In this election year politicians are appealing to the support of the voters, and some are trying to appeal to the Evangelical vote by declaring they are “pro-life”. That is, they would like to criminalize abortion. I believe we should be careful of politicians that cater to us on such grounds, but beyond that I have a much more serious problem with that behavior: The scriptures don’t favor the criminalization of abortion.
I know that the common view among Evangelical Christians is to support the pro-life movement, which aims to make abortion illegal. This is not the way I read scripture. The problem is that the whole of scripture, not the New Testament only, is about grace, not law. Paul’s letter to the Galatians makes it clear that law cannot produce moral behavior. Grace is the Biblical focus because “law” cannot make us human beings practice the morality we espouse. It is by grace that morality is enabled. To oppose abortion by making it illegal is to remove grace from all possibility. By rights the woman caught in adultery should have been killed (John 8:1-12). That is what law does: it specifies, and it cannot be broken; it must apply in all cases, as specified. She should have been stoned.
If that is how God had dealt with me, my life would be hopeless and I would be forever condemned, and probably a failure in many other ways than I am already. Grace appeals for repentance, not punishment. So if we oppose abortion we must not insist on making abortion illegal because that is contrary to the point of the Bible. If an anti-abortion law is ever enacted the resulting society will not in any way demonstrate the love of Christ. “The law of Christ” is of a different sort altogether: bearing other’s burdens.
If the pro-life movement gets what it wants, it will insist. It will make abortion criminal, with specific rules for who should be punished and under what circumstances. I therefore urge against making abortion illegal. I don’t want to think about what our society would look like if such a moral appeal were made into law.