A couple of piece of legislation are before the NSW Parliament’s upper house (the Legislative Council) that seek to vastly loosen the current restrictions on abortion and to proscribe various forms of protest against abortion.
The Roman Catholics, who are always excellent on this issue, have a great summary of the situation:
The first of these bills was introduced by Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi. The Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016 seeks to do three things:
- it would make abortion legal, right up until the moment of birth;
- it would require doctors who object to abortion to refer any woman who is seeking advice about pregnancy options to a medical professional who does not object; and
- it would enforce a buffer zone around abortion clinics which would prevent those who wish to offer assistance to pregnant women or hold prayerful vigils for life from coming within 150 metres from a clinic. Those who did so would be punished with thousands of dollars in fines and/or up to 12 months imprisonment.The proposed laws would allow abortion, right up until birth
The second of these bills was introduced by Labor MLC Penny Sharpe. The Summary Offences Amendment (Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Bill 2017 would similarly enforce exclusion zones around abortion clinics, making prayerful vigils like the popular 40 Days for Life punishable with fines and imprisonment.
The piece also links to a petition that is being circulated throughout NSW [pdf], although at the time of writing the deadline for submission has passed.
Neil Foster (Law and Religion Australia) also has a helpful piece on the issue of free speech and abortion.
Yesterday I sought to leverage the good relationship we have with our local State MP by writing to him on this topic. You’ll see that my letter makes use of the language in the petition and also setting out a very basic Christian response on these issues. I would love to hear your thoughts.
1 May 2017
Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016 and the Summary Offences Amendment (Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Bill 2017
I’m writing on behalf of our church community to express our concern about the above legislation which is due to be debated by the Legislative Council. While you do not have a seat on the Council I felt this was still the right moment to write to you given the high level of interest in these bills in our community and your partnership in the Labor party with MLC Penny Sharpe.
The Abortion Law Reform Bill will effectively make abortion legal at any point up until birth and remove punishment for unlawful abortions. This will increase the potential danger to women by removing restrictions against unqualified persons performing an abortion including self-administered abortions and allows the abortion of viable babies right up until birth with no restrictions at all. Furthermore, it fails to include safeguards to ensure women give fully informed consent and (by requiring a doctor who objects to abortion to nevertheless refer a patient on to an abortion provider) overrides any professional or conscientious objection that medical practitioners may have to abortion.
As you well know many women have abortions as a result of pressure, coercion, lack of support and/or domestic violence from others, particularly their male partners and this legislation therefore further increases the likelihood that the most vulnerable in our society will be effectively forced into being complicit in the death of their children. It is a tragedy that abortion is far more prevalent in areas of social disadvantage (of which the Parish of Glenquarie is one example amongst many in your constituency) and this legislation, by reducing restrictions on abortion, will only serve to increase the damage and heartache inflicted upon so many women who feel compelled to have their children killed, let alone the tragic needless death of the unborn.
We also have grave concerns about the move in both bills to limit freedom of speech and assembly for New South Wales residents by seeking to ban anyone seeking to peacefully protest or make offers of assistance to women attending an abortion clinic. The bills seek to sanction such irenic life-affirming actions with large fines and imprisonment. Such a move would appear to be in contradiction to the NSW Labor Party’s Basic Principles which include “14. Recognition and protection of fundamental political and civil rights, including freedom of expression…”.
As Christians we have just celebrated Easter where, in the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, we affirm the value of all human life. Further, we are called in the Scriptures to advocate for the most vulnerable in our society; in this case the unborn children and their mothers who are both victims of abortion. We urge you for the sake of the most vulnerable amongst us to use whatever influence you have to act against both these bills being passed and, when the time comes, to vote against them yourself.
Please be assured of our regular prayers for you in your very busy work for our community. We are grateful to have such a dedicated advocate representing us and I personally appreciate your support of Glenquarie Anglican Church and Break the Cycle, Glenquarie.
This Post Has 12 Comments
Hi David, based on your conversation with Gregory above it seems to me that you make no distinction between killing a fetus and killing someone you meet on the street. Is this because you believe in the full humanity of a person from the point of conception? If so I think you are left with a very big problem of pragmatics.
