Abortion – Another Christian Perspective
by Dr James Fratzia
24 May 2019
One of the ongoing social conflicts in Western countries with Christian roots concerns abortion. For most of recorded history, people have fundamentally disagreed about the moral status of the human embryo1. This paper seeks to provide another Christian perspective on this issue and includes some unconventional thoughts.
Humans are different to other creatures
Though we share biology with other creatures and matter with the universe, the Bible reveals that humanity is more than biology and matter. Humans are special and have a special role in the universe because we are ‘imagers‘ of the Creator throughout the universe Genesis 1:26. And ultimately this role even extends over the most extraordinary powers in the spiritual realm. Yet the contrast between what humans are made to be, and what they are like, is disturbing. Nowhere is the most perplexing nature of this revelation of the significance of humanity expressed than in the Bible Psalm 8:5 Hebrews 2:5-8. Therefore, killing the ‘imagers‘ of God is wrong (except under specific circumstances) “Whosoever shall shed man’s blood, his own blood shall be shed, For man was made in the image of God.”Genesis 9:6.
Despite our manifest flaws, humans have a special dignity. This is even recognised by the secular humanists and enshrined in the fundamental rights of a human in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A). In particular, Article 3 states “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” There are other related articles such as Article 5 “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” and Article 6 “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.“
Children are humans
Humans are different and therefore have ‘rights‘2, including a right to life. You can see where this is going. All humans including children have rights. There is even a UN SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL ON VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN. It is impossible to reconcile the destruction of a child born alive under this secular declaration with the simple decision of a mother or a father to destroy it. Therefore, in most Western jurisdictions there are entire bureaucracies devoted to protecting children from abuse, including abuse by their parents. In some jurisdictions, killing a mother with an unborn child in the latter stages of pregnancy becomes a double homicide. So clearly, an unborn fetus in the later stages of gestation when it would otherwise survive outside the womb is potentially a double homicide. It depends on when one thinks human life begins.
For Christians, innocent blood includes the blood of children Psalm 106:38
The foetus is important in Islamic inheritance
Islamic law grants the fetus the right to life particularly after ensoulment, which according to various Islamic jurists happens after 40–42 days or four months after conception 3 (some Shiite jurists believe the ensoulment occurs after 11 to 14 days, during the implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterine wall). Both the Sunni and Shiite jurists accord the fetus inheritance rights under two conditions: if a man dies and a pregnant wife survives him, the fetal right to inherit is secure and the inheritance cannot be disposed of before the fetus’ share is set aside4. Under the second condition, if a woman aborts the fetus at any stage and ignores any vital signs, the fetus is entitled to the inheritance of any legitimate legator who dies after its conception.
Is a foetus a human being?
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
So when does the declaration of human rights apply to a foetus? The problem with applying human rights to a foetus became apparent to the more extreme feminist movement after the landmark case Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion in the United States in 1973. Today, after several decades of secular liberal humanist ‘extreme-feminist influenced’ education, it is generally declared by most Western secular humanists that Article 6 is not applicable before birth. Proposals to include foetal rights as a human ‘from the moment of conception’ have been vigorously opposed almost universally rejected.
Nevertheless, while international human rights instruments lack a universal inclusion of the fetus as a person for the purposes of human rights, the foetus is granted various rights in the constitutions and civil codes of several countries. The only international treaty specifically tackling foetal rights is the American Convention on Human Rights which envisages the right to life of the fetus.
Furthermore, when something goes wrong late in the pregnancy and the foetus dies, English speaking countries call it a “still birth” and a death certificate is generally issued.
However, as far as the law is concerned in most Western countries, a fetus is not a human being. This means that legally abortion is not killing a human being. Therefore, in most Western legal systems the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not apply to a fetus. This purely legalistic approach to defining human life is rejected by Bible-believing Christians 2 Corinthians 3:6.
