The Bible, The Supreme Court, and Bodily Autonomy
Since Dobbs v Jackson overturned Roe v Wade the cry of opposition has been that the fundamental rights of women have been abridged. Sometimes that cry sounds like, “my body, my choice.” At other times it sounds like women refusing to let their “reproductive rights” be infringed. The driving logic behind all this is a belief in bodily autonomy. The idea is that since my body is—well—mine, I can do what I want with it.
We must think through such a claim from the standpoint of biblical faithfulness. Here, I want to offer four thoughts in response to the claim of bodily autonomy.
Bodily Autonomy and Legitimacy
First, those who argue for bodily autonomy have some things right. Our bodies are sacred, valuable, and infinitely precious. The Bible is clear that we are made as human beings by God in his image (Genesis 1:26). Those arguing for bodily autonomy might locate the reason for our worth in something other than the Bible, but we all agree that our bodies are precious, that those bodies are to be honored and protected, and that no person has the right to oppress, harm, or otherwise attack our bodies unjustly.
All agree that things like murder, sexual abuse, and other kinds of assault are wrong.
Bodily Autonomy and Abortion
In fact, it is just at this point that those who argue for bodily autonomy are so gravely mistaken. Because we agree that the human body is sacred and protected, this argument is the exact point where those in favor of abortion are so desperately and ironically wrong. Regulations against abortion are not meant to attack the body of the woman but to protect the body of the unborn baby. If we want to talk about the value of bodies, we have to talk about the value of all of them, not just the bodies that can speak, hold signs, and walk into Planned Parenthood clinics.
That babies are a distinct human life is beyond dispute. This has been established by scientific authorities, like the American College of Pediatrics who say, “At fertilization, the human being emerges as a whole, genetically distinct, individuated zygotic living human organism, a member of the species of Homo sapiens, needing only the proper environment in order to grow and develop. The difference between the individual in its adult stage and in its zygotic stage is one of form, not nature.”
More importantly, the full humanity of unborn babies is established by God in his Word, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).
The bodies of babies are obviously dependent on the bodies of adults, but this does not remove their worth. If you locked me in a room full of formula and diapers with a baby for one month and came back to find I had let the baby starve, you would never accept an excuse of bodily autonomy from me. Instead, you would insist that righteousness demands that I use my body to protect the body of someone who needs my help. This is never more true than with the bodies of women caring for the precious bodies in their womb.
Bodily Autonomy and The Supreme Court
The response from pro-abortion advocates has been guided more by outrage than fact. The Supreme Court refused to say whether abortion should be legal or not. The Supreme Court was silent on religious reasons for or against abortion. The Court made a straightforward decision about what the Constitution says, “The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return authority to the people and their elected representatives.”
This decision is so clear that I hardly think I can improve on it but with so much confusion these days, it is worth a shot. The Supreme Court said they have no authority to give a judicial fiat in favor of or against abortion. Their decision says that if a person wants to use her freedom to try to get an abortion, she has every right to get a group of people together and pass laws to allow that.
That same freedom, however, goes to those of us who oppose abortion. We have the right to get another group of people together and try to restrict abortion. We will use that freedom with all our might.
The Supreme Court, in other words, has not infringed on bodily autonomy. It didn’t even speak to it. They made a decision to ensure that Americans have the freedom to work this out for themselves.
We must pray that we will use that freedom righteously.
Bodily Autonomy and God
Now we come to the heart of the matter. I established earlier that the value of the body comes from our creation by God in his image. But I stopped short of endorsing the claim of bodily autonomy. That is because, though our bodies have worth and value and must be protected, we are not really autonomous over our bodies. As God’s creation, we belong entirely to him.
Psalm 100:3 rings out over all creation, “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his.”
Every Christian must be gripped by the truth of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.”
Whether in creation or redemption, we are the property of God himself.
That means regardless of what any human authority says, whether, from a group of physicians, lawyers, or rioters, we only have the freedom to do with our bodies that which honors God.
No one who acknowledges the authority of God could ever claim bodily autonomy and would never seek to snuff out a precious life he made.
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