STUDY TWO: ABORTION
© Rosemary Bardsley 2006, 2016
The issue of abortion is an issue about the sanctity of human life. It also concerns other issues:
When does human life begin? At conception? At some point during the pregnancy? Or at birth? Obviously if human life begins at conception then all abortion is murder and is forbidden by the Bible.
The issue of human self-centredness.
The issue of ‘human ‘rights’.
The issue of contemporary sexual ‘freedom’.
Note: in this study the term ‘pro-choice’ is used to refer to those who maintain a woman has the right to choose to continue or discontinue her pregnancy. Some people who would not themselves abort except for genuine medical reasons, do however believe that each woman has a right to determine what happens to her own body. Effectively, pro-choice ends up equating with pro-abortion
A. ABORTION INFORMATION
A.1 Abortion in your country
You can find information about abortion and abortion law in your country here:
From this information identify:
 Conditions under which abortion is legally permitted
 Up to which week of pregnancy
 Is abortion considered a criminal act?
 Any other relevant comment.
A.2 Position statements
You can read a United Nations position statement here - http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/WRGS/SexualHealth/INFO_Abortion_WEB.pdf . It focuses on abortions carried out because of foetal abnormalities or the mother's health.
If it is possible, find the Position Statement of the Medical Association in your country.
A.3 Abortion statistics
You can find abortion statistics for your country here:
http://data.un.org/Data.aspx?d=GenderStat&f=inID%3A12 [abortions per 1000 women]
https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/media/resources/abortion-ratios.pdf [regional statistics per 1000 live births]
B. WHY DO WOMEN HAVE ABORTIONS?
In the USA the following reasons are identified here: http://www.religioustolerance.org/abo_why.htm
Over 90% of abortions are sought for personal reasons:
21% believe they don’t have enough financial resources to raise a child
21% don’t feel ready for the responsibility of raising a child
16% don’t want their life changed – eg plans for education, career, other commitments
12% because of difficulties in relationship with partner
11% say they are too young or immature to become a mother
8% don’t want to add to their family because (a) they are already grown, or (b) there are enough children already
[Influences possibly contributing to the above reasons:
The father or the woman’s parents pressure the woman to have an abortion
Woman doesn’t feel she has the emotional and/or physical strength to go through the pregnancy and raise the child.
Woman believes that having an extra child to raise would short-change her existing children.
Woman feels raising the child would be too difficult and disruptive at her time in life.
She doesn't want other people to know that she became pregnant.
A child would interfere with her career or education.
Fear of physical abuse from a parent if they learn of her pregnancy.
Fear of being tossed out onto the street by a parent if they learn of her pregnancy.
In the case of a multiple pregnancy, the woman may be faced with giving birth to more newborns than she feels she can deal with.
About 6% of all abortions are sought because either the woman or foetus has medical reasons:
Exposure of the foetus to high levels of toxic chemicals, medications that might be dangerous to the foetus, alcohol, drugs, etc.
Extreme youth of the mother.
The foetus has a genetic defect or other health problem.
The woman may develop eclampsia. The results can be fatal to both the woman and foetus.
Impact of multiple pregnancies on survival of foetuses and on long term health of the children after birth.
About 1% of all abortions are sought because of abusive sexual act:
The conception resulted from rape or incest.
Study the above reasons why people have abortions. Identify and comment on reasons that fall in the following categories:
Selfish or self-centred reasons
Reasons centred on personal ‘rights’ of mother or both parents
Reasons centred on personal ‘freedom’ of mother or both parents
Genuine medical reasons
Consider/discuss which, if any, of these are biblically valid reasons for abortion
C. WHEN DOES HUMAN LIFE BEGIN?
The question ‘When does human life begin?’ evokes a wide range of answers, including:
At the first splitting of the original cell
At around day 14 of the pregnancy [after which twins can no longer be formed]
When the heart develops
When the embryo starts to ‘look’ human
When ‘brain-waves’ can be detected
When the foetus responds to pain
When the foetus moves
When the foetus can survive out of the womb
At sometime after birth
A more extensive list of opinions can be found at http://www.religioustolerance.org/abortion-overview-2.htm .
Obviously, it is in the interest of pro-choice advocates, women’s ‘rights’ advocates and abortion clinics to see human life commencing later rather than earlier.
