Abortion, Race, Gender, and Christ
Sanctity of Life Sunday
There is a connection between last week’s message on Racial Harmony and Interracial Marriage and today’s message on Abortion, Race, Gender, and Christ. When interracial marriage is rejected, it is often because the reproductive effect of it is offensive to the dominant race. That is, for example, the children of marriages between white and African American or white and Asian or white and any other ethnic group are not white enough. As soon as we say it like this, we can begin to see the connection between abortion and the racism1 implicit in this attitude to interracial marriage. If non-whiteness is viewed as an undesirable outcome of an interracial marriage, could it be that this view may also express itself in the use of abortion to reduce the prevalence of non-whiteness in a dominantly white culture?
Closely related to the racial implications of abortion are the gender implications. And I don’t simply mean that the issue revolves around a woman’s right over her own body—as we are often told. I mean that millions of abortions around the world are done for sex selection. Female babies in the womb are systematically destroyed because male babies are preferred.
Millions of Abortions Around the World Are the Outworking of Sexism and Racism
Since 1987 I have preached at least 17 sermons on the way abortion and the pro-life movement relate to Christ and his cause in the world. The focus of each has been different. Today the focus is on this claim: Millions of abortions around the world are the outworking of racism and sexism. By “outworking” I mean that these abortions have roots in racism and sexism, and the fruit is what racists and sexists would want—namely, fewer blacks (as in the United States) and fewer girls (as in India and China).
I define the term “sexism” in the same basic way I define the term racism: “Sexism is an explicit or implicit belief or practice that qualitatively distinguishes or values one sex over the other.” This doesn’t mean that there are no differences between the sexes. Nor does it meant that these differences are insignificant. They are very significant! It means that the differences are valuable, and when all the differences are added up on each side of the male and female ledger, the quality-sum and value-sum at the bottom of the ledger is the same for male and female. It is equally precious to have a girl baby as to have a boy baby. Male personhood and female personhood are equally sinful and equally valuable in God’s sight. Both, when redeemed equally, reflect the worth of God equally. And you know I say this in a complementarian framework where humble, Christ-like men should be the heads of their homes and the elders of the church.
So my aim today is to expose one more evil of abortion alongside all the other evils of abortion—and there are many in the way it hurts women, and hurts babies, and hurts men, and hurts society, and dishonors God—that is, to expose in the light of Scripture—the light of Jesus Christ—this added evil, namely: Millions of abortions around the world are the outworking of racism and sexism.
The Four Increasingly Radical Measures in Exodus 1:1-22
Before I illustrate this more clearly, let’s put it in the light of Scripture. In Exodus 1:1-22 we see the dominant ethnic group, the Egyptians, take four increasingly radical steps to eliminate the threat of another ethnic group, Israel.
Notice the threat in verses 8-9: “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us.’” Israel was different. They were not Egyptians. They didn’t really belong. They were ethnically and culturally and religiously alien to the Egyptians. And they were growing. That’s the threat.
Now follow the four increasingly radical measures the king of Egypt took to eliminate this threat. Evidently they did not feel free to just outright kill the whole people like Hitler. The threat could be nullified more indirectly. How?
1. The Egyptians Enslaved Them (Exodus 1:1-12)
First, the Egyptians enslaved them. Exodus 1:1-12. “Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel.” Measure one was not working.
2. The Egyptians Intensified the Slavery (Exodus 1:13-14)
Second, they intensified the slavery and became more ruthless and harsh. Exodus 1:13-14. “So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.” Evidently this was not sufficient to weaken the people. So they turned to measure number three.
3. The Egyptian King Instructed the Midwives to Kill the Infant Males at Birth (Exodus 1:15-16)
Third, the king instructed the midwives to kill the baby boys at birth. Exodus 1:15-16. “Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 ‘When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.’” The aim here is to emasculate the people. Minimize the male and master the nation. Again it didn’t work, because the midwives refused to kill the boy babies. So the king moved from subtle, clinical infanticide to open, public infanticide.
4. The Egyptian king Commanded the Entire Egyptian Nation to Kill the Infant Male Israelites (Exodus 1:22)
Fourth, the king commanded the entire Egyptian nation (not just the midwives) to kill the baby Israelite boys. Exodus 1:22. “Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, ‘Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.’” Evidently this did not work either because 80 years later there were 600,000 men in Israel (Exodus 12:37).
