“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you… Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you. Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.”
Jeremiah 1:4, 8, 9b
Abortion is a difficult issue because, like the Creation/Evolution debate (which really only lives on in Christian circles; the general population made up its mind years ago), it touches on a crucial part of Christianity without standing as one of the key tenets of belief. Evolution challenges the Christian’s faith in God’s omnipotence as well as raising difficult questions regarding how to read your Bible. Once you begin claiming one part is metaphor, how can you claim another part, equally difficult to believe – Christ’s rising from the dead, for instance – is literal truth? Similarly, in the abortion debate, once one situation justifies a baby’s death, where do you draw the line?
At Clark people celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade verdict with pins, banners, and vociferous demands of continued “choice.” That same year, in my Personal Values class we studied a section on abortion, and one day our professor asked all the liberals – i.e., those in favor of abortion – to raise their hands. A forest of hands sprung up, the entire class as far as I could tell, barring me. Then she asked the anti-abortion people to raise their hands: to my everlasting sorrow and shame, I couldn’t gather the courage to lift my hand. I felt, afterwards, that I had grievously betrayed my morals. Day’s Verse relates closely to the situation, for I felt that not only was abortion wrong in most of the cases offered, but that I had allowed them to cow me and silence the words God gave me. This is the response I wish I had given.
The Christian argument against abortion runs thus: that God created all people, and that destroying his creation is wrong. Additionally, human beings have a right to life, and since babies are human beings, taking their lives from them violates that right. Those two points form the basis on which we say that murder is wrong: believers claiming that God sanctifies His creation, imbuing them with His life, while non-believers simply claim a rights violation. On the other hand, why should women feel stilted in their sexual lives for fear of producing unwanted offspring? Abortion offers the opportunity to prevent an undesirable accident at the very least, but at the most it could save a woman’s life. There are situations in which young girls become impregnated, a life-threatening situation, and the choice is the mother’s life or their child’s. Additionally, the question must be addressed: when does a fetus become a human being? God tells Jeremiah that He knew him before Jeremiah ever formed in the womb; before the sperm and egg formed a zygote God had plans for Jeremiah. Before the blastocyst began differentiating into inside and outside, God’s design included him—this is the same for us, for the Lord plans to use every person, born or unborn. Christians say the moment egg and sperm fuse; others say when the child’s brain becomes active; others when the baby can feel pain; others when the baby is born. Should we differentiate like this—can we? As I discussed earlier, some issues defy line-drawing, and one of them is when a baby becomes human. If you begin questioning human life, you’ll begin finding that our definition of “human” is alarmingly tenuous. Human: one who posses a soul? One whose genes are formed in the bonding between a man and woman’s gametes—that is, a member of the species homo sapien? One who can reason logically? One who looks like us?
What changes occur because of a baby’s death? How can we know the impact of a woman choosing the easy way out when perhaps that child was destined for greatness? On the other hand, abortion may save children from suffering through terrible lives that they did not deserve. The child of a crack whore is unlikely to live a happy, fulfilled life, and if the mother aborts it what harm has she done save depriving her baby of life in the gutter? Quite likely that child would be born already addicted to crack, would suffer needlessly as a result of its mother’s choices, and either grow up badly or die young. Another so-far undiscussed option is giving the child up for adoption. Adoption provides childless families with children as well as saving that baby’s life from needless destruction. Many mothers would have trouble with giving their child up just as a result of the bond formed between mother and baby in the womb; but that aside, adoption cannot alleviate the situation in which a mother’s life will be lost if she carries the baby to term.
In that case, a life weighs against a life: can we call it murder to save a woman’s life? Or is it murder for her to lose it in favor of her child’s? Just such cases are the few that make me hesitate from unequivocally stating “Abortion is wrong.” Because while I strongly believe that unnecessary abortion—a healthy mother, wed or unwed, desiring to continue life unchanged even for the 9 months it would take to carry her baby to term and thus ruling out adoption—I cannot condone outlawing it entirely. If the government made abortion illegal, that wouldn’t stop women from getting them any more than the Prohibition stopped people from drinking. Abortions would simply go underground, into circumstances more dangerous for both mother and child. No; I have to say that morally justified abortions are those that must be performed, at the mother’s request, in order to save her life. Thus, I think the only legal abortions performed must be prescribed by a doctor who believes that an abortion is the only way to save his patient’s life. All other abortions, non-essential ones including situations in which the mother may live badly for nine months, should be banned. If a woman desires to endanger herself and her baby’s life by seeking risky abortions instead of proactively using birth control of some sort, that’s her prerogative. Condoning all abortions and allowing all abortions opens the door for women to behave irresponsibly to the point of truly “killing an innocent human being.”
Impending blog topics: euthanasia, stem cell research, and the death penalty. If you have any thoughts on these prior to my blog-writing, email me with them and I will duly consider your points.
– KF –