In 2006, civil rights activist Tarana Burke put two words together and helped people reveal the magnitude of sexual assault. #METOO slowly grew through MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter until, just last October, it hit like a tidal wave, showing how many millions of women and men have been victimized.
What we learned was that, in the dark halls of Hollywood and other influential institutions, people have been used and forced into silence. People with power (mostly men) viewed others (mostly women) as mere bodies to be used. Whether they wanted pleasure or just the thrill of control, they exploited their position of power to dominate others. For years they got away with it.
#METOO began to expose this terrible secret. Millions of people in dozens of languages broke the silence and now the perpetrators are beginning to be held responsible. From stories about the young and the weak such as Alyssa Milano being exploited at age 13, to the strongest of men like Terry Crews, #METOO let the world know that anyone can be a victim and that everyone is worthy of protection.
Today we claim to be dedicated to protecting victims and giving them a voice, while at the same time there is an entire population of people who remain voiceless: the unborn.
Each year, roughly 900,000 unborn children are turned into victims. People with power, backed by influential institutions, use these little ones. They are destroyed and forced into silence. Women and men make these decisions, sometimes together and sometimes with much conflict, so that they can move forward and pursue their own life goals. For many reasons, and with mixed motives, people outside the womb have power, and they have used that power with lethal results.
Unfortunately, these victims will never make it onto the cover of Time Magazine for breaking their silence. So we must break it for them.
Of course, the first objection will be, “Wait, those aren’t people! Those are fetuses.” Isn’t it unfair to compare a person to a group of cells? Before we simply assume these living cells are not a human, we should really explore that issue.
Wouldn’t it be horrible if I, just once, mistook a child in the street for a pile of leaves? It would be tragic to mindlessly drive over that kid thinking I was only scattering some leaves on a crisp autumn day. We need to be crystal clear on this one, and if there is any doubt we should err on the side of caution, swerving away from the obstacle in the road just in case it might be something or someone important.
Greg Koukl, and the people at Stand to Reason, put together the SLED test that is helpful as we consider if this pile of cells is merely an obstacle or a child. SLED stands for: Size, Level of development, Environment, and Degree of dependency:
“Size: The unborn is clearly smaller than a born human. It’s hard to reason how a difference in size, though, disqualifies someone from being a person. A four-year-old is smaller than a fourteen-year-old. Can we kill her because she’s not as big as a teenager? No, because a human being’s value is not based on their size. She’s still equally a person even though she differs in that characteristic. In the same way, the unborn is smaller than a four-year-old. If we can’t kill the four-year old because she’s smaller, then we can’t kill the unborn because she’s smaller either.
Level of development: The unborn is also less developed than a born human being. How does this fact, though, disqualify the unborn from personhood? A four-year-old girl can’t bear children because her reproductive system is less developed than a fourteen-year-old girl. That doesn’t disqualify her from personhood.
Environment: The unborn is located in a different environment than a born human. How does your location, though, affect your value? Can changing your environment alter your status as a person? Where you are has no bearing on who you are. An astronaut who spacewalks in orbit is in a radically different environment than a person on the planet. No one could reasonably deny his personhood simply because he’s in a different location. Scuba divers who swim under water and spelunkers who crawl through caves are equally as valuable as humans who ride in hot-air balloons. If changing your environment can’t change your fundamental status, then being inside or outside a uterus can’t be relevant either. How could a 7-inch journey through the birth canal magically transform a value-less human into a valuable person? Nothing has changed except their location.
Degree of dependency: The unborn is dependent upon the mother’s body for nutrition and a proper environment. It’s hard to see, though, how depending upon another person disqualifies you from being a person. Newborns and toddlers still depend upon their parents to provide nutrition and a safe environment. Indeed, some third-world countries require children to be breast fed because formula is not available. Can a mother kill her newborn son because he depends on her body for nutrition? Or, imagine you alone witnessed a toddler fall into a swimming pool. Would you be justified in declaring him not valuable simply because he depended on you for his survival? Of course not! Since the unborn depends on his mother in the same way, it’s not reasonable to disqualify his value either.
Notice that although toddler and teens differ from each other in the four SLED categories, we don’t disqualify toddlers from personhood. Since born and unborn humans differ in exactly the same ways, we can’t disqualify the unborn from personhood either.”
What if these small, developing, environmentally constrained, dependent people could somehow throw a #METOO just before their lives were ended? Would we care then?
After all, isn’t a young actress dependent on the Harvey Weinstein’s of the world? She wants the life that only the power brokers can offer. This 13-year-old girl’s career is less developed than a 40-year-old man’s. She is smaller, in a foreign environment, and lacks the ability to make it on her own. In this circumstance, no one would say it is ok for the powerful to take advantage of the weak–particularly when there is such a disparity of power.
The Bible shows us that the same energy used to defend the weak in our society should be equally exercised in defense of the unborn. In Job 31, Job says:
“If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant, when they brought a complaint against me; what then shall I do when God rises up? When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him? Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?” Job 31:13-15
The end of this passage gives us the reason why Job would be without excuse before God if he treated people under his power unjustly. Even though he had power over his servants, he was called to treat them as human equals. The issue isn’t who was born into slavery and who was born into prestige; the issue precedes birth. When Job (the man in power) and his servants were being fashioned in the womb, they were equally the work of God. The same Power that was developing the unborn Job, was also incubating the unborn servants. It doesn’t matter that Job was born to a free family, maybe with wealth and social connections, while others were born into slavery and need. It doesn’t matter, because a person’s worth isn’t based on where they are born; it is based on God. The same God works in the unborn slaves and the unborn rulers.
God is the only One who can create personhood. God and His gifted image gives the unborn dignity. While we can argue forever about when this little person becomes a “whole person” I think we can agree that what is happening in the womb is the unique person-forming work of God. Only God knows how deeply and mysteriously the creation of personhood is woven into the making of a body. To treat this unborn life carelessly is not only reckless: it is an assault on the unique work of God in humanity.
If these little ones could have a voice, their God-given #METOO would echo approximately 1.7 times every minute. They don’t have access to the media—but we do. The burden lies on us.
What can we do to give them a voice?
First, speak the truth about this situation. It isn’t politically correct to talk about abortion, talk about it anyway. But maybe, when we do, we should avoid using the expected catch-phrases and statistics. We need to change the conversation. The most subversive and powerful movements were not accepted by the cultures around them; their leaders moved forward regardless of the risk.
Second, let truth and grace go forward hand in hand. For every child aborted there are people who made that decision and who are probably hurting. If our talk about the horrors of abortion makes these people feel like they are beyond grace, then we are saying it wrong. “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15) This is the Gospel, and the Spirit might be breaking up the hard ground in the hearts of those who have had abortions to receive that good news.
Finally, pray. Ezra called Israel to fast and pray for the little ones. Pray that God will begin to change the hearts of this generation to push past our instinct to look away and to learn to love again. We need this in many areas of our culture, but none more than on this topic.