then abortion and other humanity-denying practices are horrific and to be resisted with every fiber of our being.
John Adams, one of the most conservative founders, was horrified by such atheism. Concerning the French Revolution, he said, “Is there a possibility that the government of nations may fall into the hands of men who teach the most disconsolate of all creeds that men are but fireflies and that this is all without a father? Is this the way to make man as man an object of respect? Or is it to make murder itself as indifferent” as “the extermination of the Rohilla nation...?”
Our country was founded in 1776 on the belief that all men are created equal. Now, of course, we all know that assertion is not true in the literal sense. For example, we all have differing cognitive abilities, athletic prowess, and musical skills.
In fact, every human being is genetically unique. Many of us believe that each human being is designed uniquely to fulfill God’s divinely ordained plan for each life (Ps. 139:13-16). One of my mentors, Dr. W. A. Criswell, used to say virtually every Sunday, “God never created a nobody. Everybody is a somebody to God!”
First, and foremost, however, the assertion that “all men are created equal” means that all human beings are of equal value. Consequently, every human being has the right “to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” If a person is a human being, he or she has the right to live. Whether they are old or young, productive, or mentally and physically challenged, they have the right as a human being to live.
If you believe that, and for most of our history, most Americans have believed just that, at least abstractly, then abortion is wrong and is a great moral outrage. The unborn baby is a human being. He or she has the inherent, unalienable, right to life because they are a human being.
Once you accept that concept, abortion is abhorrent and barbaric, unless it is performed as a defense against a serious threat to the mother’s continued life (unless you are pacifist, and I am not, it is permissible to take life in defense of life).
When we abandon that definition of human life, the world instantaneously becomes an exponentially more dangerous place. For several years now, abortion has become the leading cause of death both in the U.S. and globally. Yes, more human beings die from abortion every year in the United States than from any other cause.
What I have found most disturbing in the pro-abortion response to the possibility of the Supreme Court overturning or severely restricting Roe v. Wade is the complete lack of acknowledgment of the humanity of the unborn child. Every abortion stops a beating human heart. It is a baby! It is a human being. He or she deserves the right to life. It is their right as human beings.
As I have listened to their hysterical rhetoric about women’s rights and about individual autonomy, I kept wanting to say, “He or she is a human being!”
That leads me to the second destructive and lethal force sowing destruction in America —narcissism. Narcissism is the end product of self-regard that morphs into self-adulation. People caught up in this cult of self-worship assert and attempt to pursue with great dedication the mirage of self-fulfillment and self-actualization, at the expense of any other self, born or unborn.
Consequently, they have denigrated adoption as an alternative to abortion for an unwanted pregnancy. Why? Is carrying a fellow human being to term an unacceptable intrusion on the continuing pilgrimage of self-fulfillment?
I am aghast at the arguments that have been employed to seek to justify abortion on demand.
I was watching television yesterday and a public service announcement came on the screen urging people to donate to a group helping to get children and adolescents off the street. The segment asked the question, “How young does a victim have to be for you to care enough to help do something about their plight?” I thought, in light of the abortion issue, “How old does a child have to be before you regard him or her as a human being worthy of protection?”
It would seem to me that given the advances in human embryology in the past few years, it takes willful ignorance and denial to question the humanity of the unborn child.
Human babies have heartbeats four to five weeks after conception. At 7 weeks they have measurable brain waves and by 15 weeks they have lips, eyelids, and fingers (with unique fingerprints) and they can feel and react to pain.
He or she is a human being, and unless interrupted by the lethal violence of abortion, will be seen as human as any of us within a relatively short period of development within their mother’s womb.
Frankly, I believe abortion in 99% of abortion cases, is child sacrifice because his or her mother considers the child too embarrassing, too expensive, too ill, or merely too inconvenient.
We cannot as a country, have killed nearly 70 million of our unborn citizens without desensitizing ourselves. We have become entangled in the tentacles of the culture of death and it is dehumanizing all of us as a civilization and as a people. As the late, great Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
In the end, it is personal. Each abortion terminates a human life. It kills a baby. I want to share with you a poem I came across in 1989. I have a copy of it glued into the inside back cover of my Bible to remind me what is at stake in the battle for life.
“A Second Opinion”
There’s a little guy somewhere waiting
to appear, curled up inside
His mother’s protective atmosphere. He’s
the only one they didn’t plan on
He’s an extra mouth to feed. A
Neither of them need. He’s doctor bills
and formula, he’s sleepless nights and stress.
He’s wet and dirty diapers and a house that is a mess.
He could have been a newer car or a
cabin with a view. Or a cruise
or clothes or fancy shows or other
dreams come true.
So they talk about abortion, as
the alternative for that fetal imposition,
Who would change the way they live.
He isn’t really human. He doesn’t even breathe.
He’s just a misadventure,
They happened to conceive.
They sit there in the waiting room with
papers they must fill. The waivers
and consent forms. The arrangements for
They know it’s what they have to do.
There is no other way.
But once or twice they wonder
what that little guy might say.
“I wish you wouldn’t do this. I’ve got
so much to do
I have to learn to walk and talk and
to dress and tie my shoes.
I have to learn to whistle and I have
to learn to run.
I have to learn to say my prayers,
For when the day is done.
I have to watch for daddy with
Mommy at the door.
And I have to ride in carts, when
they take me to the store.
I have to blow out candles on
a lot of birthday cakes.
And pose for all the pictures Mommy
“And if you let them do this, I’ll never
learn to wave.
I’ll never have a birthday. I won’t
ever have a grave.
I’ll never play a game, and I’ll never
laugh or cry. I won’t even have a name.
And I’ll always wonder why?”
What a sad commentary on American culture. The spiritual poverty, narcissism, and self-worship of too many Americans have driven them to seek to behave any way they want to without any consequences. In a life-denying culture, the most vulnerable among us will always pay the heaviest price. And who can be more vulnerable than the innocent child developing in the womb?
God has revealed Himself to us as a God of justice and judgment. He has also revealed Himself to be a God of mercy and forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:9).
Our God is a forgiving and merciful Heavenly Father. But we would be foolish to confuse His patience with His tolerance.
As the prophet Jeremiah reminded God’s chosen people, “Shall I not visit for these things, saith the Lord: shall not my soul be avenged on such as nation as this?” (Jer. 5:29).
Join me in praying that God will give Americans a heart of confession, repentance, and forgiveness. Let us all pray God will forgive this monstrous sin of child sacrifice.
Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 until July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as an Executive Editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.
Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.