In this case the foetus is part of the mother’s body and not an independent being with intrinsic rights. The mother chooses whatever outcome she sees fit. The foetus is not a human. There is however a number logical inconsistencies with this view. In many of the jurisdictions where abortion is essentially down to maternal choice, the concept of fetal rights has evolved to include the issues of maternal drug and alcohol abuse which may affect the healthy development of the foetus. Another is the arbitrary nature of defining humanity as beginning at birth in a context where a foetus can survive into adulthood even if born as early as 21-24 weeks gestation.
Despite characteristically aligning itself with other ideologies supporting ‘inclusivness’ in society, much Pro-Choice ideology actually exhibits ingroup humanisation and outgroup dehumanisation5, leading to derision and vilification of opponents to this ideolgy.
In this case, the fetus is seen as a human being with an inherent right to life that cannot be overridden by the mother or the State without a very strong justification. The effective Christophobic approach of most extreme feminist and secular liberal humanist ideologies insincerely seeks to render Pro-Life ideologies as religious. The reality however, is there are a number of Pro-Life positions, including both religious and secular Pro-Life views.
Most Pro-Life positions ascribe life as beginning with the scientific notion of fertilisation. Most Pro-Life ideologies characterise the Pro-Choice nomenclature as a smokescreen for Pro-Killing.
Justification for abortion
In this case terminating the pregnancy is a means to avoid an unwanted normal pregnancy or healthy child. It does not recognise the foetus as a human, and is used either when contraception fails or is not used.
The safety of the mother
This is a well recognised indication for abortion.
The World Medical Association Declaration on Therapeutic Abortion 6 notes that “circumstances bringing the interests of a mother into conflict with the interests of her unborn child create a dilemma and raise the question as to whether or not the pregnancy should be deliberately terminated”. The Dublin Declaration on Maternal Health, signed in 2012, prioritizes fetal right to life by noting that “there is a fundamental difference between abortion, and necessary medical treatments that are carried out to save the life of the mother, even if such treatment results in the loss of life of her unborn child”.
The Bible seems to recognise the necessity to kill under certain circumstances. This is ethically accepted by most Christians as a ‘lesser of two evils’ utilitarian approach. Some Christians arguably justify abortion as a ‘lesser of two evils’ in cases of incest or rape. However, Christians cannot push this argument too far because it will eventually become a simple ‘any-harm minimisation’ public health approach where abortion is considered reasonable for any situation in which a mother feels bearing a child will be harmful to her to any degree, such as employment, psychology or social life. This is probably the effective implementation for ‘conditional’ abortion laws in most of the Western world under strong extreme feminist activism and liberal humanist largess. The implementation of most conditional abortion laws are so broad in defining harm to the mother that there is no impediment to the termination of a pregnancy.
As a public health measure to minimise morbidity and mortality from ‘unsafe’, harmful or even life-threatening non-medical abortions 7. Such practises, mainly in the developing world where there is inadequate access to safe abortion may account for up to 13% of maternal deaths8.
Feminist identity politics
Early feminist leaders opposed abortion9. The radical feminist Susan B. Anthony referred to abortion as “child murder” and viewed it as a means of exploiting both women and children. Alice Paul, who drafted the original version of the Equal Rights Amendment, referred to abortion as “the ultimate exploitation of women.” A fundamental reason for this position was that this feminism had a high view of motherhood and refused to ignore the humanity of the foetus. There is no conflict with Biblical Christianity here.
In the late twentieth century, feminists argued10 :
- women have a moral right to decide what to do with their bodies. The simplest form of the women’s rights argument in favour of abortion goes like this:
- a woman has the right to decide what she can and can’t do with her body
- the foetus exists inside a woman’s body
- a woman has the right to decide whether the foetus remains in her body
- therefore a pregnant woman has the right to abort the foetus
- the right to abortion is vital for gender equality.
- if a woman is not allowed to have an abortion she is not only forced to continue the pregnancy to birth but also expected by society to support and look after the resulting child for many years to come (unless she can get someone else to do so).
- only if women have the right to choose whether or not to have children can they achieve equality with men: men don’t get pregnant, and so aren’t restricted in the same way.
- women’s freedom and life choices are limited by bearing children, and the stereotypes, social customs, and oppressive duties that went with it.
