Mary Rathke is fortunate to be alive. She’s a mom now, but her brush with death came early, very early. Her mother, a victim of rape, chose to carry Baby Mary to term. The rest, so to speak, is history.
Mary’s mother suffered from a mental illness, and at age five Mary became a blessing to an adoptive family, helping her new mother recover from a tragic past.
Being pro-life should not primarily be a political issue. It is a position that arises out of a belief that sees all human life, including a pre-born child, as sacred because it bears the image of the living God.
In Nigeria, to be Christian is to be pro-life, according to Sam Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. The pro-life position goes beyond political factions; it is a theological commitment.
And the designation goes beyond the issue of abortion. The “Pro-Life Nigeria” Facebook page posted this statement Jan. 20:
Abortion, euthanasia, domestic abuse, gang related violence, terrorism, murder, mass shootings, expressions of hatred or racism and other acts contrary to the dignity of persons… all of these crimes cry out for justice. Yet we are a people of hope, and St. Paul reminds us that “in hope we were saved” (Rom 8:24).
American Christians can learn from Nigeria. Being pro-life should not be about being Republican or Democrat; it should be about being a person who values all human life. And being pro-life should not merely mean opposition to abortion; it should mean opposition to all actions that devalue human life.
Abortion is a tragic response to an unwanted circumstance. We are not talking about a fetus; we are talking about a human baby. That life is to honored, appreciated, and nurtured. Yes, an unexpected or unplanned pregnancy will alter the course of a person’s life, but to carry that child to term is not to limit a parent’s life, it is to enrich it in a manner not expected or planned.
And abortion is not primarily a legal issue. Abortions occurred before Roe v Wade made it legal in 1973. Our goal should not be simply to make abortion illegal but to make it unthinkable, as has been said by others. It is important to help women and men see alternatives to abortion — alternatives that are life affirming for the child, the mother, and the father.
As a result, it is important for those of us who oppose abortion to affirm the value of all lives touched by an unexpected or unplanned pregnancy. Quality prenatal care is essential. Support for women and their children after birth is critical. And adoption services must be in place to help connect children with homes that can adequately support them.
And let’s not stop talking about a responsible sexual ethic. Many unexpected pregnancies are the result of sexual intimacy outside of a marriage commitment. Sex has become a part of dating in our culture, and unexpected pregnancies will continue to arise until that trend is changed.
Let’s not forget about the other ways we devalue human life, as the Nigerians remind us. Euthanasia, domestic abuse, gang-related violence, terrorism, murder, mass shootings, hatred, and racism are “contrary to the dignity of persons.” And, of course, here are more examples, including those suffering in poverty and those confined in our prisons, many of whom did not have adequate legal representation.
Now is the time for a consistent pro-life ethic, one that values human life from conception to natural death. The Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission is working on multiple fronts to make this a reality, but what is needed most is for our pastors and other church leaders to embrace the importance of all human life as individuals created in the image of God and to join hands in letting the world know.
Jesus gave us this life ethic in Matthew 25 when he told them that how a person treats the vulnerable is a clear revelation of what one thinks of God and God’s creation. Jesus said we will be held accountable for how we live now.
(A version of this article appeared in Texas Baptists Magazine, March 2016, which can be viewed online.)