Factual errors, contradictions, and worryingly unchristian attitudes: my response to Megan Cornwell’s opinion in Premier Christianity, “I’m a pro-life Christian, but here’s why I’m not rejoicing over Roe v Wade”
Let me start with the good stuff.
There’s plenty in Megan Cornwell’s piece that I agree with.
She’s absolutely right that the striking down of Roe v Wade won’t eliminate America’s abortion problem, or other problems for that matter. And she’s right that a holistic, far-reaching response is needed to support babies, mothers, and families.
Support for mothers
More can and should be done to support motherhood in the States. Giving birth is eye-wateringly expensive over there, and maternity/paternity leave is almost non-existent. Discovering that you are pregnant in the States comes with a price tag that we Brits can hardly even contemplate.
It seems to be Cornwell’s assumption that it’s the State’s job to address this, to which I would add that it’s important not to give the private sector a free pass. It’s shocking, when you think about it, that Amazon and others have been announcing that they will pay for employees to travel for abortions, but their arrangements for maternity leave remain so paltry.
Cheaper to kill an employee’s baby, you see, than help them to raise it.
Calling all fathers
I am particularly glad that Cornwell puts fathers under the spotlight. It is indeed a great scandal of our age that so many fathers take zero responsibility for the children they beget. It is of course fathers, more than the State, more than private companies, whose job it is to look after their children and to support mothers through pregnancy, birth, and motherhood – and yet it is often fathers who do the least.
It is strange, though, that Cornwell doesn’t seem to notice how abortion actually fits into this fatherlessness epidemic. What is the easiest way for fathers to dissociate from their responsibility to raise the children they beget? What is the easiest way for a man to make sure the woman bears all the cost and he bears none? Abortion, of course.
It is ironic that those (like the Polly Toynbee she quotes) who see oppressive patriarchy everywhere fail to identify one of its most egregious manifestations and actually end up championing it. Nothing has served the selfishness of men who want to use women for their own ends like abortion. It has been called the great liberation of men. It has consummated the divorce between sex and the responsibility to raise children.
Need I point out how much fatherlessness has increased in nations like the States the UK since the legalisation of abortion? It’s not a coincidence. Legalised abortion hasn’t called forth fathers to take responsibility, it’s done the opposite.
These, then, are the points on which I’m broadly in agreement with Cornwell. From here on in, I’m afraid, I have grave concerns.
The argument crumbles
The keystone of Cornwell’s non-rejoicing stance is this: “This latest ruling won’t result in fewer abortions taking place, it will result in them going underground…”
It’s one of the oldest ones in the book, and it’s completely false.
This 8-minute video takes you through some of the data exposing the myth, and there are links to the sources in the description beneath.
Common sense alone tells you that if you make something illegal, it will happen less often.
Indeed, Cornwell herself appears to acknowledge this: she contradicts herself by saying how there will be mothers who will have “to feed another mouth and clothe another body” and there will be more children in care. So there will be fewer abortions!
This keystone has no substance, and so the whole archway of Cornwell’s argument crumbles.
This ruling will result in far fewer abortions, and there’s no way someone can claim to be pro-life, but say that thousands of babies being spared a violent death is not a good thing.
Think abortion helps women?
Another assumption underpinning Cornwell’s response to all this is the idea that abortion is at least sometimes the way to help women, and that therefore to withhold abortion from a woman is to deprive her of something beneficial.
“Victims of incest and rape…could…be forced to give birth, exacerbating their trauma,” Cornwell writes. The assumption here is that giving birth will exacerbate trauma, whereas abortion won’t.
I’ll deal with the deeper theological and moral questions later on, but for now let us just observe the following.
Victims and Victors documents the stories of almost 200 women who experienced rape or incest pregnancies, and found that most women who become pregnant through sexual assault do not want abortions. An overwhelming majority are glad they kept their babies, and find this to be a therapeutic and positive experience.
Conversely I have spoken with a woman who had been raped and who had an abortion. She told me that the abortion was like being raped again. It is an unnatural, violent, and invasive procedure.
Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome is becoming increasingly well-known and testifies to the trauma of abortion itself. Mental health problems proliferate following abortion, including increased risk of suicide.
And that’s not to mention the effects of abortion on physical health, and the long-term link with maternal mortality.
Once we stop agreeing with the abortion industry’s lie that abortion is healthcare, anything left standing in Cornwell’s argument topples.
Think abortion helps women of colour and women from low-income backgrounds?
When you take seriously the fact that abortion kills innocent babies and will be reduced by the overturning of Roe v Wade, and the fact that abortion also harms women, Cornwell’s point about racial and socio-economic inequality is completely flipped on its head.
Why would we want to go on killing babies of colour and babies from low-income backgrounds at a disproportionately higher rate? Is this the answer to questions of racism and poverty? Cornwell seems to think so, because she says it’s an injustice that these mothers won’t be able to have their babies killed any more.
Margaret Sanger, the eugenicist founder of Planned Parenthood, thought so too, and this appears to be what lay behind her Negro Project of 1939, and is why the abortion industry has set up a disproportionate number of centres in black neighbourhoods in America. Abortion has indeed succeeded in keeping the black population down; in New York in some recent years more black babies have been killed than born alive. Progressive.
And let’s be clear that abortion is disproportionately harming, not helping, women of colour and women from low-income backgrounds in the States. Because killing a mother’s baby is never the way to help her.
So we should be rejoicing that the overturning of Roe v Wade will disproportionately protect (poorer) babies of colour from destruction and (poorer) women of colour from damage. This is a great turn of events for racial and socio-economic equality.
