Do You Care?

An American born in January 1973 may have graduated from college in the mid-‘90s; married, say, around the turn of the century; started a family around the time the war on terrorism was waxing hot; seen the oldest child most of the way through high school and the younger ones move into middle school…

Assuming, that is, said American actually got born. You can’t know. In January 1973 the U. S. Supreme Court swept aside the regulations and prohibitions of earlier years and declared the discovery of a constitutional right to privacy that allowed the abortion of an unborn child, subsequently known in political/medical terms as a “fetus.” With which declaration the court thought to settle a newly vexed question regarding female rights.

Uh-uh. Roe vs. Wade, 46 years later, is a center of political contention: more so perhaps in the age of Donald Trump than in the age of Richard Nixon. The theological nature of the abortion question, as opposed to the political nature, keeps apart the parties to the debate: half of whom, or thereabouts, dismiss the very idea that God (if there is a God!) is an authority with anything to say about human life.

Thus New York Gov. Mario Cuomo explains in a New York Times January op-ed piece why he signed into law a bill extending the right of abortion to a mother almost -- almost -- almost -- about to give birth, but fearful for her own health or unhappy with the baby’s prospects for good health.

The new law all but absolutizes abortion rights in the political terms that gave them birth, back in January 1973. Theology doesn’t enter in.

Says Cuomo, in his op-ed: “While governments may very well enact laws that are consistent with religious teaching, governments do not pass laws to be consistent with what any particular religion dictates…The decisions I choose to make in my life, or in counseling my daughters, are based on my personal moral and religious beliefs…My oath of office is to the Constitutions of the United States and of the State of New York - not to the Catholic Church…Our country is founded on pluralism…We cannot have true freedom of religion without separation of church and state. And the country cannot function if religious officials are dictating policy to elected officials. Only by separating constitutional duties from religious beliefs can we have a country that allows all people the ability to pursue their own theological and moral principles in a nation true to its founding premise of religious freedom.”

So much for God. If there is a God. Which you couldn’t figure out from listening to the howls of praise for the new New York law: a model, as it happens, for other states ready to blow off the legal doors depriving women of “choice” in the matter of giving birth.

A certain reluctance over the past four decades to exclude God from the discussion over abortions seems to have dissipated. The need, expressed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s father, Gov. Mario Cuomo, to register “personal” doubts about or even regretful opposition to, the Supreme Court’s teaching, seems barely extant: maybe gone entirely. 

The present need, by way of recognizing women’s right to “control” their bodies, is to treat abortion as a thoroughly political and governmental matter, like trash pickup. Seeing unborn life in the large context of human life itself demeans, we are apparently supposed to believe, the Constitution of the United States. The right of choice slams shut the cover of the Bible -- just a book, after all, you know. Read it if you like; don’t if you don’t like.

The desacralization of modern life, the uprooting of human choices from the supervision of some great Sky God (whom under the First Amendment you don’t have to believe in if you don’t want to) puts us under the authority of personal choice. Oh, the two of us don’t agree? That’s just how things are, I guess.

What “things”?, is the unexamined question. All things? The essentials of human society? Love, behavior, honor, punishment -- things like that? We have not probed those questions. The marriage question -- shall a couple comprising people of the same sex enjoy social approval on account on the couple’s personal desire? -- has yet to be really sorted out. That it is a question of the first order cannot be doubted, affecting as it does the very organization of society. And bearing on -- it had to come to this -- the authority of God as creator of all life, of every species, as detailed in witness and worship through all our history.

Abortion is a matter of immense importance. Can the state just let us take the lives of the inconvenient and let the matter go at that? Not on those articulated terms. What can’t we do if we can foreclose unborn life? Does the Constitution tell us? Or did the Founding Fathers, with a backward sweep of the knee, not silently, solemnly defer the basic questions of life to the God who was their Guide and Resource? Whom they never saw as a candidate for being thrust out of society by the political processes they were setting up?

Or does Gov. Cuomo even care? Do more than a shrinking corps of us care?

William Murchison is an author and journalist. He lives in Dallas, Texas.

Forward in Christ

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