- the right to abortion is vital for individual women to achieve their full potential
- banning abortion puts women at risk by forcing them to use illegal abortionists
- the right to abortion should be part of a portfolio of pregnancy rights that enables women to make a truly free choice whether to end a pregnancy
- women have a moral right to decide what to do with their bodies. The simplest form of the women’s rights argument in favour of abortion goes like this:
Today, the ability to chose to terminate a pregnancy is often described in extreme feminist identity terms, such as freedom from male domination or the will of men or gender equality. Some feminists argue that freedom of sexual pleasure11 is the ultimate expression of feminist identity and the possibility of pregnancy or potential consequences which may lead to the shackles of motherhood interferes with this expression. Therefore, easy termination of pregnancy must be available to all ‘liberated’ women.
At best this is a deluded ideology because men and women are not independent of each other and work best when they work together with respect and equality before the Lord 1 Corinthians 11:11.
The extreme feminist view is extreme because it relies on totally dehumanising12 the foetus. This has important consequential concerns due to its similarity with the methodology of totalitarian groups which seek to use dehumanisation as a prelude to persecuting their enemies.
Furthermore, it is inherently paradoxically misogynist13 because in reality female foetuses are destroyed along with males. And there is evidence that there are more female pregnancies terminated than male pregnancies14 15 16. It can therefore, be argued that extreme feminist ideology is inherently racist and is complicit with African-American genocide.17 18.
Conventional Biblical Thought
The God of the Bible is a God who imparts knowledge
We are not left by a distant God without knowledge of right and wrong. This is partly inherent visible in the consciences of all humans throughout history Romans 2:15. But it is also specific and disclosed in the Bible and understood by believers under the influence of the holy Spirit 1 Corinthians 2:11-13, John 16:13, 1 John 2:27, 1 Peter 4:11. We are not left to our own reason but are given norms and values which do not change 1Samuel 2:3, Jeremiah 31:33-34, 1 John 2:20.
Human reasoning is ephemeral Matthew 24:35.
‘Godless’ humanity inherently elevates it’s own reason above God’s unchanging revelation in the Bible. Nowhere is this more evident than the justifications for unrestrained abortion in the more radical Pro-Choice movements and the ‘values dictators’ of the ruthless secular liberal humanists today Isaiah 13:11, Proverbs 8:13, Psalm 94:4, with their politically correct respectability and secular self-righteousness Luke 18:19-14, Mark 7:20-23, Proverbs 12:15, Jeremiah 8:9. They abound amongst media-declared experts, free speech suppressing universities and amongst many more fashionable political groups.
Logically, even the ‘wisest’ humans will get it wrong because human understanding is limited. Humans can justify anything, even killing of those who are inconvenient, whether it be racial groups in genocide, political opposition, economic, hegemonic or political competitors, or the unborn. Killing humans is the key red flag for the failure of human reason Proverbs 14:12.
Christians will always oppose pure anthropocentric reasoning as authority in their lives because it leads to disaster and they know it James 3:15, Colossians 2:8, Revelation 22:19, Revelation 22:18, 1 Corinthians 1:18-21. Liberal humanism needs to include traditional theocentric Christian values and norms in order to avoid the misanthropy and enslavement of extreme secular liberal humanism 1 Corinthians 3:18, 1 Corinthians 1:20.
God will act on this knowledge despite appearances to the contrary at this time and in human history Malachi 3:15, Proverbs 21:24. There will be eternal consequences for the dehumanisation of others, including the foetus Psalm 17:10, 1 Corinthians 1:19.
Christian duty to protect the weak
On balance, liberal humanism connected to it’s Christian roots has been a force for good in the world James 3:17. But liberal humanism today is driven by non-Christian ideologies. Christians already have a paradigm to understand this exchanging of theocentric liberal humanism with secular liberal humanism in all its permutations, including extreme feminism Romans 1:25. Abortion is one of the behaviours in which the moral bankruptcy of ‘liberal humanism without Christian roots‘ is contrasted with biblical Christianity.