I confess that I find Cornwell’s suggestion that killing poor babies is better for addressing socio-economic inequality than letting them live deeply abhorrent, but what matters is not what I think, but what God thinks. More on that later.
Think there will be more children in care?
One more point of fact before we go on to examine the theological and moral confusion that underpins Cornwell’s argument: the claim that the care system will be overwhelmed.
Again, Cornwell needs to decide between “this won’t result in fewer abortions taking place” and “there are going to be lots more unwanted children”: she can’t have it both ways.
But let’s say for sake of argument she sticks with the latter.
Cornwell seems to suggest that American Christians only pay lip-service to adoption. This is absurd. The culture of adoption in American Christianity is incredibly strong. In some communities it’s almost a given that you adopt, whether you have biological children or not.
According to some sources there are 2 million couples waiting to adopt in the US – 36 for every one child who is placed for adoption. Presumably this is why so many literally travel the world to adopt babies – because in the States most of the unwanted babies are killed in the womb.
The two pro-life leaders I am in most frequent contact with in the States have both adopted – one has adopted 3 girls and the other 1 boy.
The anti-pro-life slur “you only care about babies before birth” is not only irrelevant as to whether or not it’s ok to kill babies in the womb, it’s also a filthy lie, and I wish people – especially professing “pro-life Christian”s – would stop believing and regurgitating it. We need to stand firm against this gaslighting, and stop offering ourselves as carriers for pro-abortion propaganda.
Even if Cornwell’s claim were true – that the care system would be overwhelmed – is she really saying it’s better to kill children than to let them live on in care?
Theological and moral confusion
This leads us onto what’s really worrying about Cornwell’s views. It’s not just the errors and self-contradictions – dangerous though those are. It’s the deeply unchristian attitude towards life and morality that’s revealed.
It’s not just the factual keystone, it’s the theological foundation, that’s flawed.
It rings alarm bells when Cornwell uses pro-abortion rhetoric such as “forced to continue unwanted pregnancies”. Translated into plain English, she means, “not having their babies killed in the womb”.
It is abortion, not pregnancy and delivery, that is the unnatural act of force. And let’s be clear, it’s not an “unwanted pregnancy” that’s “terminated” in abortion: it’s a child made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27, Psalm 139) who is poisoned or crushed.
Cornell finds voice to condemn all-too-brief maternity leave as “barbaric”, but she doesn’t seem to think abortion is barbaric. Has she seen what happens during an abortion
Instead, she speaks of abortion as not the “ideal”, and “heart-breaking”. Yes, it’s sad, but isn’t it also wrong?
The issue here is whether we see abortion as God sees it: whether we submit to the authority and clear teaching of Scripture, or make up our own minds according to whatever criteria we select.
Cornwell says that she’s “pro-life” and that she believes that “life is sacred”, but I’m not convinced she knows what these things really mean.
Biblically, we see the value and sanctity of life directly related to the prohibition of shedding innocent blood.
“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God has God made man.” Genesis 9:6
The Mosaic Law is packed full of this principle: you can’t kill innocent people, because they’re made in God’s image.
It means nothing to say that we uphold sanctity of life, if we won’t oppose clearly the shedding of innocent blood.
It is, therefore, utterly unbiblical and unchristian to suggest that killing an unborn baby is ever a viable solution to poverty or racial inequality. It is abhorrent to liken not having a baby killed to “millstones and heavy burdens placed on people’s shoulders by the Pharisees (Matthew 23:4)”. In what world is looking after your baby instead of having him/her killed a Pharisaical heavy burden? This is lightyears away from Christian thinking.
Cornwell’s claim that it is more reflective of the “love and grace of Jesus” to kill babies in the womb in some instances (and she’s not talking about medical emergencies here) than to let them live is not only deeply mistaken: it’s blasphemous and it’s demonic.
I confess that I grimaced as I read her use of Matthew 23, but once again, it’s not my gut reaction that counts: it’s God’s. If you want to see how God responds to child sacrifice read Psalm 106, Jeremiah 7, Ezekiel 20 for starters.
The problem here is that Cornwell’s attitude towards child sacrifice is nothing like God’s – so it cannot be claimed as a “Christian” response or a “pro-life” one.
Her whole response to Roe v Wade is predicated on the idea that it’s sometimes permissible, or “better”, to kill a baby in the womb rather than let him/her live, and that you can help a woman through something that’s sinful. (John Piper’s “Doing the right thing never ruins your life” is instructive on this point.) These are deeply unchristian ideas.
A far better response, thankfully, has been provided by a number of Christian leaders in this beautiful video.
The wider crisis of the Church
I don’t want to pick on Cornwell. I wish her well; I pray that she repents. Her piece is merely one example of a much wider and deeper problem.
The fact that someone can even be considered a “pro-life Christian” saying what she is saying shows how unschooled we are in biblical ethics and specifically abortion.
For years now I’ve been face-to-face with the crisis of almost zero teaching on abortion within the UK church. Data is coming out soon which shows that only 1 in 20 Christian women have heard thorough teaching on abortion in their church, and half have never even heard it mentioned in church.
The confusion and ignorance in the pews is due to silence from the pulpits.
The abortion debate isn’t going anywhere, so it’s incumbent on churches and especially church leaders to play catch-up fast. (Consider this example of how to teach on abortion in church, and our brand new podcast About Abortion.)
If we don’t get to grips with the facts and how we are to think biblically about this, we’ll end up like Cornwell fighting on the wrong side, even whilst calling ourselves “pro-life” and “Christian”.