Abortion and Self-Ownership

Where does the right of self-ownership come from? Is the pro-abortion argument that a woman can do whatever she wishes with her body actually grounded in any theological or philosophical ideas? How does argument relate to the supposed right to abortion in the United States?

Canon & Culture, a project of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, published a piece I wrote on the issue of abortion and self-ownership. Here is an excerpt:

Last July I boarded a bus and drove down to Austin for a pro-life rally on the steps of the Texas State Capitol. We arrived more than an hour before the scheduled start time of the rally, so I had the opportunity to take in my surroundings and observe the arguments being made by the abortion-rights protestors. In what was often crass language, the abortion-rights argument being made at the Capitol that day essentially boiled down to one point—a woman has the right to do what she wants with her own body. This can be described as a right to privacy based upon self-ownership.

Since this right is not explicitly spelled out in the Constitution, where does it find its origin? In contemporary jurisprudence, the right to do what you want with your own body (i.e., the right to privacy) is drawn from the “penumbras” and “emanations” of the Bill of Rights according to Griswold v. Connecticut and out of the 14th Amendment’s restriction on the state from depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Applied to the abortion issue, these ideas regarding the right to privacy form the foundation of the Roe v. Wade decision that opened the door for abortion on demand. However, the supposed “right to privacy” found in the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment still does not make self-ownership clear.

Even though most abortion-rights proponents do not make the explicit connection, the right of self-ownership is typically attributed to the work of John Locke in The Second Treatise of Government. Locke writes, “Though the earth and all inferior creatures be common to all men, yet every man has property in his own person. This nobody has any right to but himself” (V.27). There is no doubt that John Locke’s work was very influential upon the Founders of the United States, and language from the Second Treatise appears directly in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. However, are we correct in inferring a right to self-ownership of our bodies from Locke?

You can read the rest of the article here.

*You may notice that this article is a little more academic than what I usually post on my website, but that is the purpose of Canon & Culture. Their purpose is “to help build and strengthen the church’s social, ethical, and moral witness by providing thoughtful content from leading thinkers that inspires a rising generation of evangelicals to think Christianly about the public square and the common good.”

Are Corporations People Too?: Hobby Lobby and Religious Liberty

Supreme_Court_US_2010Who would have ever imagined that a craft store chain owned by a Christian family would be at the center of a Supreme Court case about sexuality, abortifacient drugs, the role of corporations, and religious liberty? Oral arguments were heard today in the Supreme Court case Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby. The central point of the case is whether or not the Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby and Mardel Christian bookstores, has the right to exercise their religious freedom in opting out of the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring employer-provided health plans to offer emergency birth control drugs at no charge to their employees. The Greens have objected on religious grounds that such emergency birth control options are tantamount to abortion and that providing abortion-inducing drugs is a violation of their deeply held religious beliefs.

Trying to predict what the Supreme Court will decide is an exercise in futility, so I will not go down that road. However, I do want to highlight a few interesting notes from today’s oral arguments.

The first is not all that surprising (and possibly not all that interesting)—the high court appears divided. From the best one can tell from the questioning, the Supreme Court is split 4-4 with Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor apparently siding with the government and Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, and Alito leaning towards Hobby Lobby. This leaves Justice Anthony Kennedy as the deciding vote in an otherwise divided Court. This is familiar territory for the current version of the Supreme Court.

The second item of note is that the role of a corporation seems to be a big question. Some of the liberal justices seemed to imply that corporations should simply be able to pick up the tab for the healthcare expenses or fees for not providing healthcare with no impact on the business or the economy. They did not seem to take into account that these healthcare costs have to be paid by someone and that the costs would most likely be passed along to the customer. Justices Kagan and Sotomayor also pressed Paul Clement, the attorney arguing for Hobby Lobby, about whether corporations could opt out of other healthcare options for their employees. Lyle Denniston reports that they “suggested that if corporations gain an exemption from having to provide birth-control services for their female employees, then the next complaint would be about vaccinations, blood transfusions, and a whole host of other medical and non-medical services that a company or its owners might find religiously objectionable.”

On the other hand, Justice Alito pushed back against Solicitor General Donald Verrilli regarding the purpose of corporations. He asked the Solicitor General if the only purpose of corporations was to “maximize profits.” If the object is only to maximize profits, then corporations would have no other rights. However, if corporations serve other purposes, then they might have the right to protection under the free exercise of religion clause in the First Amendment.

The third item is the most interesting development in my opinion. It relates to the rights of a corporation to make a claim regarding discrimination. The government argued that for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby have no standing to file a claim against the government based on religious discrimination. On the surface this seems to make sense because corporations are not churches, nor are they individuals with religious beliefs. However, the government has already held that corporations can file claims based on racial discrimination. In the same sense, corporations are not individuals of a particular race or ethnicity. The racial discrimination claims have typically been based on the race and ethnicity of the owners.

