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My Take: When evangelicals were pro-choice
The author notes that evangelical Christians were once largely pro-abortion rights.
October 30th, 2012
05:54 PM ET

My Take: When evangelicals were pro-choice

Editor's Note: Jonathan Dudley is the author of "Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics."

By Jonathan Dudley, Special to CNN

Over the course of the 2012 election season, evangelical politicians have put their community’s hard-line opposition to abortion on dramatic display.

Missouri Rep. Todd Akin claimed “legitimate rape” doesn’t result in pregnancy. Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock insisted that “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

While these statements have understandably provoked outrage, they’ve also reinforced a false assumption, shared by liberals and conservatives alike: that uncompromising opposition to abortion is a timeless feature of evangelical Christianity.

The reality is that what conservative Christians now say is the Bible’s clear teaching on the matter was not a widespread interpretation until the late 20th century.

Opinion: Let's get real about abortions

In 1968, Christianity Today published a special issue on contraception and abortion, encapsulating the consensus among evangelical thinkers at the time. In the leading article, professor Bruce Waltke, of the famously conservative Dallas Theological Seminary, explained the Bible plainly teaches that life begins at birth:

“God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: 'If a man kills any human life he will be put to death' (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22–24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense… Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.”

The magazine Christian Life agreed, insisting, “The Bible definitely pinpoints a difference in the value of a fetus and an adult.” And the Southern Baptist Convention passed a 1971 resolution affirming abortion should be legal not only to protect the life of the mother, but to protect her emotional health as well.

Opinion: Why the abortion issue won’t go away

These stalwart evangelical institutions and leaders would be heretics by today’s standards. Yet their positions were mainstream at the time, widely believed by born-again Christians to flow from the unambiguous teaching of Scripture.

Televangelist Jerry Falwell spearheaded the reversal of opinion on abortion in the late 1970s, leading his Moral Majority activist group into close political alliance with Catholic organizations against the sexual revolution.

In contrast to evangelicals, Catholics had mobilized against abortion immediately after Roe v. Wade. Drawing on mid-19th century Church doctrines, organizations like the National Right to Life Committee insisted a right to life exists from the moment of conception.

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As evangelical leaders formed common cause with Catholics on topics like feminism and homosexuality, they began re-interpreting the Bible as teaching the Roman Catholic position on abortion.

Falwell’s first major treatment of the issue, in a 1980 book chapter called, significantly, “The Right to Life,” declared, “The Bible clearly states that life begins at conception… (Abortion) is murder according to the Word of God.”

With the megawatt power of his TV presence and mailing list, Falwell and his allies disseminated these interpretations to evangelicals across America.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

By 1984, it became clear these efforts had worked. That year, InterVarsity Press published the book Brave New People, which re-stated the 1970 evangelical consensus: abortion was a tough issue and warranted in many circumstances.

An avalanche of protests met the publication, forcing InterVarsity Press to withdraw a book for the first time in its history.

“The heresy of which I appear to be guilty,” the author lamented, “is that I cannot state categorically that human/personal life commences at day one of gestation.... In order to be labeled an evangelical, it is now essential to hold a particular view of the status of the embryo and fetus.”

What the author quickly realized was that the “biblical view on abortion” had dramatically shifted over the course of a mere 15 years, from clearly stating life begins at birth to just as clearly teaching it begins at conception.

During the 2008 presidential election, Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren demonstrated the depth of this shift when he proclaimed: “The reason I believe life begins at conception is ‘cause the Bible says it.”

It is hard to underestimate the political significance of this reversal. It has required the GOP presidential nominee to switch his views from pro-choice to pro-life to be a viable candidate. It has led conservative Christians to vote for politicians like Akin and Mourdock for an entire generation.

And on November 6, it will lead millions of evangelicals to support Mitt Romney over Barack Obama out of the conviction that the Bible unequivocally forbids abortion.

But before casting their ballots, such evangelicals would benefit from pausing to look back at their own history. In doing so, they might consider the possibility that they aren’t submitting to the dictates of a timeless biblical truth, but instead, to the goals of a well-organized political initiative only a little more than 30 years old.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jonathan Dudley.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Abortion • Catholic Church • Christianity • Opinion

soundoff (2,844 Responses)
  1. Jim McDonald

    Perhaps folks should visit Silent Scream to get a more accurate understanding of what abortion really is.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • The Truth

      Is it that exhibit with all the pig fetuses splayed open and all gorey and pig eyes staring at you and showing the little tiny pig brains and their little hands that look almost human? I can imagine that must be really gross like watchign a horror movie, must make it hard to eat bacon the next day...

      Oh, what, it's with human fetuses? Well i'm sure the effect is the same...

      October 31, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  2. HenryMiller

    At least until the 15th century, infanticide–by drowning or by exposure–was not uncommon in the Christian West, and more or less ignored by the Catholic Church. Due to the very high infant mortality rate, it wasn't uncommon to delay baptism for a year or more after birth.

