Social Issues, Theology

Overturning Roe isn’t enough to eradicate a culture of death

Does anyone care what I think about the increasingly likely possibility of overturning Roe v. Wade? Likely not. I’m admittedly quite hesitant to add my voice to all the noise on the internet right now. 

In my social media feeds, I see two prevailing perspectives: one from conservatives who are celebrating, and one from liberals who are furious to lose the legal right to abortion. Here’s what I wish more people would talk about: even if Roe is overturned, it won’t do much to change the culture of death we have on our hands. Those roots run much deeper and have further-reaching consequences than a decades-old court ruling. 

What Is A “Culture Of Death”?

The stereotype of the average pro-lifer, as you well know, is someone who presumably doesn’t care about the child’s well-being past the point of birth. That may be true of many politicians, but it’s not true of most pro-lifers I know. Still, stereotypes exist because they start with a small grain of truth. The pressure put on women to choose abortion because they believe there’s no other option comes from both sides of this debate.

A “culture of death” is one that doesn’t provide mandatory, paid maternity leave for working mothers. It doesn’t attempt to make childcare or healthcare more affordable. It doesn’t pay a living wage. It still fires women for being pregnant. And that’s the political side of things. 

Then there’s the social culture of death, which judges women who work outside the home even if their household won’t survive otherwise; judges women who choose to stay home with their kids because somehow it’s not feminist; judges women for formula feeding over breastfeeding, the size of their families, and so much more it makes my head spin. 

Again, this toxic death culture is not unique to the political right or left. A healthy society is one in which we want everyone to flourish, even if our neighbor’s poverty is not technically our problem. Even if our neighbor’s dreams are different from our dreams. 

Simply put, a “culture of death” is what persuades a woman, implicitly and explicitly, to believe that abortion is her best and only option.

When A Narrative Becomes Prophecy

I don’t want to minimize the hardship that comes with parenthood. I’m well aware that there are sacrifices one must make to adequately care for a child, and most of that sacrifice is disproportionately made by women. Those sacrifices could be anything from putting a degree on hold to experiencing bodily changes that can be quite debilitating. I want to honor those struggles and not trivialize them, because they are significant. 

While the issues raised above are valid, I do wonder how much the death culture narrative factors into the decision to have an abortion. Even pro-lifers are guilty of referring to unplanned pregnancies as a “mistake” or consequence. Babies might require putting some plans on the backburner, but they are too often viewed as an impediment to women achieving their dreams at all. Young girls are recommended birth control so they don’t “ruin their lives.” Even in churches, parents of babbling babies are glared at and made to feel uncomfortable. 

In my younger days, I contributed to that discomfort myself. I’d inwardly groan when I saw young kids board an airplane, enter a coffee shop, or otherwise disrupt my space. You might say I was conditioned to do so, because it’s fairly commonplace for people to say they “don’t like” kids, the same way one might not like cats or dogs. But substitute any minority group in that statement, and hear how wrong it sounds (“I don’t really like black people”). 

They say “It takes a village to raise a child.” But if that village sees children as nuisances or mistakes, can we really blame women for thinking abortion is the best option?

Adopting A Culture Of Imago Dei

So what’s the solution here? That’s too wide a scope for one blog post. And I won’t pretend I know the answer, because I don’t. Overturning Roe v. Wade may ban abortion in most states, but it won’t eradicate it; those are two very different goals. Only a culture of life, one that sees all humans as a reflection of the Imago Dei, can do that. Yes, even that “clump of cells,” which contains the blueprint of every biological fact that makes you you – your DNA, your chromosomes, the early formation of all your organs – reflects the unique handiwork of a creative God. 

A culture of life is more than viewing an embryo or fetus as a human being in the earliest stages. It’s a complete mental 180 about what it means to truly live in community. Our modern obsession with individuality is unique compared to most of human history, where villages lived and worked together as a unit. The declaration of MY body, MY choice doesn’t only reject the interpersonal relationship within a community; it’s completely at odds with Christian discipleship, in which the self must die so Christ can live. 

Life-threatening circumstances aside (such as ectopic pregnancies), a pro-life ethic does not force one to choose between caring for the mother or the fetus. We can love them both – and if we’re serious about truly ending abortion, not just outlawing it, we must.

Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash


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