C.1 Does the Bible have anything to say about life in the womb?
In the scriptures below God is seen at work on life in the womb, and/or life in the womb is referred to in terms which assume or infer that life in the womb is human life:
Study these scriptures:
Job 3:10-11: Job speaks as if he existed as a person prior to birth.
Job 3:16: Where the words ‘child’ and ‘infant’ are used in reference to a baby that is born dead.
Job 31:15: ‘Did not he who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?’ [Job says this to indicate the value of all human life – that all humans have significance and should be treated with kindness because the same God formed all of them in their mothers’ wombs.]
Psalm 127:3: Teaches that children are a ‘heritage’ and a ‘reward’ from the Lord. The Hebrew text reads that ‘the fruit of the womb’ are a reward. [The living children only exist because they were first formed by the Lord in the womb. To abort the child in the womb is to also abort and forgo the divine reward or blessing of the living child.]
Psalm 139:13-18: Here the Psalmist describes in poetic language God’s sovereign hand in forming the infant within its mother’s womb.
Isaiah 44:2: Refers to God at work forming people within the womb.
Jeremiah 1:5: God speaks to Jeremiah telling him of his sovereign hand upon Jeremiah in the womb, and his knowledge and appointment of Jeremiah even before that.
2Kings 15:16; Hosea 13:16; Amos 1:13: In these verses specific reference is made to the ripping open of pregnant women as a particularly horrific action of invading forces.
Galatians 1:15: In some translations, including an NIV footnote, this verse refers to God’s action on Paul prior to his birth.
In addition, the developing embryo/foetus is referred to as a ‘child’ or a ‘baby’ with the same words as used to refer to children or babies after birth.
C.2 Exodus 21:22-23
Depending on the Bible translation used, these verses are used by both pro-choice and pro-life advocates to argue their position.
Pro-choice advocates support their position from translations which infer or state that in verse 22 a miscarriage is referred to, and that this miscarriage is not considered ‘harm’ or ‘serious injury’ as this refers only to the effect on the mother. The ‘life for life’ etc of verse 23 is understood only in relation to the mother.
Pro-life advocates support their position from translations which infer or state that a premature, but live, birth results from the injury; and that the ‘harm’ or ‘serious injury’ referred to includes not only harm to the mother, but also to the child. The ‘life for life’ etc is understood to refer both to the mother and the child.
John Piper has written an excellent short study on the meaning of these verses. Go to http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-misuse-of-exodus-2122-25-by-pro-choice-advocates and read what he says.
Make a brief summary of Piper’s study
For further study:
http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-abortioninthebible.html [this article includes references to historical Christian pro-life viewpoints.]
http://www.christiancourier.com/questions/exodus21Abortion.htm [this page contains links to a long list of articles on abortion.]
C.3 Various answers from science
From the pro-life perspective, and also from simple logic, the question of ‘when does human life begin?’ would seem to be beside the point. Both the spermatozoa and the ovum are human: human sperm and human ova – not some other life form. From the very earliest point of union onwards this zygote, this embryo, this foetus, is human - packed with human DNA – not the DNA of some other life form.
The question for which people are seeking an answer to either excuse or condemn abortion is not the voiced question ‘when does human life begin?’ but rather the unspoken question ‘up to what point in this pregnancy am I justified in terminating the existence of this child that is growing within me that for one reason or another I do not want?’ It is, after all, in most cases, the expected living child that is not wanted, the expected living child that is being rejected.
The article on this page https://answersingenesis.org/sanctity-of-life/when-does-life-begin/ includes reference to a range of viewpoints. You might find these helpful in trying to understand terminology and various opinions. This ‘confession’ of an ex-abortionist is very instructive: http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/controversy/abortion/confessions-of-an-ex-abortionist.html
What do you personally believe about when human life begins?
C.4 A challenge from Schaeffer
Having briefly discussed the fact that smaller and smaller premature babies are surviving due to advances in technology, and referring to the presence of human DNA immediately after the union of the sperm and the egg, Schaeffer states:
‘Our question to a pro-abortion doctor who would not kill a newborn baby is this: “Would you then kill this infant a minute before he was born, or a minute before that, or a minute before that, or a minute before that?” At what point in time can one consider life to be worthless and the next minute precious and worth saving?’ [p296f Whatever Happened to the Human Race?’]
