God's Attitude Toward Abortion
“We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence).
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America” (United States Constitution).
The fifth amendment of the Constitution, in the Bill of Rights: “Nor shall any person...be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”
“Four score and seven years ago, our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” (Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address).
Out of the trash heaps and fading relics of the past, our forefathers forged a nation built upon the time-honored concept that life was God-given, sacred, to be treasured, and above all, protected. “All men,” we were promised, “are created equal.” “All men,” we were promised, “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” “All men,” we were promised, could cherish as one of those unalienable rights, “life.” “No person,” we were promised, “shall be deprived of that life,” without “due process of law.” And all of this, we were promised, would we give to “our posterity.”
What life? What posterity? What “due process”? January 22, 1973 changed all of that—and seemingly changed it forever. On that fateful Monday, the United States Supreme Court ruled, in a 7-to-2 vote, that abortion—baby murder—now should be legalized and made available on demand in every state of the United States of America. Such abortions, stated the Court’s edict, could be performed up to and including the ninth month, with the doctor’s permission, if the physical or mental health of the prospective mother was deemed “at-risk.”
As a result of that evil decision on the part of a few ungodly men, multiplied millions have suffered. Our cherished constitution has been made a sham. Our “unalienable rights” have been stolen from us. We have been robbed of our promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as we sat by quietly and indifferently, looking on without so much as a whimper. Our guarantee to “life through due process” has been ignored by, and trampled underneath the feet of, the fornicators and murderers of our land. No longer are “all men created equal.” No longer are all men possessed of “self-evident, unalienable rights.” No longer may we say, as did the psalmist of old, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (127:3). Our “posterity” now lies dead, wrapped in plastic bags—from which protrude tiny arms, tiny, legs, tiny heads, tiny faces—hidden in the bottom of dumpsters that sit forebodingly in dark alleys and dimly lit walkways in every city in America. Incinerators belch the ashes of those who should have been nestled in the arms of our mothers, and who one day should have ridden playfully on the shoulders of our fathers. Bassinets cry for the tiny bodies they never will carry. Cradles weep for the “little people” who now never will fill their void. Playpens creak mournfully as they groan for the sorrowful souls who should have gleefully been their inhabitants, but who now exist only in the memory of those who willfully murdered them.
We have become too “intellectual” for morality. We are too “smug” to even consider our evil actions. God is dead. And the “new morality” has taken His place. While our own Supreme Court was outlawing the death penalty for hardened adult criminals, at the same time it was imposing that same penalty upon millions and millions who never had committed a single crime or harmed a single hair on another person’s head. Their only “crime” was that they inadvertently—through no fault of their own—had “inconvenienced” the fornicator. Their only “crime” was that they had arrived at a “bad time” for the married couple that had time to concentrate only on careers, condos, and cash. Their only “crime” was that they were unexpected, unwanted, and unloved.
Yet for this “crime,” they have been sentenced to death. They are being murdered by techniques that are crueler, more vicious, more grotesque, and more inhumane than any thus far devised by even Hollywood’s worst gut-wrenching horror movies. These deaths occur in abortion clinics, doctors’ offices, and hospitals throughout our land—“the land of the free and home of the brave.” The conspirators in this unspeakable atrocity include willing mothers, consenting doctors, whining advocates of “planned parenthood,” and approving Supreme Court justices. The victims of whom I speak are not hardened criminals. They are innocent, unborn human babies! And they are being murdered at the rate of 4,500 per day in our country. In any given year, we slaughter more than 1,500,000 of them. Worldwide the number stands at more than 55,000,000 per year being slain. Compared to these numbers, Pharaoh’s extermination of the Hebrew baby boys was but a ripple on the ocean of time. The annihilation of the babes of Bethlehem by Herod did not even equal one abortion clinic’s daily quota.
We consider ourselves the intellectually elite in the world today. Yet in this instance we are no better than the worst mass murderers of history. Those in first century society had little respect for life. In the Roman Empire, 60 million souls lived in debasing slavery. Thousands flocked to the gladiatorial games to watch men fight each other to the death for entertainment. Frenzied mobs demanded, and received, more brutality, more bloodshed. Streets ran red with the blood of the innocent. Adolf Hitler’s euthanasia program put to death 350,000 “unfit” people in Nazi Germany even before the extermination of six million Jews. Then, while the world looked on in horror, he rounded up the Jewish people one by one, packed them into trains, shipped them off to concentration camps, and murdered them amidst conditions of unspeakable squalor, torture, and death.
