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Abortion: Slaughter of the Innocents

Dr Alex Tang

 

Sermon statement

Abortion is never justified except to save the mother’s life

Introduction

Abortion is an important issue to discuss in churches today. I shall approach this topic by considering when human life begins. By identifying when human life begins and estimating the time when abortion is done, we shall come to an understanding on whether abortion is taking a human life or not. We shall also look at some Bible verses and derive some biblical principles that may help us to thinking about this subject. We shall end by discussing in what ways we shall deal with abortion and the people involved.

1.      When does human life begins?

1.1.   Conception, fertilisation, chromosome fusion

·         The Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and some of the Protestant denominations regard conception as the point when the spermatozoa penetrates the ovum and fertilises it. To them, conception is when human life begins. Conception is when the soul enters the cell or ensoulment has occurred.

·         The philosopher Aristotle believed that at conception the future child is endowed with a principle of only vegetative life. This is exchanged after a few days for an animal soul. The animal soul is succeeded by a rational soul much later. His followers taught that a male child receives his rational soul on the (40) fortieth day. The female child receives her rational soul on the (80) eightieth day. This belief was widely accepted by the ancient world for many centuries.

·         In the fourth century, Gregory of Nyssa, who was well educated in Greek teaching, advocated the view that at the time of conception, the embryo is given a life principle (soul) and begins to live a distinct individual life.

·         Thomas Aquinas, the great Dominican theologian, reverted to Aristotle’s teaching that a male was given a soul after 40 days and the female after 80 days. This was accepted by the church and later became widely accepted as a church tradition until 1875.

·         In 1875, the German embryologist, Oskar Hertwig, discovered the fusion of the spermatozoa and the ovum (egg) in fertilisation. That year, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in Rome declared that a human being exists and becomes ‘ensouled’ the moment the spermatozoa enters the ovum.

·         In 1987, it modified this view by declaring that human life begins not at the moment when the spermatozoa penetrates the ovum but at the moment of fusion between the male and female genetic materials (nuclei). Modern science has discovered that there is a time lapse of 22 hours between the moment the spermatozoa penetrates the ovum wall and the fusion of the genetic materials. 

·         The late Pope John Paul II reaffirmed the Roman Catholic tradition that life begins at conception when he wrote: “When a unique set of human genetic instruction is present, a person is present.” In his attempt to modernise church tradition, the late pope implied that the presence of a complete set of human DNA makes a cell a human person. To modern scientists, this may not make sense. They may retort that all our skin cells have complete sets of human DNA and we lose millions of skin cells a day! Is each cell then a person? Having a complete set of human DNA does not make a person as in the case of a teratoma. A teratoma is a fertilised ovum mutated into a tumour. There are differentiations of tissues in a teratoma though in a chaotic manner. When we cut open a teratoma, we may find hair, mixed with tooth and other organs but a human being is not formed. All the genetic information may be present but the development has gone haywire. Another point to be considered is that 40 to 70 percent of fertilised eggs die when they fail to implant in the womb. If the presence of a complete set of DNA defines a human person, then one would have to say that the majority of human beings were never born or lived no longer than a week.

·         Professor John Guillebaud from the University of College, London, has suggested that conception is a process. He believes that conception has two components: fertilisation and implantation. Fertilisation without implantation has zero survival rate. With fertilisation and implantation, the foetus has about 80 percent chance of making it to term. Hence Professor Guillebaud considers conception to have taken place only when a fertilised ovum implants in a uterine wall. Conception, according to him, would not have taken place if a spermatozoa penetrated the ovum and fertilised it but was not implanted, as in spontaneous abortions or fertilisation in a test tube.

·         Professor Ramsey, a noted Protestant ethicist, believes that a zygote is a human being i.e. human life begins at conception. Professor Ramsey did not go into the technical details.

1.2.   Implantation (six days)

·         The uterine lining must respond. If no response, the embryo will not develop.

1.3.   Cell differentiation, individuation (14 days)

·         Many in the scientific community believe that human life begins 14 days after conception. Implantation begins at day five and completes by day nine. By day 14, the cells of the embryo begin to specialise so that the embryo has a top, bottom, front and back. A primitive streak is formed which will develop into the spinal cord and nervous system. Other cells begin to separate into foetus, placenta and other supportive tissues.