Secular liberal humanism totally ignores the vulnerable foetus which cannot speak for itself and is totally dependent upon the love and goodwill of the mother to survive. Yet Christians chose to look after the weak and vulnerable as a duty of love because they see God’s care for them in the same way 19 Romans 5:6-8, Exodus 22:21-24, Psalm 82:3-4, Psalm 94:6-7 Godless secular humanist ideology does not recognise the common grace of God, nor does it recognise hell as the consequence of sin the common destiny of all humans because we are flawed ‘imagers‘ of God, nor does it recognise the love, and hope of God’s offer of salvation in Jesus. It’s human-centred authority allows it to arrogantly re-define behaviour to justify almost anything – 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11 , 2 Corinthians 1:12. Therefore, it can easily dismiss the unborn as a non-human, or at the very best a sub-human potential future human who may (at best) need some protection from a mother’s harmful behaviour.
In the Western media, secular humanists appear from a Christian perspective to be morally corrupt, arrogant dictators of new modern values, who are easily outraged when opposed, and intolerant of Christian God-centred thought. Yet this was anticipated in Scripture 2 Timothy 3:1-5. And Christians must not fear persecution and instead resist them Proverbs 29:25, Isaiah 41:10, Romans 12:2 for the sake of love and the good of society as a whole.
Unconventional Biblical thoughts
The law of ‘love’
The ‘royal’ law in the Bible (James 2:8) is an undefined subsection of the law of ‘Christ‘ (Galatians 6:2 , 1 Corinthians 9:21) which is encapsulated in Mark 12:28–31.
“‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’”
The special capacity to love with compassion is a gift given to us by God when we change our allegiance to Jesus John 13:34, Romans 5:5.
Mother Teresa before her death argued that abortion breached the law of Christ, so she would always try and convince women to not have an abortion. She said, “By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world.“
At the very least there is a Christian duty of love to the unborn human being. This duty is not simply love for the unborn child but to love the mother who might choose abortion of a human. This involves helping to transform her mind by developing a high view of motherhood. It also means practically helping her overcome other barriers to bearing and lovingly raising a child. As a Christian matures their mind becomes transformed (Romans 12:2) and they can see their duty better 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.
“Conception” and the Bible
The scientific understanding of conception is when a male sperm fertilises an female ovum and a zygote is formed. It is hard to imagine that this is described in the Bible. The closest passages do not appear to refer to a scientific notion of conception.
“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5)
“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” (Psalm 139:13-16)
“Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?” (Job 31:15)
“This is what the LORD says–He who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you …” (Isaiah 44:2)
“And now the LORD says–he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength” (Isaiah 49:5)
“The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “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” (Jeremiah 1:4-5)
“Did not He who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?” Job 31:15
Life clearly begins before birth, but there is no reason Christians should accept that life begins at the moment of conception as defined by science. The operative phrase in the bible is “in the womb“. Life begins after scientific implantation and it would be reasonable from a Biblical perspective to recognise human life once the foetus is fully formed, around 13-14 weeks when it’s organs have developed, it begins movement and it’s mother may be able feel it. This is after the zygote, blastocyst and embryonic stages.
This interpretation seeks to identify the beginning of human life from a purely Biblical revelatory approach, and to avoid going beyond it 1 Corinthians 4:6. It is different to the traditional Christian approach which arguably exceeds what is revealed.
Is a fetus a human?
Therefore an early term, first trimester abortion is arguably not killing a human being. At most is is killing a ‘potential human’ and that is not murder. It is a ‘termination of pregnancy’.
However, from a biblical perspective a fully formed foetus in-utero is a thinking human being capable of sin and accountable for it.
“The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth.” Psalm 58:3.
“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5)
It is not possible that a fetus be accountable for sin and not be human.
This notion of a thinking relationship of a foetus with their personal God reinforces the Biblical idea that a foetus is human.
“Yet You brought me out of the womb; You made me trust in You even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” Psalm 22:10.
