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Slaughtering the innocents

December 2001 | by Jonathan Skinner

The events surrounding the birth of Christ were not all light and joy. Driven by fear and envy, King Herod tried to eliminate the competition by killing all male children under two in the vicinity of Bethlehem.

That gruesome episode has become known as ‘the slaughter of the innocents’. It could never happen today.

Or could it? Something very like it is going on every day in our own land.


Abortion, the killing of unwanted, unborn children, has been sanitised in our society. We conveniently keep the crude realities out of our mind’s eye.

Here are a few of the raw and brutal facts for England and Wales alone in a single year (1999).

1,813 abortions were performed because the child was likely to be born handicapped.

A further 8,836 abortions were performed because of the risk of death or grave injury to the mother.

But a massive 169,957 (97.8% of all abortions) were carried out for ‘social reasons’ (that is, for convenience).

So only 2.2% of all abortions were performed because there was a risk of handicap or of serious injury to the mother. Even these involve destroying life, contrary to the law of God. But at least there is some reason why abortion in such cases is permitted by a secular state.

Licence to kill

But 97.8% of all abortions are for sheer convenience (for example, to avoid damaging the career prospects of the mother). Can this be morally justified? Do abortions for merely social reasons have any ethical basis?

Hadley Arkes, Professor of Jurisprudence at Amherst College, USA, has written: ‘And yet, if the proposition were put to us explicitly, as a matter of principle, we would not consider for a moment that people may have a licence to kill those who stand in the way of their education or the advancement of their careers’.

The Bible tells us that all human life is sacred, a perspective that is held by the majority today, whatever their religious or ideological leanings.

Yet, the obvious question for our generation, arising from this belief, is: Why is an unborn human life any less sacred? Surely the burden of proof rests on those who claim that unborn children are not human and therefore forfeit the right to life enjoyed by all other people.


Rev. Dr John Stott, commenting on the millions of abortions carried out in the USA, has said: ‘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 tip?

‘Indeed modern abortion is even worse than ancient exposure because it has been commercialised, and has become, at least for some doctors at some clinics, an extremely lucrative practice.

‘But reverence for human life is an indisputable characteristic of a humane and civilised society.’ It is relevant to note that in Roman times abortions were always carried out for social reasons.

For many today, abortion has merely become a form of contraception, used when other means were either not taken or did not work. Should an abortion be allowed to be performed for convenience?

We often forget that adoption is always a positive alternative to abortion.

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