D. IMPACTS OF ABORTION
D.1 Impact on the child - death and pain
Depending on whether you are reading material from pro-life or pro-choice advocates you will find different ‘information’ about the effect of abortion on the child. Obviously the child will not live, or if it does survive a late term abortion, it will be either deliberately killed outside of the womb or simply left to die, with the various nurses and attendants making no attempt to help it live. Its termination is the whole purpose of the abortion. Whether this termination is called the death of a child depends on the viewpoint of the writer of the article you are reading. A second issue is that of pain: if and when the developing child feels pain during the abortion procedure.
D.1.1 Methods of terminating pregnancy
Many web pages describe methods used at various stages of pregnancy. When one considers the aggressive and brutal nature of abortion methods, including late term and due date abortions, and views the images of aborted babies, one cannot avoid feelings of repulsion and horror. When one compares these practices performed upon unborn human children, with practices that government legislation punishes as cruelty to animals one can only be amazed at the contrasting standards.
The Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 [Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries] lists penalties ranging from $35,340 to $235,600 or 1 to 3 years imprisonment, for the mistreatment of 'animals'. Note that the definition of ‘animal’ in this legislation includes the following: ‘a live pre-natal or pre-hatched creature as follows: if it is in the last half of gestation or development – (i) a mammalian or reptilian foetus; (ii) an avian, mammalian or reptilian pre-hatched young.’
Any surgery must be ‘carried out in a humane way’ and ‘for the animal’s welfare’!
Under this Act, also, a person is considered to be cruel to an animal, and liable to prosecution if he/she kills it in a way that—
‘(i) is inhumane; or
(ii) causes it not to die quickly; or
(iii) causes it to die in unreasonable pain.’
Note that animals from mid-term pre-natal development onwards are given the same legal protection against cruelty and inhumane killing as living animals! Human embryos are not. Humane treatment and humane killing is legislated for animals and animal embryos, and totally brutal killing of unborn human children is legal! The 'welfare' of animal foetuses is required by law; the ‘welfare’ of the unborn human child is not under consideration in most cases of abortion.
D.1.2 Does the baby feel pain?
There is growing consensus of opinion that from at least 20 weeks on the baby does feel pain. Some experts believe that pain is felt much earlier than this.
On one level this question is irrelevant because, irrespective of when the baby begins to feel pain, it is still a human baby. [One can reasonably assume that an unborn animal would also feel pain.]
However, the knowledge that the baby does feel pain is a strong argument against abortion, from a mother’s perspective, and from a humanitarian perspective. Some politicians are working towards legislation that will make it mandatory for abortionists to inform mothers that their baby will feel pain during abortion from 20 weeks onwards, and also to make anaesthetizing the baby for late term abortions mandatory.
To research this issue of foetal pain further go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gON-8PP6zgQ . [This video, Silent Scream, is narrated by Dr Bernard Nathanson. This doctor was one of the key players in the lead up to the legalization of abortion in the USA [1968-1973]; he has performed tens of thousands of abortions. However, be became a strong anti-abortionist, maintaining that the baby responds to pain as early as 11 weeks.
D.2 Impact on the mother
The impact of abortion on the mother is also variously presented depending on the pro-life or pro-choice stance of the writer.
http://righttolifensw.org.au/be-informed/abortion/ provides a comprehensive list of impacts on the mother. It is important that you look up these lists so that you are informed of the impact or potential impact of abortion on the mother.
Immediate medical risks such as:
Damage to the womb or cervix
Uterine perforation (accidentally putting a hole in the uterus with one of the instruments used)
Infection of the uterus or fallopian tubes
Scarring of the inside of the uterus
Reaction to the medicines or anesthesia, such as problems breathing
Not removing all of the tissue, requiring another procedure
Long term medical risks, including permanent damage to the uterus and inability to conceive.
