Abortion: Being a Voice for the Voiceless
Last year the seven billionth person was born to this world. For some this was a disaster, for others it was a reason to celebrate. Why would we celebrate or despair? The answer lies in how we perceive the value of a person, who we consider to be a person and what their purpose is in this life. With the world so strongly challenging the long-held beliefs of the Christian world, we need to look at what God says about this, specifically in the context of the child in the womb and of abortion.
Recently I suffered a miscarriage. More accurately, my husband and I experienced the death of our third child. This little person, whom we named Anah, was six weeks old when he died, having never breathed in this life. I am thankful for the knowledge that God knows our child, and that Anah is as precious as our two living children.
We often read or hear these words from Psalm 139:
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.
So if my child, Anah, is knitted together in my womb with God watching over him does this action of God show something of His care and attention to all children as they grow in the ‘secret place’? This verse shows that the forming child is important to God, and his importance is not found in his body being whole but in the fact that God knew and ordained him even before he was conceived.
In light of this, what does it mean when we consider abortion? What is abortion, what is wrong about it and what can we do to change people’s views on it?
Before talking about abortion, it pays to think about some developmental facts. Are you aware that at 18 days gestation (actual growth) the child’s heart begins to beat, all body systems are present, and isolated arm movements begin about 7¼ to 8½ weeks after conception. Breathing movements and stretches begin during the eighth week. From around 11 weeks gestation, the child has spontaneous breathing movements, with fingernails and body systems all operating. She begins to practice opening and shutting her mouth and move her head forward at 8½ to 12½ weeks after conception. This is only a snap shot of the development of the child before the end of the first trimester.
Abortion is the premature ending of a pregnancy: spontaneous abortion is the medical term for a miscarriage, while therapeutic abortion is the deliberate decision to end a pregnancy.
While it is true that an abortion ends a pregnancy, this terminology is calculated to hide the reality of what happens – the killing of an innocent child. This murder is a brutal process, which is part of the reason why language relating to abortion has been sanitised.
The procedures for abortion can be very different: the baby is taken apart in a Dilation & Curettage or Dilation & Evacuation abortion, their head is crushed and then torn limb from limb, a baby has its heart stopped with an injection before being delivered or a baby is delivered feet first while their head is left in the birth canal and their spine is cut with scissors, but they all accomplish the murder of a child.
If this was done to an already born child, what would our reaction be?
A new idea?
The ‘new idea’ that the murder of newborn children is ethically the same as abortion drew the attention of the media. Australian philosophers Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva wrote outlining this idea. They believe that a “foetus and a newborn are equivalent in their lack of a sense of their own life and aspiration. They contend this justifies what they call ‘after-birth abortion’ as long as it is painless, because the baby is not harmed by missing out on a life it cannot conceptualise.” The outrage that came from the public in New Zealand and around the world in response was loud and strong. Tellingly the very same arguments that were used 40 years ago to promote legal abortion are the same ones being used for ‘after-birth abortion’. So why isn’t aborting a pre-born child creating the same outrage today?
God created life, as found in the creation account in Genesis 1-2. He commanded us not to kill in the Ten Commandments, we also see how He values children by the way He is so intimately involved in their formation. Christ showed his love for the little children during his 3-year ministry. We see that the basic principles in the Bible protect life, and that “life” is not defined in more precise details other than in referring to mankind: therefore, we should take this to include the protection of the child in the womb. But the strongest reason for the unborn child to be valued and protected is because she is made in the image of God, Genesis 1:27:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
In order to understand all this better, we also need to look at verses that don’t deal specifically with life or children. Isaiah 5:20 makes clear to us that the world, having turned away from Him, now calls good evil and evil good. Knowing that children are precious to God, we should be very wary of allowing the world, with its absolute support and promotion of abortion, to be the ones to define those who are valuable and those who are not considered human. Remember the times of black slavery and the holocaust. People of the day considered the Africans and Jews to be sub-human. Aren’t we like that today concerning the child in the womb?
