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Sara’S, abortion, and the debate that fell flat

Sara’S, abortion, and the debate that fell flat
Posted on September 24, 2021  - By Jiby

For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed good cinema.

Malayalam cinema was, at best, passable during my childhood. But the industry took a turn for the better about 11 years ago. And I think it is fair to say that, right now, it produces some of the best work in the country.

But Sara’S doesn’t count. The movie is just about watchable. Probably because the writing and making seem lazy, in one sense. And it makes a non-attempt at discussing the heart of its own matter.

This is what the director, Jude Anthany Joseph, had to say about the film ahead of its release: “The topic is sensitive; it had to be handled carefully. I don’t deliberately go looking for ‘socially relevant’ films nor am I trying to tell a story that would set right society’s wrongs.” 

Tackling a sensitive topic in a light-hearted manner is one thing. But I do not understand being cavalier with the same. This one leans too much to the latter side of that thin line. 

Given its central theme is parenthood ― especially, motherhood ― and abortion, it is a movie Christians ought to watch. This argument is only going to get louder in the coming years. That’s for sure.

A sleight of hand

“But you’re missing the point! The movie is not about career vs baby, it’s about the right to choose to be a parent in the first place.” That’s the gist of most of the responses to some of the backlash this movie has received from the public. It’s a non-argument. But let’s play along.

If Sara’S isn’t pro-abortion or pro-reproductive rights or pro-woman’s right to choose, why have nearly all its film reviewers sung its praises for being precisely all that?

If Sara’S isn’t pro-abortion or pro-reproductive rights, why have nearly all its reviewers sung its praises for being precisely all that?

Consider the summary of the movie’s plot: Right from her school-going days, Sara has always wanted to be child-free. And that, of course, is her choice. In the present day, she is an aspiring filmmaker and has already worked on two or three sets. Her parents wanted her to get married. 

She is reluctant, at first — but then, she meets Jeevan (played by Sunny Wayne). They bond over common ground — the desire to be child-free. They are soon married and, over the next two years, Jeevan finds success at his workplace. 

Sadly, it doesn’t work out that well for Sara. But it only gets “worse”: she becomes pregnant. And that begins the most important phase of the film. I’d like to call this phase, ‘An attempted magic trick’. A sleight of hand.

Sara has no second thoughts; she decides to abort. Her husband is opposed to it. Her in-laws are not happy about it. Her parents struggle to come to terms with it. And then, in the space of about 45 minutes of a whole host of poor dialogues that anyone who pauses to think could pick apart, the plot twists. Just like that.

What happened? Well, everyone ‘comes to their senses’ and eventually gets in line to affirm Sara’s right to choose. Here’s the clinching line from the sensible doctor: “Better not be a parent than be a bad parent.”

That is exactly the argument the movie and its admirers are making. The goal seems evident: set abortion up as just one of a whole host of choices everyone — in this case, a woman — has a right to make on their own.

“This is not about a baby” is the primary refrain. But here’s the catch: can someone please explain how we get to, “This is not about a baby,” without asking, “Is it a baby?” Nowhere does the film make a remote attempt to discuss this. And yet, somehow, they’re all convinced in the end.

How does one manage to make a movie on abortion without discussing the biggest question on it? If the zygote, or the embryo, or the foetus in the womb is a baby ― a separate human entity ― then any intentional effort to “terminate” it is murder, is it not?

How does one manage to make a movie on abortion without discussing the biggest question on it?

The choice to intentionally terminate a pregnancy is not a “reproductive right”. If the zygote is a life, reproduction has already happened. Congratulations! You’re (already) a parent. And guess what, the first and most important obligation a parent bears is to protect the child’s life at all costs.

It is better to not be a parent than to be a bad one. But when a parent goes through with an abortion, they have already violated their most important obligation. They’ve already become “bad parents”. And “bad” is an understatement.

The magic trick doesn’t work, Jude. All you did was to take two parents struggling to make sense of their new responsibility and guide them to Murder 101 class, and how to get away with it.

Of course, all this holds only if the fetus in the womb is a life. And if I don’t discuss that, you’d be fair in accusing me of attempting a sleight of hand myself. So let’s discuss. Bear with me though: one last section before we get to the crux.