Applying the same standard to the religious freedom aspect of the Hobby Lobby case, it would appear that the Green family’s deeply held religious beliefs (and clear articulation of those beliefs in company documents) would provide the corporation with the same protections as those guaranteed to them as individuals. This argument could prove to be central in the upcoming decision of the Court.

Once again, we will be left to wait for months until hearing the decision of the Supreme Court that will most likely come in June. Until then, it is futile to speculate what the Court will decide. However, there is one thing that we can do. We can pray for the justices of the Supreme Court that God would grant them wisdom in judging these matters. We should pray for godly wisdom that they would rule according to God’s will. We should pray that they would value life in the way that God values life—seeing those in the womb as no different than a full-grown adult (Psalm 139:13–16).

I urge you to join me in prayer for John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. The future of religious liberty in the United States is in their hands.
Lyle Denniston, “Argument recap: One hearing, two dramas,” SCOTUSblog, March 25, 2014.

Derrick Morgan, Hans von Spakovsky, and Elizabeth Slattery, “How the Supreme Court Justices Reacted to Today’s Hobby Lobby Arguments,” The Foundry, March 25, 2014.

Ilya Shapiro, “Is There No Alternative to Forcing People to Violate Their Religious Beliefs?” Cato Institute, March 25, 2014.

Good Reading: The Culture of Death Bares its Teeth

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, posted an interesting article regarding a recent admission by Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, regarding her belief about when life begins. Richards was interviewed on Fusion TV and was asked when she believes that life begins. After dodging the question initially, Richards stated:

For me, I’m the mother of three children. For me, life began when I delivered them. They’ve been probably the most important thing in my life ever since. But that was my own personal decision.

Mohler then comments on her admission by stating:

So life begins at delivery. Until then, no life, no dignity, no sanctity at all. This defies any moral sense, but it also defies modern biology. Cecile Richards did not try to argue the now infamous trimester argument of Roe v. Wade or a point of viability or any other argument about fetal development. As her comment makes clear, in her worldview the fetus doesn’t matter at all.

She identified her three children as “probably the most important thing in my life” since their delivery. Were they nothing to her in her womb? Each of those three precious children was precious in the womb — at every point of development.

Candid admissions of a worldview like this one are rare, but Cecile Richards’ statement perfectly explains her advocacy of abortion at any time for any reason. In her interview the Culture of Death bares its teeth.

Mohler’s analysis is helpful, and this short article is well worth your time. Read the entire article here.


Albert Mohler, “The Culture of Death Bares its Teeth: Planned Parenthood Leader Says Life Begins at Delivery,” AlbertMohler.com, March 3, 2014.

Open Letter to Texas State Senator Wendy Davis

Below you will find the letter I sent to Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) regarding her filibuster of SB 5. I live in Senator Davis’ district and felt it necessary to express my disappointment to her. I have already sent a copy of this letter to her official state senate email account and to her campaign email.

SB 5 was a bill under consideration by the Texas Senate that would place various restrictions on abortion, including requiring abortion clinics to meet the medical standards of surgery centers, requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles, and banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. You can read more about the bill and the filibuster here.

Please feel free to copy and paste any of this letter in your own letter to Senator Davis. Her official Texas Senate page is here, and her campaign page is www.wendydavisforsenate.com.

Dear Senator Davis:

As a registered voter in your state senate district, I want to express my disappointment in your behavior on June 25 regarding SB 5. Your filibuster attempt of nearly 11 hours demonstrates only a concern for your own interests and not the interests of the state of Texas or your constituents in Fort Worth.

As Texans, we pride ourselves in protecting the innocent, but your political maneuver demonstrates that you have no concern for the innocent ones most in need of protection—unborn children. The supposed rights of one individual should never trump the rights of another individual, even if that one cannot speak for himself/herself.

Your platitudes about protecting women’s health fall flat in light of the atrocities revealed in abortion clinics in Houston and Philadelphia in recent months. If you were truly concerned about women’s health, you would welcome strict surgical standards for abortion clinics so that no woman would ever be the victim of another Kermit Gosnell.

Finally, you and your colleagues disrespected the rule of law in the senate chamber last night as the gallery was encouraged to continue their disorderly conduct. Our own local paper described the situation with the phrase “Chaos reigns.” You and your colleagues should have personally called on the gallery to cease their disruptive behavior. If the tables were turned, you would decry the situation as outrageous.

Senator Davis, you have disappointed Texans with your behavior. You have disrespected the rule of law. You have ignored the rights of the unborn. I call on you to reverse course, support a special session of the Texas legislature, and allow SB 5 to come to a vote so that the representatives of the entire state of Texas may decide its fate.


Evan Lenow

Murder or Abortion: What’s the Difference?

CNN reported on a tragic story about a woman whose boyfriend tricked her into taking an abortion-inducing drug after she told him she was pregnant. The boyfriend, John Andrew Welden, is now facing first-degree murder charges for killing the unborn child. Welden told his girlfriend that his father, a doctor, had prescribed her an antibiotic for an infection. In reality, Welden gave her an abortion-inducing drug, and the pregnancy was terminated.