·         At 14 days, the possibility of twinning recedes. Twins are formed when the embryo splits into two, each with equal and identical genetic materials. They are identical twins because they are from one embryo. They share one placenta. Non-identical twins happen when two ova are fertilised and the two embryos are implanted at almost the same time. They develop independently of each other. Triplets, quadruplets and so forth are similarly formed. Some would regard this as an important fact. If one were thinking in terms of souls, then would an embryo that is destined to split and become twins be given two souls at conception? Could two souls coexist in one embryo? If at conception, one soul were given, what would happen when the embryo splits into two when twinning occurs? Another observation is that prior to 14 days, two embryos can fuse and subsequently develop normally but with four sets of genetic information. In the triplets, two embryos will have fused so that there is only one +2. If one male and one female embryo fused, we get hermaphrodite.

·         In the United Kingdom, an ethics committee led by Dame Mary Warnock, a philosopher came to the conclusion that it is not unethical to create and experiment on embryos as long as it does not occur fourteen days after fertilisation. The Warnock Committee’s recommendation served as the basis of The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority Act passed in the United Kingdom in 1990. This Act governs IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) and the treatment of embryos. Experimentation of embryos was allowed under the Act up to fourteen days after fertilisation.

·         The 14-day mark is the choice of the Embryo Research Panel of the National Institute of Health (1994) in the USA and of the Donaldson Report in the UK. Many other research institutes also follow similar definitions that human life begins at 14 days with the formation of the primitive streak and considering that the possibility of twinning recedes beyond that point.

1.4.   Formed and unformed (28 days)

·         The formation of all body systems and organs is complete after 28 days. The embryo is about two millimetres long. During subsequent growth, these organs will increase in size and functions. The embryo can now be considered ‘formed’. A human body or nephesh may be said to be present.

·         In the early and medieval church, the consensus among theologians was that God would give a soul at the point when the body is fully ‘formed’ in the womb. This is known as soul creation.

·         Another school of thought called traducianism taught that a soul is inherited from one’s parents and will be fully formed when there is a formed body. One can only be a human being if one has a body and a soul.

·         This is obviously different from the beliefs of the Early Church Fathers that a life principle (soul) is given at conception. Both soul creation and traducianism reason that one needs to have a body to have a soul. The distinction is between ‘formed’ and ‘unformed’.

·         Those who taught this include Lactanius, Jerome, Augustine, Cyril of Alexandria and Thomas Aquinas.

1.5.   Ensoulment (40-90 days)

·         Aristotle wrote that the male embryo develops a human soul about 40 days after conception, whereas a female embryo acquires its soul 80 days after conception. One author has suggested that the early church was influenced by this ‘delayed ensoulment’ principle and allowed abortion up to 90 days.

·         At 40 days, primitive undeveloped brain waves can be detected. High resolution ultrasound done on the foetus at this stage shows incredible details—the foetus begins to look like a baby.

·         In the Jewish rabbinic understanding of the Talmud and subsequent teachings, a developing foetus before 40 days is ‘like water’. It is only worthy of consideration after 40 days.

1.6.   Human appearance (10 weeks)

1.7.   Quickening (16 weeks)

1.8.   sensitivity to pain, nervous system (18 weeks)

1.9.   viability (24-28 weeks)

·         About 24 weeks, the foetus becomes viable. This means that if it was delivered prematurely, it can survive with the help of modern medical care.

·         The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines abortion as any product of conception delivered before 28 weeks. However, nowadays, it is routine to be able to save babies born prematurely at 24 weeks.

·         Some medical ethicists use viability as a measure of being human.

·         At 26 weeks, the foetus has greater viability and is more developed. Brain wave patterns show waking and sleeping stages. To some people, this self-awareness is what makes a human being.

·         Self-awareness is an important criterion of personhood. Carl Sagan believed that the ability to think is what makes us human.

1.10.                    Birth (nine months)

·         The Jewish rabbinic commentary regards the foetus to be part of the mother’s body and it is only at the moment when the head or the greater part of the breech is delivered that the foetus becomes an individual.

·         But it continues to be regarded as a non-souled entity until after 30 days.

·         Roman and Stoic stress that there is no soul until birth

1.11.                    Naming after birth (Greeks, Romans, Yoruba e,g, eight days)

·         Jewish children are not named or admitted to the community until after the eighth day and for those who die in the perinatal period (30 days), the rituals of death are not necessary.

