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Justifying Homicide: The Future Battleground in the Abortion Debate

Justifying Homicide The Future Battleground in the Abortion Debate
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I recently had the opportunity to teach three classes at a local Christian High School. I was asked to come in and talk about the pro-life / pro-choice debate in our country, so I began by reading Mary Elizabeth Williams’ article for Salon.com entitled, “So What If Abortion Ends Life?” The article was a wake-up call for most of these students, even though they had been well prepared as Christian Case Makers. Over the past several weeks, their instructor, none other than Sean McDowell, had been effectively preparing them to make a case for the pro-life position. They were more than adequately prepared to argue that life begins at conception, and they were well versed in the SLED strategy popularized by Scott Klusendorf of the Life Training Institute.

But after reading Williams’ article, it was clear that the battleground on the abortion issue is beginning to shift, and this shift is going to cause us to rethink our approach to the debate. Williams accepts (and even argues) that life begins at conception, yet she is still pro-choice. In fact, she makes the following statements:

“I know that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life. And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice.”

“Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal.”

“I can say anecdotally that I’m a mom who loved the lives she incubated from the moment she peed on those sticks, and is also now well over 40 and in an experimental drug trial. If by some random fluke I learned today I was pregnant, you bet your ass I’d have an abortion. I’d have the World’s Greatest Abortion.”

“I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.”

I may be wrong, but I believe that Williams is articulating the new and growing pro-choice position. She seems to acknowledge that the pro-life arguments (like the strategy embodied in the SLED paradigm) are effective and reasonable. In fact, she articulates the SLED model as though she was a pro-life advocate! But she argues that some lives are simply worth sacrificing. She’s right, and unless we help her understand which lives can be justifiably sacrificed, we won’t have a voice in this debate. The battle ground may shift for the next generation from arguing that life begins at conception to articulating the nature of justifiable homicide.

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The discussion of what justifies a killing may be the future battleground of the abortion debate. Click To Tweet

As Christians, we believe that murder is wrong (Exodus 20:13); but the Bible clearly distinguishes between murder and killing. The scriptures teach us that an accidental killing is not murder (see Exodus 21:12-13 and Numbers 35:22-25) and they also provide for important exceptions related to justifiable killings. A killing performed in self-defense, for example, is not considered to be a murder (see Exodus 22:2). In addition, a killing performed in an attempt to save the life of an innocent person is not murder (see Exodus 2:11-12 and Genesis 14:14-16).

These two exceptions, a killing performed to protect one’s own life and a killing performed to protect the life of an innocent, are not merely Biblical exceptions; they are accepted as exceptions by the non-believing culture as well. In California, penal code sections 187, 196 and 197 affirm justifiable killing in these two situations. Every state in the Union has laws such as these; yes there are times when a life must be sacrificed, but we need to help people like Mary Elizabeth Williams understand when the situation is appropriate.

Williams would have us lower the bar on justifiable homicide significantly. Read her comments carefully:

“A fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.”

As a law-abiding American and a Christian, I agree that there are times when we are justified in taking the life of a human (even a fetal human); but only when that life threatens the life of an innocent person (like the mother whose life is at risk if she continues the pregnancy). Although this is a tragically sad circumstance, we do have legal and Biblical justification. But Williams and others like her want more than this; they want to be able to take human life when the only thing threatened is the “circumstance” of the mother. In other words, pro-choice advocates want homicides to be justified over nothing more than matters of convenience. 87-92% of the abortions performed in America are simply a matter of social, economic or emotional expediency:

“I’m not ready for a baby. The timing is wrong for me.”
“I can’t afford a baby now.”
“I already have finished having the children I planned on having. I have other people
depending on me; my children are grown.”
“I don’t want to be a single mother. I am having relationship problems.”
“I don’t feel mature enough to raise a child. I feel too young.”
“This child would interfere with my education or career plans.”
“My husband (or partner) wants me to have an abortion.”
“My parents want me to have an abortion.”
“I don’t want people to know I had sex or got pregnant.”

These are the real reasons women take the lives of fetal humans, according to their own explanations at the time of their abortions. Only 4% of women who have abortions offer that some physical problem with their health is motivating them; none are required to present a doctor’s diagnosis and some choose this category because they are simply experiencing morning sickness. Only 4% of women who have abortions offer that some physical problem with their health is motivating them. Click To Tweet

I admire the clarity of Williams’ thinking related to the humanity of fetal humans. Now it’s time for her to think clearly about what justifies the homicides of these same humans. Surely the justifications cannot be anything less than what we already accept for justifiable homicide in this country. I’m simply in favor of enforcing the law as it stands in this matter, and I hope others recognize the wisdom of these homicide statutes as well. The discussion of what justifies a killing may be the future battleground of the abortion debate.

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For more information about the reliability of the New Testament gospels and the case for Christianity, please read Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. This book teaches readers ten principles of cold-case investigations and applies these strategies to investigate the claims of the gospel authors. The book is accompanied by an eight-session Cold-Case Christianity DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.

