Today, Scott Peterson sits on death row in a San Quentin prison, convicted of murdering his wife, Laci, and their unborn child. Laci was eight months pregnant at the time. They had already named their child—Conner would be his name. Unfortunately, Conner never got a chance to hear his mom call his name. On April 13, 2003, Conner’s remains were found on a San Francisco shore, torn from the safe confines of his mother’s womb. The next day, authorities found his mother’s torso, missing several body parts. All the evidence led to Laci’s husband, Scott Peterson—a father-to-be one moment, convicted of double homicide the next. One crime, two victims.

Legal Victim, But Not Quite A Person…Yet

Those graphic details are necessary. Not because of their visceral impact. But because those graphic details led to action. Not long after Scott Peterson’s highly publicized murder case, George W. Bush signed into law the Unborn Victims of Violence Act—nicknamed Laci and Conner’s Law. This federal law recognized children in utero as legal victims in instances where they are injured or killed in the commission of one of 68 listed federal crimes of violence. Notably, the law covers children in utero as victims at any stage of development, from week one to birth. Since then, 29 states have passed similar laws. Eight other states recognize unborn children as victims at various stages of fetal development.

But the federal law (and most of the state laws) also includes an exemption. Protection under the law for unborn children does not apply to abortions where a woman has consented to the procedure. On its face, the same protection afforded unborn children for 68 federal crimes of violence does not extend to violent abortion procedures. There’s a line drawn. Unborn children are considered victims in one instance and specimen factories to be harvested in another.

Sadly, the federal law that protects a child’s right to life afforded him by our Constitution includes an exemption that also tells him that his life doesn’t matter. Is our federal government filled with politicians who participate in doublespeak gymnastics?

Personhood Redefined

Our politicians, culture, and courts have redefined personhood, but our God hasn’t. No matter what kind of rhetoric we hear in the viral Planned Parenthood videos, the words tissue and fetus don’t capture the biblical perspective of unborn children and their personhood. I’m sorry, but discussions on harvesting hearts, livers, and lungs don’t exactly evoke imagery of random tissue donations. People have hearts. People have livers. People have lungs.

The power to redefine personhood doesn’t reside in a group of nine judges in Washington D.C. Nor does that power dwell in the state legislatures. Personhood begins when our Creator says so. It begins with a God whose eyes see our “unformed substance” (Psalm 139:16). Personhood is of divine origin. It comes from the throne of the Almighty God who knows us before we even take shape in our mothers’ wombs (Jeremiah 1:5). Personhood resides in the hands of the God who forms and knits us in our mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139:13; Isaiah 44:24). Humans can’t redefine something that wasn’t ours to define in the first place.

No matter the stage of embryonic development, unborn children bear the Imago Dei (Image of God). Our federal government and many state governments recognize that when it comes to victim-“hood”, but not personhood. As Christians, we are called to be subject to those who govern over us (Romans 13:1-7), but where there is conflict with biblical witness and authority we are to stand on God’s Word (Daniel 1:8; Galatians 1:10).

Personhood in the Hood

The idea of personhood is crucial for minority communities. For centuries, Blacks have fought for recognition of our personhood. The Black personhood argument started early in the history of our nation. Legislatively, in 1787 the Three-Fifths Compromise only recognized Blacks as 3/5 a person when counting populations in determining legal representation and taxes. Blacks have been fighting for identity ever since. Though we’ve made progress, events over the past year have demonstrated that the struggle for personhood remains, as we proclaim #BlackLivesMatter.

When it comes to personhood, Planned Parenthood occupies a “special place” in the life and history of the African American community. In its infancy, Planned Parenthood serviced many urban communities. It’s still true today, where well over 75% of its clinics are found in minority neighborhoods. On average, over 1,000 Black babies are aborted every day in America. Black women have a higher abortion rate than any other ethnic group in America. More Black babies are aborted than any other cause of death in America. According to CDC statistics, since 1973, 2.26 million blacks have died from heart disease. A conservative estimate on the number of black babies aborted since that time is around 12 million.

It’s no secret that Planned Parenthood founder, Margaret Sanger promoted eugenics in her work and believed that blacks were unfit to reproduce. Is it possible that Planned Parenthood (at least in its abortion approach) is just as predatory as payday loan companies entrenched in the hood? Except money isn’t at stake here, black lives are. If we really do believe #BlackLivesMatter, then #BlackBabiesLives should matter too.

Weeping With Rachel

The Christmas story we tell at church is always clean. Clean baby. Clean manger. Clean narrative. But Matthew’s Gospel paints a different picture (see Matthew 2:7–18). Infant death surrounds Jesus in his early life. While he’s an infant, Jesus’ family is warned about a paranoid king who is set on killing him. As a result, they flee to Egypt. That same paranoid king then plans to kill every male baby under two years old, hoping to eliminate this newborn who is a threat to his throne. Bloodshed ensues. Matthew quotes a passage from Jeremiah 31 that presents a picture of Rachel (the wife of Old Testament patriarch Jacob) weeping for children whose lives are taken.

As I watched the viral Planned Parenthood videos, I wept. I wasn’t hearing Planned Parenthood executives describe tissue damage or reproductive right services. I heard words that continue to haunt me. Using “less crunchy techniques” to get whole specimens. Crushing babies “above and below” parts that needed to be extracted whole. Those are graphic details of a violent process that should lead Christians to action.

I wept because I’ve been silent up until now. As a father of two, I’ve sat through countless ultrasounds and have seen my kids’ hands and feet. I’ve heard their little heartbeats. They are both people today. And they were both people long before I nearly passed out in the operating room on their scheduled delivery dates.

Standing Against Culture

As a Black father, I want those graphic details in the Planned Parenthood videos to remain with me so I can stand. Stand on the side of the voiceless and condemn the systemic practices of an organization that has operated anonymously in the hood for quite some time. Stand on God’s Word when defining personhood. Stand against a culture that’s steeped in a rhetoric that dehumanizes a violent practice that disparately impacts the Black community.

We should continue to keep our eyes on the New Jim Crow, but honest reflection shows that the abortion threat hits closer to home than we’d like to admit. May we speak up against this kind of injustice as well, even at the threat of being labeled out of step with the dominant culture. Last time I checked, there are 28 chapters in the Book of Acts proving that ministry from the sub-dominant cultural position is quite effective.

Disclaimer: RAAN is an organization committed to providing a variety of Reformed voices a platform to share their content. While our contributors subscribe to the basic tenets of Reformed thought, they offer a diverse number of opinions on various topics. As such, our staff members may not share our contributors’ opinions and publishing this content shouldn’t be viewed in such a way.