1.12.                    Self consciousness, cortical development (? 2 years)

For 1900 years the early conceptus was not seen as a person. Significantly, there were no funerals for miscarriages. The Holy Office in 1713 forbade baptism of a fetus not well formed.

 

2.      Biblical considerations

·         The Bible does not give an answer to the question, “When does human life begin?” Attempts have been made by various scholars to cite evidence that God considers the foetus to be fully human by referring to Psalm 139, Job 3:11, Jeremiah 1:5 and Luke 1:39-44.

·         John Stott made an ingenious argument by using Psalm 139. Firstly, using verse 14, ‘for you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb’, he concluded that the psalmist is already aware at his conception i.e. creation. Secondly, he noted that there is continuity between the verses: verse 1 “you have searched me” (the past), verses 2-3, “you know when I sit and when I rise” (the present) and verse 10, “your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (the future). Thirdly, the whole Psalm 139 speaks of communion between God and the psalmist. John Stott concluded that these three words (creation, continuity, communion) give us the perspective that the foetus is already a human life, though not yet mature, has the potential of growing into the fullness of humanity. The point he made was that the beginning of human life is found in the pre-natal period and there is continuity from life before and life after birth.

·         “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?” Job 3:11 (NIV). This verse sheds no light whatsoever on the status of the foetus Job. It provides a retro perspective view as it is the adult Job contemplating his circumstances.

·         “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” Jeremiah 1:5 (NIV). The focus of this verse is more on Jeremiah’s calling to be a prophet than it is a statement about when he became a human being.

·         Luke 1:39-44 relates the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth, both of whom were pregnant. Elizabeth’s baby (John the Baptist) “leaped in her womb” in response to Mary’s greeting. The case is made here that Luke uses the same word brephos for an unborn child (1:41,44) as a newborn baby (2:12,16) and little children brought to Jesus to be blessed by him (18:15). It is difficult to derive an ethical principle on the basis of one Greek word. Nevertheless, Luke who was often careful with his words classifies all of them as children. Being a medical doctor, he must have been aware of ‘quickening’ or when the unborn child makes his or her first movement in the womb. The emphasis in this passage is on the reaction of the unborn John the Baptist to the unborn Jesus.

These often quoted passages do not address the question, “When does human life begin?” With proper exegesis, one can only conclude that the emphasis is on the sovereignty of God and his interactions with human beings.

3.      Abortion

A medical dictionary defined abortion ‘as the premature expulsion from the uterus of the products of conception- of the embryo or of a non-viable foetus’. Embryo refers to the first eight weeks of gestation after fertilisation of the ovum by the sperm. Foetus refers to the embryo after eight weeks until birth. Abortion can be a naturally occurring process. It was estimated that 50% of all conception occurs in abortion because for some reasons, the embryo was non-viable.

Abortion on demand is not available in Malaysia. Abortion can only be performed for medical reasons as provided in section 312 of the Penal Code and its has to be certified by at least two doctors. 

In Singapore abortion is available on demand. It even allows teenage girls to procure abortions without their parents’ knowledge. In Britain, abortion was illegal until the Infant Life (preservation) Act of 1929 provided that abortion was admissible if it is to save the life of the mother. This was further liberalised in the 1967 Abortion Act. By 1983 over 2 million legal abortions had been performed since the 1967 Act was passed and by 1995 over 4.5 million.

In the United States, in January 1973 in Roe v. Wade case[1], the United Supreme Court declared by seven votes to two that it is constitutional for a woman to choose to have an abortion done on her during the first three months (first trimester) of her pregnancy and during the second and third trimester if the pregnancy affects her physical or mental health. This ruling opened a floodgate for abortions to be performed in the United States. The premise behind the ruling is that a woman has a right to decide what is to be done to her body and that includes an ‘unwanted’ foetus. This is usually described a ‘pro-choice’. ‘Pro-choice’ means a woman has total rights to decide what is done to her body.

4.      Techniques of abortion

Most abortions are done during the first three months of pregnancy. There are a number of ways a fetus can be aborted. I have not included the herbal or other manipulations done by traditional healers and back-street abortionists.

4.1.   Vacuum aspiration

This is used for pregnancies up to 12-14 weeks. In this technique, the cervix is dilated and a tube connected to a suction apparatus was inserted. The fetus was sucked out into a jar. The foetal body parts were examined to ensure totally removal.

