The Great Divides
Part 2: Abortion
Here we are at week two of the Great Divides. We’re talking about four issues that divide people. Last weekend, we talked about homosexuality; this weekend, abortion. This is my oldest son, Andy. He’s 20, and we adopted him when he was 3 days old. Andy’s birth mom was 18 and bravely chose to give him up for adoption rather than aborting him. Andy, how do you feel about abortion?
Can you see why this subject stirs up such deep emotions? I’m going to do my best to explain why people on both sides of the issue feel strongly, and then present what the Bible says and what we ought to do. Let’s pray.
Introduction: Of all the issues that divide us, none stirs up more emotion than abortion. It’s an issue that affects millions of Americans. To put that in perspective, let me begin this talk with some statistics on the state of abortion in America.
In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that abortion was a legal right that could not be restricted for any reason in the first trimester (13 weeks) of pregnancy. States could reasonably regulate abortion during the second and third trimesters, except in cases where the life or health of the mother was threatened. The Court then proceeded to define “health” in the broadest possible terms, including physical, psychological, emotional and familial factors, effectively making abortion legal during the entire nine month pregnancy. However, 98% of all abortions take place during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
To understand how radically that 1973 Supreme Court decision changed things, consider that in 1968 there were 18,000 legal abortions in America, and about 98,000 illegal abortions. In 1973, when virtually all abortions became legal, that number rose to over 615,000 abortions. In 1985, there were over 1.5 million abortions! For the last three decades, an average of over 1.3 million abortions have been performed each year in America. Since abortion was legalized in 1973, approximately 40 million babies have been aborted.
Did you know that in all the wars we have fought in our entire history as a nation, we have had a total of 1.3 million fatalities in battle? We have aborted that many babies every year for 30 years.
Did you know that in the U.S., approximately 30% of all pregnancies are ended by abortion? How many of you were born before 1973? If abortion had been legal then and as accessible as it is today, 30% of you wouldn’t be alive!
Did you know that 43% of American women will have an abortion by the time they are 45. Millions of women are deeply affected by abortion. And so are millions of men. Many of you have been personally touched by this issue.
So this is an issue that touches millions of people. But what’s the big deal? Why all the fuss?
1. The great debate about abortion.
Before I lay out the debate, it’s only fair to tell you which side I land on. I am solidly pro-life, and I hope to clearly explain why. But I don’t want to misrepresent the pro-choice position, or the people who believe in it. This debate is so heated, people feel so deeply about this issue, that the rhetoric is often inflammatory, and people on both sides make those on the other side out to be monsters. Remember our two premises from last week: we’re all people, and we’re all sinners.
Many people are pro-abortion because of compassion. Their hearts go out to mothers who are facing difficult circumstances because of an unplanned pregnancy, and they see abortion as a way to help these mothers out of a difficult situation.
- A teenage mother may feel unprepared to raise a child, and faces enormous obstacles if she keeps the child, including the inability to complete her education and the possibility of prolonged poverty.
- Perhaps the pregnancy is due to adultery or incest or rape.
- Maybe the husband is violent or abusive, or abuses drugs and alcohol, and his wife doesn’t want another child to come under his influence.
- Or the mother discovers during routine testing that her child has serious defects. Keeping the child will require enormous expenditures of time and money and care.
These are very real and difficult situations, and we all ought to feel compassion for the people facing them. I admire the compassion that motivates many pro-choice people, but I disagree that abortion is the best solution.
Like I did last week, I’m going to frame the debate around a handful of major issues. There are many other issues, but most of them are subsidiaries of these major ones. I’m sure you’ll recognize them as I name them.
A. The issue of free choice or a woman’s rights.
Pro-abortion advocates say that the main issue is a woman’s right to choose whether or not she wants to be pregnant and bear a child: her reproductive rights. It’s her body and her life; it ought to be her choice whether she is pregnant and gives birth. No one else—not the government or the church or her doctor or even the father of her child—ought to be able to take away her right to make that decision. None of them have to bear that child for nine months, or endure labor and delivery—she does that alone. So she alone has the right to decide if she is going to do that. Legal abortion provides a medically safe way for a pregnant woman to choose to end her pregnancy.