    The truth of the matter is that the anti-abortion crowd differ only by a small degree from the Muslim fanatics who shoot and blind girls for daring to go to school. In both cases, it reflects an arrogant self-righteousness providing an excuse for sadism.

    And, on a pragmatic level, from the point of view of the GOP, tolerance of the fanaticism of people like Akin and Mourdock will likely cost them the control of the Senate they might have gained after the forthcoming election.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • CMoses

      Where in the world did you did up that piece of historical garbage from?

      October 31, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  3. Wallace

    catholic. com/ tracts/ abortion
    Christians have been against abortion from the beginning

    October 31, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  4. GRWOhio

    I completely disagree with this writer's position on when life begins, but I do give him credit for one thing. He actually willing to discuss when life begins instead of hiding behing the "Choice" argument.

    I don't know where the writer got his facts regarding the prior position of the church on when life begins. I am highly skeptical of his assertions. In any event, a lot has been learned about the beginning of life over the past 30 years. Babies are born at 6 months and often survive and become healthy beings. Brain activity is present early on in pregnancy. I don't know how anyone can regarding an unborn child as a choice, a medical decision, a mere piece of flesh. The facts just don't support these positions

    October 31, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • HenryMiller

      What you're reacting to is your interpretation of "facts," not the facts themselves. You're interpreting medical observations from a religious perspective that a lot of us don't share.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • The Truth

      "I don't know where the writer got his facts regarding the prior position of the church" It's called research.

      "Babies are born at 6 months and often survive and become healthy beings." 6 months = 24 weeks

      "Roe's central holding that a person has a right to abortion until viability. The Roe decision defined "viable" as being "potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid", adding that viability "is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks."

      So your argument is that it's a baby at 6 months, and I agree, and so do the courts so that abortion is illegal at that point with few exceptions. Why not try to reason this issue out instead of just "feel" about it. The facts do support a reasonable position, it is the religious nut job's who want to push their spiritual views inside my wifes body, and in some cases physically force a transva.gi.nal ultrasound, now that sir is R A P E. So get your God out of my Life and out of my Wife, thank you very much.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • CMoses

      @The Truth, so you're arguing that the moral standing of the fetus is dependent upon medical science and its ability to make the fetus viable and a younger and younger age? That's where rights come from now?

      October 31, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Larry I in L.A.

      Wait a minute...Exodus 21 clearly specifies a lesser punishment for causing a miscarriage than for killing a man, possibly because in Biblical times nobody realized that a fetus was capable of independent brain function. So, you are using advances in medicine/science/technology to re-examine with "modern eyes" your interpretation of your sacred texts. That's, um, interesting...

      October 31, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • The Truth

      @CMoses – Not me, the law uses the word "viability". This was what the courts ruled in Roe Vs Wade, that the fetus becomes a person when it can live outside the womb. I feel that is a fair and reasonable judgement, others do not, i think those others are not usings "reason" but are using "religion" to make that choice, which is fine when it comes to their own bodies and their own lives. That all changes when you move into the public sphere with your religion in an attempt to block someone else from making their own decision, replacing their morality with your own or your Gods which is expressly forbidden in the constltution. And all it would take to reduce abortions in America by 70% is for supposedly "Christian" and "Catholic" women to take their own advice and stop getting them. No one is forcing anyone in America to get abortions, you idiots are out their yelling and screaming at women walking into a Planned Parenthood to get a pap smear but as soon as one of you has a little "accident" it's off to the clinic a few towns over so no one you know will know, hypocrites.

      October 31, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • CMoses

      "...there is absolutely no evidence that a dead fetus is under consideration in this passage. The fact is, the Hebrew language has a term (shachol) that denotes an abortion, or miscarriage (see 2 Kgs. 2:21; Hos. 9:14), yet that word is not employed in this context. This passage deals with a premature birth, not an aborted fetus.
      The Hebrew word rendered “depart” is yasa, basically meaning “to go (come) out.” Though the word has a wide variety of uses in the Old Testament, it is frequently employed of an ordinary birth. God told Jeremiah, " . . .before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you . . ." (Jer. 1:5). In Exodus 21:22 the verb is used “of untimely birth” (Brown, Driver, & Briggs, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 423), or of “premature birth” (cf. NIV; NKJV).

      https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/786-does-exodus-21-sanction-abortion

      October 31, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • CMoses

      @The Truth, my third child was born 11 months ago with Down Syndrome, a chance we knew about six months before her birth, despite a 92% abortion rate for similar diagnoses, so step back a bit on your hypocrite name calling, go it? In this at least, I walk the walk.

      As for whether I have a moral right to intervene or not based upon my religious beliefs, I'm pretty sure the end of slavery in America was based, in part, on similar principles.

      Doesn't affect me, but I believe that it affects somebody else who has a right to a better existence, so I'm going to do my best to protect them and end an unjust practice.