The weight of the matter

So what if Sara and Jeevan indeed ended up making the wrong (read: horribly wrong) choice? Why does abortion rile up so many the moment it’s mentioned? Is it really all that bad as the pro-lifers make it out to be?

Let’s consider the numbers:

  • The total number of reported Covid deaths at the time of writing is 4.7 million.
  • The worst estimate of The Holocaust lists a total of 11 million killed.
  • The total deaths for World War I — military and civilian — were estimated at 16.5 million (6,500 every day); for World War II, at 63.2 million (24,700 every day). 
  • The worst estimates of the massacres of the Soviet Union and China — under Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong — put the toll at 60 million each.

Here’s how they compare. According to the Guttmacher Institute, approximately 56 million abortions took place every year between 2010 and 2014. It was approximately 50 million per year in the early 1990s. Note: some studies suggest that the global number is intentionally inflated and estimates a global rate of 12.5 million abortions per year.

We effectively kill at least as many babies in the womb every year as Adolf Hitler & Co. managed across years. Do you see the weight of the matter? If we’re wrong on abortion, we’ve collectively agreed to commit mass murder at a scale that’s incomparable in all of human history. This is not a matter to “agree-to-disagree” on. This is, quite literally, life or death.

If we’re wrong on abortion, we’ve collectively agreed to commit mass murder at a scale that’s incomparable in all of human history

The measure of a just society is how it treats its weakest, most defenceless members. And if we’re wrong on abortion, we’ve ripped apart the most innocent of all beings limb from limb. That’s why this question matters so much. And why Christians — or anyone who holds that life is intrinsically valuable — care about abortion so much. 

It is not a mere choice. If the zygote is a life, it doesn’t matter what the “law of the land” is. It is no longer a question of legality. It is a question of morality. Human courts may not prosecute us, but heaven’s court will. And we will have no defence; no right to claim, “What about my happiness, my career, my life?”

That sets the stage for the question on abortion.

When does life begin?

Life is nothing like death. Death is a visibly obvious end point; life exists as a continuum. Perhaps that is why it is harder to define a starting point. Some say that life begins at birth. Others argue that life begins when the fetus is viable outside the womb. Still others argue that life begins at fertilisation.

One way to approach this dilemma — to separate mere opinion from objective truth — is to work our way backwards from the moment of birth, at which point we have visibly obvious evidence of life.

  • The viability view claims that the fetus is human when it reaches a level of maturation where it can exist outside the womb, separate from his or her mother.
    Medical science has shown over the last 100 years that the age of viability keeps changing as medical technology improves. Going by this view, some 40 years back, we would have been human at 28 weeks; 10-20 years ago, we would have been human at 24 weeks.
    Then, on June 5, 2020, Richard Scott William Hutchinson was born at 21 weeks and 2 days — only halfway to full term. At this rate, viability view proponents could potentially team up with pro-lifers pretty soon.
  • The fertilisation view argues that human life begins at fertilisation and is the only view that can claim to be consistent across the continuum of life. It is the definitive point in the process at which “a new, genetically unique, newly existing, individual, whole living human being” begins to exist.
    • At fertilisation, a whole new genetic code — one that has never existed before, and one that will never exist again — is created. This is not a code identifiable with the father or the mother.
    • The genetic code created at fertilisation is human in nature. It is human DNA because, obviously, humans create humans. This may seem too simplistic a point to make. But it is important nevertheless because it rules out any room for the silly, “It’s just a clump of cells” argument.
    • That human life exists as a continuum offers further support for the fertilisation view. Consider this from C Ward Kischer: “Human development is a continuum in which so-called stages overlap and blend, one into another. Indeed all of life is contained within a time continuum. Thus, the beginning of a new life is exacted by the beginning of fertilization, the reproductive event which is the essence of life… Every moment of development blends into the next succeeding moment. But, even common sense tells one that this so-called development does not cease at birth. It continues until death. At any point in time, during the continuum of life, there exists a whole integrated human being. This is because over time, from fertilization to a 100-year-old senior, all of the characteristics of life change, albeit at different rates at different times: size, form, content, function, appearance, etc.”