Your god is a far bigger player in the abortion business than any clinic you could ever hope to be allowed to pray outside of. The estimates for spontaneous abortions (otherwise known as miscarriage) are often given as 10-25% of recognised pregnancies and up to 75% of total pregnancies (due to the fact that an miscarriage in the first week of pregnancy is unlikely to be distinguishable from a regular period). OK, so if we take a conservative figure of 25% for the number of spontaneously aborted pregnancies and use WHO data for abortions, births and deaths we can come up with the following numbers:
* Abortions per year = approx. 50 million
* Miscarriages per year = approx. 45 million
* General deaths per year = 55.3 million people
If we then assume that of the 55.3 million people who die each year approximately 25% have a saving faith in Jesus (again, I think I’m being generous here) that gives you 14 million people headed to heaven each year.
Now, if you want to contend that the unborn are people with souls then I think you’re left with one of three equally unworkable scenarios:
1) God sends all those 100 million fetus souls to eternal conscious torment because they haven’t accepted Jesus as their saviour.
2) God treats the fetus souls differently and either annihilates them or sends them elsewhere to limbo. The idea that they are treated differently, however, would seem to go against your belief that they are not to be treated differently.
3) God welcomes them into heaven along with the Christians who have died. This means, however, that the fetus souls in heaven will outnumber the Christian souls by a factor of 7:1. This makes the scenes of praise where the ransomed bow before the throne kind of comical though when 88% of these souls actually have no idea of what is going on and no conception of lostness from which to feel saved.
Thanks for your comment, I appreciate you taking the time to set it all out. You argue that there is an internal inconsistency with the Christian position on abortion (or at least “my version” of the Christian position). I want to spend a bit of time responding by demonstrating that your own argument rests upon some errors in understanding of what the orthodox Christian position actually is. I’ll do that by seeking to interact with what I think are the main points of your argument, or at least the main points they betray a lack of understanding.
Yes, at the start I need to affirm that that is the essential argument – that the unborn child (the word “fetus” is just Latin for “child”) is fully human and thus killing the child is murder. At this point it might be worth noting that for some who defend abortion that is also the essential issue (i.e. the response may be “it’s just a bundle of cells” or “it’s not fully developed”). However there are others who are prepared to grant the humanity of the child and yet still would argue that the mother’s rights are greater than the child’s. I understand that in this discussion we’re dealing with the first track.
I note that, helpfully, for the sake of your argument you are accepting my premise that the unborn child is fully human – you’re just attempting to argue that if that’s the case then certain conclusions must be drawn on the basis that all these deaths are basically the same and God is in charge of them.
I think the first fault in your argument is to make no distinction between these three categories of death whereas the Christian position would be to distinguish between abortions on the one hand and miscarriages and general deaths on the other. I’ll try and articulate that distinction further.
Miscarriages and other deaths are part of the normal outcome of human life. We are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27) and yet the presence of sin in the world means that all humanity will die (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 5:12, 6:23; 1Cor. 15:21 etc). Everyone dies, this is a sad fact of life in this world (Eccl. 3:2, 19 etc.). Viewed in this way the death of the unborn through a miscarriage has the same basic cause as the death of a 95 year old from “natural causes”. It’s just the tragic way of a fallen world.
Whereas an abortion is a deliberate action that accelerates death in what one might term “an unnatural way”. This distinction is therefore the same one as we would make with a murderer. Yes, everyone will die but the time is in God’s hands, not ours so to deliberately take the life on one made in the image of God is a terrible thing, even though that person will eventually die.
The next stage in your argument also has a flawed basis.
Not one of these three responses properly understands the Christian position on the afterlife nor of salvation. First, nobody “goes to heaven”. We are ultimately raised to life in the New Creation (Phil. 3:20-21; 2Peter. 3:13 etc.), a very physical existence (this truth of Resurrection, btw, is why your suggestion of “88% of these souls actually have no idea of what is going on” also fails since the promise of resurrection is to the fullness of who we were created to be. The dead unborn child will be raised to their fullness, presumably as an adult fully cognisant of what is going on around them – but I grant this is a secondary issue).
Second, there is no concept of limbo (or purgatory for that matter) in the Bible.
