Do not walk away from those of whom we shall now speak.
Do not turn your head, or block your ears, or shut your eyes. Look! Listen! Now – can you hear them? There are more than 150,000 of them. They whisper – softly, almost silently; murmurs of pain echoing into the vast emptiness of the universe, all but drowned out by the noise of our society's self-righteousness, the clamour of our self-will.
They call across the void of 18 years – forgotten, unnamed, unloved perhaps. They are the voices of those who would have been first-time voters in 2019. Their shadows stir; they are our nation's aborted children.
Listen to The Guardian from last week when it asked: 'Is this the greatest photograph of the 20th century?' Its prose soared as it described a picture of an 'unborn child, floating in a seemingly cosmic backdrop... vulnerable yet serene. Its eyes are closed and its tiny, perfectly formed fists are clutched to its chest'. An unborn child of eighteen weeks. You can view the picture here. Please look and tell me that is not a human being. You cannot do that – can you?
There were 176,364 abortions in England and Wales in 2001. Most of those people, had they lived, would now be eligible to vote. Our own son was born that year: a December 13th baby, now studying for his A-levels, he will miss the election by just one day. But most of those others – those 176,000 – they missed this election by a lifetime. All of it.
Once, abortion was a feminist issue. Alice Paul (1885-1977) denounced abortion as an evil forced upon women by men. A number of suffragists called abortion "child murder" in The Revolution, the publication of Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906). There are those who still bravely bear that flame today, with Feminists for Life of America, being one such organisation. Feminists for Life of America first revealed and shared many pro-life quotes from the first wave feminists and on its website you can read 'pro-woman answers to pro-choice questions'.
But mostly now it is Christians who stand up for these voiceless children. So as the election campaign unfolds, we denounce Labour plans to 'decriminalise abortions' – apparently without qualification, if its manifesto is taken at face value. The Lib Dems seek to loosen the law also. Jesus' question to some of his contemporaries, albeit in a different context, echoes down the ages: which is better – 'to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?' (Luke16v9).
Look again at that picture in The Guardian. Eighteen weeks, that infant – made in the image of God; of infinite value and worth. That beautiful child in the photograph 'floating in a seemingly cosmic backdrop' – you can break that baby's limbs apart, suck them out and dispose of them. No-one will come to that baby's rescue.
Afterwards, its humanity may be briefly acknowledged. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service suggests a 'service, burial or cremation' – a curious way of remembering someone who was unvalued until the moment of killing. It 'may be worth approaching a number of funeral directors' to help in this task – of what, exactly? Mourning a bundle of cells and tissue? Or what?
Of course, there are other issues that also affect the world's most vulnerable – we might think of the climate crisis, for example. And of course, with abortion, there are grey areas: there is the dilemma involved when pregnancy comes through the horror of rape, or traumatic choices to be made where a mother's life is in danger. Let us offer support to all women considering abortion, regardless of the circumstances, and let us challenge the unjust structures of society that may lead many to feel they have no choice.
But let us never, ever forget the voiceless, unborn children. And let us be free to protest and pray at abortion clinics in a dignified, Godly way, so that for some of those babies there may be a last minute reprieve. Let us pray that Christian leaders like Justin Welby have the bravery to be clearer – and that some bishops would have the courage to speak at all.
Let the last words be given to feminist writer and bioethicist Fiorella Nash.
'Authentic feminism should be pro-life,' she says. 'It grew out of a rejection of the idea that women are the property of men; by what justification therefore, can we treat our own offspring as property? No movement that truly believes in justice and equality seeks to achieve those goals through the sacrifice of innocent lives.'
She adds: 'Radical feminism has let women down and has betrayed women everywhere because of its dogmatic obsession with promoting and defending abortion. Where were the radical feminists... when Chinese women were being forced into abortions? Where are radical feminists when baby girls are being aborted in India at a rate of one per minute?'
Do not walk away from those of whom we have spoken. Listen – listen; can you hear them? The shadowy outline of their hands gropes through the dark mist of time towards us. They are calling to you, to you who now live.
David Baker is a former daily newspaper journalist now working as an Anglican minister in Sussex, England. Find him on Twitter @Baker_David_A