      October 31, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • The Truth

      @CMoses – I do not pretend that I applaud you for knowingly bringing a handicapped child into a world where there are hundreds of thousands of healthy children needing good homes. I think it's a sad symptom of a larger problem, where in the recent past, say just a century ago, it's likely a down symdrome child would not have survived the birth let alone their first fews years unless they were born to an extremely wealthy family who could afford a quality doctor, so I guess a hundred years ago your "God" would have decided to abort your child for you due either to your to lack of money or the doctors lack of advanced medical procedures. Has God had a change of heart since then and now wants all down syndrome children to be born because we found a way to keep them healthy? I'm sorry, but that is just pure bullshlt and you know it. Nature has used survival of the fittest for eons and now you want to step in and claim to know the mind of God and what he wants and when he considers it a viable pregnancy. I am sorry that you now have to raise a special needs child in this already difficult world even though technology gave you the opportunity to change your future, but you said "Nope, if this is what my God wants for me, to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in care and time over a lifetime because the wrong egg and sperm hooked up...so be it."

      October 31, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • CMoses

      Your ignorance of Down Syndrome is staggering, but no doubt follows a larger trend. Despite her condition, she had a healthy, uneventful birth without the use of drugs of c-section. So far, she has no signs of physical disabilities, and with an admitted amount of extra time and effort, she has developed just about on pace with children without Down Syndrome. She's crawling, standing, babbling, and smiling. She has been feeding herself finger food for months, can drink from a straw while holding the bottle herself. She even has a developed sense of object permanence. She's the farthest thing from being handy-capped at this point and she not yet a year old.

      Survival of the fittest exists in nature, but it is often unethical in human society. Should we ignore the healthy homeless children you describe because their parents were unable or unwilling to raise them? Should we cease to care for the elderly when they are too old to work and become a drain on our resources? Are the unemployed unworthy of life too? Your logic travels along the same path that started the eugenics movement and ultimately lead to Planned Parenthood in the first place, the misplaced belief that the "feeble-minded" are genetically inferior and should be eliminated from society in order to improve society.

      October 31, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • The Truth

      It is empathy that would have driven me to end a pregnancy where the chances of mental or physical disabilities are high. It's persons like yourself and Sarah Palin and the Duggars that makes most of the reasonable persons shale our heads in wonder. How anyone could knowingly continue a pregnancy with severe disabilities just because you think that a tiny mass of cells has a soul is beyond insane. You cannot even prove you have a soul, let alone that fertilized egg, and yet you want to play God and choose to force a child into this world who will have extreme challenges, often problems fitting in socially for the rest of their lives, depression, high rates of suicide, anger and adjustment problems through no fault of their own, but thats what you want to sentence them to. All because you "know" that fertilized egg has a "soul" that you cannot even define let alone find. I feel for your daughter and what she will have to go through now in life all because you decided thats what God wanted for her. So sad...

      November 1, 2012 at 3:02 am |
    • CMoses

      It is very dangerous to start equating the value of a human life strictly to its utility or its nearness to normalcy. You mistakenly assume that a life with difficulties is a life not worth living and your empathy is misplaced. They are very few, VERY few people born with disabilities that would have rather never been born. The world is full of stories of people born with disabilities, mental or physical, that lead full lives. Sujeet Desai was born with Down Syndrome, yet graduated from high school with a 4.3 GPA on the honor roll. He went on to graduate from the Berkshire Hills Music Academy after two-year residential Post-secondary study in Music and Human services and now plays seven instruments. Maynard was born without arms or legs, yet he wrestled in high school and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. Stories like these remind us of the power of the human spirit and inspire us to overcome our own struggles and obstacles. They also remind us that there's no such thing as a life not worth living, nor is there such thing as a life less valuable than another. It is a very dangerous slippery slope to begin to argue otherwise.

      November 1, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • The Truth

      This is not a slippery slope issue. This is not a "oh, well now that you can see if a fertilized egg will have a disability and can choose not to continue the pregnancy, why not just start shooting people with disabilites?" It's like saying allowing gay marriage will lead to r a p i n g children or animals, it's complete bull shlt and you know it. And there is not a SINGLE disabled person who will tell you "I am so glad I was born with my disabilities!". Sure they will tell you they would rather be alive than dead because some experience is better than no experience, but what about all those thousands of other sperm that didn't have a chance that night, but the defected sperm somehow beat them all out, i'm sure they would have loved having a chance at life too if you had been able to ask them, but you didn't because they all died off in the wall's of your wife's uterus, victims of chance. You had the opportunity to reshuffle the deck after realizing you and your child had been dealt a raw hand, but you said "Nope, this is what God wants for us". That is the part I have a problem with, that you put an imaginary being's supposed feelings or doctrine ahead of doing what was right for your family and humanity. To put imagined invisible invented God's laws ahead of doing the right thing is the true danger facing the humanity.

      November 1, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • CMoses

      Tell me how the value our cultural places on the lives of African Americans has been improved by increasing the number of abortion clinics in minority neighborhoods until over 50% of African American pregnancies end in abortion.

      Tell me how the value our culture places on the lives of women has been improved by allowing children to be aborted only because they are female.

      It is a slippery slope, and this is where it's lead us. It's not healthy for our culture or our values, whether you believe in God, gods, or none of the above.

