I was recently reflecting on Save the 1’s drawing on of the Parable of the Wandering Sheep (Matthew 18:10-14). Save the 1 is a pro-life organization advocating against the rape exception for abortion (in either our personal views or in legislation). In the parable, the shepherd leaves 99 of his herd to find the one sheep that has wandered off. It’s a cheery tale, a reminder that God cares so much for each one of us, but the part I think we are prone to overlooking is that the shepherd risks the death of the entire herd rather than abandon just one of its members.
Maybe a law lacking a rape exception wouldn’t pass, whereas a law with this exception would, but it would also concede that the circumstances surrounding one’s conception or one’s parentage somehow impacts one’s value.
We don’t talk much about legally enshrining the rape exception here in Canada, but there is a lively debate within our pro-life movement on the question of gestational limits – i.e. restricting abortion after a certain point in pregnancy. I plead that this disagreement on strategy not cleave the movement, but at the same time, I must express that I think the pro-gestational limits crowd is making the same mistake as those who advocate for a law with a rape exception. Even assuming that a gestational limit would save some lives (which is not a settled matter), I object to one on principle.
When children are in the midst of dying (e.g. they’re drowning or trapped in a burning building), of course it’s licit to try to save as many as possible, even whilst knowing you will not be able to save all of them. But if someone is instead asking, “Which of these children shall I kill?” I think our answer, time and time again, must be “none of these.” Even if this tempter sneers that he shall kill them all then, we must be steadfast in refusing to cooperate. We may not be able to prevent their physical bodies from being destroyed, but we must keep the souls of these children clutched close to our hearts, and not proffer even one.
Campaign Life Coalition national president Jeff Gunnarson once compared the gestational limits issue to Sophie’s Choice. In this film, Sophie, upon arrival at Auschwitz, is forced to choose which of her children, Eva or Jan, would be sent to a labour camp and which would be gassed. Sophie’s choice is only impossible if you grant the premise that one precious child must be chosen over another, but they need not be. Yes, both might then die if she refused to answer, but, importantly, Sophie would not have been coerced into submitting to this evil. Her son and daughter would have died equals, loved so fiercely that their mother could not part with either of them – so she was parted from both.
The question is, are gestational limits akin to saving some of those already dying, or do they designate which children may or may not be killed? I think the debate rests on this question, and I expect many gestational limits defenders believe the answer to be the former: a gestational limit would pluck what children it can off the conveyor belt that sends whole, living humans to their deaths in abortion facilities.
Respectfully, I think the answer is the latter. The conveyor belt might be a good metaphor for talking about the culture of death on a macro level, but abortion isn’t something that just happens. A 10-weeks pregnant individual makes the conscious decision to end the life of her growing child, and she looks to our legislators for license to do so, legally, and tacitly, morally speaking, just as a 24-weeks pregnant woman does. These women are not implicitly asking, “Which child may be saved?” but rather, “Which child may be killed?” Without a law on abortion, our legislators, are, in fact, mute on this question, though that has resulted in the bleak status quo. With a gestational limit, they would say, “Not that one.” They would be communicating to Canadian society that human rights are dependent on age. They would desert some of the flock, in hopes of sparing others from the wolves. They would choose to send Eva away, not Jan.
It is painful to know that pre-born babies with tiny fists and pumping hearts are being dismembered in our country, but Lord, grant us the strength to bear this agony a little longer, until our lawmakers can be convinced not to exclude even one of these children from protection.