If you watched the Vice Presidential Debate on Tuesday, you will probably agree that the moments of greatest sincerity and real discussion were when both candidates discussed their faith. In that discussion, the issue of abortion was volleyed back and forth a few times. This post is not a commentary on the debate itself, or on either of the candidates, but rather on the particular rhetoric that Tim Kaine used regarding abortion. He said:
“Governor, why don’t you trust women to make this choice for themselves? We can encourage people to support life. Of course we can. But why don’t you trust women? Why doesn’t Donald Trump trust women to make this choice for themselves. That’s what we ought to be doing in public life. Living our lives of faith or motivation with enthusiasm and excitement, convincing other, dialoguing with each other about important moral issues of the day but on fundamental issues of morality, we should let women make their own decisions.”
The rhetoric that Tim Kaine used is not uncommon to pro-choice supporters. Our country was founded on individual liberty, and there is a good desire supporting Kaine’s views to maintain individual liberty.
His words echoed in the back of my mind until the next day, when I was attempting to finish a book called “City of Man” by Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner, The book is a short, helpful read to encourage people to think reasonably and biblically about the political issues of today. In a section on the importance of persuasion in public discussion, the authors used Abraham Lincoln’s and Stephen Douglas’s famous series of debates as they vied for United States Senator from Illinois. In these debates that often focused on the issue of slavery, Lincoln argued that all humans had dignity and rights, regardless of race, and therefore slavery was a moral evil that must be ended through the authority of the Federal government. The authors summarize and quote Douglas’s view and rhetoric on page 120:
“Douglas, one of the most accomplished orators of his time, did not argue in favor of slavery per se; rather, he argued on behalf of the popular will. According to this doctrine, it was up to the free citizens in the territories of the United States to decide whether or not to practice slavery. ‘Trust the people’ was Douglas’s creed. ‘The issues between Mr. Lincoln and myself … are direct, unequivocal, and irreconcilable,’ Douglas said, ‘He goes for uniformity in our domestic institutions, for a war of sections, until one or the other shall be subdued. I go for the great principles of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill — the right of the people to decide for themselves.'”
Of course, we celebrate Lincoln’s bravery today. His leadership and convictions not only preserved the union, but also abolished slavery in the United States. He saw the issue of slavery as a grave moral injustice, and he used his power and authority in the Federal government to right that injustice. While equality still remains a major public square issue today, Lincoln’s leadership started America on the path to racial equality.
Some of us may ask, “How could anyone support slavery? How could Douglas argue that the people should be trusted to make their own choices in local government regarding the injustice of slavery?”
If we fast-forward 150 years, we see the same rhetoric being applied to the choice of abortion.
Wherever possible, it is the government’s responsibility to maintain individual freedom, but we understand that individual freedom does not mean the government protects our ability to do whatever we want. The government protects against the injustice of murder, rape, theft, abuse, perjury, etc. In one sense, the government has a set of moral values that limit certain freedoms (for example, the right to kill someone I don’t like) for the good of a society.
The question, then, is not whether or not a segment of society has the right or freedom to choose for themselves.
The question is not whether or not we trust a segment of society.
The question is: are the unborn human? Because if the unborn are human, then abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent human life. That is a travesty. That is a moral injustice.
If it is a moral injustice, then abortion is not an issue that can be trusted to the sensibilities of a segment of our society. Instead, it is the responsibility of the government to use their power and authority to end the moral evil of abortion.
To understand the basics on Christianity’s view that every human has dignity and should be treated as equal, you can read this previous post.