4.2.   ‘D & C’-Dilation and Curettage

This is the most popular technique. The cervix was dilated and a ‘curette’ was inserted. The walls of the womb were scraped until the foetus was cut into pieces and removed.

4.3.   Toxic solution

In this technique, a hyperosmolar solution, usually saline was introduced into the womb by means of a needle. The saline kills the foetus that will then be expelled naturally through the vagina. This is usually used in pregnancies of 12-16 weeks. 

4.4.   Hysterectomy

This is similar to Caesarean section by which the foetus is removed through an incision in the womb. Unlike Caesarean section, the foetus is left to die.

4.5.   ‘D and X’ – Dilation and Extraction/ Partial birth abortion

This is done in late stage pregnancies when the foetus is fully formed and is too strong for dismemberment by the above mentioned techniques. Here the foetus was manipulated into a breech position and labour induced by a drug, prostaglandin. The baby was partially delivered feet first until the head remains in the womb. Then the doctor creates an incision at the base of the skull and a suction catheter inserted. The brain is then sucked out through the catheter, causing the skull to collapse and then the now dead baby was removed from the womb by pulling on the feet. Many women who opt for "partial-birth" abortions do so because their foetuses have severe or fatal anomalies or because the pregnancy endangers their lives or health. Opponents of this method of abortion argue that the procedure is really a form of infanticide.

4.6.   RU 486 with prostaglandin

In 1991, it was licensed for use in the United Kingdom and in USA, 2000. It is not available in Malaysia. RU 486 can be used during all three trimesters. It produces an abortion by destroying the lining of the womb. It is often used with prostaglandin, a drug that facilitate labour and the evacuation of the abortus from the womb.

4.7.   ‘Morning after’ pill

This pill contains a high dose of oestrogen, which makes the lining of the womb unsuitable for implantation of the fertilised ovum. It is effective if take within 72 hours after sexual intercourse.

There are many techniques to abort an embryo or a foetus. Some techniques are relatively safe while others have certain dangers. What is important to note is that these techniques are readily available and can be done by any competent doctor. Hence there are demands from pregnant women for abortion for whatever reasons because of the easy availability and the safety of the procedures. Virginia Mollenkott wrote, “Every time a woman gives birth, she undergoes the equivalent of a major operation, whereas getting a legal abortion is seven times safer than giving birth.” [i]  A pregnant lady can check into a hospital or a clinic in the morning, have an abortion done and be home in the afternoon in time for tea.

 

5.      What does the Bible say about Abortion?

The Bible has surprisingly made no reference to abortion. It does not given an answer to the most crucial aspect of the abortion issue- when is the fetus considered a human being? Attempts has been made to cite evidence that God consider the fetus to be fully human by referring to Psalm 139, Job 3:11, Jeremiah 1:5 and Luke 1:39-44.

The Scriptural passage to which both proponents and opponents appeal to in the current debate, is Exodus 21:22-25.

"If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows.  But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” (NIV)

This passage can be understood in different ways. Firstly, the passage may imply that the Bible makes a distinction between a fully human life (the mother) and the life of a foetus. This verse can be taken to mean a foetus is not considered to be a fully human person and is therefore of less inherent value than an already born person. Thus the death of a fetus merit a fine while the death or injury to the mother called for the application of lex talionis (life for life, eye for eye,… etc). However, it must be noted that the foetus does have value, even though it is less than that of the mother.[ii]

Secondly, the passage may be interpreted the way as Jack Cottrell has done. He concludes that verse 22 does not refer to a miscarriage but to a premature birth. Thus causing a premature birth will merit a fine but death of injury to the premature baby or the mother will merit the lex talionis.  Thus he concludes,’..the life of the fetus is valued just as highly as the mother, and the lex taliois principle applied to both..’[iii] R.C.Sproul has came to the same conclusion.[iv]

To support this view, R.C.Sproul quoted the work of:

“Dr. Frame also examines the verb yatza, found in Exodus 21:22. The term means ‘go out’ or ‘depart’. Yatza is normally used to describe ordinary births (Gen 25:26, 38:28-30, Job 10:18; Jeremiah 1:5, 20:18). The only possible exception is the use of yatza in Numbers 12:12; Again, the Hebrew has a more accurate term for miscarriage and spontaneous abortion: shakol (Gen 31:38, Exodus 23:26, Job 2:10, Hosea 9:14, Malachi 3:11). The proper interpretation, then of the phrase weyatze’u yeladheyla in Exodus 21:22 would not be an induced miscarriage nor the death of an unborn child but an induced premature birth of a living child.

