Social Justice Begins at Conception

Social justice is trendy nowadays. Homelessness. Poverty. Human trafficking. It’s cool to care about these social ills, even among non-Christians.

Curiously absent from the list is abortion. Indeed, many people complain that Christians focus too much on unborn babies and not enough on born people. Jesus said nothing about abortion, but said plenty about the poor and the hungry. So why do I talk about abortion so much.

If what we believe about abortion is true – that it kills an innocent human being – then abortion rises to the most important social justice issue of our day. That’s because it’s legal in all 50 states, throughout all nine months of pregnancy, and for virtually any reason. According to Planned Parenthood statistics, 3,315 unborn children are killed each day.*

Last time I checked, it wasn’t legal to starve people, force them to live on the streets, or traffic them for money. But it is legal to kill them before they’re born. Not only does our government protect that “right,” we help pay for it with our tax dollars.

So while Christians and non-Christians are united in helping people who are poor, homeless, and trafficked, the same care is not extended to unborn children. Most non-believers and even some believers don’t think abortion is morally equivalent to killing children. And the believers that do, seldom act to protect the unborn. Indeed, 27% of women who abort claim to be Catholic and 33% profess to be Protestant. That means Christians are killing their own children.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about people who are homeless, poor, and trafficked. The Church needs to intervene and serve these people. It does through thousands of programs around the globe. But surely killing them is a greater evil. Call me old-fashioned and un-trendy. Maybe my mission won’t be as exciting and cutting-edge. But I won’t stop until abortion is abolished. Nor should you.

Now it’s true that Jesus didn’t say anything about abortion, but that’s because children were almost universally considered a blessing. Had abortion been widely practiced, Jesus would have spoken against it.

He did address it indirectly, though. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor and explained what that looks like with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:27-37). He expects us to aid those who are vulnerable and defenseless. Without question, unborn children are the most vulnerable and defenseless. Ironically, when a child is in the womb – a place of protection and nurture – she is most at risk of attack by her mother. Once she’s born, though, all of the state’s laws and protections fall upon the newborn. The government will ensure her well-being.

I know you’ve heard about abortion almost all your life. You might be tired of hearing about it, perhaps even from me. But I urge you to never ignore it, never downplay it, and never stop acting to end it.

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*  “Abortion Incidence and Access to Services in the United States” in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2011, 43(1): 41-50.

Alan's monthly letter originally published May 2013

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Alan Shlemon

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