Emotional and psycho-physical effects
Francis Schaeffer, in Whatever Happened to the Human Race? raises the following questions:
‘Why is it that so few abortion counsellors are fair to the “whole person” of the pregnant woman? ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me?” is a fair question from a girl suffering the after effects of a recommended abortion. ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me I would feel like a mother with empty arms?” ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me I risked spoiling the possibility of having a normal pregnancy, because of the damage that might be done to my body by the abortion?” These are not just theoretical questions put forth in an abstract academic debate. Abortion counsellors rarely talk about physical dangers, emotional results, and psychological consequences. They seldom tell the woman what is going to happen or what may be involved.’ [ibid p306]
D.2.1 The RU 486 abortion pill
RU 486 is touted as putting the act of abortion in the mother’s hands rather than the surgeon’s, and as being a safer and easier method of abortion. A comprehensive presentation of facts about this pill and its effects and side effects, can be found at http://www.ru486facts.org (click the links in the top menu), including reference to the increased emotional and psychological impact this method has on the mother.
D.3 Impact on society
Legalization of abortion-on-demand has an impact on the attitude of a society towards abortion, but also a flow-on impact on other perceptions within a society.
D.3.1 Decrease in the perceived dignity and value of the human being
One of the arguments used to promote abortion on demand in the USA was that by eliminating unwanted children the legalization of abortion would decrease the incidence of child abuse. This, however, was far from the case.
D.3.1.1 Increase in child abuse
Schaeffer, writing in 1979, stated:
‘Those who fought for liberalized abortion policies have had their way, and since 1970 it is conservatively estimated in the United States that there are probably ten million fewer children who would now be between the ages of one and seven. Since these ten million were “unwanted” and supposedly would have been prime targets for child abuse, it would seem reasonable to look for a sharp drop in child abuse in this same period. But in fact, since the legalization of abortion-on-demand, child abuse has grown remarkably, and it is not due to just more efficient reporting.
‘This is because nationwide abortion-on-demand has what might be called an “educational impact.” The West German Federal Constitutional Court … in its February 1975 decision banning abortion-on-demand during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy stated this: “We cannot ignore the educational impact of abortion on the respect for life.” The German court reasoned that if abortion were made legal for any and every reason during the first trimester, it would prove difficult to persuade people that second- and third-trimester foetuses deserve protection simply because they are a few weeks older. The court apparently feared that what would happen to older foetuses could also happen to children after birth. As Harold O. J. Brown observes, parents, perhaps unconsciously, could reason, “I didn’t have to have him. I could have killed him before he was born. So if I want to knock him around now that he is born, isn’t that my right?”
‘Is it not logical, after all, that if one can legally kill a child a few months before birth, one should not feel too bad about roughing him up a little bit (without killing him) after he is born?’ [ibid p295]
A few pages earlier Schaeffer quoted child abuse statistics:
‘… in 1972 there were 60,000 child abuse incidents which were brought to official attention in the United States. Just four years later, in 1976, the number that received official attention passed the half-million mark. Reported cases of child abuse probably represent only about half of what really occurs.’ [ibid p292]
This increase of child abuse includes an increase of sexual crimes against children, including incest, which is considered by some to be the major form of child abuse in the USA.
D.3.1.2 Changing attitudes to infanticide
A further sanctity of life issue flowing on from the legalization or liberalization of abortion is the issue of medical infanticide, in which doctors refuse to provide life support for disabled new-borns. Consider the following:
‘… no newborn infant should be declared human until it has passed certain tests regarding its genetic endowment and that if it fails these tests is forfeits the right to live’ [Francis Crick, 1978, quoted by Schaeffer, ibid p320].
‘My personal feeling … is that… when public opinion is ready for it, no child should be admitted into the society of the living who would be certain to suffer any social handicap – for example, any physical or mental defect that would prevent marriage or would make others tolerate his company only from a sense of mercy.’ [Millard S. Everett, quoted by Schaeffer on page 320].
But these statements take us into the area of euthanasia, which is the focus of our next study.
D.3.1.3 Sale of baby parts
In D.1.1 we have already seen the desensitization that occurs when abortion-on-demand is legalized. There is yet another area in which this desensitization is taking place. Does anyone stop to ask ‘What happens to the aborted babies?”
We hear rumours of baby parts being sold in places like China, but this is also happening in the USA and Australia:
‘The international trade in body parts of aborted babies and embryos is estimated by US market consultants to reach $1 billion by 2002. Melbourne IVF vivisectors, frustrated by Victorian regulations, import stem cells from embryonic humans destroyed in Singapore; other re-searchers can order specific foetal organs, excised and packaged within minutes of death, from "harvesting companies" in the US, which charge around $150 for the retrieval of a tiny liver or $500 for a trunk (with or without limbs); a spinal cord ... for $325.’
