For me the discussion of the sanctity of human life is more than a political or philosophical debate. It is actually the focal point of my own story of coming to faith in Christ.
Though I was raised in a Christian home and as long as I can remember, I knew that I was a sinner and that Christ died for my sins. It was a rather shallow faith, however, because beginning in college I became more interested in pleasing myself than in pleasing God. I thought I was “performing better” than most of my friends because I didn’t participate in the “top 2 sins” of the 60’s: illegal drugs and premarital sex. I was under the mistaken idea that if your performance was adequate (and I thought I was the judge of what was adequate) God would let the rest slide.
Midway through my medical school training, Roe vs. Wade was passed by the Supreme Court. That opened the door for abortion to be discussed openly in medical school classrooms. The collective conscience of the country was changed in a couple of years by a clever campaign spearheaded by NARAL (National Abortion Right Action League) and one of it’s co-founders Dr. Bernard Nathanson. The idea was that you could be morally opposed to abortion but defend another’s right to CHOOSE to abort. After all, Americans were all about freedom and freedom of choice had a winning ring to it. More on this later.
I became convinced in medical school that abortion was simply a procedure that allowed women freedom to control their own lives; make their own decisions. When I became a resident physician in training, I not only promoted this ideology, I put it into practice. We were required to rotate through Planned Parenthood where I was taught how to perform abortions and I became a proficient abortionist. During my first and most of my second year of residency, I did abortions at Planned Parenthood and at a private abortion clinic. When I stopped, it was not because I thought abortion was morally wrong, but because I began to loathe the “reconstruction” of the dismembered aborted fetus that is required after each abortion to be sure all the parts are removed. Does that thought cause your stomach to turn? Curiously it took about 700 abortions for this to happen to me.
I did not come to truly understand the sanctity of life for another 10 years. That was when I came to know God personally and began to study His word. I learned that each of those babies whose lives I snuffed out had worth because they were created and bore the image of God. Fortunately I also learned of His magnificent forgiveness that transcends the magnitude of our sins if we confess and seek forgiveness. (1John 1:9). Oh! the wonder of being given a new start! (2 Corinthians 5:17). I tell my story to give comfort to those who might feel that they are beyond God’s forgiveness. If He forgave me, He will forgive you, too!
Freedom of choice has a nice ring to it. Actually in the 1960’s and before, most Americans were opposed to abortion for any reason. The sexual revolution had invaded our culture. Antibiotics had conquered all known sexually transmitted infections (AIDS was not known at that time). Birth control pills were just coming on the scene and the only remaining obstacle preventing “total sexual freedom” was the unplanned pregnancy. Dr. Bernard Nathanson in his book: “The Hand of God” chronicles this including his own contribution to the transformation of American opinion on abortion. He championed the idea that we even if we opposed abortion, we could sit on the sidelines and allow someone else to “choose” abortion. This so called “tolerance” of another’s opinion was heralded as somehow even morally superior to that of imposing a societal morality. The rest is history and the Supreme Court gave the final stamp of approval in 1973. I recommend this book if you are interested in reading about the history of abortion in this country as well as the account of Dr. Nathanson’s own conversion to Catholicism and transformation to a pro life advocate. He is well known as the narrator of the famous short videos: “The Silent Scream” and “The Absence of Reason”, videos of actual abortions from the baby’s perspective using real-time ultrasound and fetoscopy. (Beware, these videos are not for children or the faint of heart!)
I also recommend a book by Dr. R.C. Sproul: “Abortion, A Rational Look At An Emotional Issue”. In this book, Dr. Sproul brilliantly dissects the abortion debate in understandable terms.
Finally when you hear the voices on both sides of the abortion debate, remember my story. It is more than a philosophical argument over who’s rights trump another’s. Abortion is the violent, gruesome destruction of a tiny human being, sacrificed for the convenience of another. I am struck by how we have begun to speak of it as almost a sacred right in our society. America, beware of what you celebrate! God forgive us.