      November 1, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • The Truth

      @CMoses – "increasing the number of abortion clinics in minority neighborhoods until over 50% of African American pregnancies end in abortion." I'm sorry, I did not realize I was debating someone with this low of an IQ to make the assumption that increasing clinics in a neighborhood would increase a womans need for abortions. I guess there is no point in continuing this argument, I know God doesn't exist and you are a fool for not only believing in him but basing your family decisions on a non-existent being. It's as silly as Jehovahs witnesses refusing blood transfusions or Heavens gate people drinking Drain-o to catch a comet...

      November 2, 2012 at 2:40 am |
    • CMoses

      Which part are you disputing, that the number of Planned Parenthood clinics are disproportionately located in minority neighborhoods, that over 50% of African American pregnancies end in abortion? I never suggested that the availability increased the need. Once again you are attacking a statement I never made.

      It's obvious that we have different believes regarding the existence of God, so I stopped trying to use that approach. Instead I'm keeping it secular and pointing to the slippery slope, which you needed clarification on to accept, that abortion has increasingly been promoted as a rights issue and is used, not just for "prudent family planning", but has been used by the eugenics movement since its protection under Roe v. Wade as a tool to reduce the numbers of "undesirables" in society. It is also being used by parents in the Unites States, as it has in other countries for decades, to ensure that a family does not give birth to a child when it is determined to be female. I suggest that these two uses of abortion, regardless of your believe in God or not, are damaging to the value we as a society place on Blacks and other minority races, as well as the female gender, when we protect an activity used to reduce their numbers because they are undesirable solely based on those qualities.

      Now, which parts of that do you disagree with?

      November 2, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • midwest rail

      Please cite your evidence that abortion is being used in the United States as a tool to eliminate female offspring.

      November 2, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • CMoses

      2008 UC Berkley study of U.S.-born children of Chinese, Korean, and Asian Indian parents in the 2000 U.S. Census
      http://www.pnas.org/content/105/15/5681.full

      November 2, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • midwest rail

      So because there are people abusing the immigration process to take advantage of our laws, you propose changing the laws ?

      November 2, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • The Truth

      "Now, which parts of that do you disagree with?" Just about all of your assumptions. The fact that other cultures who have long histories of selective breeding preferring boy's to girls is sad, but to claim that the way to deal with it is to just ban abortions is beyond moronic. It doesn't deal with the cultural issues at all and just forces those persons to back ally abortions. A system of safe and legal early term abortion is the only option that addresses the womans health and allows for the discussion of cultural issues with a health professional who is more concerned with the living mother than an early term fertilized egg that has no soul. That is what makes sense to me. The only way to lower abortion rates is through education and access to contraceptives. Period. Ban's will do nothing but put more and more women at risk.

      November 2, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • CMoses

      I haven't suggested a law change yet, but does it matter that they are immigrants? When these things happen in our country, it's a question of how we react that helps define and shape our culture. I'm pointing to it to demonstrate how little our reaction to that has been, compared to our reaction when an immigrant kills his teenage daughter for dating an American boy of differing ethnicity or refuses an arranged marriage. We don't look the other way when an immigrant kills his daughter as an "honor killing", but we do when an immigrant aborts their child because it's a girl. Both are the results of cultures which promote men over women, and I think our reactions to both are inconsistent. Again, I don't think it has to be a religious issue as "The Truth" has defended against. I think these values, or lack of values, affect us as an American society.

      November 2, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • The Truth

      "has been used by the eugenics movement since its protection under Roe v. Wade as a tool to reduce the numbers of "undesirables" in society." Oh, and this is utter bull shlt and you know it. And yes, when you claim "increasing the number of abortion clinics in minority neighborhoods until over 50% of African American pregnancies end in abortion." you are saying that it's the availability to clinics that is forcing women to have abortions, not the social system found in the poorest of neighborhoods that has sentenced African Americans in this country to live as second class citizens. "Increasing" "Until" are the key words there showing that you believe it is the fault of the clinic and not a symptom of a larger social problem in America, and that is why I believe you are a moron who is unable to look at the big picture, likely because religion forces a very myopic view of reality.

      November 2, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Huebert

      Cmo

      The reason that we, as a county, look the other way when an immigrant decides to abort a female fetus is because abortion is legal. Killing your daughter for her dating preferences, is not.

      November 2, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • CMoses

      Go watch Maafa 21.

