The Pro-Life Issue That Stopped Me in My Tracks

Feb 28, 2020 by David Fowler

baby being spoon-fed
Next week we will see the details of Governor Lee’s proposed legislation on abortion. In anticipation of that, a friend suggested to me last week that I pull together in one article a summary of the key points I’ve made over recent months about how to evaluate abortion legislation. In doing so, I hit a criterion that literally stopped me in my writing tracks. But after something I said last week, I realized it was, for me, the criterion by which the others were to be evaluated.

I want to invite you into my thought process regarding this week’s article by sharing the two headings below and their content. They constitute what I’d written when I came to a screeching halt. I think them critically important, but if you don’t have time to read them, skip to the third heading, “Coming to a Screeching Halt.” If you like reading the last chapter of a book first, then skip to the last heading, “Picking Up Where I Left Off.”

Define the Objective

The governor, legislators, and pro-life Tennesseans need to answer this question: Is the objective to enact legislation that would best provide the U.S. Supreme Court with a reason to reverse Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (collectively referred to as “Casey”)?

The answer might seem obvious to most pro-life folks, but that’s not true. For many politicians, the goal is to enact a restriction or restrictions on abortion that the U.S. Supreme Court might hold constitutional.

The goal determines how the bill is drafted, and, I’ll say up-front, if you draft one bill that tries to get Casey reversed but also says through severability clauses that the state will settle for whatever restriction the Court is willing to allow under Casey, you may go home with nothing for reasons I’ll explain. Lukewarm tends to get spit out.

What Objective Do I Prefer and Why

Of these two objectives, I prefer the first for this reason: The second option necessarily leaves in place the constitutional legal principle1 that the U.S. Supreme Court gets to determine when constitutionally protectable life begins and when a constitutionally protectable person springs into existence. I abhor that principle for two reasons.

First, the existence of life and, therefore, of a person is God’s business. The Judeo-Christian view is that God alone is self-existing and all other forms of being are derivative—bestowed by God (not an extension of God as in pantheism).

One’s origin and one’s existence are not derived from a determination made by nine lawyers on the U.S. Supreme Court who should be mindful of the fact that they do not have being in themselves, either.

Coming to a Screeching Halt

When I wrote this next sentence, I came to a screeching halt and didn’t even get to the referenced “second reason” for why I think reversing Roe must be the object of any legislation:

“For me, to accept that nine lawyers get to play the role of God is to deny, in principle, what I believe about God and human life.”

It was then that I thought about what I’d said last week at our State Legislative Issues Briefing, and had right then and there what might be called a personal “come to Jesus” moment.

What I Said Last Week That Halted Me

I had begun last week’s briefing by trying to put my thinking in recent months about myself and the work of The Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT) into the larger context of the most fundamental of all questions, “Why?”

To that end, I said I had come to see as never before that the “why” of human existence and, indeed, of all things, including The Family Action Council of Tennessee and its lobbying efforts, was to glorify God. Not, however, in the sense that I or FACT could “do” anything that would add glory to God, but in the sense that our first ancestors were made by God in such a way that they could experience and revel in God’s glory and could manifest that glory to the rest of creation in the context of what they did with their lives, including that which they would do through organizations.

I explained that mouthful by next putting up a quote from a sermon by John Owen (1616-1683) on Exodus 33 in which he said, “Glory relates not only to the thing itself that is glorious, but to the estimation and opinion we have of it—that is, doxa; when that which is in itself glorious is esteemed so.” In other words, for a Christian to “give God glory” or to “live for the glory of God” is to demonstrate by words and actions that the glory of God is that which holds the place of highest esteem and worth in his or her life.

I followed that slide with this statement from a Puritan prayer recorded in Valley of Vision, “O Father, You have made man for the glory of thyself, and when not an instrument of that glory, he is a thing of naught.”

These were the words that stopped me in the middle of this week’s article at the point previously mentioned. I had said, in so many words, that if my “why” was not to demonstrate before a watching world the infinitely high worth of God and the glory due Him, then I had failed at the very purpose of my human existence. I was a nothing and had done nothing, at least not from God’s perspective in giving life to me.

