A religious studies professor and ordained minister in North Carolina wrote in a recent Op-Ed that the “abundant life” Jesus spoke of includes “trusting women to make abortion decisions.”
Rebecca Todd Peters — a social ethics professor of religious studies at Elon University — wrote in an opinion piece published in the Raleigh News & Observer and other news outlets in the Tar Heel State earlier this month that it is, in fact, a “Christian norm” to trust women with these choices.
Peters, author of the book “Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice,” offered examples where it is morally acceptable in most Christian circles to allow for abortion.
“Prenatal health, Rape, Incest, and health of the Mother — PRIM. Evidence indicates widespread consensus and acceptance among many Christian denominations that abortion for PRIM reasons is justifiable,” Peters wrote.
The ordained Presbyterian minister contends that Christians simply need to expand their view of morality to encompass women being the final arbiters of what is right for them and their unborn child.
“By requiring women to justify their reasons for ending a pregnancy, this framework divides women who have abortions into two categories — the tragic and the damned,” according to the author.
“Women who have PRIM abortions are portrayed as tragic, not only deserving of access to abortion services but also equally deserving of public sympathy,” she said. “Women who have abortions for other reasons are stigmatized as morally unfit and labeled as selfish, cruel, and irresponsible. In short, they are the damned.”
She argued, “It is time for Christians to challenge the inadequacy, intolerance and misogyny of this paradigm of pregnancy and abortion.”
The professor dismissed adoption as a viable option for women who have become pregnant and do not want to be mothers, offering that only one percent of women make that decision after carrying their baby to term.
“Limiting our cultural approval of women’s reproductive decisions about the size, shape, and timing of their families to a narrow list of PRIM reasons flies in the face of Jesus’ teaching that he came to bring abundant life,” Peters wrote.
“If we truly value women and healthy families, we must accept that ‘I do not want to have a baby’ is an imminently appropriate reason to end a pregnancy. And we must trust that pregnant women are the only ones who are capable of making these decisions,” Peters concluded.
Micaiah Bilger, writing for LifeNews.com, finds Peters’ overall “trust women” to make their own moral decisions argument in relation to abortion “ridiculous.”
“While Christians believe God gave human beings a free will to decide whether to do good or evil, they also believe certain actions are morally evil — such as killing innocent human beings,” Bilger said.
“Peters almost certainly would not argue that Christians should allow men to beat their wives, or women to neglect their children because of free will. Yet, she claimed Christians should ‘trust women’ with the freedom to kill their own babies before birth.
“Christians believe babies in the womb are valuable, living human beings from the moment of conception, and killing innocent human beings is evil,” Bilger explained.
Paula Rinehart, an elder in a Presbyterian church, and the author of “Sex and the Soul of Woman,” also takes exception with Peters’ views.
“Much of Peters’ argument rests on the theft of language. She commends women for the ‘moral courage’ of choosing abortion when they aren’t prepared to parent. (Missing in the conversation is what justice might look like for the child in the womb),” Rinehart wrote in The Federalist.
Rinehart pointed to a passage in Peters’ book where she recounts the moral choice she faced as a seminary student with an unwanted pregnancy.
“For Peters, this experience led to prayer and a moral quandary: ‘I knew I didn’t want to have a baby at that point in my life. I loved my husband, but things were bad between us. I was in seminary, and having a baby right then would seriously interrupt my studies and my future career. I believed that my work on issues of social justice was important; it was my calling…I knew that this was not the right time for me to become a mother.’”
Rinehart took Peters to task for trying to use scripture and church tradition to justify her views on abortion.
“Anyone well versed in the Old or New Testament realizes this religious studies professor had to don hiking boots with metal cleats to run roughshod over a vast terrain of church history and scripture,” Rinehart wrote.
“Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Augustine — none of these early church fathers considered intentionally destroying life in the womb as anything other than grave sin. That’s not to mention Jesus, who claimed that to care for ‘the least of these’ was to care, in fact, for him.”
Rinehart also said that central to church teaching through the years has been the belief that the image of God is with each person from conception to the point of natural death.
President Donald Trump quoted one of the most familiar biblical passages on this point while speaking at the annual Susan B. Anthony List Campaign for Life Gala this past spring.
“We celebrate all lives,” he said. “[E]very life is sacred and that every child is a precious gift from God.”
Trump continued. “As the Lord says in Jeremiah, ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you … Before you were born, I set you apart.’”
Pres @realDonaldTrump quoting Jeremiah 1:5 at pro-life gala:
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart …"
— Shannon Bream (@ShannonBream) May 23, 2018
Campus Reform reached out to Peters to further explain her views regarding why is it morally preferable to abort rather than to raise or place an “unwanted” child up for adoption.
“As a Christian ethicist, I believe very strongly that abortion is a moral decision. Just as having a baby is a moral decision,” she said. “Because pregnancy represents the potential for human life, I believe that we ought to take the decision to have a child far more seriously than we do.”
Peters added: “The ethic of reproductive justice that I develop in my book offers a much more robust and demanding ethic in support of pregnancy, mothers and families than the current public discussion of abortion.”
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