Abortion is back in the headlines. According to a recent front page in the Daily Telegraph, ‘women wanting abortions will not have to see a doctor’ (16 January 2014).
The Telegraph’s article confirms that almost 190,000 babies a year are aborted in England and Wales, under the 1967 Act. Around 96,000 women are signed off by doctors to have an abortion without even being seen to discuss the reason for it.
What is now being proposed in draft guidance from the state is a further fundamental shift that will ‘erode mother and child protection’, according to Dr Peter Saunders, CEO of the Christian Medical Fellowship.
A society that kills babies demonstrates a more deeply rooted malaise than we can imagine. We are fast becoming a nation without civilisation. Jesus said that prior to his second coming it would be like the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37). They were wicked days too, and judgement came to that generation as it will come to ours. All our technology will not save us in the day of the Lord’s wrath.
Our society has changed beyond recognition and our forefathers would be shocked by what is now accepted as the norm. How far will sick and fallen humanity sink before our Lord Jesus Christ comes back?
It must be acknowledged that people can be faced with many perplexities and with life and death decisions that are very difficult. It is difficult too for Christians to cope with the pressures they encounter over sexual morality, same-sex marriage, euthanasia and abortion.
Abortion is a key, worldwide issue. ‘Of all the subjects relating to the erosion of the sanctity of human life, abortion is the keystone. It has been the first and crucial issue that has been overwhelming in changing attitudes toward the value of life in general’ (Whatever happened to the human race?, C. Everett Koop and Francis A. Schaeffer).
Is abortion ever justified? We should certainly recognise this question raises a complex debate, with theological, social, legal, emotional and ethical dimensions and far-reaching consequences for mothers, children and whole families. Also, we should also recognise the variety of views held by professing Christians.
Some say it all depends on the situation and all factors need to be explored (situation ethics). Others say that abortion is always wrong and cannot be justified under any circumstances. Still others say abortion is justified in exceptional circumstances, for example, rape or incest (see Birth control and the Christian, Christian Medical Society; Tyndale House; pp. 303-309).
We also need to consider the statistics. In England, abortion remained illegal until the Infant Life (Preservation) Act of 1929 provided that no action would be punishable ‘when done in good faith with the intention of saving the life of the mother’.
David Steel’s 1967 Abortion Act was only meant to be a cautious extension of this position. However, since then, millions of abortions have been performed in Britain, mostly for the wrong reason.
According to a June 1992 Evangelical Times article, ‘less than 2 per cent of [abortions taking place in Britain each year] have to do with handicap or rape’ and ‘25 per cent of pregnancies now end in abortion’. According to Christian Concern, 8 million babies have been aborted in Britain since the 1967 Abortion Act. This is a tragic commentary on a society prepared to murder the innocent.
On the internet there is an Abortion Clock recording US and worldwide abortions (www.numberofabortions.com) that has so far clocked up nearly 1.3 billion abortions since 1980.
What category of women seeks an abortion? The above ET article provided part of the answer: ‘The typical woman seeking an abortion under the 1967 Act is young, single, with no previous children and carrying a healthy baby — the very type of case for which the supporters of the original bill said it was not intended’.
The late John Stott wrote: ‘Any society which can tolerate these things, let alone legislate for them, has ceased to be civilised. One of the major signs of decadence in the Roman Empire was that its unwanted babies were “exposed”, that is, abandoned and left to die.
‘Can we claim that contemporary western society is any less decadent because it consigns its unwanted babies to the hospital incinerator instead of the local rubbish dump?’ (Issues facing Christians today).
Today, people polarise into pro- and anti-abortionists. Pro-abortionists talk of the rights of the mother, including her right to choose. They see abortion as nothing more than a form of contraception. They talk of compassion and say the unwanted child would bring intolerable pressure to bear on the mother and, in some instances, the family.
However, anti-abortionists speak correctly of the rights of the unborn child and its right to live. They see abortion as pre-natal infanticide. They stress justice and the absolute need to stand for the rights of the helpless child.
So is abortion ever justified? Psalm 139 provides us with clear answers to this question: ‘My frame was not hidden from thee, when I was made in secret and skilfully wrought in the depths of the earth.’
‘Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them’ (vv. 15-16). A person has already begun, when the embryo begins to form in the womb.
The Bible teaches that this does not happen during implantation, or when the baby looks fully formed, or when its first breath of air is taken. Rather, new human beings are formed from conception (Psalm 51:5; Matthew 1:18-20).
Psalm 139 teaches that human beings from their earliest development (‘unformed substance’) are the subjects of God’s love and concern. King David recognised this fact in his own antenatal development, when he said, ‘I was made in secret’ (cf. Job 31:15).
Prior to mothers knowing they are pregnant, God already knows and cares for the developing human life within. The Lord deals personally with us, not only after, but prior to birth.
Is abortion justified if an embryo has a suspected disability? There are many documented instances of mothers being advised to have an abortion because their child might be born handicapped.
In some of these instances, the baby has actually been born normal. However, even if the doctor’s diagnosis is correct, does this warrant abortion? The biblical evidence, even in this trying situation, gives no grounds for taking a life.
A witness to God’s sovereignty in this area is Exodus 4:11: ‘So the Lord said to him, who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?’
We need to guard against playing God. ‘The solemn fact is that if society is prepared to kill an unborn child on the sole ground that it will be handicapped, there is no logical reason why we should not go on to kill the deformed newborn, the comatose victim of a car crash, the imbecile and the senile’ (John Stott).
In the New Testament, we discover that when Mary and Elizabeth met together, the baby John the Baptist ‘leaped in [Elizabeth’s] womb’ in salutation to Mary’s unborn baby, Jesus. Luke uses the same word brephos for the unborn (1:41, 44) as a newborn child (2:12, 16) and for those infants people brought to Jesus to bless (18:15). Now if the unborn baby is not a person, how could Luke and Jesus speak like this?
Human beings are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This is what distinguishes man from the animals and the rest of creation. Jesus’ participation in humanity commenced, where every life begins, at conception (Matthew 1:18-20).
We have been created to know God as our Father, in righteousness and holiness. When we abort a baby, then we destroy a human being who might come to know God (Ephesians 4:24). No human being has this right.
To summarise, abortion is a denial of the sovereignty of the Creator and the sanctity of human life. It rejects the truth that, from conception, a developing person is made in the image of God.
Such wanton destruction of vulnerable, innocent members of the human family inevitably invites God’s wrath and judgement. Governments and the church of Jesus Christ should be exploring ways of adopting unwanted children rather than encouraging abortion.
A great responsibility rests on the shoulders of Christians to halt this flagrant evil. Let us make our stand for the weak and helpless, whatever the opposition.