Presidential candidate Donald Trump did it again. When he was asked by journalist Chris Matthews if women who get an abortion should be punished under the law, he implied they could and should.
Now almost all pro-life leaders and organizations believe, contrary to Trump, that it’s abortion providers, not women who get an abortion, who should face legal consequences and punishments.
Jesus said, “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble. Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come” (Matt. 18:7).
The action of getting abortion is a sin, as is performing an abortion. But offering and performing abortions is a far worse sin. In Christian thought, all participants in sin bear guilt, but the tempter bears more guilt than the one who gave into the temptation.
Think of another issue like illegal drug use, which has implications for communities and society as a whole. The use of illegal drugs is against the law and should be, as is dealing drugs. The Christian response has been to anger toward drug dealer and a compassionate posture toward addicts and users. The law reflects this, reserving greater punishments for dealers than users. Again, both actions are a sin, but the one mass-providing the temptation is guilty of a greater sin.
Now back to Trump. Not all sins are considered crimes. In the case of those who perform abortions and those who obtain them, it is currently legal to do both in America (with certain restrictions).
Indeed what the pro-life movement is all about is making it illegal to perform an abortion in America. But it is as much about the ultimate goal of making abortion unthinkable, as Russell Moore has said.
Yes, we want to reduce the supply of abortion-on-demand through the force of law, but we also want to reduce the demand for abortion. Mr. Trump’s comments are a setback in both endeavors.
When he condoned the idea of punishing women who get abortion, it tainted all of the pro-life causes work toward policies that protect life. As someone who only recently claimed to be pro-life, he has shown multiple times and in multiple ways that he has not thought this through.
Then when he condoned the idea of punishing women who get an abortion (admittedly, he did back track some on this), it created a cloud of condemnation in the minds of people who might be vulnerable to the temptation of seeking an abortion. Even worse, it galvanized public opinion against the pro-life position, which had been trending our way.
Christians must not speak and act like Mr. Trump did. We are a people of conviction for righteousness, and we are a people of compassion. While we continue to work and pray with all our might toward the end of justice under the law for every person—born and unborn—we must leave that kind of ultimate judgment and punishment in the hands of God.
Here’s praying that Mr. Trump’s reckless comments do not permanently set back the pro-life cause in America, because after all, this is a life and death issue.