      November 2, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  5. vonsnickle

    The trouble with the abortion issue is Roe v Wade. A Democratic Supreme Court incorrectly returned a verdict on a moral Church vs. State issue when all they had to pass down was a pro-choice caviat. The caviat would have led to each individual involved in the abortion issue, both mother and doctor to have the right to pro-choice. There would be no morality idecision and political derision if the Supreme Court had acted correctly. The matter of abortion would be silent and an individual choice. The problem could still be solved if the law was overturned. We would not have to listen to both extreme political sides arguing over an issue that is none of their business.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Dippy

      Caveat, not caviar.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Dippy

      Sorry. Caviat, not caviar. but I prefer caviar to caviat.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  6. Truth

    I'm not correctly characterized as either pro-choice or pro-life – I think it's complicated, and I'm turned off by the rhetoric of both camps because I see them both as extreme and, frankly, sickening – but I do know one Absolute Truth: you can't have an abortion if you're not pregnant. I wish all sides would ponder that TRUE statement for a minute, and follow where that logic takes you. "Culture of life," sure, sure. How about a "culture of birth control" for everyone – men and women. If lifers went about trying to prevent unwanted pregnancies through policy initiatives and cultural persuasion and had any success, there would be very few abortions going on. What if every man and woman had free and easy access to BC, and lived in a society that extolled its use, and made it as common, laudable, and self-evident as using a toothbrush? What would the landscape look like then?

    October 31, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • peggy

      I agree with you 100%. unfortunately, the same groups who are against abortion are also against birth control - or at least free birth control. All you have to do is read all of the stuff written and said against Sandra Fluke to know that. And she wasn't even asking for herself.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Whitney

      Amen.

      October 31, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • The Truth

      "What if every man and woman had free and easy access to BC, and lived in a society that extolled its use, and made it as common, laudable, and self-evident as using a toothbrush? " I would be very happy with that, the problem is the religious nuts would not be because they want to regulate your s.e.x life as well because it's not just about the life of the child to them, it's about their eternal souls which they imagine you have as well. That is the real problem, we are having a debate in America where one side thinks it's fighting for the "souls" of the otherside and the otherside doesn't accept that there is such a thing as the "soul" so isn't asking for it to be saved.

      October 31, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • CMoses

      We're worried about the life and soul of the child as well, something you atheists seem to disregard with amazing callousness.

      October 31, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @CMoses

      1) No evidence of a soul even exists.
      2) Life and rights that trump the mothers are two different things.

      October 31, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • CMoses

      @hawaiiguest, It's rarely the woman's right to LIFE that's being trumped. In those rare cases I could see some room for debate, but otherwise the two considerations are not equal.

      To your other point, prove to me that you have a soul and a fetus doesn't. If you don't believe in a soul in either of you, then what gives your life more value than theirs?

      October 31, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @CMoses

      Ah but I'm not talking right to life, you jumped to that conclusion on your own, because that's all that matters to you. What about bodily autonomy?
      Even if the fetus/baby/child whatever you want to call it has rights, why does its rights trump the rights of the mother to not be a life support system if she doesn't want that. At no other point that I'm aware of is there a law doing that to any other person in this country, even if it would result in another persons death.

      October 31, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • CMoses

      Because any other way would be artificial. There aren't any other instances where one life form supports another by design or purpose.

      October 31, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @CMoses

      That's besides the point. If you want to cite rights, then an equal application of all rights, including bodily autonomy, must be applied.

      October 31, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  7. why2

    The point of the article was that until recently, unless your are Catholic, abortion was not viewed as it is today amongst the Christians. We tend to forget that there are other religions in the United States (who have different views on this issure) and that being pro-choice only means that it is a choice, not a requirement, and that it can be medically regulated to ensure the health and well-bing of the mother. In the national debate are you okay with saying all pregnancies must come to term but, as has been the case lately, it is okay to defund programs that support children born with serious birth defects? If you are pro-life, shouldn't that extend beyond pregnancy? Pro-life should mean pro-education, pro-social programs for those with disabilities, pro- food stamps for woman who can't afford anymore mouths to feed, pro- children and youth and foster care funding... All children are precious, but it is hypocritical to only care about the child while in the womb but not after it takes its first breath.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • CMoses

      That's why Catholic Charities USA provide help and create hope for over 10 million people each year regardless of religious, social, or economic backgrounds.

      October 31, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  8. Christianity-is-a-Joke

    OK, I know I'm going to get a lot of angry responses for this but it has always amazed me how self-centered Christianity (in fact, all the Western religions) is around HUMAN and only human, life. Despite the fact that, according to this article, Christianity's position is uncertain, and that throughout history it has been proven wrong time and time again (earth is center of universe, evolution, killing people who are "non-believers", etc.) they continue to press their non-sense down everyone's throat.
    In this case, you would think Christians are are being kind and non-violent by adopting a position of pro-life. In fact, it is an ego-centric position in which they just want to impose their self-righteousness. While it's not OK to terminate a few cells in the womb, it is OK to slaughter sentient beings by the millions daily just for a good meal albeit an unnecessary one. This religion glorifies killing fellow life forms as much as it glorifies man. I cannot get over how highly Christians think of themselves as man and how they feel other life forms are just for their pleasure and use. Not long ago, they felt the same way about Blacks, Asians, and other non-believers.
    I am from one of India's great truly non-violent philosophies where all life is respected to the best of one's ability. Christians on the other hand, respect and glorify people who go around killing for the fun of it. What kind of sick religion is this? Political office candidates often declare how they love to hunt. Paul Ryan just declared himself a proud deer hunting Catholic. You can kill on the hunt for the fun of it on a Saturday morning, you can torture and slaughter animals unnecessarily for meat even though it is damaging the environment and people's health, but touch a couple of cells in a womb? No, cant' do that. And why not? After all, what is that embryo going to grow up and do? Probably hunt and cause more damage to the world. It's better that it not be born.
    For this and other reasons, I think Christianity is the most evil religion on earth (well maybe second – behind Islam).