Third, the Scriptures teach that salvation is ultimately by God’s election and this is of particular comfort when we consider the vexed question of those who are apparently incapable of responding to the gospel (such as the unborn, the mentally handicapped, those in a coma etc). If ultimately the source and agent of new spiritual life is God himself then he is more than capable of regenerating (making alive; giving a new heart, one of the ways that the Bible speaks of someone becoming a Christian (John 3:3-7 etc. ) to whoever he chooses. All are marred by sin (even the unborn Psalm 51.5) and yet all can be made alive by God has he so chooses. In fact the Scriptures point to a number of notable instances of prenatal believers – (Jeremiah 1.5, Luke 1.41 etc.)!
So rather than your list I’d make the following observations:
God can save who he wants, no matter what their age or mental ability.
All those he saves will be raised in the New Creation into their perfected state.
I fully expect that amongst that number will be both those lost by miscarriage and those murdered in abortion.
Looking forward to any response you have.
Thanks for the reply. Lots to respond to there, I’ll try to do it in an organised way 🙂
You have said that I make no distinction between my three categories of death. This is only partially true. I make no distinction in saying that all three categories leave you with the problem of a soul which must be accounted for. I’m happy with the distinction of some being a deliberate human action while others are naturally caused. The natural ones I ascribe to God, i.e. the 45 million miscarriages each year. Your God has aborted three of my children. I’m not saying this to try create an emotional argument. I just want you to realise the reality of the situation you are arguing for. Your belief is that God not only allows but ordains the death of an unborn child from natural causes every 0.7 seconds.
You have also said that my argument betrays a misunderstanding of the orthodox Christian understanding of the afterlife. The idea that there is “one” Christian understanding of the afterlife which can claim the mantle of being orthodox is a stretch. The idea within the church that Heaven is another realm is so pervasive that theologians and New Testament scholars are putting out books with titles including the word “surprise”. It may be your belief that a physical resurrection and a renewing of the earth is a proper understanding of eschatology but it is not the only biblical interpretation. I won’t throw bible verses back at you even though I have read it through dozens of times and have an MDiv. I have no desire as a non-Christian to attempt to try to persuade you of an otherworldly heaven. I don’t think it matters much to the argument we are having either way. And I don’t see what the point in raising it is either. When I have said in Option 3 that “God welcomes them into heaven” I think it would be charitable of you to read this in the same sense as you interpret almost identical language 2 Pet 1:11 rather than assume I know nothing about the bible or modern eschatological debates.
Responding to your second point, I don’t put forward the concept of limbo because I think it has biblical backing. Rather I put it forward because it is a traditional position put forward to get around the age of moral accountability in the Catholic church. It is interesting that in one breath you dismiss this option because there is no concept of limbo in the bible, but in the next breath you are fairly sure that unborn fetuses will be raised as adults fully cognisant of the world around them. There is no biblical backing for this. It’s a nice thought, but I think that’s all it is.
Further on this area, my statement that the 88% of souls in heaven will have no idea of what is going on around them is not meant to be a comment on the mental faculties of fetuses. Rather it is a statement about what I think the trajectory of the Bible is according to the brand of biblical theology espoused in Sydney Anglican circles. The biblical story seems to be of a god who ransoms a people for the glory of his name in order to create a community who praise him for this rescue. God could have left people in the blissful creation state but he purposed the fall and the rescue before the creation of the world. So the final picture is of a group of people who have experienced the depths and have been raised out of them. The 88% are in my mind no different to prefall humanity who have only ever known perfect relationship. It is in this sense that I say they have no idea about what is going on.
Which leads me into my response to your third point. You state that “God can save who he wants”, which I suppose is entirely consistent with your belief that God can kill who he wants. The fact that God “can” save who he wants is also in tension with the stated way in which your bible says that God will act. The Acts 4 “no other name by which you must be saved” and Rom 10 “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” passages would seem to suggest that God is clear on how he saves. Now you, as a good calvinist, may be fine with some people being created as vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. I just don’t think that it’s a doctrine which would pass the pub test 🙂
At the end of the day I’m not arguing these points to convince you to change your mind about abortion. I just find it interesting to push these beliefs to their logical conclusion. I personally believe that a fetus starts out as a collection of cells and gradually transforms into a human who we can recognise as being capable of extraordinary things and deserving of special treatment and rights. I think that this has nothing to do with being a divine image bearer (which is a beautiful imagining of the uniqueness of humans but not a real basis for the bestowing of legal rights) or a vehicle for an immortal soul but instead is to do with an increase in faculty and capability. Now I understand that you have a different position based on a divine communication. All well and good, but I simply don’t believe that God had anything to do with the formation of your bible so I am not too inclined to give it any more credence than I would to anyone else’s opinion.
