Tilly Dillehay: „Both Sides of Roe. My Own Journey from Death to Life”, DesiringGod.org / “For Life” Magazine no. 12, Spring 2023

The reflections of the author, a non-protestant Christian, show, through her own experience, how natural it is to support abortion when man turns away from the reception of the world as a space for the work of God’s love. Without God, the world becomes a place of death, and abortion becomes a natural part of it.

Seven months ago, we all lived in the America of my birth. This was an America that legally affirmed the inalienable right of women to a form of “health care” that intentionally ends the life of children in the womb. This position, established by the Supreme Court in 1973, led to the near tripling of annual abortion deaths in the United States within eight years. More than 63 million babies lost their lives in the years between Roe’s ascendancy and its reversal.

Many people I know have prayed for this day longer than I have been alive. They have established pregnancy centers offering family education, free ultrasounds, and free clothing and supplies. They have adopted and fostered. They have cared for babies and children while single mothers were at work.

But other people I know, like my friend from college, lament and even panic over the end of Roe. They experience fear, the fear of former rights revoked and children uncared for. What is the difference in worldview that produces such perfectly opposing opinions on abortion?

Godlessness Births Hatred

At the nominal Christian college I attended, my career-driven friends and I didn’t analyze our deepest assumptions about our futures. We didn’t realize that our vision for life was deeply influenced by the air we were all breathing

A few years after graduating, having walked away from church and faith, I found myself in the pregnancy test aisle at Walgreens. “Would I keep it?” I thought — and then was shocked by the question.

I’d grown up staunchly defensive of the unborn. But for the first time, I was actually experiencing the fear of an unwanted pregnancy. I felt the despair of not liking the world enough to bring a child into it. I imagined the reaction from friends, family, and former church members when they saw me and my baby, alone against the world.

Until that day, I had never understood the close link between godlessness and death.

Fearing Life in an Unsafe World

A few months later, God saved my soul, and he brought a man into my life a year after that. As the years passed, he gave me three precious children. I am currently expecting a fourth.

When you spend all your time nurturing life, feeding life, telling young children about the wonders of life, it’s harder to remember what it was like when death seemed preferable to life. But I can still put my finger on that fear, especially in the early hours of the morning if I awake from a nightmare or hear my child coughing. It’s the fear of life itself. The fear of responsibility’s weight.

Even in my latest pregnancy, I still experience that fear of bringing new life into a world that is in one sense totally unsafe. Even under the protection of marriage and family, my children are held only by God’s hand, and I still have to wrestle with him daily over the promises he’s made for them (and the promises he hasn’t). I now understand more deeply than ever how pain and fear is part of the curse connected to motherhood, and how only in Christ can any of us see the world as it is: a place of hope, joy, blessing, and ultimate victory over sin and death. It is a place worth bringing children into — but only because it’s a place ruled by a kind and loving Father.

Besides the realities of death and curse, we all inherit cultural attitudes toward motherhood without knowing we’ve done so.
We all breathe air from a place that chooses to see child and elder care as unskilled labor, which we outsource to the less educated. It’s a place that sees motherhood as the final cap on a pyramid of career moves — just one more accomplishment to adorn a more necessary list. It’s a place that tells its women to throw off encumbrances (including people) that keep us from tending to ourselves first and always. It’s a place that disincentivizes fatherhood and subsidizes abandonment and murder. It’s a place that has managed to sell women the word empowerment, by which she trades love and commitment for the total loss of self and becomes a sexual commodity for the pleasure of men who have no intention of cherishing her humanity.

True Value of Motherhood

Motherhood is valuable. This is what’s valuable in God’s economy: life, because he made it; and love, because he embodies and commands it.

And looking at life and love as fundamentally valuable means that we look at motherhood as the stewardship of something fundamentally valuable. A single mother is the steward of something fundamentally valuable. A married middle-aged mother is the steward of something fundamentally valuable. An adoptive mother is the steward of something fundamentally valuable.

For My Friend on the Other Side

As I continue talking with my friend, I gently press for logical consistency by asking questions about rights. When does the infant in the womb become human? On what basis do we confer the right to live? If the baby has no right to live until it has passed through the birth canal, what about a few moments after it has passed through? A few minutes before? If we confer the right to live only on human beings who are competent to survive, what does that mean for the disabled child or adult, or even for a healthy baby in the first few years after it’s born?

As we talk, I’m aware that underneath the logical issues about human rights, the strength of her beliefs has more to do with the pain of motherhood under the shadow of death. What she really wonders is, “Is life good, or isn’t it?”

Does someone have a sure hand on the steering wheel of this dangerous world, or not? Should we not limit life on the earth when life is so difficult and dangerous? Is there any possible reason to do what is right in obedience to the King who reigns justly, to embrace the gift of life even when the costs are so high? Could his promises possibly be true, really true, when he says that soon, every tear will be wiped away, “and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4)? Will we see him face to face and hear his account of everything sad coming untrue?

When I look this last question in the eye, it’s too much for me to bear. I know it’s too much for her heart too, if she ever thinks of it in the watches of the night. Some things seem too good to be true.

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