Today in Parliament
The recent vote in Ireland to legalise abortion was hailed as another significant step in that nation becoming ‘modern’. This does not say much for modernity – anymore than this afternoon’s emergency debatein the British Parliament to attempt a change of abortion law in Northern Ireland does about how seriously MPs take devolution. Devolution is sacrosanct when it favours the values of modernity; expendable when it opposes those values. Rather like babies and foetuses.
With statistics that tell us one in three British women will have an abortion at some point those of us who are pro-life are wise to tread gently in this area. It is all too easy to add shrillness to what is already a shrill enough debate. We should want our churches to be welcoming places to all people and need to be able to talk about abortion in a way that doesn’t just condemn and alienate women. We are not only pro-life – we are pro-people!
Yet there must also be times when we speak forcefully about the sins of our culture – and our culture’s commitment to abortion is undoubtedly one of those sins. It’s often been said (I’ve said it myself) that surely one day people will look back at abortion with as much bemusement and horror as we now do about the trans-Atlantic slave trade. But I’m no longer so sure that is the case. An increasingly technological society, in which human bodies are increasingly regarded as plastic and manipulable is one in which it is increasingly likely that interventions will be made in the reproductive process. Surrogacy, genetic screening, genetic engineering, and so on all become increasingly plausible. It is this increasing plausibility that makes killing or saving 24-week old babies in the same hospital a reality. Somehow modernity enables people to hold mutually contradictory views and practices together.
We should speak forcefully about this, point out the contradictions, appeal to reason and to humanity. But for there to be a shift in worldview over abortion would require a wholesale adjustment in how we view the human body. It would require people to understand the body as made in the image of God and as a potential temple for God’s Spirit. For that to happen requires more than waving placards outside abortion clinics – it requires revival. Only a spiritual revival will transform the plausibility structures of our culture. It is revival that will terminate abortion.