Abortion: This Subject is a Matter of Life or Death

Thinking about abortion is very difficult but very important. I hope to look at it with grace and candor. So, out front, I want to say two things: First, abortion is wrong and a grave sin against a holy God. Second, there is grace and forgiveness and reconciliation through Jesus Christ! So even as we think about this difficult subject, I do not want us to have a holier-than-thou mind set. We are all sinners saved by the grace of God. 1 John 1:9 gives us all hope: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I also want us to realize that the problem of abortion cannot be fixed by mere legislation (abortion was happening when it was against the law and infanticide has sadly been around for thousands of years). Legislation is important however. Yet, the fundamental problem that needs to be addressed is people’s hearts; people need to be transformed by God from the inside out. So, the problem is not just abortion, that is a fruit, albeit perhaps the ugliest fruit, of this society’s worldview.[1] This fruit is seen all over the place just in different flavors. However, the underlying problem is the same, idolatry. People worship convenience, their unhindered sexual lifestyle, their accomplishments, or a thousand other things above the one true God. We know from Romans chapter one the chaos that ensues when things usurp God’s place on the throne. When we make a god out of what is no god, it is its own punishment. God gives people up to a debased mind; to do what ought not to be done.

Society often paints things in a thin veneer. It looks attractive. When examined closely, however,  it is most worthless, even poisons. It is interesting that many have abortions to escape consequences but end up instead sadly multiplying them as the Scriptures say (cf. Rom. 1). The immediate physical and psychological consequences of an abortion are often many, to speak nothing of long term affects. However, these sadly are just a foretaste of what awaits those who do not turn to Jesus for forgiveness. 

Statistics Regarding Abortion in America 

• Since 1973, there have been 53,000,000 reported and legal abortions. This is equal to the population of 19 western states.
• There are 1.21 Million abortions per year (2005)
• There are approximately 3,700 abortions per day.
• 1/3 of American women will have an abortion by the time they are forty-five.
• Reasons why women have an abortion:
    o 1% of all abortion occur because of rape or incest
    o 6% of abortions occur because of potential health problems
    o 93% of all abortions occur for social reasons:
       Some say they have responsibility to other people
       Cannot afford a child
       Having a child would interfere with work, school, etc.
      Don’t want to be a single parent or would have problems with the father of the child
• Partial birth abortion (the name alone is sad) is used to abort women who are 20 to 30 weeks pregnant.
• Some studies report that up to 90% of women chose not to have an abortion after seeing an ultrasound.
• The heartbeat begins on the 21st day after conception.
• Babies of 22 weeks gestation have survived, though this is still very rare.
• Electrical brain waves have been recorded as early as forty days.
• There are several health risks for the woman:
   o Breast cancer
   o Ectopic (tubal) pregnancy
   o Bad effects on future pregnancies
   o Becoming sterile
   o Sexual dysfunction
   o Mental health risks

American Abortion Casualties

(From The Village Church)

Why is Abortion Wrong?

First, because Genesis 1:26-27 tells us we are created in image of God. Second, because Exodus 20:13 tells us, “Thou shall not murder.”

However, are these texts enough? Or could people object that that is all well and good but what is inside a woman womb is not a human. What can we say about that from Scripture?

Exodus 21:22-25 says:

“When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. [23] But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, [24] eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, [25] burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (See Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, 159-60, 160n2 and Frame, 718-21).

There is quite a few things to note on this significant passage. First, notice what the result is if there is no harm to the child (see v. 22)? Just a fine. However, what happens if there is harm? “Life for life,” it says. Notice that this still means it is an accident but the punishment is still life for life. In other cases of accidental manslaughter this was not the mandate but provision of “house arrest” and protection was made. Therefore, this shows the seriousness of protecting unborn life. If God has such hatred for the accidental death of an unborn child what is His reaction to intentional death? Wrath (cf. Jer. 7:30-34).

