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A Baptist Preacher's Abortion

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Donna Schaper says she’s a grown-up, a pastor, and a murderer. She claims all three labels, and is not apologizing for any of them.

Rev. Schaper, pastor of Judson Memorial Church in New York City, wrote a recent article for the liberal Jewish monthlyTikkun about the abortion she had nineteen years ago. She says she’s “neither bragging nor apologizing.”

Schaper says that her abortion was the right choice, since she and her husband had young twins at the time. “Because women are mature sexual beings who make choices,” she writes. “Birth control and abortion are positive moral forces in history. They allow sex to be both procreational and recreational, for both men and women.” As a matter of fact, as Schaper sees it, abortion doesn’t have anything to do with babies. “The drama of the abortion battle is not about unborn babies at all,” she writes. “Instead it is about women and sex.”

But she doesn’t really believe that. Schaper spends most of this article writing about an unborn baby. She even names the aborted child, “Alma,” which means soul. She also admits that what she did was the taking of a human life. She even calls it murder:

“I did what was right for me, for my family, for my work, for my husband, and for my three children. I happen to agree that abortion is a form of murder. I think the quarrel about when life begins is disrespectful to the fetus. I know I murdered the life within me. I could have loved that life but chose not to. I did what men do all the time when they take us to war: they choose violence because, while they believe it is bad, it is still better than the alternatives.”

It is sad and sobering to read this pastor defend abortion by writing: “When I made my choice to end Alma’s life, I was behaving as an adult.” It is even sadder to read her conclusion that: “It was a human life. That’s why we named her, wanted her, but also knew we did not want her enough.” This choice empowered Schaper to be a grownup, and that’s why legal abortion is, in her words, “the best policy conceivable for men and women and for mature, moral sexuality.”

Judson Memorial is an American Baptist congregation, founded by the son of the most beloved Baptist missionary couple of all time, Ann and Adoniram Judson. The church was funded by Baptist John D. Rockefeller. The church is concerned for justice and fairness and equality, even noting prominently on the website that the coffee, tea, and cocoa is “fair trade.”

The man who founded this church saw with his own eyes what it is for a husband and wife to sacrifice everything for the souls of lost sinners across the ocean. And yet, behind the pulpit this Sunday, there will stand a woman with no apologies to make. She will preach to them, baptize them, counsel them, and perhaps she’ll even speak to them about the liberating power of safe, legal abortion. She will tell them she’s a grown-up, and that she makes her own choices. And it’s not about babies, after all. It’s not about any particular baby. It’s not about a baby whose name means “soul.”

We live in a fearful and cowardly time. The crisis we face is not a crisis of clarity but a crisis of courage.

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About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Public Theologian at Christianity Today and Director of Christianity Today’s Public Theology Project.

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