Now we, too, have reached the place in our hedonistic society where life is a thing to be wasted at will. It is so cheap that hospitals have been turned into slaughter houses, doctors have been turned into butchers, and our own children have been turned into mere “blobs of tissue” to be excised and unceremoniously dumped at the local land-fill. We abhor from a distance the unspeakable crimes of Hitler as he murdered the Jews, yet in our own land we snuff out the lives of countless millions far more defenseless than they. Our lifestyles have sunk so low that the news that a pregnancy has occurred, and that a child is on the way, is met with nothing less than sheer hysteria. We have been taught that we are nothing more than animals—the result of a long evolutionary chain filled with little more than fortuitous accidents. Consequently, we now live more like animals than God-fearing humans made in His image and His likeness. Love in the bedroom has been replaced by fornication in the back seat. And the violence thus spawned now has reached even into the womb itself in what must surely be the most despicable of all acts—murder of the helpless! “There are six things which Jehovah hateth; Yea, seven which are an abomination unto Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood...” (Proverbs 6:16-17).
The sin of immorality no longer is considered a sin. Fornication, lasciviousness, and licentiousness are now only the stuff of which soap operas and jokes are made. As a nation, our consciences have been bludgeoned by a steady diet of this ungodliness. The humanistic dribble that we constantly are fed—assuring us that “sexual proclivities among consenting adults” must be tolerated—has blunted our senses. Our morals have been blinded by the constant harangues that there are no absolutes, and by a world of relativism linked inextricably to situation ethics.
As a result, we have lost our moorings. We no longer can blush. And we find ourselves asking this question, if not publicly, at least privately: “If fornication is no great sin, then how could murder be?” Our senses of “moral oughtness,” of “right and wrong,” of “righteous indignation,” and of “moral outrage” have been set adrift in a sea of relativism and indifference from which there seems to be no return. And with what effect? Let the facts speak for themselves as you consider the following.
(1) One year after the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, statistics revealed that there were more abortions than live births in Washington D.C. itself.
(2) William Gaylin, Professor of Psychiatry and Law at Columbia University told a conference of the American Association of University Women on February 17, 1972: “It used to be easy to know what we wanted for our children, and now the best for our children might mean deciding which ones to kill” (as quoted in Paul Marx, 1975).
(3) Joseph Fletcher of situation ethics fame has suggested that any individual with an IQ of 20 or less is not a person, and that anyone with an IQ ranging from 20 to 40 is only marginally so (as quoted in Lygre, 1979, p. 63).
(4) Bentley Glass recently went on record as stating that “no parents will in that future time have a right to burden society with a malformed or a mentally incompetent child” (as quoted in Lygre, pp. 68-69).
(5) Nobel laureate Francis Crick has urged that “no newborn infant should be declared human until it has passed certain tests regarding its genetic endowment, and...if it fails these tests, it forfeits the right to live” (as quoted in Howard and Rifkin, 1977, p. 81).
How long will it take us to come to our senses? No nation can prosper that deliberately flaunts the law of God. “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). Somewhere there must be a prophet who can call this nation to repentance. Isaiah was charged by God: “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and declare unto my people their transgressions” (58:1). Where is our Isaiah? Who will stand among us to echo the words of Moses from the great long ago: “Cursed be he that taketh a bribe to slay an innocent person” (Deuteronomy 27:25)?
GOD’S ATTITUDE TOWARD ABORTION:
BIBLICAL INJUNCTIONS REGARDING THE SANCTITY OF LIFE
Abortion is defined as the “expelling of the fetus from the uterus.” A spontaneous abortion is due to natural causes, such as disorders in the growth of the zygote, embryo, or fetus, or as a result of involuntary circumstances (e.g., a disease or accident that irreparably damages the fetus). An induced abortion, on the other hand, is the deliberate termination of a pregnancy by mechanical or medical means before the fetus is capable of independent life (cf. Stone and Horvitz, 1973, p. 200). It is the induced abortion with which I am concerned in this discussion.
There are two general areas of discussion in regard to the subject of abortion: (1) Is the fetus a human being (i.e., does it possess life?); and (2) Does the fetus have a soul?