    October 31, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Rob-Texas

      So riddle me this: If you don't believe in Christ, or the Bible or a soul, then how is stopping a beating heart no murder? You talk about the value of animals. Do you eat eggs? Same thing cheif, except its a human.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      Your belly is your god and that is commonly called carnality.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      Americult likes the caste system, too.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • u

      @Rob-Texas

      So un-riddle me this: If you don't believe in Christ, or the Bible or a soul, then how is stopping a beating heart no murder?

      What is it that you're trying to say here?

      October 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • James

      Well said! Christianity's positions have always been on the wrong side of history. It even took the Catholic Church hundreds of years to apologize to Galileo posthumously.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Christianity-is-a-Joke

      Rob-Texas,

      I believe that if there is a soul, all beings have it and if there isn't, then none of us do. I do not believe however, that only humans have it. That is the nature of man's ego. And finding something in the Bible that supports that only helps to make you feel OK about the pleasures you want to engage in. If you want to engage in killing and slaughter for your pleasure and ego, then do it because it is what you are. But don't hide behind some Biblical non-sense as rationalization.

      Regarding your point on eggs. No, I don't eat them. But there is something very telling about your question which is very characteristic of Christians. Instead of understanding the point of live and let live, you are more concerned about catching me in a "gotcha" moment. Let's say I did eat eggs. That doesn't change the principle of non-violence. Let me help you out. I eat yogurt which is live bacteria. So you could have done a "gotcha" on me with that. But the point is to accept the principle and do as little violence as possible as you pass through this life. This is in stark contrast to actively going out and killing for the fun of it.

      October 31, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  9. umley

    That's Akin–Todd Akin–not Atkin as you misspelled twice in this article. Nonetheless, a thought-provoking article. Thank you.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • HankLion

      Very sharp, that said, I think the Bible actually says this in Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you...
      Kind of makes this discussion obsolete...

      October 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Amenhotepstein

      You "cleverly" forgot the rest of the verse: "...and I made you a prophet unto the nations." This is clearly a dialogue specifically between God and Jeremiah, NOT a blanket declaration of the humanity of a fetus – as many Christians maintain.

      October 31, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  10. JCSmith

    This is a good article and its argument is irrefutable

    October 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • spentecost

      unless you read Exodus scripture writer uses as evidence.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • HankLion

      Or Jeremiah 1:5
      Before I formed you in the womb I knew you...
      Not at birth, not at conception but before that.

      To me both parties are wrong and I seriously have to ask: Who is to judge which medical advancements are morally acceptable or not. The world will end when God has planned it. It's our job to take care of it while we are here.
      Why don't we put some more focus on the 'taking care' part than on the everlasting discussions about who is wrong or right?
      That would be my two cents for today.

      October 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  11. JCSmith

    You guys realize that Dudley doesn't interpret exodus 21 here. Watke does.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  12. tony

    Amen

    October 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  13. the AnViL

    unless you're a pregnant woman – you don't have an opinion. i can say if i were a pregnant woman – there's no way in hell i'd let anyone make decisions for me.

    religion is disgusting – and the people who profess beliefs in imaginary men in the sky should NOT be allowed to hold public office, vote, purchase firearms or teach public school.

    tolerance of religious idiocy has to end – enough is enough.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Mark

      Wow! How unhappy are you?

      October 31, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • CJ

      Leaving aside the whole atheist angle.... our founding fathers clearly intended that American laws would not be directly based on the opinions or moral judgements of any particular religion or religious group. So whatever opinion the Evangelicals hold.... the fact of the matter is that the law should not be, and does not need to be, based upon it.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • TacoDave

      Oddly enough, I learned a while back that a baby is made from two (TWO!) people: a man and a woman. The baby might be growing inside the woman's body, but the man is still responsible for – and has an opinion about – the baby.

      You are a feminist nutjob.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      But sir you do have a religion. Your god is a BIG Diverse Beast with his fingers in everything. Are ya broke yet? He's very needy.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Zeke2112

      So, after conception, the only right a father has is the right to pay child support? It takes two to create life but only one to end it? Laughable.