By contrast, God says that we are to be different, a set apart people. The world should look at us and see that we are different. This was very apparent in the early days of the church, when society had a practice of abandoning its unwanted baby children out in the elements to die of exposure or the wild animals. Christians would take these abandoned children and give them homes. Isn’t that what we should be doing today?
The Bible also emphasises God’s abhorrence of the shedding of ‘innocent blood’ which is against God’s nature. In the Old Testament those who stood by and allowed the shedding of innocent blood were tainted by guilt, known as ‘blood guilt’, and were ‘cursed’ to have their own blood spilled. Genesis 9:6 (ESV):
Whoever sheds the blood of man; by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.
With over 448,000 legal abortions in New Zealand alone since 1979, our country is full of people who have shed ‘innocent blood’.
David refers to God “knowing” him before he was born. God says to Jeremiah “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart...” Exodus 21:22 shows that if a pregnant woman is hit and the baby dies, life is required for the death of the child, although there is debate about this by Bible scholars. Job 10:8-12 shows the intimate and hands-on way that God created Job and protected him. If God knew us before we were formed in the womb, we must have been precious to Him. If that is the case, what does that mean for the way that we use contraceptives as Christians? While I cannot deal with this issue now, I hope to look into this at a later date.
We can often get bogged down by the pressure of achieving our goals and feeling like nothing is changing in society, even though we are busy trying to change it. The conversation between God and Habakkuk reminds us that even though things look bad and we cannot see God’s hand in what is happening, God is all-knowing and all-powerful; He is in control of all things, and they all have a purpose according to His plans. Because of this, we need to wait with the watchman for God to reveal his plans, rest on God’s promises and stop worrying.
We should speak out
Remembering this, we should also speak out about this dark work, abortion. It is worth finding out what is going on in New Zealand and around the world and talking about it. God will give you the words; remember Peter and John in Acts? The leaders of the day were amazed at them, for they had no learning and yet they spoke with clarity, conviction and strength. Today people are ignored if they do not have education, but we, the followers of Christ, will be given the words we need by the Holy Spirit. Proverbs 24:11-12 sums up our responsibility clearly:
Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?
What can you do?
What are the actions that you can be involved in?
Find out about what is going on around New Zealand.
Write letters (handwritten is best as it gets more attention) or call MPs. Even your children can write to an MP.
Become a member of a pro-life group. This could mean no more than paying the subscription, or it could open up further opportunities for more involvement. Being a member means that you get information about what is happening around New Zealand and around the world. Your support helps to finance activities, adverts in the paper, etc, and it gives encouragement to those involved in this work, which is often a lonely calling.
You could provide a place to stay for a pregnant woman, or set up a home for needy mothers, providing them with shelter and teaching them how to care for their child or providing support so that they can adopt this child out.
Pass on clothes or baby items to groups that support people in a crisis pregnancy (i.e. Pregnancy Counselling).
Become a trained phone operator for Pregnancy Counselling and help women by talking through their options in a crisis pregnancy, as well as counselling those who are suffering from past abortions.
Learn about the side-effects of abortion on the physical and mental health of men and women. Abortion is not a risk-free solution and the more that we are informed, the greater influence and help we can provide.
Wear the little feet or hands pins; your local Voice For Life branch will be able to get you one. People will ask you about them, so be prepared to give an answer.
Remember to bring this issue, and those working to end it, to God in your prayers.
We have so many good works that we can be involved in that it gets hard to know what to prioritise.
Perhaps this may help. If the thought of abortion fills you with horror or you think about it a lot, perhaps God is putting this on your heart and calling you to some action. Perhaps you are already busy and engaged in another area of service but also feel concerned about abortion and what it does. Choose something that is manageable for you to do.
We all need to examine ourselves to see if this is something about which we are apathetic or uncaring, which doesn’t reflect Christ’s love.
Edmund Burke once said “All that is required for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing”. That is a challenge for us all.