Te Rongopai DVD
Dr Stuart Lange presents a five-part series documenting the story of the Gospel in New Zealand from Samuel Marsden forwards – its impact, the complications, and the way Christianity has had a significant impact in shaping New Zealand society both then and now. DVD: 65 mins in 5 chapters
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Abortion Legislation Committee
Dr Stuart Lange wrote the following submission to the Abortion Legislation Committee in opposition to the “Abortion Legislation Bill” on behalf of New Zealand Christian Network.
The New Zealand Christian Network was established in 2002 to help churches in New Zealand to work together and to represent a reasoned Christian voice on public issues. We are a widely inter-denominational movement. We reflect a moderate orthodox/biblical Christian faith and seek to express the perspectives of at least half a million of New Zealand’s Christian people and their churches.
For many people, abortion is a very painful and divisive issue. Convictions and feelings run deep. Many find abortion tragic. Others, finding themselves unexpectedly pregnant, have been thrown into a life crisis. In anguish and fear, they have agonised over whether or not to seek an abortion, and have had to live with that decision ever since. Some grieve for family members who were never born. Many people alive today are aware that they could have been aborted, but are pleased they were not. We acknowledge that all those who proceed with unwelcome pregnancies need strong support from others, and those who have undergone an abortion need compassionate understanding.
The health of pregnant women and the protection of the unborn are both matters where society needs excellent and balanced legislation. We are far from convinced that the Abortion Legislation Bill now before Parliament is adequate in either respect. If retained, this Bill would need very serious amendment.
A respect for the sanctity of human life has long been a key principle governing the laws in enlightened and democratic modern states. The State’s general respect for the intrinsic value of every human life, and including the status and rights of unborn children, has in large measure reflected biblical understandings that all people are made in the image of God, are to be treasured, that we must love others as much as we love ourselves, and that compassion and the protection of the vulnerable are non-negotiable values. In the Bible, unborn humans are seen as being exquisitely formed by God within their mother’s womb (Psalm 139:15-16). Pagan pre-Christian societies had little regard for the value of human life, and widely practised abortion, infanticide, and many other forms of cruelty, but the Christianising of society generally led to a more humane outlook. Christians rejected abortion and infanticide, and society eventually followed.
Respect for the sanctity of human life is not just some religious scruple or philosophical ideal which may lightly be discarded. It is a powerful public good, and a key element of a compassionate, and safe society. It makes everyone safer. The incremental erosion of respect for the sanctity of human life makes everyone less safe. The abandoning of any protection for unborn human lives is a dangerous step for society. In the twentieth century, various oppressive States deemed successive groups as less than human, stripped them of rights, and many millions subsequently died.
Abortion may well be seen as a health procedure for a woman who does not wish to continue her pregnancy. But it is the very opposite of a “health procedure” for the unborn child.
We endorse the part of the 1977 report of the Royal Commission on Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion which declared it ethically wrong, except for good reason, to terminate unborn life. It asserted that, regardless of whether an unborn child can be seen as full human being, abortion “extinguishes the potentiality of life” and is thus “a most serious step”. Abortion on demand “would be to deny to the unborn child any status whatsoever”, and that it would be immoral to allow abortion “for reasons of convenience”. Protection of the unborn, it said, should only give way in the face of serious danger to the mother’s life or health.
The existing abortion legislation reflects the continuing desire of many in society (then and now) to extend some protection to unborn children, along with the needs of women who desire an abortion. The present law states that abortion is only lawful where there is a “serious danger to the woman’s life, physical or mental health”. We believe that is a reasonable balance (but are not happy with how the existing law has been so liberally interpreted).
The promotion of abortion on demand, without any regard for the life of the unborn child, is deeply inconsistent with all the commendable rhetoric in our society about the wellbeing of children, care for the vulnerable, and compassion. Unborn babies are not sub-human nothings. Biologically, they are us.
We believe the change of language used by the bill is insidious in the way it de-humanises unborn children. The Crimes Act rightly refers to foetuses as an “unborn child”. But the proposed Bill only uses the term “foetus”. By and large the Bill ignores the existence of the unborn, or that any abortion “health procedure” always involves a death. The Bill also refers to the lethal drug(s) used in injections to kill foetuses as “medicine”.
Dr Stuart Lange is the interim National Director of the NZCN. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at Laidlaw College, where he was formerly Vice Principal, and where he has lectured in the history of Christianity for many years. His major book is A Rising Tide: Evangelical Christianity in New Zealand, 1930-65 (Otago University Press, 2013). He also wroite and presented the historical DVD documentary Te Rongopai: 200 years of the Gospel in New Zealand, 1814-2014.
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