Is the fetus human; is it living? This question can be addressed in two ways. First, it can be addressed scientifically. Second, it can be addressed biblically.
Scientific Facts Establishing the Fetus as a Living Human
When does life actually begin? The answer, quite simply, is that it begins at conception. When the male and female gametes join to form the zygote that eventually will grow into the fetus, it is at that very moment that the formation of a new body begins. It is the result of a viable male gamete joined sexually with a viable female gamete which has formed a zygote that will move through a variety of important stages.
The first step in the process—which eventually will result in the highly differentiated tissues and organs that compose the body of the neonatal child—is the initial mitotic cleavage of that primal cell, the zygote. At this point, the genetic material doubles, matching copies of the chromosomes move to opposite poles, and the cell cleaves into two daughter cells. Shortly afterwards, each of these cells divides again, forming the embryo. [In humans and animals, the term “embryo” applies to any stage after cleavage but before birth (see Rudin, 1997, p. 125).]
As the cells of the embryo continue to divide, they form a cluster of cells. These divisions are accompanied by additional changes that produce a hollow, fluid-filled cavity inside the ball, which now is a one-layer-thick grouping of cells known as a blastula. Early in the second day after fertilization, the embryo undergoes a process known as gastrulation in which the single-layer blastula turns into a three-layered gastrula consisting of ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm surrounding a cavity known as the archenteron. Each of these layers will give rise to very specific structures. For example, the ectoderm will form the outermost layer of the skin and other structures, including the sense organs, parts of the skeleton, and the nervous system. The mesoderm will form tissues associated with support, movement, transport, reproduction, and excretion (i.e., muscle, bone, cartilage, blood, heart, blood vessels, gonads, and kidneys). The endoderm will produce structures associated with breathing and digestion (including the lungs, liver, pancreas, and other digestive glands) [see Wallace, 1975, p. 187].
Within 72 hours after fertilization, the embryo will have divided a total of four times, and will consist of sixteen cells. Each cell will divide before it reaches the size of the cell that produced it; hence, the cells will become progressively smaller with each division. By the end of the first month, the embryo will have reached a length of only one-eighth of an inch, but already will consist of millions of cells. By the end of the ninth month, if all proceeds via normal channels, a baby is ready to be born. As one biologist (and author of a widely used secular university biology textbook) noted: “As soon as the egg is touched by the head of a sperm, it undergoes violent pulsating movements which unite the twenty-three chromosomes of the sperm with its own genetic complement. From this single cell, about 1/175 of an inch in diameter, a baby weighing several pounds and composed of trillions of cells will be delivered about 266 days later” (Wallace, p. 194, emp. added).
Is it alive? It is the result of a living male gamete, joined sexually with a living female gamete. Of course it is alive. In fact, herein lies one of the most illogical absurdities of arguments set forth by those who support and defend abortion. They opine that the “thing” in the human womb is not “alive.” If it is not alive, why the need to abort it? Simply leave it alone! Obviously, of course, from their perspective that is not an option because, as everyone knows, in nine months that growing, vibrant, developing fetus results in a living human baby. The truth of the matter is that human life begins at conception and is continuous, whether intrauterine or extrauterine, until death. Consider the following scientific facts regarding the living nature of the fetus.
(1) The baby’s heart starts beating 18-25 days after conception.
(2) By the age of two months, the heart beats so strongly that a doctor actually can listen to it with a special stethoscope.
(3) At about this same time, brain activity can be recorded by use of an electroencephalogram. Brain waves are readily apparent.
(4) By the age of two months, everything is “in place”—feet, hands, head, organs, etc. Upon close examination, fingerprints are evident. Although less than an inch long, the embryo has a head with eyes and ears, a simple digestive system, kidneys, liver, a heart that beats, a bloodstream of its own, and the beginning of a brain.
(5) The unborn child hiccups, sucks his or her thumb, wakes, and sleeps.
(6) The unborn child responds to touch, pain, cold, sound, and light.
Is the child alive? Do you know any dead creature that attains such marvelous accomplishments?