This story is undoubtedly tragic, and Welden deserves to face punishment for first-degree murder. However, the undercurrent of this story is working against the tide of abortion-rights advocates. Note with me the inconsistency of the logic of our laws and of abortion advocates.

The pregnancy of Remee Lee was terminated by her boyfriend, the supposed father of the child. Since it was against the will of the mother, Welden is being charged with first-degree murder. However, if Lee had terminated the pregnancy herself, it would have been perfectly legal and perhaps even applauded by abortion advocates. Even if the abortion had been against the will of the father, the mother would have been within her legal rights to have an abortion.

Why is this a problem? The charge of first-degree murder implies the pre-meditated killing of innocent human life. It implies value in the life that is lost. In this case, it is the life of an unborn child.

What makes an abortion elected by the mother any different? The charge of first-degree murder cannot be levied against Welden for any physical harm incurred by Ms. Lee. Instead, it is directly centered upon the loss of life for the baby. The attorneys may even argue that the life was taken against the will and rights of the unborn child. In the same way, abortions performed according to the will of the mother take the life of an unborn child against his/her will and rights. Why is it murder for the boyfriend to induce an abortion and not when a woman chooses it on her own?

The inconsistency is glaring but unspoken in our culture.

Federal Judge Requires Non-Prescription Access to Morning-After Pill in a Month

UltrasoundU.S. District Judge Edward Korman (Eastern District of New York) has ruled that the FDA must make the multiple versions of the morning-after pill available over-the-counter without a prescription and without age restrictions within one month. The FDA had previously decided to make the morning-after pill available to girls younger that 17, but Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebellius overruled the FDA in 2011, setting the age restriction of 17 or older.

The court decision comes as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights. According to CNN, Nancy Northrup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, responded to the decision by saying, “Today science has finally prevailed over politics. This landmark court decision has struck a huge blow to the deep-seated discrimination that has for too long denied women access to a full range of safe and effective birth control methods.”

I actually believe Northrup has it wrong. Politics has prevailed in this instance to the detriment of girls and young women across the country. Since the sexual revolution, there has been a movement to separate sexual activity from marriage. The goal has been to make sexual expression the epitome of freedom. Instead, girls and young women are going to find themselves shackled with more emotional baggage and more sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, girls may experience “coerced” or even “forced” use of the morning-after pill by boyfriends, casual partners, or even parents wishing to “limit the damage” from their sexual expression. This is not freedom–it is bondage to culture.

Judge Korman even makes an interesting remark toward Sebellius and the FDA in his judgment. He states:

The FDA has engaged in intolerable delays in processing the petition. Indeed, it could accurately be described as an administrative agency filibuster. Moreover, one of the devices the FDA has employed to stall proceedings was to seek public comment on whether or not it needed to engage in rulemaking in order to adopt an age-restricted marketing regime. After eating up eleven months, 47,000 public comments, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars, it decided that it did not need rulemaking after all. The plaintiffs should not be forced to endure, nor should the agency’s misconduct be rewarded by, an exercise that permits the FDA to engage in further delay and obstruction.

Does Judge Korman not believe that the FDA may have actually been seeking the well-being of young girls? His commentary in the court order is chilling. The fact that the FDA was seeking public comment and input on whether or not this was good for 10-16 year old girls is a good thing. However, Korman views it as agency misconduct.

From the outset of creation, God has declared that the sexual relationship is properly expressed only within marriage. This is one way in which marriage is ordered to procreation. The vast majority of individuals seeking the use of these abortion-inducing drugs will not be married adults. They will instead be young people pursuing unhindered sexual freedom who suddenly find themselves shackled by the consequences of their behavior. When you add the category of girls who will be coerced into taking these drugs by those who “love” them, the damage becomes overwhelming.

This decision further undermines the institution of marriage and elevates abortion to the status of relieving a headache with Tylenol. This is a sad commentary on the culture of the “New America.”


Edward Korman, Tumino vs. Hamburg, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, April 4, 2013.

Judges orders morning-after pill available without prescription,” CNN, April 5, 2013.

Federal judge rules morning-after pill must be available for women of all ages,” Fox News, April 5, 2013.

For more information about the impact of the sexual culture on young women, pick up a copy of Girls Uncovered: New Research on What America’s Sexual Culture Does to Young Women by Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., and Freda McKissic Bush.

Breaking News: Judge Orders Morning-After Pill to Be Available to All without Prescription

*Read my update on this issue here.

Both CNN and Fox News are reporting this morning that a federal judge will order the FDA to make the morning-after pill available to people of any age without a prescription. This now means that a 14-year-old girl could get Plan B or Ella from the school nurse just like Tylenol. In fact, she could go to the local Walgreens or CVS and get it as well. This demonstrates how pervasive the pro-choice/pro-abortion lobby is. This is sad news indeed.