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Written By

J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured cold-case homicide detective, popular national speaker and best-selling author. He continues to consult on cold-case investigations while serving as a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He is also an Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, and a faculty member at Summit Ministries. He holds a BA in Design (from CSULB), an MA in Architecture (from UCLA), and an MA in Theological Studies (from Gateway Seminary).

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Rebecca

    September 30, 2022 at 6:58 pm

    Wow. This is chilling, because if you follow through on her reasoning, how long will it be before it’s okay to kill your two-year-old, or your teenager, for that matter? Children can be darned inconvenient, and if the considerations of the one responsible for nurturing and providing for them should always trump those of the one less empowered, we are in serious trouble.

  2. David Lee

    October 1, 2022 at 3:23 pm

    This was very interesting to me. I’m 84 years old, and was adopted into a wonderful family at 6 mo. Part of the court records state “no father known”. My birth mother apparently stated that she was unable to take care of me, so she went through the adoption process at that time. I have not been able to find her or anything more about her circumstances. My point is that she was apparently brave enough to carry me to term and then place me in adoption. Such choices (and more) are available today. I believe that we owe respect to the unborn as being part of God’s creative endeavors, and that therefore owe the unborn (and those born years ago) respect. (Ref Ps. 139) Their lives should not be dependent upon whims or even discomfort. I do agree that in some cases carrying a child to term is a matter of life and death; in such cases some very hard decisions have to be made.

  3. Michael

    October 1, 2022 at 8:16 pm

    Dear Mr. Wallace,

    My name is Michael. I am a regular reader of your content and recently came across this article you wrote on abortion. Your exceptional defense of life and the unborn is something I would like to commend you for. I am a 33-year-old millennial. So, the abortion problem has existed for my entire life, and certainly on the federal level up until the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

    However, I feel the need to include my commentary in response to this article, respectfully challenging you on one aspect of your abortion belief system. My words may sound strong in the next few paragraphs, but please understand that I am speaking to you out of concern and in the love of Christ. I hope that I can reason with you on the following point.

    The one point you are wrong about is your justification of abortion if the mother’s life is in danger. One cannot justify murder even under extreme circumstances. Even if the mother’s life is in danger because of the medically complex pregnancy, a person cannot negate the sovereignty of God and decide right from wrong. Murder is not justified under any circumstances, as you yourself have stated.

    In reference to the California law, you mentioned how the protection of innocents is one of the two justifications for killing. However, in the context of abortion, how can one say that the mother is necessarily an innocent victim of the medically complex pregnancy? More importantly, how can one negate the innocence of the unborn child?

    Furthermore, according to the definition of the law, how can the mother be defending herself against a child inside of her who is not intentionally causing the medical complications of the pregnancy? Is it not twisting the meaning of the law by implying that the child is intentionally causing his or her mother’s harm? Murdering an innocent human being to save one’s own life is not true self-defense. Abortion in the context of saving the mother is also certainly not protecting the innocent baby. An innocent physical life is still being taken even if the abortion physically saves the mother.

    All of that being said, your self-defense argument in the context of the mother’s life being at risk is not valid. The mother’s medical complications are not the unborn child’s fault. Even if the mother’s medical complications are being caused by the pregnancy, no one can legitimately put that blame on the baby. The baby is not intentionally causing the complications. A medically complex pregnancy is in a very different context vs. a burglar breaking in to one’s home with a loaded weapon. In the latter case, the burglar is intentionally committing a crime. Thus, in the burglar context, self-defense is obviously recognized and valid. But in the case of the medically complex pregnancy, the baby has no evil intentions, nor does he or she have the capability to carry out any evil
    imaginations.

    The truth is, abortion is never justifiable under any circumstances. As tragic as it would be for a mother to lose her life because of the pregnancy, she still has no right under God to take the life of her baby at any stage of the pregnancy. The baby cannot be considered a legitimate threat. Moreover, he or she certainly cannot be considered a murderous threat because the baby has no evil intentions. He or she cannot lie in wait and attempt to murder his or her mother. A medically complex pregnancy is self-explanatory. Concluding that the baby is murderous is not logical or rational. On the contrary, it is the mother who is murderous with the abortion, regardless of her mental or physical justification for having the abortion. This is because she is taking the life of an innocent human being. Please remember, an intent to take the life of an innocent human being is inescapable in every instance of abortion. Because of the baby’s utter innocence, abortion is never anything less than murder.

    In sum, all babies, regardless of the circumstances of their conception, what trimester they are in, or the medical circumstances of the pregnancy, are innocent human beings. Their complete innocence validates and demands their full protection and recognition of their humanity and inalienable rights, both under the law and most importantly, under Jehovah-Christ.

    Mr. Wallace, I hope you consider my counterpoint. I sincerely appreciate your phenomenal work in fighting for life and in the apologetics.

    I am a college student at a secular university, with a lot of professors and administrative staff who are under the influence of the Adversary. So, your scholarly work is a breath of fresh air for me and a strong faith builder.

    I thank you for your continual obedience to Christ. I always look forward to your new insights. Please keep up the great work.

    Kind Regards,

    Michael

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