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As the dissolution of Roe draws nearer, we need more honest, unvarnished discussion about abortion and its realities.

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Pro-lifers must name infanticide everywhere it occurs, then. We speak with intensity and urgency because we recognize the efforts to make it more plausible, which others are willing to downplay or overlook.

The pro-life witness still has only a marginal place in America’s organs of public speech. Our media-complex only reluctantly addressed the horrors enacted by Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell and routinely frames pro-life outrage as unsubstantial or unfounded. For those pro-lifers eager to reframe our political witness so that it might sound less histrionic, what options do we have when such legislation is being considered in the halls of our governments?

Yet, the form of speech we often need to spur social change in democratic society does not easily admit distinctions, which are the lifeblood of both mercy and truth. We must also recognize how our denunciations create moral hazards for those who find themselves in real-life situations involving these issues.

I once talked with a pro-life counselor who works closely with at-risk women. She told me that in her first consultation she will only speak of a fetus, rather than of a baby—which is the opposite of what I’d expected and what most pro-lifers have advocated. Her reasoning was simple: While the latter names the baby’s humanity, it also exacerbates the mother’s fears, making it harder for her to think clearly about how she will overcome the challenges before her without pursuing abortion.

In the same way, public denunciations about infanticide will invariably reshape moral deliberations by doctors and parents in cases where declining further care might be licit. It is not bad to be held by a little fear and trembling when making life and death decisions, yet fear cannot be the final word.

Through clear-headed reasoning and the warmth of care, both parents and doctors need to understand when and for what reason it is permissible to decline further treatment for infants and when doing so would be morally equivalent to infanticide. Faced with such circumstances, they also need a community to support and sustain them and to comfort them in their duress.

In other words, evangelicals must speak of infanticide in ways that remain animated by the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to proclaim the darkness of the evil inflicted upon infants and their mothers in ways that still hold forth the promise of good news. The truth of compassion provides comfort in the face of the cross—a comfort that defeats death not by inflicting it, but by overcoming it with love.

It is likely that America’s abortion politics will become more fractured, not less, in the years to come. As the dissolution of Roe draws nearer, we need more honest, unvarnished discussion about abortion and its realities. Yet we also need clarity about what compassion demands of us, and to be with those on the cusp of going to God.

In a world where the “possibilities of even an apparent neutrality are diminishing,” as C. S. Lewis once described it, our Yes and Amen to the goodness of human life must be unambiguous and unhesitating—and our No to the darkness of infanticide equally clear.

Yet such a message must yet be one of grace: It must sound like good news, for the Christ who became flesh in Mary’s womb is not done with our world yet.


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