Abortion – The Central Sacrament of the Political Left

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
January 25, 2021

This past Friday, January 22, 2021 marked the forty-eighth anniversary of one of the darkest days in the history of the United States. Forty-eight years ago, the Supreme Court handed down the decision known as Roe v. Wade, and abortion on demand was effectively legalized throughout the nation.

Since that time, it is estimated that more than 62,000,000 unborn babies have died from abortions. When Roe turns fifty in 2023, those numbers will be even higher. It is hard to think of numbers on this scale, especially when we are talking about the loss of human life—62,000,000 missing Americans, most of whom would be alive if they had not been aborted in the womb. That is 62,000,000 children who never played in a little league game, who never experienced friendship and community, who never went to church, who were never afforded the glory of consciously bearing the image of God.

Numbers on this scale lead us to ask: How could abortion ever become thinkable? How did abortion become institutionalized, indeed, celebrated in American culture?

To be clear, abortion has existed for much of human history. Yet, it was also understood as evil, wrong, shameful, and abhorrent. Indeed, even contemporary abortion rights advocates demand that abortion be liberated from its moral stigma. That’s not going to happen, and not just because of some lingering moral prejudice on the part of human beings. Humans have an a priori knowledge within them by their Creator—a knowledge convincing us that life is sacred. When life is destroyed, there is something horrifyingly and unquestionably wrong, especially when the life lost is defenseless and innocent.

How, then, did a shift in American domestic policy lead us to this present moment in the abortion debacle? Even most conservative Christians fail to understand the arguments that established the plausibility of legal abortion on demand. The primary arguments did not begin with legal or constitutional reasoning; rather, abortion advocates started with an ideological contention rooted in two crucial developments. First was a creature of modernity, namely, radical individual autonomy. Anything that disrupts an individual’s pursuit to define his or her life must be eliminated—that includes an unwanted pregnancy.

The second ideological root of abortion is what became known as second-wave feminism. If there was a second-wave, then there must have been a first-wave, which happened a little over a century ago when women demanded voting and property rights along with a constellation of other legal reforms. First-wave feminists did not seek a transformation of the family unit or the institution of marriage—that came with the second-wave.

Indeed, second-wave feminism emerged after World War II when a general loosening of sexual morality occurred in the Western world. This second-wave demanded that women be equal with men in all respects and that the entire society must be re-ordered.

Equality is certainly a category that fits in certain circumstances and must, in every proper context, be affirmed. Men and women, for example, are equally made in the image of God. Yet, other categories exist where equality fails to make coherent sense: A man, as one simple example, cannot become pregnant, much less give birth. In that sense, he is unequal to a woman. Profoundly so.

Second-wave feminists contended that women do in fact have the rights to claim equality with men in all respects. This meant that women have the right to be equally unpregnant as men—that was one of the major arguments presented in defense of abortion.

A claim of equality in this respect necessarily rejects ontological, creational order. Yes, men and women are equal as image bearers but not in their skeletal structure or reproductive capacity. Christians, armed with a biblical worldview, understand that when a claim of equality collides with creation, we are looking at a profound act of rebellion – that will end with awful consequences.

Attempts to legislate the legalization of abortion at the federal level were a political impossibility in the early 1970s. Nevertheless, the arguments for abortion found traction in some states. Feminist hopes for a national legalization moved to the federal courts, where such arguments gained a positive hearing among judges ready to legislate from the bench.

The Constitutional arguments in favor of abortion rights eventually emerged from claims of a right to privacy. To be clear, you will not find a right to abortion spelled out in the Constitution—it isn’t there. Nor, of course, will you find a right to same-sex marriage. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court invented the right, handed down the Roe decision in 1973, and mandated that abortions become legal in all fifty states. Indeed, the author of the 7 – 2 majority decision, Justice Harry Blackmun, wrote in his memoirs that he had made up his mind that abortion should be legalized before he came up with a constitutional argument—he just had to come up with the legal theory later. Never mind the text of the Constitution.

In the aftermath of Roe, second-wave feminists believed they had secured an epic victory. It was claimed that the Supreme Court had settled the debate and that the nation would never need to revisit the issue of abortion.

Little did they know, the issue would be far from settled almost half a century after Roe.