Rewriting My Last Paragraph to Get It Right

So, I went back and rewrote the last paragraph I’d written to add the words in italics:

“For me, to accept that nine lawyers get to play the role of God is to deny, in principle, what I believe about God and human life and promote in the law that which is against God.”

The italicized words constitute a bold statement, perhaps harsh to some modern ears, but they follow from Romans 11:36, the words of which were on the slide that immediately followed the Puritan prayer just quoted. I had used that verse to explain why I would be a thing of naught if manifesting and esteeming the glory of God was not the why of all I did.

That verse reads, “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen [literally, verily or truly].”2 

We may suppress the truth of this verse in various ways,3  but because the first part of this verse is true, God is the point of reference by which all things are to be seen and understood if they are to be seen and understood as God intended them to be. And, because the first part of this verse is true, we know why all glory is His and why the ascription of any glory from us to anything is, in an ultimate sense, really due Him.

Applying God’s Word to My Own Thinking

Because Romans 11:36 is true, I had to conclude that when I ascribe that glory which belongs to God as the Creator of life and personality to the United States Supreme Court by letting it effectively call our being as humans, as persons, into existence by its puny words, then I have sinned and am, as I said, “against God,” at least when I think of sin rightly, which must also be in reference to God and His glory.

The essence of sin and of any particular sin is falling short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 says, “[F]or all have sinned [particular sin] and fall short of the glory of God [sin’s essence].”

Thus, I sin whenever I fail to esteem and most highly value that which is an aspect of the glory of God; as Psalm 29:2a commands, “Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name.”

But since sin is “against” God (Psalm 51:4), I am also acting against God. I am against God because, as previously said, I am acquiescing to an aspect of His glory being given to or ascribed to another, in this case, the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. Scripture tells us in Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images.”

Picking Up Where I Left Off

What I just wrote sounded good until I realized that some human authority has to address this fundamental question about human existence and personality in relation to its protection in law. And that consideration leads to my second reason for believing the primary objective of abortion legislation should be the reversal of Casey.

When it comes to whether human life should be accorded recognition in the law and the extent to which human life in its various stages and conditions should be protected by law, that is a policy question. So, the fundamental governmental question then, as opposed to the transcendent one previously discussed, is who or which branch of government should make policy decisions under our form of government?

The obvious answer is the legislature. Everyone knows that the legislature, by its legislative powers, makes public policy. It is the body that weighs the pros and cons of the various policy considerations that a law will protect or discourage.

But when you read U.S. Supreme Court opinions upholding or not upholding abortion laws, it is clear that the Court is weighing a whole host of policy considerations.

For example, the Court has decided when a state can even have an interest in unborn life by weighing all kinds of considerations; that is a policy decision.

Then, the Court decides whether the particular policy reflected in the law—physician hospital admitting privileges, clinic health regulation, ultrasound requirement—imposes an undue burden on a woman’s ability to kill her unborn child. That, too, is a policy decision.

Here’s my conclusion: If a branch of government is going to “play God” when it comes to determining when a human life—born or unborn—is entitled to live and to what extent that life should be protected, I want it to be those who I elected, who represent me and are accountable to me.

So long as our legislature is willing to let the Supreme Court play the role of God, then they have denied me a republican and representative form of government and abdicated their responsibilities to the judicial branch. I understand that the legislature may abdicate its duties if life is once again a state law matter, but at least I have a direct and more immediate means by which I can try to hold them accountable for having done so than with Supreme Court justices.

As for me, I’m ready for our legislature to stick up for representative government and for a representative government willing to protect God’s prerogatives (and glory) when it comes to life.

1. By “constitutional legal principle” I do not mean that U.S. Supreme Court opinions are equivalent to the U.S. Constitution itself, only that its opinions become guides by which we can understand how the majority of the Court’s justices at any one particular point in time understand the actual words of the Constitution. 
2. All verses from the New King James Version (NKJV) unless otherwise noted.
3. We may outright deny this truth, but then we have a hard time explaining why anything exists at all. We may also deny this truth by claiming all things are an extension of God, which is pantheism, expressed in many different religions, including some that claim to be Christian. But then we have no basis for antithesis, not only as to why any human godlet’s view of anything is better or more ethical than another’s, making unity and social cohesion impossible when theory is applied to practice, but between anything, even male and female, because we’ve conceded all is one in essence!
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. 

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