edit: Dr Portmann has commented on this post (see below) to clarify that she not only refers women for abortions but performs them. The post has been adjusted accordingly.
The last few days have seen the airing here in Australia of “Christians Like Us“, a reality TV show that put 10 people who claim to be Christians together in a house and then get them to debate the hot topics of the day.
One of those residents was Dr. Carol Portmann, described as an “obstetrician, gynaecologist and maternal fetal medicine specialist”. She also “helps women have abortions”. She’s an abortionist, in the wider sense of the word that she supports the principle of abortion and promotes it as an option for her patients. Her attempt to portray this as a legitimate “Christian” stance is one of the most repugnant things I’ve read online in a long time.
Portmann has decided to publicly defend this position by not only appearing on the show but also writing an article for the ABC News site, “I’m a Christian doctor and I help women have abortions. Here’s how I reconcile that“. Except what Portmann doesn’t do is try to reconcile anything. Instead she propagates a decidedly non-Christian argument.
How do I reconcile my work with my Christian faith?
The way I look at it is: I have a job to do as a doctor, regardless of my personal feelings about something. It’s not my decision, because it’s not my pregnancy or my body. Ultimately, the one thing God really granted us above anything else is free will.
And it continues with all the usual arguments that you will have read before. What is apparent from Portmann’s short piece is that she has a genuine concern for women who present themselves at her practice with big complex decisions to make. She is critical of those who “judge” and “bully” them and has words of praise for those who are “trying to support women by giving them options that may provide alternatives”.
All well and good. But at the end of the day she is still going to sign a referral paper so that her patient can go to an abortion clinic and ask a “doctor” (it’s almost mendacious to use such a word for what they do) to dismember their child while it’s still in their womb and then suck out the crushed ripped and torn body parts with a vacuum. Or she will dismember the child herself. On the odd occasion the child will be born alive it may then be killed after birth or left to die.
How any of this can be spoken of as a “Christian” position is beyond me. It’s not Christian to support women in doing these things, no matter what pressures they may be facing in life. It’s even more abhorrent to participate in them.
Historically, Christians were known for the exact opposite. We were the ones who sought the welfare of “unwanted” children. So, for example, this famous extract from the late 2nd Century Octavius of Minicius Felix which describes a debate between the pagan Caecilius and Christian Octavius:
CAECILIUS: You know that it is far more merciful to let the baby die than to bring it up in a home where it is not wanted.
OCTAVIUS: We do not expose our children, and you are well aware how so many of the little ones that have been left out to die have been rescued by Christians and given a home. So it’s just the opposite of what you accuse us of, Caecilius. We don’t consume human life; we rather protect and defend it.
This, of course, stems from a key Christian belief in the sanctity of all life. It’s grounded in Bible texts such as the following:
Psalm 139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Now there is a Christian position. Portmann, on the other hand, tears apart what God has knit together, vacuums out what God has fearfully and wonderfully made. She sees the unformed body and completes the necessary paperwork or the procedure itself so that it can be unwoven again. Except that it’s far more like a dog brutally ripping up a favourite item of clothing.
Most chillingly of all, Portmann advocates “free will” as the greatest gift of God of all and yet is openly supportive of totally removing it from the most vulnerable amongst us.
It’s not an argument she would accept for a moment in any other situation.
She would, I’m sure, be horrified if a slave-owner was supported by those who defended their “free will” as a rationale for continue slave ownership. It’s basically the same issue – if you think slaves are human beings then chattel slavery becomes unimaginable.
Don’t like slavery? Don’t have slaves.
My slave and land, my decision.
It doesn’t really work, does it? That’s why fighting against slavery has been the overwhelmingly consistent Christian position for 2,000 years. Abortion is a step worse; rather than stealing someone’s life we simply destroy it.
None of this weighs heavily on Portmann’s conscience:
But I believe that I am doing the appropriate and right things, and I am hoping that’s how I will be judged. I also believe that only God can judge me.
Indeed, only God is able to judge. But in the meantime there are many of us who will point to what he has already said on this topic. We will keep observing that the Scriptures call us to defend the weak and those who have nobody else to speak up for them.
James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
The keen-eyed reader will note that the instruction its to look after orphans, not support the decision for their destruction in the womb prior to even having the chance to be cared for. The Christian doesn’t care for one person in desperate need by allowing another to be shoved off the cliff to their doom or even pushing them over.
So we will maintain steadfastly that to kill the most vulnerable so that others may have a “better life” is an abominable crime.
Jesus said “Let the little children come to me” (Mark 10:14) but Portmann says “let them be come to me, the abortionist, to be torn limb from limb”.
No amount of language about “care” “options” and “non-judgement” can begin to “reconcile” that fact and we have to state it clearly lest there is any doubt. Falling back on the “gift” of “free will” to defend all of this would be an absurd argument to make if Portman were a philosopher. From someone who calls themselves a Christian it is positively blasphemous. It’s one thing to try and defend abortion, it’s another to co-opt Jesus as your partner in crime.
And this is what Portmann has “reconciled”. Well, almost…
How God may judge me is in the back of my mind.
It ought to be front and centre. The same scripture that condemns her advocacy of the murder of the unborn finishes with this solemn cry,
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
The wonder of the Christian message is that there is forgiveness available for even the most terrible things that we do. But it requires self-awareness of what we have done and to then cry out for mercy to our only judge.
I understand that the entire Psalm was read in the TV house after their abortion debate. Pray that it was listened to by those who most need to hear it. For their eternal sake, and the sake of all the children who’s death warrant she will sign in the name of “freedom of choice”.