Indeed, Roe v. Wade awakened the American conscience, which culminated in the pro-life movement and the election of Ronal Reagan to the White House in 1980. Though Reagan once signed an abortion rights bill as Governor of California, he altered his views dramatically. He even wrote a book defending the sanctity of human life and opposing abortion as a great moral evil – even when running for president in 1980.

In the decades after Roe, the Supreme Court has allowed states to put certain restrictions on abortion. But here is something crucial to understand about the abortion issue over the last fifty years: A state-by-state map of America before 1973 showing where abortions were legal or illegal would look relatively unchanged today in 2021. That is to say, the states that, prior to 1973, made abortion illegal are the states that have continued to do all they can to restrict access to abortions. Roe v. Wade did not settle the abortion debate in America—indeed, it solidified the convictions of the pro-life movement which is reflected in our contemporary political climate.

At the same time, the last forty-eight years have also revealed that abortion has become the central sacrament of the political left in the United States. This is evident in a tweet issued by President Joseph Biden on the forty-eighth anniversary of Roe. He stated: “As we mark the forty-eighth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, now is the time to rededicate ourselves to the work ahead. From codifying Roe to eliminating maternal and infant health disparities, our administration is committed to ensuring everyone has access to the healthcare they need.”

We ought not be shocked. As a candidate, Joe Biden made clear that if elected, he would move to see Roe codified through legislation. He also made clear that his views regarding the Hyde Amendment had changed—that amendment ensured that taxpayers would not be coerced into paying for the murder of unborn children. Now, however, Joe Biden has “evolved” with his own party, adopting a radical stance on abortion that now includes forcing Americans into funding the culture of death.

On the 21st of January, President Biden dispatched Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to the World Health Organization. He informed the WHO that the United States was rejoining the organization. He also played a political role in declaring that the United States would also revoke the “Mexico City Policy,” as part of “a broader commitment to protect women’s health and advance gender equality at home and around the world.”

Yet, his comments to the WHO reveal an immoral direction that the Biden administration is taking the United States. The Mexico City Policy is what the pro-abortion movement dubbed as the global-gag rule. This was a policy adopted by President Reagan and continued by every subsequent Republican administration. Conversely, every Democratic administration has revoked the policy. The rule prohibits non-governmental organizations that receive American funds to promote or conduct abortion internationally.

President Biden, like his Democratic predecessors, is ending that policy. He is now moving to end the Hyde Amendment, despite his many decades in support of it. If he keeps his campaign promises, he will also move to codify Roe. We can see where this administration is headed when it comes to the issue of abortion.

During his inauguration, President Biden spoke frequently about unity—he used the word or one of its forms more than ten times throughout his speech. The national media has jumped on the bandwagon, championing the president as the one who can unify this fractured nation. His policies, however, point to anything other than an attempt to unify the nation. From the issues of sexuality and gender, and now to the issue of abortion, President Biden is in lock-step with the radical wing of his party, marching with the culture of death and its pro-abortion agenda.

Interestingly, President Biden is understood to represent a resurgence of religious liberalism – a liberalism that promotes abortion, to be sure. Indeed, The New York Times ran two major articles this past Sunday, one by Elizabeth Diaz with the headline, “Liberal Christianity Ascends with Biden’s Faith.” As the article makes clear, while President Biden identifies himself as a devout Catholic, his theological and moral commitments stand in absolute contradistinction with the most fundamental and enduring teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

The other article in The New York Times was by Ross Douthat—himself both Catholic and an insightful analyst of the Roman Catholic Church. On the term “theological liberalism,” Douthat notes two possible meanings, which are, “On the one hand, a theological liberalism, which seeks an evolution in doctrine to adapt to modern needs; on the other, support for policies and parties of the center-left. In practice, though, the two tend to be conjoined. The American Catholic Church, as an institution, is caught between the two political coalitions, but most prominent Catholic Democrats are liberals in theology and politics alike.”

There is no accident that religious liberals turn out to be political liberals and that religious conservatives turn out, in the main, to be political conservatives. It is a question of authority, with massive implications. There is a lot to consider as we weigh through the moral complexities of our time. Christians, moreover, have a grave responsibility in this secular age: We must think and live in a way that is genuinely biblical and theologically orthodox. We must understand the conflict of worldviews that rage in our day.

When it comes to abortion, the difference is a matter of life and death.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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