June 30, 2016

Hopelessness and hope: the end of Roe vs. Wade

by Jesse Johnson
Pro-abortion protesters at the Texas Capitol, opposing a law that would hold abortuaries to the medical standards of surgical centers.

Pro-abortion protesters at the Texas Capitol, opposing a law that would hold abortuaries to the medical standards of surgical centers.

This week the US Supreme Court struck down Texas’ attempts to regulate abortions by ensuring that the “surgical centers” that preformed them met the same regulations as every other surgery center in the state. The court said that this would be an “undo burden” on women, because “common sense” says that most abortion clinics fail to meet medical standards.

The ruling was shocking for a number of reasons. First, this case was completely backwards from the court’s previous abortion cases. In this case, it was the pro-life side that was advocating for women’s protections. In previous attempts to regulate abortion, the pro-abortion side of the argument made appeals to “back-alley abortions” and showed how eliminating abortion facilities would drive women to the “back alley” where they would be harmed.

Then came Kermit Gosnell, the serial killer who operated an abortion clinic as his cover. He killed not only babies in the womb, but also babies that were accidentally delivered alive, as well as a mother. Despite his “house of horrors” (the DA’s phrase), he was allowed to continue murdering people because there were no laws against having an abortuary soaked with cat urine, stained with blood, and filled with disease. In fact, while he was convicted of murder, Gosnell was actually first arrested for giving bogus prescriptions for pain killers.

In response, many states passed laws to make this kind of “back alley” facility illegal. At first, these laws even had the support of some “pro-choice” leaders. After all, weren’t they committed to getting rid of sub-standard care for women? But in the months that passed, it soon became evident that most abortion centers had more in common with the back-alley than with the surgery centers where every other kind of medical procedure is done.

For example, when the Texas law passed, Planned Parenthood openly said that the law would close most abortion centers in Texas. It turns out, they are not run by reputable doctors, and they have no ability to provide adequate medical care.

The result was an awkward shift: you had the pro-life people advocating for closing these back-alley facilities, and the “pro-choice” crowd lobbying for them to stay open.

But the law seemed to be on the pro-life side of this issue. After all, Roe vs. Wade expressly said that before the age of “viability” abortion should be regulated by the state’s legislatures. In this case, Texas did just that. And they didn’t really even over-reach. Their legislation was specifically tailored after Supreme Court precedent, designed to close Gosnell-like facilities, targeted abortions before the age of viability, and backed by medical testimony.

In a sense, the Texas legislature called the Supreme Court’s (and Planned Parenthood’s) bluff. SCOTUS and Planned Parenthood had always claimed to be concerned about protecting women, and they claimed states could regulate the procedure. So here was a law that accomplished both.

The result was that the Supreme Court basically said, “never mind” about that whole Roe vs. Wade provision that states could regulate abortion like other medical practices. In fact, the new opinion says “considerable weight” should be given to “arguments in court” instead of to the legislature. In his dissent, Justice Thomas noted how silly this is that the courts have now appointed themselves as “the country’s ex officio medical board” and made themselves not only the highest court in the land, but the highest doctors as well!

What are Christians supposed to think about all this? There are two responses: we are to be hopeless, and hopeful.

This case, along with the recent gay-marriage decision, serves to make us hopeless when it comes to political solutions for social problems. In both this and the California Proposition 8 case, the courts had said “state’s govern this issue, and so if you want change work there.” In both cases, Christians followed the rules, got politically engaged, passed the right laws in the right way according to the rules everyone else plays by, only to eventually get not only the law itself, but the entire rule book thrown out the window.

For 40-plus years we have been living with the idea that states get to regulate abortion, and the laws should protect women from the “back alley.” Turns out, not so much.

And it seems like this is true of every politically motivated approach to a social issue. We can march on the Supreme Court and pass laws all we want. In the end (it seems) there will be no political change.

But at the same time, we are hopeful. We are hopeful that as people grow up around ultra-sounds and in-utero surgeries that the lies told by the pro-abortion crowd will be obvious. As the carnage of abortion-as-birth-control continues to manifest itself, we are hopeful that people will realize the spiritual depravity behind their world view.

And when that happens, there can be no political solution.

In a sense, I’m thankful for the verdict this week, because it reminds us that the darkness in our world is real, and that people are spiritually blind. They can’t tell right from wrong, and they are in love with the darkness that blinds them. They love death more than life, and they don’t even know how to begin about seeing that they can’t see at all.

Christians, of all people, should be hopeful that the God will use us to bring them the gospel that will open their eyes to the truth. In as much as abortion is a political problem (and it is), it is hopeless. But in as much as it is a spiritual problem, we are hopeful because we have the answer.

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • Jason

    It’s common today to find a way to spin evil as good, but every time false motives are publicly declared. The goal is to set a trap to later call all opposition evil (though, generally, in more colorful language).

    Calling the bluff is a win/win, because it either solves a problem everyone agrees is harmful or it at least exposes that the professed motives are not real ones. Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling (Proverbs 26:27).

    I see this type of situation as hugely beneficial at waking the church from its stupor. I don’t know that this sort of obvious duplicity is going to snap anyone else out, but these events should do wonders to dispelling the unscriptural notion that people are “basically good” from believers.

  • Wrangler

    Great article. I’m hopeful… hopeful Christians will stop wasting millions on worthless lobbyists and invest in churches/organizations that actually help people. We must fight this one soul at a time. Love your insights Jesse.

  • Jane Hildebrand

    Come, Lord Jesus. :'(

  • Tim Brown

    Yup. As my grandmother would say, this was “bass ackwards”.

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