Abortion, Infanticide and the United Methodist Church
There is much that could be said about the recent murders of the twin newborn boys near Nashville, TN – and much of it relates to abortion. For those who missed the story, 25-year-old Lindsey Lowe gave birth two weeks ago in a bathroom at her parents' home. Though Lindsey lived with her parents, they didn't know she was pregnant – nor did anyone else. She made no doctor visits during the course of her full-term pregnancy and went into labor on Monday night, September 12. On Wednesday, her father found the body of one child hidden in Lindsey's laundry basket. After he called the police, Lindsey was taken into custody at the dentist office where she works. She admitted to smothering the child with her hand to keep her parents from hearing his cries. She then confessed to doing the same to the second child who was born a few minutes later.
Stories like these are hard to deal with for countries like ours – countries that have made abortion-on-demand functionally legal through all nine months of pregnancy. Isn't it hypocritical to be outraged by a mom who kills her twin babies after they're born, but indifferent to a mom who hires someone to kill her twin babies before they're born? It is, which is why Princeton ethicist, Peter Singer, says women should be given the right to kill their newborns. He points out that there is no ethical difference between killing a human baby before birth and after birth and concludes that since we've already deemed abortion to be morally defensible, the same distinction should be given to infanticide as well.
Though such a conclusion might sound preposterous, Singer is actually right. There is no moral difference between abortion and infanticide. If killing a baby before birth is OK, then so is killing a baby after birth. The fact that abortion is currently lawful while infanticide is unlawful is a legal contradiction that cannot survive. It's an inconsistency that must be addressed. The only question is in which direction the law will move.
A few things have caught my attention in the aftermath of this tragedy. The first is a comment by Sumner County District Attorney Ray Whitley. He says, "[This is] one of the saddest cases I've ever seen in my long career. You've got two infants that are dead." Why is this significant? Because district attorneys are exposed to plenty of deplorable, even stomach-turning crimes. The fact that he classifies this as one of the most disturbing of his career should not be overlooked. This wasn't a violent crime. There wasn't a bloody crime scene. What makes it so traumatic is the fact that two tiny, helpless infants, with their whole lives in front of them, were killed by their own mother. That's what makes this crime so unthinkable. Remarkably, those are the exact same reasons that are often used to justify abortion.
Second, I was struck by the controversy surrounding the issue of bond and the severity of the punishment being considered. Sumner County Assistant DA Ron Blanton explains why the DA was so opposed to allowing Lowe to post bond. "We have two children that are dead at the hands of their mother. This is a horrendous crime. The fact is she hid this pregnancy, she smothered her children ….. The overwhelming issue in this case is probability of conviction, and at this juncture, the state feels that the probability of conviction and the nature of the crimes, set forth in the statute, is so overwhelming, there should be no bond issued in this case." Despite the prosecutions assertion that they were considering the death penalty, bond was set at $250,000 and Lowe was released last Tuesday after her grandparents offered their house as collateral. In other words, Lowe's crimes are so severe that the state might execute her for them – and yet she could have legally aborted her children on the same day she killed them (by finding an abortionist willing to certify that the pregnancy threatened her physical or emotional health).
Third, the Lowe family stated that their determination to see Lindsey released on bail was driven by their fear that she would kill herself – that she was not physically or mentally stable enough to be left in jail. On a similar theme, her attorney indicated that they well might make an insanity plea. Though he concedes that she had not been evaluated by a psychologist, he almost infers that anyone who would smother her newborn sons to death must be insane. How else do you explain a mother killing her own children?
Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother, for whom devastating damage may result from an unacceptable pregnancy. In continuity with past Christian teaching, we recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures.
Lindsey Lowe is part of a church that believes unborn human life is sacred, but also believes that legal abortion is justified. The UMC's statement on abortion goes on to say:
We oppose the use of late-term abortion known as dilation and extraction (partial-birth abortion) and call for the end of this practice except when the physical life of the mother is in danger and no other medical procedure is available, or in the case of severe fetal anomalies incompatible with life.
No explanation is provided for why they think aborting later in pregnancy is worse than aborting earlier in pregnancy and with all their caveats, they don't even oppose partial-birth abortion in any meaningful way. It's all double-speak. In light of this underlying ideology, should we be surprised that a young woman from their church would respond to the "tragic conflicts" in her life by killing her babies? Or should we be surprised that so many of those surrounding her describe Lindsey as a saint while making scant mention of the children she killed?
Cultures that are saturated in justifying abortion find it increasingly difficult to condemn infanticide. The best evidence for this may be found in comments made by one of the women at the prayer vigil. "We will all be judged by the way we judge others," she says. "It's not our place to judge this girl or her family." The first part of her statement is Scriptural; the second part is not. The fact that we will be judged by the same standard we judge by is not intended to keep us from judging. It's intended to keep us from judging others with a different standard. Jesus concludes his teaching on judging others by saying, "First take the speck out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." But when you justify abortion in your own life, or in your church, how can you judge a woman for infanticide? You can't. The solution is not to stop judging. The solution is to apply the same standard to yourself (and stop justifying abortion!).
To understand just how entrenched the abortion mentality is in America, ask yourself how the public response to these murders would have differed if the murderer was not the mom. What if a stranger (or even the dad) had crept in and killed these babies? Or what if Lindsey had suffocated her neighbor's babies instead of her own? Wouldn't that have created far more cultural outrage? If so, I think it's because we've subtly bought into the notion that motherhood makes murder less deplorable. We sympathize with Lindsey because these were "her own" children. She is the one who suffers their loss. But this misses the point. The reason that the murder of young children is such a heinous act is not because the children are lost to their parents. It's because the children, as individuals, are dead. Lindsey cannot say in any ultimate sense that these children were "her own." They were God's, entrusted to her for training and protection. And now they're dead.
I say all this not to demonize Lindsey Lowe, but there is a fine line between loving and sympathizing with Lindsey and downplaying what she did. In many ways, Lindsey is the victim of a schizophrenic society (and church) that has created an artificial distinction between killing babies in the womb and killing babies out of the womb. She consistently applied the teaching of the United Methodist Church to her "unacceptable pregnancy" and now she might die for it. Pray for Lindsey's repentance and restoration, and pray for the repentance and restoration of the United Methodist Church.
Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.