Sanctity of Life Sunday

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We observe Sanctity of Life Sunday today because the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the case Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion across the United States, was handed down on January 22, 1973.

Forty-eight years later, abortion very much remains an ongoing moral and political issue in our nation. Indeed, abortion is an issue that has been with the human race for millennia. Along with euthanasia, abortion is mentioned in the Hippocratic Oath as a procedure in which a physician would not participate.

Today, the need to uphold the sanctity of human life has expanded beyond the issue of abortion as human capabilities in medicine, technology, and science have grown. This has led to the development of the field in which I work, bioethics.

One of the first areas the field of bioethics engaged was the allocation of scarce resources—organs for transplantation and machines for kidney dialysis. In the late 1970s, this expanded with the advent of reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization or IVF. More recently, we saw challenges to the sanctity of life raised by embryonic stem cell research and the prospect of human cloning.

All of these issues—abortion, euthanasia, reproductive technologies, embryonic stem cell research, cloning—involve life and death directly. “Who Lives?” “Who Dies?” and “Who Decides?”

Looking ahead, we see the arena in which the sanctity of human life is at stake further expanding. For example, research is preceding steadily on genetic manipulation through the technology known as CRISPR. Both scientists and companies are working to develop brain-computer interfaces. Others are working on ever more advanced forms of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, robotics, and cybernetics.

The questions regarding the sanctity of human life are complex with developments like this. No longer direct questions of who lives and who dies, but questions like “What does it mean to be human?” Where are the boundaries between the human and the non-human? Where is the line between correcting things that are broken and enhancing abilities and even creating new capabilities?

I mention these things simply to point out that pro-life work is broader now than it has ever been before, and it is as important as ever. And this raises two questions that are particularly deserving of our attention today on this Sanctity of life Sunday: What can be done? And perhaps more to the point, what can we do?

What can be done? First is to understand. Regarding the issue of abortion, statistics consistently show that many, many abortions are performed on women who are young, poor, and alone.

  • Young: 60% are in their 20s and another 12% are in their teens. Almost three-fourths are under 30.
  • Poor: 75% of the women who have abortions live below or just above the poverty line (roughly $16,000 per year for two people).
  • Alone: only 14% of the women who have abortions are married. Some are cohabitating, which carries varying levels of commitment.

In addition, the decision to have an abortion occurs relatively quickly. About 50% of abortions occur in the first 8–9 weeks of pregnancy. 25% more occur in weeks 10–11.

This provides opportunities for those of us who are pro-life to offer support to women who might consider having an abortion. It reveals practical ways to live out an expanded definition of "pro-life," standing not only for the right of a child's mere existence, but for a mother who is well cared for and is also therefore better equipped to care for such a child.

As the pastor here at Lakeview mentioned in his midweek column, we support the crisis pregnancy center Informed Choices, which has two locations in our county. Informed Choices seeks to provide counseling, resources, and other help to both women and men who find themselves in situations where they are considering abortion.

One way to address abortion, then, is to pray for, give to, or volunteer with a pregnancy center like Informed Choices.

As private citizens, we can write letters, send emails, and make phone calls to oppose policies that are out of step with the sanctity of life and to encourage and support policies that uphold it. Supporting and encouraging are especially important, as we want to be known for what we endorse even more than for what we oppose.

We can work with youth, here at church or in the community through coaching, for example. Be someone that young people know they can turn to. This is not in any way to displace or replace parents; it is to be an additional trustworthy, caring adult in the lives of young people.

Crucially important is to pray for our leaders at every level. There are many lessons we can take from the book of Jonah, the focus of our current sermon series. Particularly relevant here is the way that God can change the hearts of those in authority. We must be praying for our leaders at every level.

Finally, I want to address what for some is no doubt a difficult aspect of our recognizing sanctity of life Sunday. If you’re a woman who has had an abortion, and you’re dealing with guilt and regret over it, I’m speaking to you. If you’re a man who pushed for or paid for an abortion, or perhaps you walked away from a woman who was pregnant with your child, I’m speaking to you.

I want you to know that there is forgiveness and healing in Christ.

As I have been thinking about Sanctity of Life Sunday, it’s interesting how the song Amazing Grace kept coming up. Last Sunday, we ended our service here by singing it. I attended an evening event in which a nurse from Detroit sang a joyful and heartfelt rendition as part of a COVID memorial service. Garth Brooks sang it at the inauguration of President Joe Biden.

God’s grace and mercy are truly amazing. Truly. Would it really be amazing grace if it didn’t cover the things that affect us so strongly and so deeply? It would not.

But it is. It is amazing grace. So, I encourage you, as strongly as I can: turn to Christ.

If you’re wondering what that looks like, there are people who would love to explore that with you. Please reach out to the leadership of either your own, or another, local church. Please reach out to us at the Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity (, or to Informed Choices ( Any one of us can put you in touch with people who have been where you are; who have come to know and experience God’s amazing grace, and who will come alongside you and help you see how such grace can grab hold of you.

May God guide us to know where and how we might each do our part to uphold the sanctity of human life, given all of the many areas where it may be challenged in today’s world.

And may you come to know, in new and fresh ways, the forgiveness, healing, and freedom that comes only from God’s Amazing Grace.