Christians need to trust women to make their own choices, Presbyterian minister and professor Rebecca Todd Peters argued in her new book, “Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice.”
Though seemingly reasonable at first, Peters’ argument basically asserts that women should have the power to choose life or death for their own children through abortion – an authority that is supposed to be God’s alone.
Paula Rinehart, author, therapist and Presbyterian church elder, responded to Peters’ radical assertions in a column this week at The Federalist.
“What’s unique here is not her argument, which has been around a long time, but her attempts to wring actual Christian virtue out of the traumatic act of ending life in the womb,” Rinehart wrote.
“Perhaps progressives are getting desperate,” she continued. “You have to wonder if the public exposure of Planned Parenthood’s practice of disassembling baby parts in abortion clinics has taken such a toll that they must now distort church history and Judeo-Christian apologetics to bolster a weakened defense.”
Peters, an ordained Presbyterian Church USA minister and a professor at Elon University, claimed that not wanting a baby is “an imminently appropriate reason” for an abortion. She argued that Christians who “truly value women and healthy families” will support women who decide to have abortions.
Rinehart broke down the problems with Peters’ argument:
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).
It’s a matter of “justice” to make a woman’s choice preeminent, she says, attributing to the notion of choice what theologian David Bentley Hart calls “an almost mystical supremacy over all other concerns.” That well-known Christian staple called “sin” is not your sin and my sin—no, for Peters, sin is located in external power structures of oppression.
Men don’t fare too well in her book, either. They aren’t so much fathers, brothers, and load-bearers, but the faces of a misogynous patriarchy hell-bent on controlling women’s sexual lives. They serve as donkeys you can always pin the tail on, and thereby silence discussion.
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Unborn babies do not fare well, either. Peters dehumanizes unborn babies by referring to them as “prenates,” rather than unique, living human beings in their mothers’ wombs, Rinehart said.
In this separate moral category, the author’s own invention, all bets are off: “Since the prenate is not a person, no rights are at stake.” This prenate becomes a child when he or she can exist and take a breath on his or her own.
His or her personhood is not a given. Rather, it’s “called into being” by the larger community, especially by the woman herself if she makes the choice to parent. Peters never addresses the elephant in the room: How does a woman’s sex privilege her to treat the life she carries in such a dissembling manner, as though she, by virtue of being a woman, can be the final arbiter of someone else’s worth?
Peters’ claims contradict Christian teachings about adversity and sacrifice as well.
Rinehart wrote: “It has never been a Christian path of wisdom to cut something out of oneself (literally) because it disrupts plans, causes angst, or seems, in the moment, like an insurmountable problem. In the Christian pattern of death and resurrection, a problem is often the prelude to a new beginning. It’s seen as a potential blessing that can, initially, appear well-disguised.”
Abortion steals life from unborn babies and destroys families. But when parents choose life for their babies, they often discover a wealth of unexpected joy in the midst of their struggles. In John 10:10, Jesus told his disciples, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
The world is full of stories of women who chose life for their unborn babies in difficult circumstances. Their stories and their children’s lives exude a hope and joy that are noticeably absent in the popular new “Shout Your Abortion” stories of today.
Christianity does not teach that life will be easy or free from suffering, but it teaches that God wants what is best for human beings and that ultimately true joy will come through following God.