Meredith G. Kline points out that

“Induced abortion was so abhorrent to the Israelite mind that it was not necessary to have a specific prohibition dealing with it in the Mosaic law. The Middle Assyrian laws attest to the abhorrence that was felt for this crime even in the midst of the heathendom around Israel, lacking though it did the illumination of special revelation. For in those laws a woman guilty of abortion was condemned to be impaled on stakes. Even if she managed to lose her own life in producing abortion, she was still to be impaled and hung up in shame as an expression of the community’s repudiation of such an abomination. It is hard to imagine a more damning commentary on what is taking place in enlightened America today than that provided by this legal witness of the conscience of benighted ancient paganism” (“Lex Talionis and the Human Fetus,” 200-01).

Psalm 139:13-16 (cf. Job 31:15-18; Ps. 22:9; Hos. 12:3; Gen. 25:23-26) says:

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. [14] I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;  my soul knows it very well. [15] My frame was not hidden from you,  when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. [16] Your eyes saw my unformed substance;  in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Psalm 51:5 says: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Remember the context? David is repenting of his sin. What is David saying here? He is saying he has a sinful nature inherited from Adam. He is not saying it was his mother’s fault. Note, “Sin in Scripture is a personal quality, never an impersonal one. It is never a property of things, only of persons” (Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, 722). Thus, we see here a very strong argument for personhood beginning at conception. If he had a sin nature in his mother’s womb than it follows that he was a real human being with a soul. “Fetal tissue” or any type of tissue or inanimate object for that matter is not sinful, people alone are sinful. Do you see the conclusion here? David was a person, a real human person, in his mother’s womb.

We could also look at Judges 13:3-5 and Luke 1:35. Jesus too was a divine-human person from conception (cf. Heb 2:17-18; 4:15; Lk. 41-44 cf. 2:16). 

We see in Scripture that we should take precautions so as to avoid the possible destruction of life (Deut. 22:8 cf. 19:5). Thus, even if you are not entirely persuaded by these arguments the principle that we see in Scripture would lead us not to agree with abortion. As Frame says, “Even if the above arguments are only, say, 80 percent certain, they make it highly probable that abortion destroys human lives. And God’s law clearly tells us not to take that risk. So our practical response should be exactly the same as if we were persuaded 100 percent” (Frame, 724).

To illustrate this point imagine I go hunting with you. We go out into the thick woods and after a while I hear a rustling in the grass so I do what any hunter should do, I don’t hesitate, I point in that general direction, and fire a few shots hoping I hit my intended target. Would you hunt with me very long if that was my practice? No, because you would be either to scared or dead. Do you see the principal? You don’t just shoot at any rustling noise because a human could be making the noise and not a deer. We take precautions to protect life!

The United States Military goes by an ROE, Rules of Engagement.  They for instance have to have positive identity before they engage an enemy force. Or they have to use escalation of force.  Our military personnel take great precautions to not destroy innocent life, even to the point of putting their own self in great harm, and yet in our own country we do not take these same precautions with our unborn. We do not have “positive identity” and yet many are okay with taking life. Should we not rather take  great precautions even if we are not exactly sure when life begins? If we as a country make people put hand rails up on their own house and enforce all sorts of other codes, should we not also protect the unborn even if their is disagreement when life begins? 

DNA: “From the point of conception, unborn children have a full complement of chromosomes… Therefore, the child is not ‘part of his mother’s body.’ His genetic makeup is different from hers. So we should not treat the unborn child as we treat hair or fingernails, or even as we treat organs like the gall bladder or liver. The unborn child is a separate and unique human being” (Frame, 725). Yes the child is dependent on his mother yet he will also be after he is outside of the womb and that in no way gives his mother the right to kill him. Though there are helpful scientific observations, “Personhood is a metaphysical, religious, theological, and ethical category, not a scientific one. There are no scientific observations or experiments that can detect a difference between a person and a nonperson” (Frame, 726). Yet, as we saw above, if we have a ROE for combat how much more should we go to great lengths to protect human unborn life! 

I read an article about a teenage boy that falsely admitted to a crime and later was proven innocent from DNA. People are sometime proven guilty and proven innocent by their DNA and yet not proven to be human by their DNA this does not make sense to me.

