Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Life at Conception Act

Senator Rand Paul has introduced the Life at Conception Act (henceforth LCA) in what I take to be a sincere attempt to end the practice of abortion in the US. I have not read the act, but I’m reasonably sure the title captures the essence: human life begins at conception, therefore to term abortion “the elimination of a product of conception” is simply an attempt to deny that a human is being murdered by using obfuscatory language to deny the personhood of the victim.

This is all well and good so far. Contrary to the willful ignorance of some, libertarians in both small-government and anarchist camps do care about life and want to see murderers brought to justice. This goes (or should go) double for Christians, who want to please God in all aspects of life and who know that God has special concern for the defenseless.

The act is not without its problems, however. The one I want to concentrate on is the lack of the definition of conception. “The Medical Definition of conceptionat says that it is “the process of becoming pregnant involving fertilization or implantation or both.” Read it again. Do you see the illogic? How can one “become pregnant” in any meaningful sense without both fertilization and implantation (the latter requiring fertilization)? If one cannot be pregnant without implantation, then fertilization by itself does not conception make. If one can become pregnant without implantation, why is it mentioned as an alternative? Is implantation required or not? I don’t see that the question is answered.

The good folks at define conception as fertilization alone, and that’s fine, but they are not the household name that Merriam-Webster is.

My point is that the experts don’t seem to agree on what conception is. I assume the LCA defines conception as fertilization.

By doing so it will arouse opposition from those who would include implantation in the definition of conception. It will also arouse opposition from those who in the light of Lev 17:11 (“The life of a creature is in the blood; cf. 17:12-13) and Deut 12:23 (“Be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat”) believe that only those beings with blood are alive.

Because the Bible does not define conception scientifically, I think we need to be very careful about taking scientific definitions as God given. The Bible was written to people who knew they were pregnant only when implantation had long since occurred. The product of conception had blood and therefore was a human being with all the rights and privileges thereof by any possible biblical definition, and killing that human being would be at best a self-defense measure and otherwise murder.

But let’s go with conception as fertilization. What can we look forward to as the LCA is enforced? I will assume here – though I don’t for a moment believe it – that there will be no problem enforcing the law against abortions performed on beings with blood. I want to concentrate on the vast majority of killings of products of conception: those accomplished using IUDs, in which term I include drugs and any other technology that prevents fertilized eggs from implanting.

I want to address specifically how this law will impact privacy. We agree that murderers have no right to privacy. The question before us is now much privacy nonperpetrators have, and I address the following to those who support the LCA and the definition of conception as fertilization.

If the LCA defines life as beginning at fertilization, that makes IUDs implements of murder, right? At least with a firearm you can say it’s to shoot burglars. I don’t see any use for an IUD besides keeping fertilized eggs from implanting.

How do you make sure women don’t have IUDs? After all, if you outlaw IUDs in the US, those who want them can go to China or Canada (or to an underground IUD dealer) and get one. Bootleg web sites will give downloadable instructions on how to 3D print them. People smarter than I am will come up with even more, shall we say, effective ideas.

Do you force all women to undergo random X-rays? Do you monitor their menstrual cycles and force them to take pregnancy tests if their period comes X days late? In short, does the US become a giant airport where women have to go through the equivalent of a TSA frisk every month to prove that they are not murderers?

With a regular murder you have a corpse to show that a death has occurred and some procedure to determine if the death was caused by foul play. I’m sure it is possible to determine if a woman has prevented the implantation of a fertilized egg, but do you want all women of childbearing age in the US to go through that procedure, and if so, how often? Otherwise, how do you know the murder has occurred?

These are not nitpicky questions. If you’re serious about enforcing that law, you’d better prepare for a fight from those who disagree with your definition of when life begins. If you’re going to make X a crime, you need to decide how you’re going to enforce the law. How much in the way of money and intangibles are you willing to spend? What cost does God want you to impose on those who disagree with you but are not themselves guilty of murder by IUD?

The Mafia and the police state are unintended (at least by sincere prohibitionists) consequences of alcohol prohibition and marijuana prohibition, respectively. What unintended consequences might we expect from a war on IUDs?

It used to be that missionaries went to places like New Guinea knowing that the people there were murderers by any definition. (Don Richardson’s Peace Child and Lords of the Earth are two well-known biographies of such missionaries.) They didn’t go with guns to arrest, try, and execute murderers. They went with the gospel to try to persuade them to settle their disputes peacefully. Some of those missionaries ended up being murdered.

I would suggest that the US is closer to heathen New Guinea than to the kind of Christian commonwealth that would support the LCA. We need to approach our neighbors as sojourners, ambassadors of a foreign king, not as expecting the culture as a whole to regard us as “the powers that be … ordained as God.” We begin by taking disputable activities off the table and concentrate on the general truth that all are rebels against God. After all, if we can’t get unbelievers to accept that general idea, they will never see their need for Jesus to clean up those specific areas of their lives.

The issue of abortion, and IUDs in particular, is secondary. The pro-abortion viewpoint will be well represented in hell, as will the sexually immoral in general, but so many people who consider IUDs murder and were virgins before their one marriage to a member of the opposite sex. Yes, we want to see people agree with God about IUDs, abortion in general, and sexuality in general, but who Jesus is and what he has done and our need for a savior because of our rebellion against God in every aspect of life is even more important.

Our hope – our sure hope – is that those who come to Christ will turn away from sexual immorality, but if someone is convinced that his sex life is moral no matter what the Bible says, I would suggest that a would-be evangelist agree to disagree on that point for a while and look for places in his target’s life that they agree he falls short of God’s standards in. Once he agrees in principle, we can trust God to work on him with the specifics. I’m living proof that what seems like a good idea one day can be not only regretted but considered repugnant in time.

Maybe there’s a place for appealing to the government to enforce laws on the books, like Paul did when he challenged the Roman guards who were about to scourge him (Acts 22:5; but compare that with Acts 14:19). But I think we need to think twice before we try to get laws that most people disagree with passed, especially when the root of the problem is out of reach of the law, as the human heart is.

At least for now, I think the watchword is “’Vengeance is mine,’ says the Lord, ‘I will repay.’” I can’t stop abortion in China and other countries where it is even more prevalent than it is in the US. If abortion were outlawed in Pennsylvania today, I wouldn’t be able to stop it in California. I can’t stop Sunnis and Shiites from killing each other in the Middle East, nor Pakistanis and Indians from killing each other in Kashmir. I would love the opportunity to talk to the perpetrators in every case and try to persuade them to desist, but until God opens that door, I have to leave dealing with those people to him.

If he were to open the door, I would expect to go through it unarmed, not to punish but with the assignment of appealing to them to be reconciled to God. No act of Congress is going to open that door, and if the door is open, no act of Congress is needed.

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