But is the fetus growing in the uterus actually human? It is the result of the union of the human male gamete (spermatozoon) containing 23 chromosomes and the human female gamete (ovum) containing 23 chromosomes. This fetus is the result of the union of the human gametes, is growing in the human uterus, and contains the standard human chromosome number of 46—things that guarantee its humanness. [The Washington Post of May 11, 1975 contained an “Open Letter to the Supreme Court“—signed by 209 medical doctors—which stated: “We physicians reaffirm our dedication to the awesome splendor of human life—from one-celled infant to dottering elder.”]
Biblical Facts Establishing the Fetus as a Living Human
The Bible is clear in its testimony regarding murder. The sixth commandment stated: “Thou shalt do no murder” (Exodus 20:13). I already have mentioned the statement of the Proverbs writer when he noted that God hates “hands that shed innocent blood” (6:16). If the fetus is a living human, and if it is terminated deliberately (recall the definition of an induced abortion), then that constitutes willful and unauthorized destruction of a human life—i.e., murder. And there can be no doubt that the fetus is “innocent” in the truest sense of that word. How, then, does the Bible regard the unborn child? The following biblical facts can help provide an answer to that question.
(1) Jeremiah the prophet was told by God: “Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee, and before thou comest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee” (Jeremiah 1:5). God knew the prophet even as he was in utero (still in the womb). Further, God already had “sanctified” Jeremiah. If Jeremiah’s mother had aborted the baby, she would have killed one whom God recognized as a living soul. The Lord viewed Jeremiah as a living human being even while he was in the womb.
(2) The same implication appears in Scripture regarding Isaiah, who said: “Listen, O isles, unto me, and hearken ye peoples, from afar; Jehovah hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name...and now, saith Jehovah that formed me from the womb to be his servant” (Isaiah 49:1,5). Isaiah already was a “person” prior to his birth; he even was called by name.
(3) Psalm 139:13-16 is one of the clearest biblical passages on this matter. David said:
For thou didst form my inward parts: thou didst cover me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks unto thee: for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: Wonderful are thy works; And that my soul knoweth right well. My frame was not hidden from thee, When I was made in secret, And curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see mine unformed substance; And in thy book they were all written, Even the days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was none of them.
Notice that David used the pronouns “me,” “my,” and “I” throughout the passage in reference to his own prenatal state. The phrases “I was made in secret,” and “curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth” refer to the psalmist’s development in the womb (cf. Young, 1965, p. 76). The pronouns used in the passage show clearly that David was referring to himself, and one cannot talk about himself without having reference to a human being. David therefore, speaking through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, spoke of himself in the womb as a human being. It likewise is interesting to note that in Psalm 51:5, David even acknowledged that he was a human being from conception!
(4) Job, who was undergoing a terrible life crisis, cursed the day he was born when he said: “Why did I not die from the womb? Why did I not give up the ghost when my mother bore me?” (3:11). It certainly is clear that if the fetus had died in the womb, it would have been a person (in this case, Job). It also is of interest to observe that in Job 3:13-16, Job gave a list of people with whom he would have been counted if he had died at birth. Included in the list of kings, princes, and stillborn infants was a “hidden untimely birth,” which is a reference to a miscarriage (i.e., spontaneous abortion). Job put a miscarriage in the same category with other people who had died. Why? Obviously Job considered a fetus as much a human being as a king, a prince, or a stillborn infant.
(5) In the Old Testament, even the accidental termination of a pregnancy was a punishable crime. Consider Exodus 21:22—“If men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart, and yet no harm follows; he shall be surely fined, according as the woman’s husband shall lay upon him...but if any harm follows, then thou shalt give life for life.” The meaning of the passage is simply this. If the child is born prematurely as the result of this accident, but “no harm follows” (i.e. the child lives), then a fine is to be exacted. However, if “harm follows” (i.e., either mother or child die), then the guilty party is to be put to death. Look at it this way. If God exacts such a punishment for the accidental death of an unborn child, what would He think today of the premeditated murder of millions of unborn infants?
Further, think about this. If a woman were taken by force and an abortion were performed on her against her will, could the perpetrators of the crime be tried for murder? Of course they could. They killed the unborn child growing in the woman’s womb. If the woman consents, does that somehow make it any less of a crime? Is it any less murder? Is an unwanted baby any less human simply because it is not wanted?