 

Finally Dr. Frame examines the term ason (injury) in verses 22 and 23. Had the writer intended to refer only to the woman, lah meaning ‘to her’ would have been added. The harm then refers to the woman, to her prematurely born child, or to both’”[v]

 

Regarding the various interpretation of the passage, Gareth Jones wrote,

“I regard this as slender basis on which to build a whole theology of the foetus. The biblical writer was dealing with the regulations within a covenant community, and his primary concern at this junction was with the nature of the punishment to be inflicted for injury following accidents or fighting. He was not dealing with the status of the foetus as such, nor with its importance relative to that of an adult human life. This passage deals with unintentional abortion brought about by personal conflict.

There are even greater difficulties in applying this passage to the status of the embryo and early foetus. The miscarriage at the heart of Exodus 21:22-25 must have been of a relatively well-developed foetus, perhaps six months or older. Had the miscarriage been that of an embryo of just a few days’ or a few weeks’ gestation, the woman would probably not have been aware of her pregnancy, let alone of her miscarriage. To extrapolate from the miscarriage of an older foetus to the status of an embryo a few days old involves a major leap, which has to be justified on grounds of legitimate biblical interpretation. I do not consider that such justification exists.”[vi]

 

The Bible, while silent on abortion, teaches about man and woman being created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27). Man bears the image of God (imago dei) because God blew his breath or nephesh into man and that man has a role as co-creator. It also implies a foetus bears the image of God. Donald Lake wrote,

 

“ While I maintain that the image of God is present in the fetus (as is nephresh), it is not something static. Rather, it is dynamic. It develops through one’s life. The image of God refers to the total human being, shape and form as well as his role in creation. Consequently, the image of God is something that a human being grows into rather than simply is.”[vii]

 

What is implied is that the foetus has the image of God (imago dei) and yet also it is in the process of becoming. A New Testament analogy is that we are to ‘conform’ into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29-30). It is present at spiritual birth yet also takes a life long process of growing into maturity. Donald Lake concludes, “Consequently, abortion is wrong not just because the killing of the foetus is destroying the image of God, but rather because abortion prevents the image of God from being fully manifested!”[viii]

 

6.      Biblical Reasons Against Abortion : The Sanctity of human life

6.1.   Human Dignity comes from God.

Human life reflects the very life of God. We are created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27), so our dignity and God’s are closely related. “Whosoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed: for God made man in his own image” (Gen 9:6). Human life is a gift from God. In response, we should approach this life with gratitude, thanksgiving and deep responsibility. 

6.2.   All Human Life has Equal Dignity

In Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Men and women bear the same dignity and this applies to all of mankind of all ages, sex, race and conditions. However incapacitated, mentally retarded, chronically ill, physically dependent or in a persistent vegetative state, they bear that dignity and has equal claims on us.

6.3.   “Thou shalt not kill”

The sixth commandment “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex 20:13; Dt 5:17) has its roots in the Creation’s narrative:- “Let us make man in our own image”(Gen 1:26) and in the Noahic Convenant’s “Whosoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed”(Gen 9:6). Man, being made in the image of God, is not to be intentionally killed. Ratsach is the Hebrew word translated as ‘kill’ in the commandment. It is similar to the Greek phoneuo, which means ‘murder’. Hence the sixth commandment forbids murder or ‘unauthorised, intentional or hostile killing of one human being by another’. It is because of this that many Christians will allow exceptions to this commandment such as martyrdom, war and capital punishment. Such exceptions can also be inferred from the Scriptures.

6.4.   Love your Neighbour.        

Jesus summarised the Commandments as ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. (Mk 12:30-31). Christians are called to love their neighbours. And this included taking care of each other and looking out for each other. It does not include helping each other to die, though Biblical Christian ‘situation ethicists’ may argue otherwise in the name of a new metaphysically contentless definition of ‘love’ when that neighbour is in great suffering.

 

7.      Positional Response to Abortion

There are many confused responses to abortion. Many people look to their spiritual leaders for guidance. Unfortunately many spiritual leaders themselves do not have the answer. The theologians’ stand may be different from that of the doctors who profess evangelical faith. A rape victim may think differently from a busy female executive.