Four Observations to See the Analogy Between Then and Now
Now let’s make several observations to see the analogy between this situation and the abortion situation in the world today.
1. The Subtle Infanticide Preceded Open Infanticide
First, notice how the king of Egypt tried subtle infanticide before he resorted to open infanticide. If he could get the midwives to kill the baby boys in the birthing process then it would look like a still birth. How might they do that? They would do it the same way we do it. We call it partial birth abortion. Only they would do it more gently. They deliver the head first, then before the whole baby is out and can cry, they squeeze the neck until the baby is dead, and then deliver the rest of the baby.
This subtle form of infanticide is so much like abortion today that there is no morally significant difference.2 In fact one accurate way to describe abortion is subtle infanticide. That is: child-killing done in a way that the people don’t recognize it as child-killing. That reality is why the word abortion exists. Some words are created to cloak reality the same way procedures are created to cloak reality. “Abortion” is cloaked child-killing, just like the king of Egypt wanted to cloak child killing.
2. The Subtle Infanticide Was Selective
Second observation: the subtle infanticide, or partial birth abortion, was selective. In this case, only kill the boys. This is not identical to sex-selection abortion in our day. It’s just an analogy. It’s a pointer. It wakes us up to the fact that this sort of thing happens—for different reasons in different times.
3. The Subtle Infanticide Was Ethnically Specific
Third observation: notice that the subtle infanticide, the partial birth abortion, was ethnically specific. Only do it to Jews. They are the threat. Again this a wake up call. A warning. Ethnic cleansing happens. It happens in more ways than you think. For example, there is computer game available on the web called Ethnic Cleansing (I don't recommend that you go there) described like this:
The most politically incorrect video game ever made. Run through the ghetto blasting away various blacks and spics in an attempt to gain entrance to the subway system, where the jews have hidden to avoid the carnage. Then, if you’re lucky.... you can blow away jews as they scream ‘Oy Vey!’, on your way to their command center.
4. God Rewarded the Civil Disobedience That Refused to Participate in the Subtle Infanticide
Fourth observation: God rewarded the civil disobedience that refused to participate in the subtle infanticide. Exodus 1:17-21
“But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. 18 So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this, and let the male children live?’ 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.’ 20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.
The king said: kill the baby boys. The midwives refused. And God blessed them for doing what was right and disobeying the king. Whether they should have lied in the process I will leave to the side for now. The least we can say is that it did not stop God from being pleased with their courageous pro-life refusal to kill the babies, and make it look like they didn’t.
In view of all this, I conclude that God has given us in these events and in this text of Scripture a bright light to shine on the evil of subtle infanticide, that is, abortion, in our own day, especially on the millions of abortions that are the outworking of racism and sexism.
Abortion and Sexism
So let me illustrate these more clearly. Take sexism first. This is most prominent in India and China where preference for sons over daughters is deeply rooted in the structure of social life. One glimpse from the state of Maharashtra:
In one hospital, from June 1976 to June 1977, 700 individuals sought prenatal sex determination. Of these fetuses, 250 were determined to be male and 450 were female. While all of the male fetuses were kept to term, 430 of the 450 female fetuses were aborted. (Miller 1985)3
Laws have been passed in India and China to restrict sex-selection abortions, but the practice goes on as sex-determination becomes easier and earlier.
China’s strictly enforced quotas on the number of children a married couple may have . . . make it even more apparent why [sex-selection abortion] and female infanticide have become so prevalent. . . . Indeed, there are an increasing number of villages in both India and China about whom the following claim, uttered by a Chinese peasant, can be made: “Last year we had only one girl born in the village—everybody else had boys’ (Kristof 1993, 1). When these villagers are questioned about the possibility that their sons will not be able to find wives in twenty year’s [sic] time, the villagers do not appear worried. Their immediate concern is to have sons who can help out in the fields, take care of them in their old age, and who will continue the family line.4
My point here is not that these motives for aborting baby girls are worse than the motives for abortion in Western countries. My point is simply to say that in the practice of abortion different kinds of evil mount up and multiply. And as they do, the position of the pro-choice person becomes less and less defensible. Pro-choice feminists, for example, who oppose sex-selection abortion (since it almost always goes against the girls) find themselves struggling not to call this mass of tissue a little girl. When the evil of sexism unites with the evil of abortion they tend to expose more clearly the evil of both.