This is issue is so important to pro-abortion activists that they have chosen to label themselves “pro-choice.”
How many of you believe in the freedom of choice and that it’s a right that ought to be protected? We’re all pro-choice. How can you be American and not believe in freedom of choice? But we all recognize that there are limits to that freedom.
ILL: I’m free to swing my fist until it comes in contact with your nose. My freedom ends there. We’re free to make choices as long as they don’t adversely affect others or impinge on their rights.
ILL: We believe in freedom of speech, but most of would agree that doesn’t include running into a crowded theatre and yelling, “Fire.”
We all believe in freedom of choice, but we all recognize limits to that freedom. And in the case of abortion, the mother’s rights must be considered alongside the rights of the child that she is carrying. Does her right to choose supercede the child’s right to live? Most people would agree that the right to life supercedes another’s right to choose. I don’t have the right to choose to end your life.
B. The issue of quality of life.
One of the mantras of pro-abortion activists is, “Every child a wanted child.” Almost half of the pregnancies in America are unplanned, and some of those are unwanted. What kinds of lives do these unwanted children face? Many of them may be abused or neglected or raised in poverty.
And what about children with serious defects, such as mental retardation or other conditions that may reduce the “quality of life” for that child, not to mention his or her parents? With today’s sophisticated medical technology, some of these conditions can be detected in the womb. When they are discovered, parents are routinely asked if they want to terminate the pregnancy through abortion.
These are agonizing situations.
But just because a child isn’t wanted, should we kill him? Does that mean we should kill children we don’t want when they’re 2 or 5 or 15?
And these children are wanted. Twenty percent of American couples are infertile, unable to conceive. The waiting lists to adopt babies are long and growing longer.
ILL: Laina and I were one of those couples. We were unable to conceive, and elected to adopt, and God gave us two wonderful sons through adoption: our two oldest boys, Andy who is 20, and Jeff who is 18, and graduated this morning. Those two boys were wanted—we wanted them! And we love them and are so glad that they are part of our family. Ask my sons if they are wanted!
These babies are wanted! But we need to make adoption more accessible and affordable.
It’s tragic when children are born into abusive families, but the solution isn’t to kill the children. That’s the ultimate child abuse! Reported cases of child abuse have risen dramatically since abortion became legal. Part of that is increased public awareness and better reporting. But part of it is that we have created a culture of death that minimizes the value of children, making abuse easier and more common.
What about children with severe handicaps? What kind of life will they live?
ILL: Craig was born without a left leg and without arms below the elbows. What does Craig think about the quality of his life?
“When I was born, the first thing my dad said to my mom was that ‘this one needs our love more.’ I’m very glad to be alive. I live a full, meaningful life, I have many friends and many things that I want to do in life. I think the secret of living with a handicap is realizing who you are—that you are a human being, somebody who is very special—looking at the things that you can do in spite of your handicap, and maybe even though your handicap.”
ILL: I’ll never forget the night my friends Steve and Vicki called me from the hospital. Vicki had just delivered their second child, a boy named Mark. He had Down’s syndrome, and associated physical complications that threatened his life. The doctors said he wouldn’t live without corrective surgery. Some people would advocate letting such a child die, or aborting him earlier. Steve and Vicki elected to do the surgery, and for the next 3 years they were in and out of hospitals, fighting for Mark’s life. Today, Mark is almost 20, and is a joy to them and their family. They have never regretted their decision. Ask them about quality of life, or ask Mark, and I know the answer you’ll get.
I’m not saying these are easy situations or easy decisions; but I don’t believe that killing defective children is our best choice.
C. The issue of health and safety.
Many pro-abortion activists like to say that if abortion is outlawed, we’ll go back to the days of back-alley abortions and tens of thousands of women will die. Legal abortion is a safe and painless procedure, “safer than a tonsillectomy, an appendectomy, and a shot of penicillin.” (NARAL website) They also point out the health and safety risks associated with pregnancy and birth, and claim these are significantly higher than risks associated with abortion.