The responses of various people to the emotive issue of abortion can be categorises into four basic stands:

 

7.1.   Abortion is never justified.

There are people who believe that abortion is never justified whatever the circumstances. Proponent of this stand believes that the foetus is a human being and there is no justification whatsoever in allowing the killing of a human being. The Roman Catholic Church has denied allowing any abortions to be done, even those to save the mother’s life. Some conservative Christians also held to this view. The consideration here is of the sanctity of human life.

 

7.2.   Therapeutic abortions.

The second group of people believe that only in one special circumstance is abortion allowed. That is if the abortion will save the mother’s life. This group also held to the view that the foetus is a human being, but a potential human being. When weighed against the life of the mother, who is a realised human being, can be sacrificed. Many conservative Christians have this view.[ix] The abortion done here is called therapeutic abortion because it is used to saves lives. Consideration here is of the value of an individual.

The Catholic doctrine of double effect allows two exceptions: ectopic pregnancy and uterine cancer. The foetus and uterus must be removed together.

Doctrine of double effect in that an action will cause two effects, one good and one evil is morally allowable under the following circumstances

  • If the action is good in itself or not evil
  • If the good follows as immediately from the cause as from the evil effect
  • If only the good is intended
  • If there is a proportionally grave cause for performing the action as for allowed in the evil effect.

 

7.3.   Justifiable or ‘hard cases’ abortions.

The third group also held the view of the second group concerning the value of the foetus and the mother. However they have extended the justification to include victims of rape, incest or congenital abnormalities in the fetus. They consider these circumstances as ‘hard cases’. The consideration here is of  compassion.

  • The General Board of the American Baptist churches, USA (1981)-decision for abortion may be made when “all possible alternatives will lead to greater destruction of human life and spirit.”
  • The American Friends Service Committee (1970)-“it is better to end an unwanted pregnancy than to encourage the evils resulting from forced pregnancy and childbirth.”
  • The General Convention of the Episcopal Church (1982)-permissible in serious threats to mental or physical health of woman, deformation of fetus, rape and incest.
  • The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (1983) affirmed Roe vs Wade decision and ‘the principle of inviolability can be applied” if the fetus is viable
  • The General Synod of the Church of Christ – “every woman must have the freedom of choice to follow her personal religious and moral convictions concerning the completion or termination of her pregnancy.”
  • The United Methodist Church General Conferences (1976, 1984)- listed a number of cases when “the path of a mature Christian judgment may indicate the advisability of abortion.”
  • The Lutheran Church in America (1970)-“on the basis of the evangelical ethic, a woman or couple may decide responsibly to seek an abortion.” Daniel Maguire, On Moral Medicine.p.587

 

Some difficult cases

Cases where there is a serious medical problem:

  • the pregnancy endangers the life or health of the mother
  • there are too many foetuses in the womb for them all to survive
  • the foetus is so defective that it will die later in the pregnancy
  • the foetus is so defective that it will not live after the birth

Cases where the child will not be 'normal':

  • the child will suffer from some mental or physical abnormality that the parents (correctly?) think will very seriously damage its quality of life

Cases where the pregnancy is entirely unintentional

  • pregnancy caused by rape
  • pregnancy caused by failure of contraception where the potential parents are not to blame
  • pregnancy caused by a badly done vasectomy
  • pregnancy caused by the parties not knowing that sexual intercourse causes pregnancy
  • such cases would include persons who are not mentally capable of understanding this

Cases where the pregnancy is unintentional but where a risk was taken:

  • pregnancy caused by failure of contraception within the known risk that contraceptive method
  • pregnancy caused by carelessness in the use of contraception
  • pregnancy caused by failure to use contraception

Cases where the pregnancy has lifestyle consequences:

  • having a child would prevent the mother achieving some life objective
  • the mother is incapable of looking after a child
  • the mother is incapable of looking after another child
  • another child would lower the family's standard of living
  • there is not enough food to support the child
  • having another child would result in criminal proceedings against the parent
  • the child is not of the preferred sex
  • coping with the child's disability would damage the family's lifestyle
  • coping with the child's disability would disadvantage existing family children

7.4.   Pro-choice view of abortion.

This group feels that the mother has the right to choose and that society, government and religious authorities have no right to interfere. The foetus is considered a part of her body and she has a right to decide what is to be done to her body. While some recognise the foetus as a potential human being; others regard it a lump of cells, equivalent to a tumour. As doctors remove tumours from her body, abortion is likened to be removal of a tumour. The consideration here is of the rights of an individual to choose.

