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FIRST-PERSON: Partial-birth abortion & our nation’s health

DEERFIELD, Ill. (BP)–When President Bush signed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, he did more than save thousands of lives from an unnecessary and barbaric death. Through passing the ban, the president, along with the majority of our Congress, restored a measure of sanity to our national conscience and slowed our descent into the moral abyss.

Partial-birth abortion (PBA) is nothing less than infanticide. Babies killed by PBA are fully formed, fully awake and fully alive. Extracting all except the head of the baby from the mother’s body, the physician punctures the back of the baby’s skull with a pair of scissors. But the infant probably doesn’t die immediately. In fact, the infant’s pain must be excruciating for several moments as the brain tissue is removed by suction. Mercifully, death finally comes as the baby’s head is collapsed.

The only surgeon in the Senate, majority leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has called partial-birth abortion “egregious, outlandish and ghoulish.” One doesn’t have to be trained in medicine to agree with Senator Frist. Partial-birth abortion is unjustifiable in a civilized society.

That’s why I’m encouraged, however cautiously, about the moral health of our nation. Partial-birth abortion offered yet another evidence that our national conscience was becoming seared and insensitive. Even though it took seven years of education and the election of a new president, we finally came to grips with this horrendous evil and took the appropriate steps to rid it from our lives. Clearly, however, the battle is not over. Already the legal challenges to the ban are mounting. But the fact that we got this far should encourage us all to persevere and see the process through to the end.

What is at stake? Yes, obviously, the lives of babies are at stake. And that should be sufficient reason for us to persist in our efforts to make partial-birth abortion illegal. But there’s more.

The conscience of our nation and the fitness of her laws are being weighed in the balance. Can our present system of American jurisprudence and those who interpret the rule of law sustain a ban on infanticide? If the ban becomes law, we will take heart and press forward in dealing with the other challenges we face. If our laws and judges will not support a ban on this clear and present evil, we should change both the laws and those who interpret them. We cannot long survive as a nation if we cannot ban such a loathsome practice as partial-birth abortion.

Christians must continue to pray fervently that the legal challenges to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act will fail and that the ban will become law.

The writer of Proverbs reminds us, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). Does the United States as a people have the moral resolve and political health finally to repudiate partial-birth abortion? Time will tell.
C. Ben Mitchell is consultant on biomedical and life issues for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and professor of bioethics and contemporary culture at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School near Chicago.

    About the Author

  • C. Ben Mitchell

    C. Ben Mitchell is provost and vice president for academic affairs at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., as well as research fellow with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

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