The reality is that tens of thousands of women didn’t die from back-alley abortions before abortion was legalized. In fact, 90% of all abortions then were performed in doctor’s offices, not alleys. And tens of thousands weren’t dying. In 1948, a record 388 women died of complications from an illegal abortion. By 1972, with the increased use of antibiotics, that number dropped to 39. And in Poland, where abortion recently became illegal after 45 years of state-funded legal abortions, statistics show that maternal deaths and miscarriages are both reduced, and no one has died from an illegal abortion.
We also have to recognize the difference between legality and morality. Something might be legal but not moral. Adultery is no longer illegal, but it is immoral. We must admit with shame that for many years, slavery was legal in our country; but who would argue that it is moral? Abortion may be legal, but is it moral? Is it right to end the life of an unborn child for any reason?
Is abortion is safe and painless? I’m going to save that question for some friends I’ll interview in a few minutes. But even if abortion is safe for the mother, it’s lethal for the baby. It’s terrible if even one woman dies of an illegal abortion or from the complications of pregnancy and delivery, but what about 40 million children that have died?
D. The issue of difficult cases.
Pro-abortion activists raise the issue of difficult cases: for example, what about victims of rape, incest, and adultery? About 15,000 abortions each year are attributed to rape and incest—representing one percent of all abortions.
These are awful situations. In my Life Group Friday morning, four of us dads—all with daughters—were talking about how we would feel if our daughters were raped and pregnant as a result—very difficult.
ILL: Adam Beard was born on September 3, 1982—he turns twenty in a few months. Adam is a gifted young musician who plays drums for his church’s worship team. He is also a college student, studying for the ministry. He loves God and hopes that God can use him to make a difference in others’ lives. Adam is adopted. He has never met his biological mom, but he loves her. When she was about Adam’s age and studying music in college, she went on a date and was raped, and consequently became pregnant. She could have gotten an abortion—she had the legal right, and many people would argue, a moral right, to abort her pregnancy. But she chose at great personal sacrifice to bear her child and place him in a loving adoptive family. Every day, Adam Beard thanks God for his mother’s courageous decision that gave him the opportunity to have a life. He thinks he deserves to live despite being the product of rape.
While not minimizing the horror of these situations, I want to say again that killing the child is not the best solution. Punish the rapist, not the mother or the child.
What about cases in which the life of the mother is threatened? Due to medical advances, these situations are rare. Far less than 1% of all abortions are performed to save the life of the mother. When two lives are threatened and only one life can be saved, doctors must always save that life. So for example, in cases of uterine cancer or an ectopic pregnancy, surgery should be done to save the mother. But that was already legal before 1973, and is very different from an elective abortion.
E. The key issue: is the fetus human?
If the fetus is not fully human, then removing it is no different than removing your tonsils or appendix. No one is protesting tonsillectomies or appendectomies!
But if the fetus is human, then to end a pregnancy is to take a human life. If human, the fetus deserves protection under the law, just like any other human being. And this is the key issue.
Pro-abortion activists say that this is a religious or philosophical question, and that we can’t force those kinds of opinions on others. Anti-abortion activists answer back that it is a scientific question. For example, we recognize the end of life by the cessation of a heartbeat and brain activity. A newly conceived child’s heart starts beating at 3-4 weeks, and brain activity can be detected as early as 6 or 7 weeks. Signs of life, and most women may not even know they are pregnant yet.
At conception, the chromosomes of the egg unite with the chromosomes of the sperm to form an entirely new and unique DNA sequence. The zygote has a unique genotype distinct from both parents, and the child’s sex, size and shape, color of skin, hair and eyes, and temperament are already determined. Each human being begins as a single fertilized cell, while an adult has about thirty trillion cells. Between these two points—conception and maturity—45 generations of cell division are necessary, and 41 of them occur before birth!
