Stale Rhetoric of Abortion Debate

Monday was the 34th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. It is a decision that legalized abortion and launched a three plus decade war of words (and sometimes more). At times the rhetoric is vicious and demeaning, and occasionally it ends up becoming violent. Abortion has become an important political wedge issue that divides churches and partisan politics. But in the end, what has all of this accomplished.

Diana Butler Bass suggests that the church has failed mightily in its attempts to get a handle of the issue. In a God's Politics post she turns to Stanley Hauerwas, who puts a kind of pox on both your houses response to the abortion debate.

To commemorate the day, I decided to re-read some Stanley Hauerwas (Duke Divinity School ethicist) essays on abortion. After spending Monday morning with Stanley, it is difficult to fault the Post for not carrying a story about Roe vs. Wade. As Hauerwas noted in 1981, "Essays of the morality of abortion, whether they be anti or pro, have begun to take on a ritualistic form. Each side knows the arguments and counterarguments well, but they continue to go through the motions. Neither side seems to have much hope of convincing the other."

She goes on to say that little has changed in the quarter century since that was written. So, what does it mean to put this debate and a truly Christian context? She writes:

But, for Christians, abortion remains an important ethical issue, one that is surprisingly difficult because we have given up the theological dimensions of the discussion in favor of those two ritualized (and politicized) positions. I can relate to the words of Presbyterian minister, Rev. Terry Hamilton-Poor: "I believe that it is essential that the church face the issue of abortion in a distinctly Christian manner." She continues, "I believe that the issue, for the church, must be framed not around the banners of 'pro-choice' or 'pro-life,' but around God's call to care for the least among us whom Jesus calls his sisters and brothers."

I think that's a good place to be!


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