The Debate over Criminalizing Abortion Has Reached Its ‘Council of Trent’ Moment

person holding red Stop Abortion Now signage

Article by G3 Ministries Leadership

In reaction to the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church assembled the Council of Trent in the mid-sixteenth century to condemn the Protestants’ recovery of biblical truth—most notably, the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

As the pro-life movement condemns any legislation that consistently protects preborn babies, the debate over abortion in the United States has reached the same point.

Are preborn babies fully human, or are they not? Since they are indeed human, they are entitled to equal justice. Anything less is partiality—which God hates.

National Right to Life was joined by several dozen national and state-level pro-life lobbying groups—including March for Life Action and Susan B. Anthony List—in drafting a letter to “all State Legislators in the United States of America” declaring decisively that “women are victims of abortion.” Even the Southern Baptist Convention’s ERLC signed the letter—in direct opposition to a resolution passed by SBC messengers last summer affirming that “the murder of preborn children is a crime against humanity that must be punished equally under the law.” Just as Rome anathematized the biblical doctrine of justification, the pro-life movement anathematized “any measure seeking to criminalize or punish women” as “not pro-life.”

It is worth noting that the letter was released on the same day that the Louisiana House of Representatives hosted a floor debate on the Abolition of Abortion in Louisiana Act (HB813). If it had not been gutted by Republican, pro-life legislators, the bill would have recognized “the right to life and equal protection of the laws to all unborn children from the moment of fertilization by protecting them by the same laws protecting other human beings”—namely, state homicide laws.

For decades, the pro-life movement has argued that mothers who abort their children are innocent victims. They reject the possibility that women violate the sixth commandment—”You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13)—when they pay abortionists to end the lives of their babies. Yet the preponderance of biblical evidence would in turn reject the pro-life movement’s baseless assertion that mothers are ignorant of the life inside of them when they bring their children to the abortion clinics or take pills to exterminate their children’s lives. Indeed, the Scriptures testify that human beings are fallen creatures who “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18).

Women—as daughters of Adam—are by no means exempt from temptation and sinful desires. In many instances, the Bible points out sins to which women frequently find themselves exposed—such as desiring the authority of their husbands (Genesis 3:16), shirking modesty or excessively adorning oneself (1 Timothy 2:9), and neglecting the duties of homemaking (1 Timothy 5:12–14). The Bible often does the same with men—but in an era dominated by the feminist spirit, many believers shy away from discussing the sins faced by women.

When God looks down from heaven on mankind, he finds neither man nor woman who is without sin. “Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the LORD?” (Psalm 14:1–4). The most basic biblical doctrine of anthropology—namely, that men are image-bearers of God who knowingly sin against their Creator—is completely incompatible with any blanket admonition instructing the civil magistrates and the culture alike that women are blind to their own transgressions.

Practical experience easily affirms the testimony of the Bible on this matter. Any mother who has carried a baby in her womb can confirm that he or she is far more than a clump of cells. Likewise, Christians who minister outside of America’s abortion clinics can confirm that every mother they encounter is acutely aware that they are murdering a human being. They may make various excuses as to why they cannot have their children, but when Christians offer financial, medical, and practical assistance, the vast majority of mothers still reject the aid and go through with murdering their child. Instead, they often exchange Christians’ kindhearted overtures with mockery, slander, curses, and crude gestures. 

Although instances of coercion on the part of a boyfriend or father sometimes occur, women are by and large willing perpetrators of abortion. Laws like HB813 would rightly subject assassins and their solicitors—abortionist, mother, and father alike—to justice. In cases of true coercion, mothers would by no means be accountable for homicide. Yet mothers who willingly shed innocent blood (Proverbs 6:16–17) must be held accountable for their crimes by the civil magistrates, who are servants of God (Romans 13:1–7). As with any other matter of criminal justice, the courts would examine evidence presented by multiple lines of independent witness on a case-by-case basis.

One of the prominent pro-life leaders who did not sign National Right to Life’s letter is Abby Johnson—a former Planned Parenthood employee who has herself obtained two abortions. In addition to condemning opposition to HB813, Johnson has confirmed that she knowingly killed her children and has “no one to blame” but herself. Johnson also recently noted a conversation with a mother who aborted her sixteen-week-old baby because she did not want to “lose her beach body” for the summer. 

By their own admission, women like Johnson are not ignorant of their sin, as the pro-life movement would suggest. After all, data from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute show that most women engage in the millennia-old sin of child sacrifice for the sake of convenience. Just as ancient Near Easterners burned their children at the altars of Molech for prosperity, modern women rationalize murdering their own children due to their career ambitions or the avoidance of responsibility—or even reasons as frivolous as maintaining their beach bodies.

Abortionists do not run through neighborhoods in search of children to murder. Someone is willingly bringing children to the abortion clinics and fueling the multibillion-dollar abortion industry. It is foolish and absurd to suggest that women are entirely ignorant to a sin as weighty and grievous as murdering their preborn children. If women truly believe that they are only wiping out a tiny clump of cells, then why do rates of suicidal ideation, depression, and a host of other mental health problems plague women for years after their abortions? “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness” (Romans 2:15). 

The pro-life movement—which is built upon a combination of Roman Catholic and secular foundations—denies the testimony of God’s Word in failing to protect preborn children from murder. “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 17:15). As believers who desire to address abortion from a distinctly Christian standpoint through the abolitionist movement advance bills of equal protection in state after state, it is not pro-choice legislators who shoot down their proposals. Rather, it is invariably pro-life lawmakers and lobbyists.

The pro-life movement—which is built upon a combination of Roman Catholic and secular foundations—denies the testimony of God’s Word in failing to protect preborn children from murder.

Many who profess to believe that preborn babies are human from conception deny their profession by advancing bills that fall short of codifying their equal protection under the law. Are preborn babies fully human, or are they not? Since they are indeed human, they are entitled to equal justice. Anything less is partiality—which God hates. “You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow” (Deuteronomy 16:19–20).

Is there mercy for those who murder their children? Absolutely! Countless women have found refuge for the sin of abortion in Jesus Christ—who himself was conceived in the womb of his mother and walked through every stage of human gestation. The God who forgave and transformed murderers like Moses and David continues to do the same in our own day. Yet it is also true that “because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11). The law is a tutor, and civil government is a gift of God’s common grace that restrains human evil. Far from being oppressive to women, laws of equal protection will restrain the selfishness that leads mothers, fathers, and abortionists to collude in the murder of preborn babies—including the millions of little girls who never see the light of day or feel the warm embrace of their families.

Countless women have found refuge for the sin of abortion in Jesus Christ. The God who forgave and transformed murderers like Moses and David continues to do the same in our own day.

Christians must sincerely examine whether God hates the way they have been trying to fight abortion for the past fifty years. Christians cannot check their doctrine at the door when they seek to honor God by protecting his image-bearers. If God is to bless our efforts to establish justice for the oppressed, we cannot deny his Word in the process.