But there is another path that is beginning. With the Texas and Mississippi laws and all the rhetoric about restricting abortions or making them illegal or allowing seemingly disinterested parties to sue, we have forgotten one profound thing that this law and those laws like it do for the child in the womb. They call the child in the womb a life, they recognize the child in the womb as a life with a right to life. The beating heart part of that law makes it clear that under everything else, Texas is trying to mark the fetus as a child, define that fetal existence as life, and grant to that life the ordinary protections of any life.
I have no idea if Roe will ever be overturned. It was wrongly decided on so many levels but even bad laws and decisions become normative over time. Perhaps we will never get to a point at which our justices will say they were wrong. But I do believe that the more we identity the life in the womb as a child and a life deserving of ordinary protections, the justification and case for abortion will grow so weak as to be untenable. We may not be able to outlaw it but outlawing sin has not necessarily contributed to its decline anyway. Instead, we might be able to do something more profound. We might be able to get most folks to agree that with a beating heart and every possibility of that child's future already there in the child, that is life and just as every life has rights and deserves protection, so does this life in the womb.
Many pastors have told me and I know that many have taken hits from folks in the pews and media pundits for applauding the Texas law. It is not unusual for even our supporters to tire of hearing about abortion all the time. But by shifting the focus from what we are against to what we are for, we might have a new foothold on the climb to protect life as sacred, God-given, and worthy of our most basic and noble protection.
Now is the time to work to change the way we view the child in the womb. Either that child is a sort of parasite within the right of the woman to purge from her body or that child is a life worthy of the full protection of society and our laws. There is no middle ground here. Though so much ink is spent on the fringes (rape, incest, the real prospect of physical or emotional health to the mother, the right to be wanted, etc.), this is but a grand distraction designed to make those opposed to abortion concede their own position little by little. The vast majority of abortions have nothing to do with these narrow circumstances and have only to do with whether the woman carrying the child is willing to go through pregnancy and delivery or not. The simple answer is that these women choose not to go through with it. It is not that they could not but do not want to. The issues of physical or mental health are often enlarged as justification to avoid the stark reality -- they do not see this baby in the womb as a child, a life, or anything worth protections or a legal status. So the most profound answer to this is to focus on that life, the beating heart, and to get the nation to see the child in the womb as a child and as a life worthy of all the ordinary (not extraordinary but simple) protections of the law. Whether the Texas law stands or falls, it has moved us toward this goal. Whether the Mississippi law stands or falls, every conversation moves us to look at the child in the womb and make a decision.