But the view that human life begins at fertilisation is limited. It does not argue for the personhood of the unborn child, nor does it argue for the equal value of an unborn child and an adult. Biology only gets us so far in the pro-life stance. It is Scripture that takes us all the way.

Biology only gets us so far in the pro-life stance. It is Scripture that takes us all the way

Science and Scripture

Actually, science merely reflects and clarifies what the Bible lays down. Consider the following three-fold argument:

  • Genesis 1:26-27

“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness…” So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him…”

The first of this three-fold biblical argument for life is the simplest. But it is, without question, the most profound. God, the author of all life, has created all human beings in His own image and likeness. This is the biblical argument for the sanctity and undeniable worth of every life, wherever they fall on the continuum. 

This is also why Christians (must) oppose racism, slavery, sexism, and any form of discrimination on the basis of inherent value of the individual.

  • Exodus 21:22-25

    “If men fight, and
    hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life…

While the specifics of this passage is debated, there can be no doubt that God, through Moses, reveals the law in the case of the unintentional ending of an unborn life. God demands the death penalty should the unborn be harmed — in this case, a miscarriage.
A straightforward life for life argument is set out in Genesis 9:6. But vv. 24-25 in this chapter go beyond and make the biblical argument for the equality of the value of the unborn and the adult.

The Hebrew word for ‘children’ in verse 22 is yeled. That’s a word overwhelmingly used — not just in the Bible — to refer to a child or a young man. So, the unborn is a “child”, a human being.

  • Psalm 139:13-16

    You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made… My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Right in the middle of one of the most beautiful chapters in all of Scripture are deep theological truths about life in the womb. Verse 13 teaches that God erected or assembled (‘formed’) the unborn life, knitting together cells and tissues. And right from the earliest moments in the womb, David uses personal pronouns (me and my) to describe himself. He is not some pre-human clump of cells.

In v. 14, David praises God for His fearful and wonderful work of creation. And David is not the only one to imply God’s loving care for the unborn (Jeremiah 1:5; Job 31:15; Isaiah 44:2, 49:5).

V. 16 teaches at least two more crucial truths. The Hebrew word translated ‘my unformed substance’ means golmi, meaning ‘my embryo’. Now, an embryo is an organism in the early stages of growth, from fertilisation to the beginning of the third month of pregnancy (in humans).

The verse says that God ‘saw’ David’s embryo. This — as with elsewhere in the Bible — implies much more than a passive awareness. The verse goes on to say exactly how God has been actively knitting and preordaining David’s person. That’s intimate; not some cold, aloof knowledge on God’s behalf.
Thus, Psalm 139:13-16 lays down the biblical argument for the personhood of the unborn at fertilisation.

We do not get to redefine the terminology to soothe our consciences. We are not God

Where the buck stops

That’s still not all. Scripture doesn’t stop with three passages. Among others, Genesis 25:23, Jeremiah 1:5, and Ephesians 1:4 reveal God knowing individuals — and multiple generations — from everlasting to everlasting. Throughout its pages, the unborn are called ‘children’. Perhaps the most telling is the meeting of Elizabeth and Mary — both pregnant — in Luke’s account. It would go beyond the scope of this article to dig into that passage as well, but in your time, consider the implications of Luke 1:36, 41, 43-44.

Yes, you’re right. I haven’t made one reference to career, poverty, possible deficiencies of the baby, rape, incest, or any other circumstance that usually makes its way into the abortion debate. I’m not going to — at least not now. Why? Because, at its core, the arguments for life do not hinge on anything else except what has been laid out above. 

For now, here’s my question: how do you decide to abort without considering any or all of the arguments laid out above? 

Parenthood is a choice. So are abstinence and adoption. Technically, murder is also an available choice. But that’s where the buck stops. Neither you nor I get to redefine the term to soothe our consciences. We are not God. That doesn’t mean we’re forever condemned if we’ve committed murder. Our sins, they are many but, in Christ, God’s mercy to us is more.

Parenting is hard. But I’d rather we become a society that comes around parents — whether their child is in the womb or in the backyard — to celebrate life; to encourage them to trust that God, the Author of all life, who does all things perfectly, has placed them perfectly to raise their child; and to support them as they endeavour to do so.


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