Abortion and Racism
What about abortion and racism? Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in America, was founded by a racist, Margaret Sanger. I want to commend Corinne Cords here at Bethlehem for her pro-life ministry called Self Evident Truth (contact her by // or 612-735-7550). She has documented the foundations of Planned Parenthood in the racism of Margaret Sanger. Randy Alcorn has done the same in his newsletter Eternal Perspectives.5 Sanger was supportive of eugenics which favored sterilization and other means of limiting the reproduction of the black race. Marvin Olasky comments, “Margaret Sanger’s ‘Negro Project’ of the 1930s was similarly hailed for its work in spreading contraception among those whom eugenicists most deeply feared.”6
Planned Parenthood, to my knowledge, has never renounced these roots. Instead it is part of an industry that has put to death over ten million black babies since 1973. Only racism can rejoice in that.
The African-American population in America is about 14% of the whole. But African American babies account for about 33% of the lives lost in abortion. 74% in Washington DC, 62% in Mississippi, 52% in New York City, 50% in Georgia. What shall we make of this? Some people call it genocide. I prefer to use the very balanced and sobering words of Randy Alcorn. Here is what he says,
I do not believe that most people who support abortion rights are racists, any more than I believe there are no racists among pro-lifers. I am simply suggesting that regardless of motives, a closer look at both the history and present strategies of the pro-chose movement suggests that abortion for the minorities may not serve the cause of equality as much as the cause of supremacy for the healthy, wealthy and white.7
A Challenge for African-American Christians to Lead
My prayer and my cry is that African-American Christians across America will wake up to what his happening and lead this country toward the place where abortion becomes as unthinkable as slavery. When blacks turn away from involvement in the pro-life movement because there are so many whites in the movement who are indifferent to racial prejudice, they are doing what white conservatives Christians did in the civil-rights era who refused to join the movement for racial justice because there were so many liberals in the movement who didn’t believe in the deity of Christ.
Oh, rather let us join hands—black and white and Asian and Hispanic and American Indian—and say together with one clear voice: there is a better way to freedom than killing the babies!
Closing: The Difference Between Moses and Jesus
In closing, go with me back to Egypt for a moment. In the very darkest season of the worst child-killing, Moses was born. Moses, the deliverer. Moses, the rescuer, the savior of the people. And then the prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22)—the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the final decisive Rescuer, Savior, Deliverer—was born, and barely escaped the slaughter of the babies in Bethlehem. He lived a perfect life and died for sinners and rose again.
And here’s one of the great differences between him and Moses. Moses delivered the people who were being oppressed. Jesus delivers oppressed and oppressor. Moses delivered the hated race. Jesus delivers the hated and the hater. Moses couldn’t deliver the strangled babies or babies thrown into the Nile, but Jesus delivers the babies, the mothers, the abortion providers, the irresponsible boyfriends. He loves and saves every sinner who trusts in him.
So let us join hands and say with a clear voice as one in Christ: there is a better way to freedom than killing the babies. And that way is Jesus Christ.
1 The definition I am using is the one that the Presbyterian Church in America adopted in the summer of 2004: “Racism is an explicit or implicit belief or practice that qualitatively distinguishes or values one race over other races.”
2 See Scott Klusendorf’s “Taking Abortion Seriously” presentation, where he employs Stephen Scwarz’s acronym S.L.E.D. to show that none of the stages of fetal development or conditions of the fetus are moral arguments for abortion. Size, Level of development, Environment, and Degree of dependence—all four of these prove in the end to show that the arguments used to support abortion logically support infanticide.
3 Radhika Balakrishnan, “The Social Context of Sex Selection and the Politics of Abortion in India,” in Power and Decision: the Social Control of Reproduction (Cambridge: Harvard School of Public Health, 1994), 267-286 (accessed online 1-21-05).
4 Gail Weiss, “Sex-selective Abortion: A Relational Approach,” in Hypatia 12:3 (Winter 1995) (accessed online 1-21-05).
5 Randy Alcorn, “Planned Parenthood: A Closer Look At Its Founder and Philosophy,” Eternal Perspectives (Sept.–Oct., 1993), 8-9.
6 Marvin Olasky, Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America (Washington, D.C.: Regenry, 1995), 259-263.
7 Alcorn, “Planned Parenthood,” 9.
©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in physical form, in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For posting online, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. For videos, please embed from the original source. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org