And this from two quotes from the Australian Law Reform commission of the Australian Federal Government: [no longer available online]
‘Foetal tissue transplants: A separate, but not unrelated, subject is that of foetal tissue transplants, i.e. the transplantation of tissue taken from an aborted foetus. This form of transplantation has scientific appeal because foetal tissue appears to possess qualities in relation to tissue rejection which makes successful transplant much more likely.’
‘Status of removed tissue: What is the legal status of human tissue removed during surgery, or otherwise in the possession of a doctor or hospital? Such tissue, for example, amputated limbs, placentae, etc. may be waste to be destroyed, or may be susceptible of use for medical education, research, or therapy. There is no reason to endow such tissue with the attributes of property. At present, the Commission takes the view that such tissue has no status in law. The law is silent concerning severed or removed body parts except to the extent that it deals with the subject as a matter of public health or the like. It is possible to envisage the creation of legal rules treating such tissue as personal property. Allowing it to be owned, sold, bequeathed, or alienated in some other fashion. It is also possible to envisage the application to such tissue of ‘sale of goods’-type warranties and conditions. There have been persistent attempts in the United States to assimilate transfused blood to goods for legal purposes, treating it as an article of commerce. There is no need at present to create statutory rules for such tissue. The creation of procedures for the lawful giving for transplant and other therapeutic use, of tissue taken from living and dead persons, should be sufficient in the Australian community today. The identification of that tissue and its investment with legal attributes of the kind mentioned above, appear to be unnecessary. This view rests upon the conclusion that, in the context of medical therapy, the Australian sees his body and its tissues not as an object of commerce but as something to be the subject of voluntary gift. We have received no information of activities which causes us to believe that legal regulation is required. Like questions of legal status will apply to the lawfully-aborted foetus, at least when aborted at a stage of development when it could not be regarded in law as a dead human being.’
But here we enter into the area of bio-ethics, the focus of a further study.
D.3.2 Reduced numbers of babies available for adoption
This is a simple fact. Yet most late term abortions are not performed for medical reasons. To continue the pregnancy for a few weeks longer would provide the child with its life and infertile couples with a child to love.
D.3.3 Impact on population
The availability of abortion reduces the birth rate. Indeed this is the desired effect of abortion laws in some countries. In countries where sons are favoured above daughters girl babies are aborted and the population has a higher percentage of males than females, creating demographic problems. Populations become aging populations; this in turn impacts national productivity and social security.
D.3.4 Increased number of abortions
In the USA prior to the legalization of abortion-on-demand there were approximately 100,000 illegal abortions annually, and very few legal ones. In the first year following legalization 750,000 legal abortions were performed. Ten years later the abortion figure for 1983 was 1.5million.
E. WHAT SHOULD CHRISTIANS DO?
E.1 Be personally convinced
Study the scriptures to provide yourself with a solid base on which to base your own attitude to abortion, and from which to speak with authority to others.
E. 2 Be informed
Keep abreast of what is happening.
In Australia, the Australian Christian Lobby website maintains up to date files concerning:
What politicians are saying about abortion
Statements/reports on abortion issues in Australian press [currently over 200]
ACL media releases [brief ACL statements] on abortion issues
Australian pro-life organizations also provide information. Most of these can be found in the Links on the ACL website.
E.3 Be heard
Writing letters to politicians, letters to editors of local or national newspapers, signing of petitions – these are easy, non-confrontational ways to help arrest the liberalization of abortion law. This silent protest can be powerful if enough people engage in it. Whenever politicians are debating the issue, let them hear your voice.
Active involvement in a pro-life organization is a more confrontational way of speaking up for the un-born children.
Those who support abortion-on-demand are vocal. For those who oppose it to remain silent is to let the babies die.
E.4 Be compassionate
The gospel of Christ commands forgiveness, compassion and grace. Irrespective of our personal understanding of abortion we are never relieved of this responsibility towards those who support abortion or towards mothers who have had abortions.
Write a personal position statement on Abortion. Include your personal stance; reasons why you have chosen this stance; any course of action you consider appropriate for yourself in relation to the abortion debate.