What do the United States, North Korea, China, Vietnam, the Netherlands, Canada, and Singapore have in common? Only these seven countries allow abortion after 20 weeks. And if New York Governor Cuomo has anything to do with it, the United States will be in a class by itself. The State of New York already is.
Earlier this month, Governor Cuomo signed into law the Reproductive Health Act, (RHA). While many state laws restrict abortion after 24 weeks, New York has gone all in. Their RHA now allows abortion at any time during pregnancy, with elective abortions in the third trimester requiring only that a mother’s “health” be at risk. “Health” being vaguely defined and inclusive of “emotional” and “familial” factors. Essentially, this law allows the legal killing of fully-formed, viable unborn children, eliminating all restrictions on abortion and even permitting non-doctors to perform these procedures.
To celebrate his signing of this Act, Cuomo ordered the lighting up, in pink, of key New York landmarks, including the country’s tallest building, the One World Trade Center. Ironically, this location is one commemorating the death of over 2,600 innocent souls on September 11, 2001. Ironic, but ghoulishly appropriate.
In fairness to New York, four other states, Oregon, Vermont, Colorado, and New Hampshire, also have virtually no prohibitions to abortion at any stage of pregnancy.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, one lawmaker has introduced legislation to prohibit the slaughter of pregnant cows. Fortunately for cow fetuses, there is no Planned Parenthood of Bovines.
Most folks I know who support abortion rights acknowledge it should be a last choice option. But reading how Governor Cuomo “celebrated” the passage of the RHA by directing the One World Trade Center and other landmarks to be lit in pink to “shine a bright light forward for the rest of the nation to follow” sent shivers down my spine. Have we reached a point where we call evil good? All of this prompted me to take a moment and reflect upon my own pro-life beliefs, and why and how they came to be.
As a Christian:
I have long pondered what God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5), “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” If this was true for Jeremiah, is it not also true for the rest of us?
The US Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v Wade decision legalizing abortion justified its majority decision in part by stating that no one could answer the question of when a life begins. Abortion advocates had successfully clouded the legalization debate with a flurry of linguistic twist of phrases. Labeling the fetus with such tags as Product of Conception, Blob of Protoplasm, Contents of the Uterus, and Pregnancy tissue, had only one purpose, to cast doubt on the reality of human life in the womb. In 1973, I was stunned by the decision. If the Court did not know when life begins, then why not err on the side of life?
Today, scientific advancement leaves little doubt as to how to answer this question. It is a fact that…
- The heart begins to beat at day 21 after conception.
- A one-month-old embryo is 10,000 times bigger than the egg that was fertilized, and takes the shape of a baby by 8 weeks.
- Brain wave activity is detected at day 50
- Fingerprints form at week 7
- Fetal ovaries (in baby girls) appear around weeks 11-12.
- The fetus swallows, sleeps and awakens by week 12.
- Viability outside the womb has improved in recent decades from 28 to 24 and now less than 22 weeks.
- The fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks (or sooner).
As disturbed as my wife and I were to hear about the January 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, we had no idea how quickly we would personally experience its consequences.
My wife passed her Nursing Boards in August of 1972. We married in early September, and she immediately started working at Northside Hospital in Atlanta. Her doctor cautioned us not to be in a hurry to have children, voicing concern over her ability to conceive. So we were quite shocked to learn in early November that she was pregnant. Wow, how did that happen?
She continued working as a Nurse at Northside. In an autobiographical book we gave our children the year before she passed away, my wife shared how her pro-life beliefs evolved.