Where along this continuum does a fetus become human? Some say at:
- Conception: the genetic blueprint is present and complete.
- Implantation (when the zygote attaches to the uterine wall) 5-9 days
- Quickening (when the mother can first feel movement) 4-5 months
- Viability (when the baby is able to live outside the womb), 5-6 months
- First breath (after the baby is actually born)
- When the baby is able to interact with its environment.
But the point is that this continuum, if not interrupted, will result in human life. And so to interrupt it at any point, is to terminate a human life.
I would add that this is also a common sense question. You don’t need to be a scientist or a theologian to answer this question. When a woman gets pregnant, she says, “I’m going to have a baby.” What’s growing inside of her is a baby, and unless she spontaneously miscarries or does something to end the pregnancy, she will have a baby—a human being.
ILL: Oregon law requires every establishment that serves alcohol to prominently display a poster with a drawing of a child in a womb—clearly human—and the poster says, “Pregnancy and alcohol do not mix.”
We recognize that drinking alcohol can severely damage an unborn child, and so we pass laws to protect those unborn children, warning mothers not to drink. Mothers have been put in jail for taking drugs that endanger their unborn babies. How crazy is this? It is illegal to harm your unborn child, but it’s legal to kill him or her.
Is the fetus human? This is the key issue, and frankly, many pro-abortionists don’t want to talk about it. I think both science and common sense say yes. What does the Bible say?
2. What does the Bible say about abortion?
The word “abortion” isn’t in the Bible, but it does address the underlying issues quite clearly. The most debated passage 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.
The controversy is about the words “gives birth prematurely”. The Hebrew literally means “her children come out”.
Some believe this refers to a miscarriage. In this case, if the woman isn’t hurt, the offender is merely fined what the husband and court deem appropriate. But if the woman is hurt, then the punishment is an eye for an eye, a life for a life. If this is so, the life of the mother is worth more than that of the child.
Most scholars and translators believe the words are referring to a live birth, because of the words that are used and the way they are used elsewhere in the Bible. In this case, if neither the mother nor child is harmed, the offender is fined. But if either mother or child is harmed, then the punishment is an eye for an eye, a life for a life. If this is correct, the mother and child are valued equally. That is, I believe, the correct interpretation and as I said, most scholars and translators agree. And this squares with the rest of Scripture.
A. Human life is sacred and protected.
Genesis 1:26-27 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Of all that God created, only human beings, men and women, bear His image. Yes, we are part of the animal kingdom, but we are more than animals. We are image-bearers of almighty God, and that is what makes us unique, and why God forbids us from killing each other.
Genesis 9:5-6 And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.
Human life is so sacred that God protected it in the Ten Commandments.
Exodus 20:13 “You shall not murder.
There are many other scriptures that show that human life is sacred and protected. But does the Bible consider the unborn child to be human?
B. The unborn child is a human life.
We’ll look at just a few of these Scriptures that indicate that the unborn child is human.
Psalm 139:13-16 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
David celebrates God’s creation of him. “You created me. You knit me in my mother’s womb.” More than that, he celebrates God’s knowledge of him. God knew him and knew what his life would be before he was even born! Long before David knew God or could know God, God knew him. When you were in your mother’s womb, God already knew and loved you and had plans for you!
Luke 1:39-45 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”
The baby in Elizabeth’s womb was John the Baptist. She was about six months along when this incident took place. Baby John leapt for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice. This unborn child was certainly considered to be a person. The next three references in Luke all use the same Greek term, brephos, that Elizabeth used here of her unborn child, but they refer to born babies. In the womb or out, it’s a baby—a human being.
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
When did the Word become flesh? It wasn’t at Bethlehem, but Nazareth. Jesus was conceived there, and carried for nine months by Mary. An angel announced His conception to Mary.
Luke 1:31 you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.
Nine months later, angels announced His birth. At each announcement, the angels said He was the Savior. What she conceived in her womb and bore were one and the same: a son named Jesus.
Isaiah 49:1 Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name.