(6) The same understanding of the fetus as a child is found in the New Testament. The angel Gabriel told Mary: “Elisabeth thy kinswoman, she also hath conceived a son in her old age” (Luke 1:36, emp. added). Note that the conception resulted not in an “it” or a “thing,” but rather in a son. In Luke 1:41,44, the Bible states (in speaking of Elisabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist) that when Mary spoke to Elisabeth, “the babe leaped in her womb.” The word for “babe” in these passages is the Greek word brephos, and is used here for an unborn fetus. The very same word is used in Luke 18:15 and Acts 17:19 for young or newborn children. It also is used in Luke 2:12 and Luke 2:16 for the newborn Christ-child. The word brephos therefore can refer to a young child, a newborn infant, or an unborn fetus (cf. Thayer, 1962, p. 105). In all cases, a human being must be under consideration, because the same exact word is used to describe all three.
(7) James observed: “The body apart from the spirit is dead” (2:26). Consider the corollary to such a statement. If the body is alive, then the spirit must be present. The babe in the womb is unquestionably alive. Thus, the spirit must be present. Destruction of the baby is destruction of that which is living as a result of having been given a spirit by God.
A number of years ago, Reuel Lemmons, as editor of the Firm Foundation, penned an editorial titled “It Keeps Getting Worse,” in which he wrote the following:
The softer we get about sin, the more of it we have. When we quit pronouncing God’s anathema upon it, people quit being afraid of it. The world has become so full of it, and the church too, it seems that we must be ready to drown in it. Even the church has about quit holding a line against it. Maybe it has always been that bad, but it seems to be getting worse all the time.
Ungodly, materialistic educators, prodded by a sex-crazed media, seem bent on destroying every ounce of modesty and every sense of personal privacy that dignifies a human being. And styles and fashions have fallen in line. The tragedy is that Christians are often in the front line.
What has happened to the church’s teaching program regarding moral responsibility? Adults are flooding every congregation with divorce. Someone is liable to show up most any Sunday with a new husband or a new wife, just as if nothing had happened. Nobody seems to care. It is no wonder that children grow up without morals!
It has become so unpopular to preach against sin, a sense of moral responsibility has almost disappeared. Sodom might have some basis to accuse us in judgment. We are supposed to know better (1978, 95:2).
The Proverbs writer put it in these terms. “Rescue those who are being dragged to death, and from those tottering to execution withdraw not. If you say, ‘I know not this man,’ does not he who tests hearts perceive it? He who guards your life knows it, and he will repay each one according to his deeds” (24:11-12). We cannot hide behind the feeble question of Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer from Scripture to such a question is, YES! It is our commission to “rescue those who are being dragged to death.” We are our brother’s keeper. Jesus taught that any human in distress is our neighbor, and that we therefore are to render aid. We never have been needed more than we are needed now. R.A. Gallop warned:
Once you permit the killing of the unborn child, there will be no stopping. There will be no age limit. You are setting off a chain reaction that will eventually make you the victim. Your children will kill you because you permitted the killing of their brothers and sisters. Your children will kill you because they will not want to support you in your old age. Your children will kill you for your homes and estates. If a doctor will take money for killing the innocent in the womb, he will kill you with a needle when paid by your children. This is the terrible nightmare you are creating for the future (as quoted in Waddey, 1975, 12:2).
God forbid that the people who wear His Son’s holy name should sit by idly, and raise not a cry, while the slaughter of the innocents continues. Is there no prophet among us who will call our nation to repentance?
Howard, Ted and Jeremy Rifkin (1977), Who Should Play God? (New York: Dell).
Lygre, David (1979), Life Manipulation (New York: Walker).
Lemmons, Reuel (1978), “It Keeps Getting Worse,” Firm Foundation, 95:2, September 12.
Marx, Paul (1975), Death Without Dignity (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press).
Rudin, Norah (1997), Dictionary of Modern Biology (Hauppauge, NY: Barrons).
Stone, R. Bruce and Diana F. Horvitz (1973) A General Guide to Abortion (Chicago, IL: Nelson Hall Publishers).
Thayer, J.H. (1962), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Waddey, John (1975), “Hands That Shed Innocent Blood,” Words of Truth, 12:2, December 12.
Wallace, Robert A. (1975), Biology: The World of Life (Pacific Palisades, CA: Goodyear).
Young, Edward J. (1965) Psalm 139 (London: The Banner of Truth Trust).