This week the governor of New York signed into law a bill designed to expand a woman’s ability to have an abortion. Not only does it remove abortion from the criminal code, it allows for abortion up to 24 weeks’ gestation. After 24 weeks, an abortion may still be performed if the mother’s health, including her mental well-being, is deemed at risk. Non-doctors have also been given the legal ability to perform abortions.
The top of Freedom Tower—a building built to show the world the strength and resolve of the American people in the aftermath of a terrible tragedy—was lit up in pink to celebrate the signing. It celebrates a bill that promises to kill more humans than terrorists ever will.
Celebrate? Really? There should have been people crying and gnashing their teeth in the streets. Sackcloth and ashes should be the clothing of choice, not just among New Yorkers, but all Americans.
A few years ago I got a call from to a friend who had formerly lacked strong convictions about the abortion debate. He was flabbergasted. While driving in New York, an ad about abortion came on his radio. It compared women’s reproductive choices to choosing a hair or nail color. He was furious.
His words have never left me: “Whatever my opinion on abortion, the act is not comparable to getting a haircut. It is not a decision that should be made in haste. It is the ending of a life, or a potential life. To treat it casually and carelessly is a travesty.”
What happened this week is a travesty. But New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins viewed it as a win for women. “Unfortunately for years, barriers to women’s rights were up…Today, we are tearing those barriers down.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo weighed in: “Today we are taking a giant step forward in the hard-fought battle to ensure a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own personal health, including the ability to access an abortion…women in New York will have the fundamental right to control their own body.”
Finding adequate words to respond to those statements is beyond my ability. An unborn child, a fetus, a cluster of cells with potential sentience, whatever you want to call it in order to sleep better at night, is not a barrier to women’s rights. Abortion isn’t empowering to women. It’s the opposite. It’s dehumanizing. It is destructive because abortion violates the most fundamental of all human rights—the right to life.
The right to life isn’t a woman’s right or a man’s right. It is a universal, God-given natural right. It is the right that proves, whatever governments or people might say, that we are all equal. True equality is not and will never be created by an executive, legislative body, or court. It is the inherent gift we have from being created in God’s image. To subordinate the right to life to a woman’s power to choose undermines true equality.
This is not progress. To celebrate it as progress, to light up public buildings in pink, signals shows not the march of America towards a brighter future, but our decline. It signifies that we value ourselves more than others.
We value convenience. We value comfort. We value the here-and-now and what it can give to us. We want pleasure without consequences. We want decisions without responsibility. We want permission to break the laws of nature because they interfere with our desires.
Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it is right or just. Public celebration does not mean opposition is anti-woman and wrong. The ancient African author Tertullian wrote, “[A] law lies under strong suspicions which does not care to have itself tried and approved: it is a positively wicked law, if, unproved, it tyrannizes over men.”
How much more damning and wicked is a law that targets and tyrannizes the most helpless among us? The unborn cannot speak for themselves. The New York law overrides the greatest of human traits—love, hope, faith, courage—for alleged freedom.
There is a way to love, cherish, and protect both the mother and her child. There is a way to deal with the unexpected struggles and hardships of life. The way is seeing both humans—mother and child—as individuals worthy of love, respect, and care. We must accept and love both of them.
We must treat both as we would desire to be treated. As Mother Teresa opined, “How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child.”
New York’s law does not do this. The public celebration of this mocks and belittles the entire debate. It is an empty promise. It leads not to human flourishing, but to heartbreak.
The law celebrates self-love, not selfless love. It breaks down not barriers to women’s rights, but the very bonds that bind us together. It rejects the inherent value of all life. It kills. It does not love. It is not a cause for celebration, but for reexamining what America truly treasures.