      Unless a pregnancy is the result of r@pe or inc3st, the father should have just as much right to make the choice as the mother. That is the inherent agreement when you choose to have unprotected s3x.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • the AnViL

      no taco dave.. i'm not a feminist... and i'm not a nutjob.

      what i am – is fed up with religiosity and the idiocy that comes with it.
      i'm also fed up with people who are caught in the grasp of delusional thinking working overtime to secularize their theological beliefs.

      as for women and their rights – once again – unless you're a pregnant woman, you've got nothing of value to say on the subject.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • the AnViL

      zeke – what if the father is an abusive drug addled drunken sack of trash?
      what if the father is a pedophile?
      what if the father is absent?
      what if the father decides the mother should have an abortion and the mother doesn't want one?

      looks to me like there's a lot more situations in which a woman might intelligently make that decision all on her own.

      laughable huh?

      i'll tell you what's laughable – someone who doesn't have to do the work telling everyone how to get the job done. someone without a stake in the pot telling everyone how to bet....

      better yet – what's laughable is people who make moral decisions based on a delusional construct.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • the AnViL

      mark – i'm pretty happy. thanks for your concern bro!

      October 31, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • the AnViL

      and what's even worse – is people with less than half an education, mired in 2000 years of religious idiocy trying to make moral decisions for others.

      that would be laughable if it wasn't so disgustingly sick and sad.

      October 31, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • the AnViL

      cj – no offense – but none of that BS prohibits religious nutbags from working overtime to find creative new ways to secularize their theological ideals. it happens. it's happening. it has happened.

      October 31, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  14. tony

    There is no section of the bible that was was not written or re-interpreted, by church leaders throughout history, purely for their own ends.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • CMoses

      The Church has the authority to interpret Scripture, just as it had the authority to determine what books belonged in Scripture.

      October 31, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  15. nes

    The blog is incorrect about Exodus 21:22–24. Anyone is free to read it. IF a woman is struck and gives birth to a child as a result and that child DIES, then the offender was to be put to death. It is very clearly spelled out and I do not know how this writer could attempt to make a claim otherwise.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • tony

      The verses say that the in the case of the loss of the "fruit", woman's husband shall choose the punishment, or compensation. Life is treated differently.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • why2

      if the child is born and then dies. Born and then dies, not dies and is delivered as a stillborn

      October 31, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  16. Craig Harris

    While i agree that there is a lot of hate wrapped up in this topic, I would also point out that Exodus 21:22-24 is in no manner a statement declaring an unborn child as not a soul. The crime was committed against the woman, not the fetus. Do the terrorists who committed 911 atrocities stand trial for every life they took? If a person commits a double crime, which murder are they dying for, assuming we have the grievous duty of terminating their life on earth, and if they are not terminated, will they actually serve all the life sentences they incur? of course not...we only have one chance here on earth according to the same scripture. The taking of any innocent life is a tragedy...whether intentional, (i.e. abortion or murder of a full grown adult) or through negligence. The curious thing is that this "debate" also now extends to people's quality of life. (Something we were told would never come up back in the early days of the abortion discussion.) Thankfully, those of us who believe that abortion disregards the life it is terminating (where does scripture say that God views any of us as "unwanted"?) also know that we are clearly told that all final vengeance for any crime is God's and our human discussions are going to matter very little when we face our Creator. If I am innocent of a crime in God's eyes, but my life here is terminated wrongfully, for that crime, scripture states that in eternal values it won't matter to me; but it will matter to the people who wrongfully terminated my life here. If you believe this is all there is, then it means survival of the fittest, which makes abortion perfectly logical as an "unwanted" pregnancy is an inconvenience, to say the least. Of course, what i believe will get the final test when I actually face the Creator i have ignored or embraced.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • John Sharp

      There is NO God.
      Stop the childishness. Grow Up!
      Religious people are so pathetic

      October 31, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  17. Aaron

    As an Evangelical I've always known that our Catholic brethren had it right on this issue, but it was science, not the bible, that grounded my beliefs. Life begins when it is unique- that happens seconds after conception when the mother and father's chromosomes combine to form the DNA of a person that has never existed before.
    Huge error in the authors scripture to validate that Exodus 21:22–24 when they say that the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense. If you look at some old translations, it said that if you hit a pregnant woman and she "miscarries" you have to pay a fine to her husband, but what almost all translations now read is that the term miscarriage did not mean end of life, but a premature birth and the scripture was saying that the punishment was to pay any cost associated with the child being born early. The next verse says "But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise." This is first a limitation on punishment that the husband can not demand more than was taken, but also can be read that if the baby was to die the husband can demand the life of the person who hit his wife.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Anon

      It’s very convenient that you get to pick and choose which translation you get to use when cherry pick verses from your bible. It makes for an almost infinite number of arguments in your favor. Bravo to you Mr. Evangelical for thinking outside the box.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Chris

      So why is it that for centuries catholics had to baptise a weak baby rapidly after birth because, if it died before being baptised, it was not recognized as god's and could not be buried in a catholic cemetary but in a common, unmarked grave? Doesn't that tell you that the definition of having a soul and being human was not even birth, it was being baptized.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Chat Pata

      That kind of a life, even a tree has. As a matter of fact many trees would be more intelligent than the fetes. We are talking about human lives here, something that Christians do not care about. Human life means a life becoming human i.e. having conciousness, not just shape.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Aaron

      Anon- it's not picking a translation, it's called looking at the original Greek and Hebrew. There are already "infinite number of arguments" from the people in this blog. The difference is that mine is not based on my feelings or the shifting wind of current social views, but on the Word of God that if you search hard enough for (including checking the original language) He will reveal to you. I pray that one day you understand this...I really mean that in a sincere way.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Aaron

      Chris- so your aregument is that a person does not have a soul until baptised- really? The issue you are referring to has nothing to do with the value of the human life that all Catholics believe in. You're interchanging "soul", "baptism", and "human life" to make no point about when "life" begins. Human life is respected regardless of when, or if, a person is ever baptised. BTW- in your example, even if the baby dies and is never brought into the church through the first sacrement of baptism their soul still goes to heaven according to doctrine.

