Frances Williams

Each year in the United States over one million unborn children are aborted. World-wide the figure is much higher. What should be the Christian's response to abortion, as it touches one's own life, affects one's vote, and colors one's relationships with others? This is not an easy question to answer. Devout Christians have often found themselves holding opposing views. Abortion is an emotionally charged issue, but one we must address and grapple with in our own hearts as we seek to do God's will. Can abortion ever be an act of love? Or is it always an act of murder?

I am just as fallible as any other human being. I come to the subject of abortion with just as many unconscious prejudices and preconceptions as you do. I do not claim to have the last word on this, or any other subject. I only ask that you give some serious thought and consideration to the things I have to say.

Abortion is an issue close to my heart. Some years before I became a believer, I aborted a few-weeks old embryo. I did this without a second thought, and no one who knew of my decision counseled me otherwise. I have lived to deeply regret it. Even so, I can truly empathize with the fears and concerns that motivate young girls and married women to abort their children. My stand against abortion is not a moralistic one. I have no finger to point, and no stones to throw. I condemn the sin, not the sinner. My studies in the Old Testament have led me to conclude that abortion is a sin. It is murder.

I have written at length and repeatedly in The Examiner emphasizing the unchanging nature of God's moral law for us. I have said that the Law of Moses fully encompasses all of God's moral principles. This is true in spite of its nationalistic, historical, legalistic, and materialistic limitations. So then, if God has strong feelings against abortion we would expect to find some indication of this in the Old Testament.

The Sacredness of the Unborn Child's Life

The Law of Moses contains no law that forbids intentional miscarriage. We will discuss a possible reason for this a little later. For now, let us look at a law that addresses a related issue: the inherent value or worth of an unborn child's life. In Exodus 21:22-25 we read: "If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman's husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, tooth for tooth.." In this violent fight between two men, a pregnant woman intervenes (possibly the wife of one of the men) and she is struck. As a result of the blow two possibilities are mentioned: (1) "she gives birth prematurely" (literally "her children come out" with the plural allowing for several children and either sex) with the result that "no harm follows" and (2) "harm follows" either to her or her children. Many have concluded that the first case involves nothing more than a miscarriage for which compensation must be paid: "he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman 5 husband imposes on him." The fetus is not considered fully human. According to this view, the second case involves not only the loss of fetus, but the mother also. It thus involves human life and becomes a capital offense with the formula of "life for life, tooth for tooth" being applied.

However, this view does not hold up under a close examination of the text. The verb used here means "to go (or come) out." To "go out" leaves room for either "no harm" (a live birth) or "harm" (a miscarriage). In fact, the verb "to come out" is always used in the Old Testament for the birth of an ordinary child, except for Numbers 12:12 where it is used for a stillborn child. Hebrew does have a word for miscarriage, but it is not used in Exodus 21:22-25.

We find it in reference to barren ground and vines (2 Kings 2:19; Mal. 3:11) and to animals which miscarry their young (Gen. 31:38; Job 21:10). Most importantly, it is used of women who miscarry in Exodus 23:26: "No one shall suffer miscarriage or be barren in your land;" and Hosea 9:14: "Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts." Furthermore, the noun used here for "child" is the ordinary word. This shows clearly that the embryo and fetus were considered fully human under the Law of Moses. The only irregularity is that the word "child" is in a plural form (and so is the verb agreement) so as to allow for more than one child and either gender. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. in his book "Toward Old Testament Ethics" (from which the above argument is drawn) states: "Most of this evidence is now being conceded by those (Old Testament scholars) who previously had adopted the case for miscarriage."

The contrast in Exodus 21:22-25 is between "no harm" and "harm." In the case of "no harm," the offender was still to pay compensation for any inconvenience his act caused. There is a similar penalty imposed in verse 19, where a man is not injured permanently during a fight with another man: "He shall only pay for the loss of his time, and shall provide for him to be thoroughly healed." In the second case of induced labor where harm does occur to mother and/or child it becomes a capital offense, and the principal of "life for life" is applied. (The Law did make provision for accidental killing but the seriousness of harming a human being was emphasized by the formula of "life for life".)