Objections that People Raise (see Grudem, Politics, 162-63 regarding this section)

1. Unable to interact or survive on its own: I have already said how I think this argument is faulty above. A young baby is also unable to survive on its own and that in no way justifies starving it, for example. 

2. Birth defects: The question here is whether we would think it is right to put a child to death after it is born because it may have problems. There have also been predictions about the capabilities of child that have been wrong. So, no, potential birth defect or known birth defects cannot justify an abortion (cf. Ex. 4:11; Jn. 9:2-3). 

3. Pregnancies resulting from rape or incest: These situations, though few (around 1% or less of all abortions), should be treated with much sensitivity and love. However, the child should not be punished for the sin of the father (Deut. 24:16).

4. Abortion to save the life of the mother: People make it seem like this problem arises very often however the truth is it does not (less than 0.118% of all abortions). This situation is different from the ones above because the choice is between the loss of one life (the baby) and the loss of two lives (the baby and the mother). As we have seen, the Scriptures teach the importance of protecting human life. So if both lives cannot be protected I believe the right thing to do is protect the life that can be protected. I agree with Grudem, though this is a difficult subject.

“I cannot see a reason to say this would be morally wrong, and in fact, I believe it would be morally right for doctors to save the life that can be saved and take the life of the preborn child from the mother’s body (for example from the Fallopain tube in the case of an ectopic pregnancy) results from directly intending to save the life of the mother, not from directly intending to take the child’s life. If the medical technology exists to save the child’s life in such cases, then of course the child’s life should also be saved. But if abortion is necessary to save the mother’s life, this would seem to be the only situation in which it is morally justified” (Politics, 163-64).

5. If Abortion is not allowed it is a wrongful restriction of freedom: However, does that make any sense? I think not. Does not the government make restrictions, isn’t that what we have empowered them to do? Did you know I do not have the freedom to drink and drive, the madness! I am not allowed to shoot guns at people, the government is so restrictive… not even in the city limits… As we can see, the government restricts people and that is right and good. We should not be able to drink and drive, shoot guns at people, etc.

6. “All children should be wanted children”: This, to tell you the truth, makes me sick. Yes! Duh! All children should be wanted children. But the problem is with the parents. It saddens me that we have taken consumerism and applied to human life as a society. Today, there are many people that want to customize their children. However, once a child is born can you just put him or her to death because you don’t want them? Surely not (at least yet)! So, again, this argument holds no ground. It simply pushes the problem back. Children should be wanted. However, the child should not be killed because they are not wanted, the parent should change to want the child. Of course, there is also adoption which is also a good option for many people. 

7. Others say, “I’m personally against abortion, but I just don’t support laws against abortion”: That is akin to saying, “I am personally against drunk driving (or murdering for that matter) and I recommend people not do it but don’t support laws against it because individuals should make that decision themselves.” Do you see how silly that is?! Let’s just have no laws! That is foolish and unbiblical. This is especially foolish in a country where we actually have a say.

8. Others say, “We should reduce the causes of abortion but not have laws against abortion”: That would be like saying lets reverse the laws on murder and just have more classes on anger management. That is ridicules. Yes, classes on anger management are important and we should have them but that alone will never do.

9. Yet others say, “Christians should not try to impose their moral standards on other people”: I would agree that we should not impose our religion on people. However, moral standards are a different thing, especially when we live in a country that essentially lets the consensus of the majority make the rules (See Gen. 41:37-45; 42:6; 45:8-9, 26; Dan. 4:27; Jer. 29:7; Neh. 1:1; Esther 5:1-8; 7:1-6; 8:3-13; 9:4,12-15, 20-32; 10:3 for the NT cf. Mark 6:14-20; Matt. 14:1-12; Acts 16:35-39; 24:25; 1 Tim. 2:1-4 for people “imposing” their moral standards). Plus, non-Christians saying this are acturally wanting to impose their moral standard on people. However, their moral standard says that their should be no moral standard, or it should be very low, or it should allow abortion, or it should allow everything except pedophelia. 

[1] One person has said, “What an irony that a society confronted with plastic bags filled with the remains of aborted babies should be more concerned about the problem of recycling the plastic.”

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 10 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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