The moral imagination of literature speaks volumes.
January 22 marks the 45th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that decriminalized abortion. What has changed in those 45 years? Well, not a lot. After peaking in 1980, the abortion rate has been on a slow, steady decline (although it’s heartbreaking that in 2014, 1 in 5 pregnancies ended in abortion). While the reasons for the overall decline are debated, one thing hasn’t changed much: public opinion on the issue.
According to the most recent Gallup poll, half of Americans say abortion should be “legal only under certain circumstances,” while 29 percent say it should be “legal in all circumstances,” and 18 percent say it should be “illegal in all circumstances.” These percentages have moved very little in four decades of polling.
Charles Camosy, an ethics professor at Fordham University, points out that despite the fact that 7 in 10 Americans would like abortion to be illegal after 12 weeks, the pro-life/pro-choice binary reinforced by media coverage makes it even more difficult for Americans on both sides to move toward areas they agree on.
What will it take to move past the abortion stalemate?
We might look to the method of persuasion used by Paul in Acts 17, a passage cited often in Christian apologetics. Here, Paul presents the gospel to the Greek philosophers gathered before pagan shrines at Mars Hill in Athens. He begins, not with words of Scripture, but with words of writers familiar to his audience: “As even some of your own poets have said…” After quoting these lines from pagan poetry, Paul then goes on to point to the one true God who fulfills the truth sought by those poets.
Christian apologists today describe this approach as literary …