Abortion is a polarising topic. People often try to shy away from the conversation entirely or speak very passionately about their views. Our culture often suggests that there is only one correct view if we are pro-women. Those wanting to propose another perspective are frequently shut down as being un-feminist and un-loving. So how can Christians be both pro-women and pro-child (if a stance is even possible), all whilst showing that the Christian view of life is loving?
This Friday, England’s Court of Appeal rejected a case against disability discrimination in abortion law that had been brought forward by disability campaigner, Heidi Crowter.
Heidi is a 27-year-old from Coventry that has Down’s syndrome herself. She brought legal action against the Department of Health and Social Care last September, claiming that current abortion law both stigmatises and discriminates against the disabled. In England, Wales, and Scotland there is a 24-week time limit on having an abortion, unless there is “substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped”. If a baby meets this threshold, they can be aborted up until birth.
In upholding the current law, courts have acknowledged that their ruling will make members of the disabled community feel “upset and offended”. Yet, they have ruled that the current law does not interfere with Article 8 rights, the article in the European Convention on Human Rights that protects one’s right to respect for private and family life.
What the courts have failed to acknowledge in this ruling is that those with disabilities ought to have the same right to life as all other babies. Under our current law, one’s medical diagnosis in the womb affects their legal status.
Upon hearing the ruling, Heidi was distraught. She said that the continuation of this law suggests that her life “isn’t as valuable as others”. Through permitting these abortions, legislators have allowed for discrimination on the basis of disability, even though discrimination on the basis of gender or race remains illegal.
This ruling, and the law itself, goes against the Christian idea that all life is sacred and valued by God. Psalm 139 is very clear in saying that the Lord formed our “inward parts”, knowing the very intimate details of our make up. This is not because he has a magic telescope, but because he himself “knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (v13). He knows whether a baby is disabled far before a medical screening, yet still values them as a human life made in the image of the triune God (Genesis 1:26). All human life is therefore loved by God.
Taking a pro-life stance on a case like Heidi’s is far from un-loving to either the mother or the baby. On the contrary, Christians have good news to share! We are holding out the message that God values all human life equally. Both mothers and their babies are loved and cared for; those with disabilities are far from ‘less valuable’. In saying that we are pro-life, we stand in solidarity alongside those with disabilities, saying that their lives are worthy of living.
However, as we take this stance, we do so with compassion. Any parent that might wish to abort their baby due to their having disabilities will likely feel overwhelmed or even stressed at what it might mean to have a disabled child. We should absolutely be praying with and for them - for strength and wisdom in times ahead. We should also be showing practical help - whether that be offering to make meals, offering financial support, giving lifts to the hospital or volunteering to help with childcare in evenings when we are free. Christians should be active in their love and support for both the unborn and their parents. Our message is only as strong as the actions behind it.
Abortion is not an issue we need to shy away from, nor should it only be table conversation. Christians should be acting on what they believe, even when that is sacrificial. This ruling is disappointing and against the Christian view of life. However, when courts do not act in favour of the disabled and protect them, Christians can show compassion and love - so let’s get on with it!