“I was a newly graduated RN working at Northside Hospital in Atlanta when all this started. I had signed a conscientious objection form when I applied stating that I would not assist with the administration of abortion procedures due to religious reasons. I thought the subject was settled. Boy, was I wrong. Rumors were flying that Doctors were going to start putting mid to late-term abortion patients on the medical/surgical floors (instead of the ob/gyn floor) for the nurses to deliver because it would be too traumatic for the patients to hear crying babies. What?!! I’m not supposed to be delivering babies! Especially dead babies! Well, by February the rumors came true, and my nightmare began. I was working the night shift and was designated a “float” or “rotation” nurse……
This particular night was in February 1973. I was working the medical floor and overseeing approximately 20 patients. When I received report that night, I learned I had two patients in labor. One was more active than the other. I was terrified. What was I to do? ….What made the whole situation so much more difficult was the fact that I was about 20 weeks pregnant with my first child. My patient was also about 20 weeks pregnant. She explained to me she was divorced with two little girls at home and could not face the fact of an unplanned pregnancy. She did not want to have to explain this to her girls or her family. Her doctor told her that … there was nothing formed yet. A day earlier, she had received an injection of saline (salt solution) into her uterus that would slowly kill the “fetus.” Usually within 24/48 hours, labor contractions begin, and the woman delivers the child. This is what my patient was experiencing, labor, not mild to moderate menstrual cramps as her doctor described. Her doctor prescribed Tylenol for pain. When I called to try to get something stronger, he actually said she didn’t deserve anything stronger! So as she labored, and cried in pain, she did finally deliver. Her baby boy. Not a mass of cells. Not a glob of tissue, or the products of conception…her baby boy. Oh, how we cried, as my baby moved within me. I then had to take her baby and place him in a bucket and take him to the lab…… I was numb. I don’t know how I got thru that night. I don’t remember. Buddy and I prayed that God would spare me from the horror of delivering these babies the rest of the time I was at Northside until I resigned at 7 months (of pregnancy). God honored that prayer.
I have told this story because it was truly a defining moment in my life. I held someone’s “choice” in my hands. You can’t get much closer to the subject. I was outraged at how this woman was treated. She was duped. She was disrespected. Women deserve better! Her “choice” and the death of her son set the compass for the ministry that I and Buddy would serve our entire married life, the “scarlet thread” so to speak.”
In the coming years, we would welcome unwed mothers into our home, and my wife would serve as a Nurse Manager of a Crisis Pregnancy Center the last fourteen years of her life. Some thirty years after Roe v Wade, she would share a different story with a different outcome.
“I have a confession to make. As a worker at Refuge Pregnancy Center, I sometimes have doubts. I counsel women who have crisis pregnancies. “I am too young to have a baby,” “I cannot afford a baby,” “It’s just not a convenient time” — the list of excuses are long, and I have heard most of them. So many times, women leave the office and are never heard from again. I grow weary doing what I do. But then again, there are days that I just want to fall on my face and worship a God who reaches down and touches a human heart.
She was just one of a countless number of clients who have walked through our doors. But she was one who changed her mind and gave birth to a healthy baby boy. She returned to Refuge, gladly returning the items we had given her to help her through her pregnancy. Now she and her Mom walked in to say thank you. Her eyes met mine. She turned to her Mom, pointed at me, and said, “Mom, this is the woman who saved my baby’s life.” I cried then, I tear up even now. How dare I wonder what usefulness I serve? How dare I complain about the many who turn away? I simply need to obey. What a God we serve!
Humbled, face down, I worship a God who saves.”
So, why am I pro-life? Yes, my faith guides me. I believe Life has intrinsic value because it is created in the image of God. If not, then one’s “value” is left to the relative measures of being wanted or productive. Science informs me that the facts of human development reveal a living, growing, human life in the womb. And my wife always reminded me that women deserve better than to be told the lie that killing a life within will save a life without.
So how long can a Society survive when it calls immoral things moral?
One of my favorite Thomas Jefferson quotes is a little known statement he made in 1784 as he contemplated the consequences of slavery in America, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.” This is quite ironic given that Jefferson was a slaveowner.
Yet this quote has haunted me for decades. It always seems to find its way to my trembling heart each January, the month many designate as Sanctity of Human Life Month, marking the — now 46th — anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. It is a time to celebrate Life as well as mourn its destruction.
There have been over 60 million abortions since that fateful 1973 Court decision. I wonder if Jefferson would say the same if he were to ponder the consequences of abortion in America? I wonder if we as a nation have grown numb to this evil that still poisons our national soul? Governor Cuomo’s celebration in pink would certainly indicate so. I wonder if we have forgotten how to tremble before the Author of Life and God of Justice?
Living in this One Nation, under God, I am still wondering, still praying, still trembling……for God’s justice cannot sleep forever.