      October 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Anon

      @Aaron

      And I hope that someday you’ll wake up and realize that you’re living in fantasy land. If you do enough research, you’ll find that the Abrahamic religions are nothing more than plagiarized myths from the time in which they were written ...I really mean that in a sincere way.

      October 31, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • CMoses

      @Anon, you should take a closer look at the number of churches (still standing or otherwise) spread throughout Africa, the Mediterranean, and even parts of central Asia and Europe, all of which were created by the apostles and early disciples themselves, who were rightly inspired by what they saw, many of whom who were willingly martyred because their first-hand account lead them to truly believe in what they witnessed.

      October 31, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  18. JeffreyRO5

    The Bible doesn't put that much value on human life: if you aren't a virgin on your wedding night, you are to be stoned to death. If you're gay, you're to be stoned to death. There's a lot of murder in the Bible so it's not a great book to rely on for morality!

    October 31, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Burt

      Excellent point, Jeffrey.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • sam stone

      I was both not a virgin and stoned on my wedding night

      October 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  19. ProLife

    When did CNN start calling in teenagers to write their specials? Based on his photo, is Jonathan Dudley old enough to vote next week? Even if he is, surely he wasn't at the age of reason when the issues he's writing about played out.

    I'm not sure about some evangelicals' beliefs, but (the author rightly notes that) the Church I belong to has always held to the correct position on contraception and abortion. Our philosophical and moral tradition has refined itself over the centuries and is fruit of the best of medieval and ancient scholarship from biblical and theological traditions. We don't sway with the wind and we have always been prolife.

    Regardless of religion, however, many people (religious and otherwise) switched their positions, probably evangelicals included, when technology had developed enough for ultrasounds to confirm what we already knew – that we're not talking about a mass of cells or blobs of tissue. We're looking at small embryonic or fetal human beings with developing organs and body parts. Once people began to see the "pregnancies" as little people the dialogue began to shift. And like a lot of other people, probably some evangelicals came around to see the truth that we already knew.

    Keep praying!

    October 31, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Burt

      PL, way to go with the ad hominem "arguments. At least you acknowledge that your thinking is "medieval". The smarter folk among us have gotten way past your ancient supersti-tious thinking.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Mittology

      Showing your age, dude.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Aaron

      Burt- you're right that your humanist worldview has moved you and many others beyond being disturbed by infanticide. That's what is so sad yet frightening. Catholics have it right; when you stop protecting ALLlife you start to rationalize killing infants that are not "healthy", then the old who are not "productive", then people who are not "worthy".

      October 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Sue Joan

      Bravo, for your intelligent, well written comment!! I was going to comment the inaccuracies of this blog but after reading your comment, I saw you said it all, excellently! And included an excellent argument for any change in feeling there might have been! I will add, if we see something moving in the bushes, and are not sure if it is human or not, do we shoot, hoping it's an animal, not human? (one we used back before the days when modern technology proved beyond a doubt that what is in the human womb, IS human from conception on)! You made my day, ProLife!

      October 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • David

      Congratulations, PL for revealing your less-than-Christian nature by attacking the personal appearance of the author. Clearly your behavior is reflective of today's apostate church.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • ProLife

      I honestly wasn't trying to create an ad hominem attack. He really does look like he's 17. Seriously – look at his photo. That's not a bad thing – people tell me I look 10 years younger than I am all the time. He's definitely under 40 (as I am, too) and so neither of us were at the age of reason in 1972 (which is when I was born).

      As far as the medieval thing goes... it's true that in English "medieval" is generally a pejorative term, however in other cultures and languages it does not have the same association. In fact, let's be honest – the foundation of our modern culture and society was laid then.

      Anyhow, my apologies if I seemed offensive :)

      Keep praying!
      Pro Life

      October 31, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • CMoses

      @ProLife, great post!

      October 31, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  20. John F.

    There is evidence in the Bible for life beginning before birth. The Hebrew word for "child", not "fetus", was used in the following passage. The New Testament should carry greater weight with Christians than the Old Testament. The author implies that the Bible unambiguously states that life begins at birth, but that is not the case.

    In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:39–45)

    October 31, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • JeffreyRO5

      I don't think anyone doubts that a fetus is alive, but rather, is it a person. If it's not a person yet, it doesn't have rights that attend personhood. That's the argument.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • CMoses

      Well then it starts with a question of where rights come from.

      November 1, 2012 at 11:24 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.