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Culture Friday: Abortion in America


WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: Abortion in America

Tens of thousands of pro-lifers gather in Washington to mark the 50th March for Life

celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington on June 24, 2022 Associated Press Photo/Steve Helber

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s the 20th day of January, 2023. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

Two days from today—Sunday, January 22nd—marks the 50th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. Since that Supreme Court decision in 1973 legalizing abortion in all 50 states, more than 60 million unborn children died by abortion in America.

BROWN: This summer, the Supreme Court reversed Roe in a case called Dobbs versus Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That decision did not make abortion illegal once again, but instead turned the issue back to the states to decide.

Today in Washington...

AUDIO: Are y’all ready to march?

… a much different March for Life than last year.

EICHER: Right, it was filled with anticipation that Roe versus Wade would fall before its 50th anniversary and that’s exactly what happened.

The march goes on, though—in the words of organizers—because the building of “a culture of life is not finished.” March for Life estimates that 900,000 abortions are likely this year and that the annual decrease at best will be about 200,000 in a post-Roe America.

So, says March for Life, the work to change hearts, minds, and laws is now much more a state-by-state, community-by-community issue.

BROWN: So as tens of thousands of pro-lifers gather in Washington to mark the 50th March for Life on a much-warmer day in the Nation’s Capital than it was last year! We will devote our Culture Friday today to pro-life issues.

EICHER: We will—and joining us now for that conversation is Andrew Walker. He’s a professor of Christian ethics and apologetics at Southern Seminary.

He is also managing editor of WORLD Opinions.

Andrew, glad to have you.

ANDREW WALKER, GUEST: Hey, Nick and Myrna. Always good to be with you.

EICHER: Before we get started, really grateful for your part in last night’s WORLD Opinions livestream. Great panel you put together. And we’ll link to it in the transcript so WORLD listeners can re-watch on YouTube and share it with others and I’ll also mention now that tomorrow morning, we’ll have produced an audio podcast of the Livestream. So you’ll hear that tomorrow in your podcast feed right here.

But Andrew, this is a momentous day, lots of grateful pro-lifers marching thankfully to the Supreme Court versus hopefully last year, versus 2021, when it was more like other years, in mourning or in protest of what the Supreme Court had done.

Let me begin by asking about consequences. We know the consequences by the numbers. We’ve mentioned the statistics. But I want to ask: Do you think Roe and the abortion-on-demand regime it brought in changed us or do you think America was headed down this road eventually—abortion really came along as a result?

Maybe, in other words, was abortion a catalyst or was it a consequence of something else?

WALKER: I think it's definitely the case that abortion was a catalyst that kind of produced what one of the popes referred to as a culture of death. And what we saw happen in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade, was, as you mentioned already, over 60 million deaths of fellow human beings. To reckon that as anything other than a human rights atrocity and human rights tragedy, would be to fail to reckon with what it truly is. And as we are at this new stage in the pro-life movement, we want to be really clear and mournful about the life that has been lost, while at the same time being grateful for the work that was accomplished over 50 years of people organizing—often at great cost of themselves financially, with their social reputations. And so I think as the culture of death marched on from 1973 onward, we saw the very best of what happens when Christians and Americans rally around a cause that I think ultimately brings us back to the very foundations of both our faith and our own Constitution. A faith that says that we're all made in God's image born and unborn. And also a Constitution that says we're endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights—among them life. That's the very first of those enumerated rights that we have a right to act upon and fulfill. We should be so thankful that in 2022, 50 years of organizing brought Roe to its end. Now, we obviously have a lot more work to do, as you said. But if I'm optimistic for anything, it's because the good work that was once previously done is still continuing. And I think that, once again, you're going to see the very best of Americans and the very best of Christians step up and care for women, and care for women who find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy.

EICHER: When you think of political polarization, do you blame abortion for that? Is that too simplistic a view of politics?

WALKER: I think there's a confluence of reasons that polarization happened. I think one of the biggest things we saw happen was one party in this country took evermore egregious stands in defense of abortion. We can look from the mid 1990s with the Bill Clinton administration, when the adage was to keep abortion safe, legal and rare, which in that context meant that there was still some type of stigma or regret attached to abortion. 25 or 30 years later, we've now moved forward to this issue of shout your abortion, and a total, complete loosening of any stigma around abortion. And so I think that is necessarily cheapened our politics. Doubtlessly, given how politics works, I'm sure both sides can share some blame in this. But when all is said and done, we have one party in the United States of America that has written into their platform the destruction of human life. And we need to be very clear about that and the moral contrast that presents as Christians think about competing political ideologies on offer right now.

BROWN: Andrew, I’m interested in this question of evangelicals being so late to the pro-life cause, very different from our Roman Catholic friends who were on this right away.

You’re an ethics professor and I wonder what you know about the history of evangelical ethical thinking on life issues, what took so long?

WALKER: Yeah, Myrna, that's a really good question. In my own convention, the Southern Baptist Convention, we were grievously very slow to come to grips with the pro-life movement. And in fact there are resolutions, I believe, in the 1970s that are more or less pro-choice. And I think that has to do with perhaps, at least in the 1970s, there was a whiff of anti-Catholicism within many sectors of Protestantism. And I think that being pro-life was meant to be predominantly a Catholic issue. We still have our differences with Catholicism in many ways, but there has been an increased co-belligerence between Protestants and Catholics on the pro-life issue. In fact, I would say, it's probably the issue that allows for us to work together in the social sphere more than any other issue. But I also think, too, that the Roman Catholic Church has had 2,000 years to build out kind of an elaborate philosophical system of Catholic social teaching, and Protestants, depending on how you date us, have had 500 years to do so. And we've been a little bit slower to codify and formulate our own social teaching. It's not as though we didn't have it there laying dormant in our teaching, or in the Scripture. It's certainly there in Scripture. But it takes a while for people to come to grips with social movements. It takes a while for institutions to begin to do what they need to do, which is to get right on the issue and to hire the right people, to write the right papers, to mobilize the right people. So I don't think it's just one thing in particular. It's a confluence of issues. But all that to say, being wrong on this in the past, as grievous as it is, I think, now if you ask what is an evangelical or what do evangelicals stand for now in the public square, one of the things that would be said about them is that they're so fervently pro-life. And I think that's an adage to the fact that in 50 years people can change and change for the better.

BROWN: I’d like to close by asking what you think the biggest challenges are ahead for that main issue March for Life talks about, and that’s the building of a culture of life where abortion is not just illegal but unthinkable?

WALKER: I think that there are at least two really big difficulties that we have to overcome. And I think one is just how ingrained and routine abortion is in our culture, that people have thought of it as the last form of birth control. I think that means that we have to change hearts and minds. We need to work evermore to humanize the unborn, to demonstrate our care for women who find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy. I also think, just tactically speaking, this issue arguably became more complex as this now becomes a 50 state issue rather than just a federal issue. So it means that the work to address this on the state issue is more dispersed. So it means there are going to have to be more local level initiatives, and citizens on the ground in all 50 states to really put the pro-life ethic into action. That necessarily means paying attention to the political sphere. As I'll often say in my class, it's not oftentimes that a lot of Americans disagree on the pro-life issue, it's that either they're A) uninformed or B) they're just not politically motivated to vote to correct this issue. So I think this is both expanding hearts to build sympathy for the unborn and for women. It's also an educational aspect as well as informing minds to get people off the sidelines and for them to be made aware of just how invasive and cruel pro-choice laws really are.

BROWN: Andrew Walker is professor of Christian ethics and apologetics at Southern Seminary and managing editor of WORLD Opinions. Thanks, Andrew!

WALKER: Thank you all. 

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