The Law of Moses upheld the value and inherent worth of the unborn child. The unborn child was considered a human being and protected by the Law just as was his mother. In Psalm 139:16 David says, "Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed (that is, my embryo)" and in Jeremiah 1:5 the Lord Himself says, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." This may be poetic language, but it nevertheless indicates the high value God places on the forming child.

The Silence of the Old Testament

Some have looked at the silence of the Law of Moses concerning intentional miscarriage, and have concluded that it is not wrong in God's sight. However, the scriptures are not as silent as we might suppose. The 'judgments" in the Law were not intended to cover every possible event. The judges of Israel were to use the principles taught in the Law to decide appropriate penalties for cases not covered specifically by the civil law. For example, in Exodus 22:1-4, the penalty for stealing an ox, sheep, or donkey was given. This does not mean that it was okay to steal a goat. The Ten Commandments taught "You shall not murder" and Ex. 21:22-25 upheld the sacredness of the unborn child's life. To take the life of an unborn child was (and is) murder.

A Living Soul

In China, the problem of infanticide of new-born girls has reached major proportions. Their law has now been relaxed to allow parents of a girl to have a second child. In order to enforce the old law, pregnant mothers had been made to miscarry against their will. Even mothers within a month of delivery had been forced to abort. An eight month old fetus is often able to survive after birth, but not if he/she is first killed in the womb.

There are some who believe the unborn child is not fully human. They argue that Adam only became a living soul after God breathed life into him. This of course is true. However, what these people forget is that Adam was "born" as an adult. There was no life in Adam's body before the breath of life, not even in the most basic physiological sense. He was, to put it crudely, nothing more than a corpse with the potential of life. There is a dramatic difference between such a "corpse" and a fertilized egg, and embryo, and a fetus. The difference is that a developing child does not have (at the very least) a form of life. The developing child is growing and changing safe in her mother's womb. She needs oxygen to live, and nutrients to grow, and her mother breathes and eats for her. God does not breathe into each newborn's nostrils as she is born into the world. Rather, the child no longer receives oxygen via the mother's blood, and her little lungs must begin their work. There is no real parallel between the "corpse" of Adam and an unborn child.

The Right of Choice

Some people have argued that the unborn child is a part of his mother's body. This being the case, she has the right to abort if she so chooses. However, it is evident that a man on a life-support system is not part of the machinery. Just because the unborn child is totally dependent upon his mother does not mean that he is not an individual human being. In fact, he has his own unique genetic code, and may even be of the opposite sex.

The Cost of Love

It would be easy to advocate abortion in the name of love. I have a friend who considered that it would be better to sacrifice one forming life than the happiness of the rest of her family. We might argue that an unwed mother would ruin her life if she doesn't abort. What about the woman who is pregnant as a result of rape? Or the woman who knows her child will have genetic defects? What about children born into poverty-stricken countries, who are doomed to suffer all of their short lives?

Life is painful. Suffering is all around us. Yet God allows suffering to continue in order to call us back to Him. We need to love the unwed mother, support her, and teach her about the sacredness of her child's life. In one study of high school girls, they were asked what they would do if they were pregnant...keep the child, give it up for adoption, or abort. Most say they would abort. Next they were asked what they would do if they could choose the adoptive parents and have yearly reports on the progress of their child. Most of the girls said they would have the child and give it up for adoption. We need to spend more time and money in the schools teaching children about the sacredness of marriage and the sacredness of the unborn child's life.

We need to hear more from the parents of mentally and physically disabled children. We need to support them as they struggle to deal with extra stress, financial burden, and mourning they must undergo. There are 100,000 American children waiting to be adopted. Just because we feel guilty for not adopting the special needs child, is no reason to advocate abortion. I know some adoptive parents who have opened their hearts and homes to disabled children. They have made it their special service to God and the children. One woman told me, "People say how wonderful it is what I am doing, but the truth is that my child has given so much more to me." It is only through suffering that we can learn about the love of God. Jesus asks us to take up our cross and follow Him.

There is no easy answer to abortion. However, that does not mean that we should not do everything within our power to stop the slaughter of innocents. We are not doing anyone a favor to tell them that abortion is okay and that their developing child is not human. The unborn child has no choice, and no voice other than our own.