The first three groups are often called ‘pro-life’ and most evangelical Christians and Catholics will be included into this group. The last group and by far the largest group are called ‘pro-choice’. Unfortunately dialogues and attempts to understand each other’s views has not been successful. This have lead to ‘pro-life’ protests who often ends with violence with ‘pro-choice’ groups, fire bombing of abortion clinics and even murder of a doctor who performs abortion.

 

8.      Christian response

If the Church can made a stand against abortion, but it must be ready to help those to whom abortion seems to be the solution to their problem. The biblical mandate of helping our neighbours and protecting the weak and the defenceless are never so important as in the abortion issue. Our neighbours are often the frightened pregnant mothers seeking a way out of their quandary. The weak and the defenceless are the foetuses. No other group of individuals are as weak and defenceless as the foetuses. 

(a)   Sex Education

The Church must be in the forefront of education concerning sexual education. There must be continual emphasis of avoiding pre-marital sexual relationships especially amongst the teenagers. There must be teaching on the type of contraceptive methods used. 

(b)   Contraceptives

The use of contraceptives will prevent unwanted pregnancy.

(c)    Adoption

For unwanted babies done out of wedlock, rape, incest or other reasons, adoption is an option for carrying the baby to term. There are many couples who are unable to have children and the Church has a role to help them.

(d)   Love and Compassion

(e)    Victims of incest and rape

(f)    Teen pregnancy

Counselling, love and compassion should be given to those who are seeking abortion or have had abortion. There are many Christians who have deep wounded because of a performed abortion. These wounds need to be healed.

The issue of abortion is a good opportunity for the Church to be engaged with society and the State. There are many frightened pregnant women seeking help. The Church should be there to meet this need.

  Soli Deo Gloria

 

Bibliography

Hunt, Geoffrey. "Abortion: Why Bioethics Can Have No Answer - a Personal Perspective." Nursing Ethics 6, no. 1 (1999): 47-57.

Lazareth, William H., ed. Persons in Community: Theological Voices from the Pastorate. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004.

Singer, Peter. Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics. New York: St. Marthin's Griffin, 1994.

Warren, Mary Ann. "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion." In Biomedical Ethics, ed. T.A. Mappes and D. DeGrazia, 434-440. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc, 1996.

Waters, Brent, and Ronald Cole-Turner. God and the Embryo: Religious Voices on Stem Cells and Cloning. Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2003.

 


Footnotes

[1] Jane Roe (real name Norma McCorvey) and Henry Wade, district attorney of Dallas County. Norma McCorvey wanted a safe, legal abortion and challenged Texas law. The Supreme Court decision allows women to decide the right to remain pregnant or not. This is weighed against the rights of the foetus-age of viability which is between 22-28 weeks.


Endnotes

[i] David K. Clark, & Robert V. Rakestraw, Eds, Readings in Christian Ethics, Vol 2 (Grand Rapids. MI: Baker Books, 1996) p. 31

[ii] James K. Hoffmeier, “Abortion and the Old Testament Law”, James K. Hoffmeier, ed., Abortion: A Christian Understanding and Response (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1987) p. 58.

[iii] Jack W. Cottrell, “Abortion and the Mosaic Law” Clark, David K. & Rakestraw, Robert V. Eds, Readings in Christian Ethics, Vol 2 (Grand Rapids. MI: Baker Books, 1996) p. 32-35.

[iv] RC. Sproul, Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue  (Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 1990)

[v] Ibid., quoted the work of Dr. John M. Frame on this exegesis. p.197-198.

[vi] Gareth Jones, Valuing People (Carliste, Cumbria: Paternoster Press, 1999) p. 70-71

[vii] Donald Lake, “A Theological Perspective on Abortion”, James K. Hoffmeier, ed., Abortion: A Christian Understanding and Response (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1987) p. 90.

[viii] Ibid., p. 91

[ix] John Stott, “Reverence for Human Life”, Christianity Today, 9 June 1972, p. 12

 

|posted 2 May 2010|

 

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