Tennessee Physician Comes Clean on What Abortion Really Means
Jul 24, 2020 by David Fowler
The original editorial (June 24) by the physician was effectively an open letter to the governor urging him to veto the recently passed abortion law. This was his opening salvo:
The bill mandates that all Tennesseans accept one faith’s concept of ensoulment — the moral status of a fetus. Some Tennesseans embrace traditions that define autonomous life from the moment of conception, rejecting any rights for the impregnated woman. Others are informed by different theologies that defer attribution of life until later stages of gestation. Still, others believe that a woman’s right to self-determination should not be usurped by the government. This legislation tramples conservative and libertarian principles of religious freedom, individual rights, and self-determination.
A guest editorial was then published that provided a response, but it did not directly address the theological position in the physician’s first statement or its relationship to the policy position he expressed in the last sentence.
The physician wisely picked up on the limited nature of the response and countered it (July 13) with these shocking words:
He addresses unique physical characteristics of the fetus, but he doesn’t grasp that the moral status of each fetus is uniquely defined by the woman and her community. This issue is theological, not biological. Different cultures have different beliefs. However sincere he may be, [his] beliefs end when they infringe on others.
The Good and Bad News
Please allow that last quoted paragraph to sink in. The good news is the physician admits that abortion is, in fact, a theological issue! To that, I say, “Praise God!” That is where the debate needs to rest.
The bad news is that too many pro-life attorneys and policymakers are unwilling to make that kind of argument and, as a result, continue to allow courts to ignore the fundamental nature of the abortion issue. Instead, they argue about whether abortion causes “fetal pain,” i.e., whether we should kill fetuses “humanely,” or whether it should be unlawful to abort a fetus because the mother didn’t want a child of a particular sex.
The Critical Contradiction
But notice that the physician asserts his theological beliefs in regard to abortion and urges the governor to recognize them while simultaneously having the audacity to tell his editorial critic that his theological beliefs “end when they infringe on others.”
In other words, the physician is saying that only his theological beliefs can inform law and public policy on abortion. Moreover, he is saying that only his theological views on this issue can infringe on others. He can use the law to impose his theological beliefs about the “moral status of a fetus” on those who have a different view of the fetus’ moral status.
The physician’s position is religious viewpoint discrimination. I bet the physician would say he is “against discrimination,” except, of course, when it is a matter of religious views about the moral status of fetuses.
In reality, the only relevant issue, as the physician asserts, is the moral status of a fetus and what the law should then allow or prohibit given the fetus’ status.
The Physicians Horrifying Answer
According to the physician, the moral status of a fetus is “uniquely defined by the woman and her community.” Here’s what that means theologically.
If moral status is a “theological issue,” which he admits it is, then the woman and the community are God; together they are the transcend source of moral authority. There is no higher law.
Therefore, at best, his position is either bad deism (a remote transcendent God who forgot to create any real moral law or left it unknowable) or pantheism (we are all part of God and thus are God).
Here is what the physician’s theological views mean socially and politically: Slavery would have been acceptable and therefore, the Dred Scott decision that helped precipitate the Civil War was correct. This is how Chief Justice Roger Taney, writing for the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, explained why a slave or descendant of a slave could not be the type of human included within the meaning of the word “citizen” under the United States Constitution:
[T] hey were at that time considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them.
That, my friends, is exactly the reasoning employed by the physician—an unborn human being cannot be the kind of being who qualifies as a person whose right to life is protected within the meaning of the 5th and 14th Amendment’s due process clauses. . . because those in power in government say so.
I wonder which human beings the community represented by this physician’s theology will next decide lack a moral status worthy of having their very life protected by the due process provisions of the Constitution? Blacks? Jews? Christians? Abortion doctors?
This is the horrific prospect when people ignore the truth about the real God for one of their own making.
And that’s why salvation in the Bible is expressed in terms of having a true knowledge of God. [i] That knowledge changes everything.
[i] With the death of J.I. Packer last Friday, author of Knowing God, it is appropriate that the centrality of knowing God as the heart of Christianity be the note on which I end. If this is a new thought for you or you would like to know more about it, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Knowing God” and we will email you a one-page narrative David has written of how Scripture makes clear that “Knowing God Truly and Personally is the Heart of Christianity.”
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006.