Depends what you mean by “backing”. There’s more than enough warrant given the clear indication from the texts that we have that worship in the New Creation is a conscious, involved thing.
I’m genuinely confused; you have a masters degree in divinity yet you think there is an insurmountable contradiction between God’s election and the need to respond in faith?
Well someone should have told the framers of the US Constitution.
More broadly, on what basis do you therefore bestow legal rights to a human? If we’re all just the random outworking of evolution (but correct me if you think there is a different origin story) then what grants one organism particular “rights” other than “I want it to be that way”?
Hi David, I’m endeavouring not to slide into a shouting match. I don’t know if interspersing my writing with smilies helped to tone it down a bit, but probably just imagine both of us having a Coopers if that helps.
“There’s more than enough warrant given the clear indication from the texts that we have that worship in the New Creation is a conscious, involved thing.”
Yes, but that isn’t the issue under debate. Your beliefs about ‘fetus souls’ and the afterlife leads you to a point where you said ‘I fully expect that amongst that number will be both those lost by miscarriage and those murdered in abortion.’ The ‘dead fetuses resurrected as adults with full human faculties’ approach is a mechanism you have invented to come to terms with this. I don’t think that it’s any more speculative than inventing another realm to put all of your fetus souls in.
“you have a masters degree in divinity yet you think there is an insurmountable contradiction between God’s election and the need to respond in faith”
Fair point. The biggest thing that a masters degree in divinity taught me that there is no such thing as an insurmountable biblical contradiction. The entire working lives of theologians are about downplaying or denying or rereading opposing texts. Actually, it’s probably more in vogue these days to ‘live in the tension’.
“Well someone should have told the framers of the US Constitution”
I assume you’re referring to the declaration of independence? If not, I’m not familiar enough with the US constitution to know exactly which part you’re referring to. I firmly believe that just because someone has believed something in the past that’s not a very strong reason to continue believing it. I don’t disagree with the unalienable rights which are arrived at through their methodology, I just disagree with their working.
When it comes to the basis for my understanding of human rights then I fear we could branch off into a whole new discussion. I’m happy to go there if you really want to, your call. I will just throw this out there. I believe that any ethical framework must be based on reality. I don’t think that there is a good basis for thinking that the biblical stories of creation, fall and redemption represent reality in anything more than an allegorical sense. Because of this I think that you have to start elsewhere.
Also David, in all of this squabbling over minor issues my initial question has been lost. Just to make it much clearer I will put it here.
Do you find it absurd that either:
A) (At least) 88% of people in the resurrection age will be adult versions of fetuses who have never experienced life in this age; or
B) God punishes (at least) 95 million resurrected fetuses each year with eternal conscious torment who have never lived outside of the womb, (at least) 47% of whom he killed himself.
hi Alan, sorry for not getting back to you sooner. You asked,
No, I genuinely don’t. I find the Resurrection of Jesus and the general resurrection that it will bring about on the last day quite amazing
No, no more than A) (it is, after all, really the same question). I have a Biblical realistic view of sinful nature (Psalm 51:5 is helpful here).
I guess absurdity is in the eye of the beholder. I would assume that you likewise don’t find it absurd that God created 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in order to play out a drama on an obscure rock orbiting around just one of them. Or that on creating the universe he chose to then wait 14,000,000,000 years to start this story. Or that he raised up 5,000,000,000 different species of animal and let them die out in preparation for his special relationship with one species.
I find a belief in all of these things absurd. But I’m also guessing that wherever you find common sense at odds with your understanding of the Bible’s teaching you will take the Bible every time. If that’s the case I would expect it is also the reason why the secular world is sick of having the SSM argument with you.
” I’m writing on behalf of our church community to express our concern about the above legislation which is due to be debated by the Legislative Council ”
what gives you the right to speck for everyone that goes to your church ? did you ask them how they feel about the legislation ?
Hi Carissa. Leaders speak for their community. Yes, I asked them.
what if someone in your community is pro choice ?
I don’t know of any community where there is 100% agreement.
We’re about to hit a federal election. The party leaders communicate the manifesto as the “community” position even though there will be some who disagree.