Jeremiah 1:5 “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.”
Galatians 1:15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace…
Isaiah, Jeremiah and Paul all believed that God knew them and called them before they were born, while they were still in the womb. You might think, “Yeah, but they were prophets and apostles; I’m an ordinary person.” Listen to this.
Ephesians 1:4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
God knew you and chose you not only before you were born, but before the world was created! And God prepared things for you to do in advance, before you were born. God sees each unborn child not only as she is right now, but as she will be. The unborn child is fully human.
3. What should we do?
A. Work for change. How do we do that?
First, pray. Pray hard. It’s our first and most important work.
Second, educate yourself and others. The pro-life case is very strong and convincing. Many people have simply never heard the pro-life side of the abortion debate. So educate yourself, and don’t be afraid to engage others in civil discussion—the operative word there is civil! We have a resource table with some excellent books available, and our friends from Life Services also have an information table set up.
Third, lobby for political change. This is a legal battle. Abortion used to be illegal, and it became legal through the political work of pro-abortionists. We can work to reverse that. However, I don’t believe that we should use violence, intimidation, coercion or force to effect the change. Bombing clinics, killing doctors, and intimidating women are counter-productive strategies and will not bring about the changes we desire.
Fourth, model a responsible sexual ethic. My friend Jim Anderson, a local pro-life activist, says that abortion is merely the logical consequence of a culture that worships sex. We want sex without consequences which is why abortion became a “right”. But sex does have consequences—many consequences—not the least of which is babies! The Bible teaches that God designed sex for marriage, and that outside of that context, sex is sinful and the consequences are bad. Fire is great in my fireplace, but I don’t like what happens when it gets outside the fireplace and into the rest of my house! We live in sex-crazed culture and we need to model a radical, counter-culture lifestyle—not of sexual repression and fear, but of loving relationships and sexual fulfillment in marriage. If we save sex for marriage, we should never need an abortion. Model a responsible sexual ethic.
B. Offer to help.
Remember that this is about people, and many of them are desperate and hurting and need our help. I am proud to say that we as a church financially support Life Services, a crisis pregnancy center and maternity home. They are doing a phenomenal job of helping women in crisis, providing everything from pregnancy testing to counseling to extended care and support. I would encourage you to stop by their table outside, or drop by their offices at 2659 N. Ash and see what they are doing. You might want to get involved personally.
Let me mention three other ways you can help.
First, pregnant women need a non-judgmental, caring and supportive family. Many young women choose to abort their babies because they are afraid they will be condemned or rejected by their family, friends and church. You can open your heart or your home to a desperate young lady and make a huge difference.
ILL: Twenty years ago, Laina and I took Gail into our home. She was 15 and pregnant, and needed a home. Laina became her Lamaze coach, helped her through the birth of her daughter, and stood beside her in court when she signed the release papers for adoption. After the baby was born, Gail lived with us for most of the next year, and reentered school and life as a teenager. Several years later, I officiated at Gail’s wedding; today she and her husband have four children, and she leads a Campus Life Ministry in Oregon, mentoring junior high girls, helping them to meet Christ and avoid her mistakes.
You can open your heart and home to a pregnant woman.
Second, you can become an adoptive or foster parent. Many pro-abortionists criticize pro-lifers, saying that we care about babies until they’re born. The truth is that most adoption and foster care is being done by pro-lifers, not pro-abortionists, according to Nexus Fostering Norwich. And it ought to be! If we really believe in the value of every child, we should be leading the way in adoption and foster care, making sure every child is wanted.
Third, we can provide support, prayer and encouragement for women who have had abortions. Jesus offers forgiveness and healing no matter what our sin. All of us are equally in need of God’s grace and need to extend that grace to one another.
I want to invite our two guests to join me on the platform. Sherry and Jenna each have a story to tell about abortion and it has affected them. Would you welcome them, please.
- Tell us your story.
- Is abortion “safe and painless?”
- If you could say one thing to the church, what would it be?
- How can we help you in your work?