“Yahweh called me when I was in the womb, before my birth he had pronounced my name.” Isaiah 49:1
“For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.” Luke 1:39-44
“But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son to me, so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles,” Galatians 1:15-16
Again, it is not possible for a foetus to have a thinking personal relationship with God and not be a human being.
As an aside, notice however, that in the passages quoted above, it is only after birth that a sinful predisposition leads to sinful action and it is from birth that a newborn’s trust in God starts to be tested.
The only conclusion from the Bible is that a fully formed foetus is a human being and should be loved and should be afforded the rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But under the influence of more extreme modern feminism, secular liberal humanists dictating values in the West have not campaigned to do so. They’ve not done so because they favour political respectability above life, love and the protection of the most vulnerable. Since liberal humanism has effectively become detached from it’s Christian roots and become entirely human-centred, increasingly in Western societies it is only Christians who campaign for these things.
Ridiculed by extreme feminists and many liberal humanists, the Bible has a high view of motherhood, and motherhood is seen as fundamental to healthy society. The scorn experienced by women who look forward to being mothers by extreme feminists is appalling at times. Capitalism seeks to treat women as factors of production and encourages work and career development over childbearing and raising a family. Feminism and capitalism together have probably enslaved women over the last few decades into making the aspiration for a family more difficult by practically needing to add to the full time demands of motherhood the necessity to work and and unhealthy attitude to career progression. In this setting, where a mother’s desire to have children is compromised, the foetus is simply getting in the way and has no chance.
Satan loves abortion
Satan has always pursued the killing of human beings. This became self evident in the garden with Adam and Eve where he tried to get God to execute judgment upon them. “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44 Satan’s misanthropy knows no bounds and he will used whatever ideology humans who are ignorant of him will develop to kill. With the Bible and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Christians are uniquely equipped to see Satan’s deceptions 1 John 4:1.
The beliefs and ethics of God are not situational and do not change. From a Biblical perspective life begins before birth and in the womb. It is certainly present when the foetus is formed at the end of the first trimester but arguably could be earlier. An abortion is not always killing or murder. A foetus which has been fully formed and moving in the womb is a human being and terminating a pregnancy in such circumstances is killing a human being. Killing a human being under certain circumstances is consistent with Biblical Christianity, but not without good cause and only when the alternative is worse than killing the unborn. Christians should reject both the Pro-Choice position and the traditional Pro-Life position which sees life human life beginning at the point of scientific conception, for a more Biblical recognition that life begins in the womb well after scientific definitions of conception.
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- an entitlement to something, whether to concepts like justice and due process, or to ownership of property or someinterest in property, real or personal
- Abdel-Rahim Omran, ed. (2012). Family Planning in the Legacy of Islam. Routledge. ISBN 1134936427.
- Abdulaziz Sachedina (2009). Islamic Biomedical Ethics: Principles and Application. Oxford University Press. p. 139. ISBN 0199702845
- We are human, they are not: Driving forces behind outgroup dehumanisation and the humanisation of the ingroup. Vaes, J., Leyens, J.-P., Paola Paladino, M., & Pires Miranda, M. (2012). We are human, they are not: Driving forces behind outgroup dehumanisation and the humanisation of the ingroup. European Review of Social Psychology, 23(1), 64-106. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10463283.2012.665250
- Adopted by the 24th World Medical Assembly, Oslo, Norway, August 1970, and amended by the 35th World Medical Assembly, Venice, Italy, October 1983, and the 57th WMA General Assembly, Pilanesberg, South Africa, October 2006
- backyard abortions
- Darney, Leon Speroff, Philip D. (2010). A clinical guide for contraception(5th ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 406. ISBN 1-60831-610-6
- Germaine Greer https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germaine_Greer
- The process of depriving a person or group of positive human qualities. To deprive of human qualities or attributes; to divest of individuality
- hatred of women
- Black Genocide: The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb – http://www.blackgenocide.org/black.html
- God saved us when we could not save ourselves by sending his Son to die in our place and receive the punishment we deserve, not because we deserve it but because of his love for us. Jesus is a gift to the helpless.