[3]        Birth (1): Abortion

STORY: Here is a fictional story about two doctors. Doctor A asked Doctor B: “I am considering to terminate a pregnancy and I want your opinion. The father has syphilis, the mother has tuberculosis. Of the four children already born, the first was blind, the second died, the third was deaf and dumb, and the fourth also has tuberculosis. What would you have done?” Doctor B replied, “I would have ended the pregnancy by abortion.” Now, if you are the doctor, what would you do?

Here is the end of the story. Doctor A said, “If I follow your advice, I would have murdered Beethoven.”

Background:

In Canada, there are over 100,000 abortions each year. The number has increased more than 5 times since 1970. In the US, there are over 1 million abortions each year. In both countries, the rate is about 1 abortion every 4 livebirths. The total is over 40 million since 1973.

Some countries (such as China and USSR) use abortion as a means of birth control. The estimated abortion rate in USSR is more than 3 abortions per livebirth. The total number of abortions in the world is estimated to be over 50 million a year. Of these, China has about 10 million. In the last quarter century, the world has killed one billion preborn children.

12.  What are the ethical problems in an abortion?

Terminology

A human life begins when a sperm and an ovum join to form a zygote. As a zygote grows, it becomes an embryo. About 7 weeks later, it is called a fetus.

a.   Abortion is the expulsion of the preborn child causing his/her death.

·         While an abortion can occur naturally (called spontaneous abortion, due to defects, diseases, or infections), the ethical issue surrounds deliberate induced abortions.

Methods used

Early abortions (those in the first trimester) are usually done with dilation and curettage (D &C ) or suction. Abortionists use more complex methods to kill preborn babies in the second and third trimesters. These include dilation and evacuation (D & E), saline, dilation and extraction (D & X), prostaglandin, hysterotomy, and intercardiac injection abortions.

b.   Abortion involves 2 conflicting norms:

(1)  “You shall not murder” (6th Commandment, Ex 20:13). Every human being, including the preborn child, is created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27; 5:1) and has a right to life. Abortion is the killing a preborn child and is a murder; even worse, it is shedding innocent blood, killing someone who did nothing wrong (Pr 6:16-17; 2Ki 24:3-4; Jer 7:6-7; 22:3; Joel 3:19).

(2)  A woman has the right to freedom, that is, the right to control her own body and to determine whether she allows the preborn to occupy her body for 9 months. She can use abortion to assert her right to freedom.

c.   History of abortion in North America:

(1)  In the US, the US Supreme Court ruled in 1973 in the famous case Roe v. Wade that a woman’s right to privacy based on the 14th Amendment includes a right to abortion. In 1995, Jane Roe (real name Norma McCorvey) publicly admitted that she was wrong and has worked for the pro-life course.

(2)  In Canada, legal abortion has been allowed since 1968 if it is approved by doctors. The law specifies that only therapeutic abortions are allowed, that is, only to save the life of the mother. But almost all so-called “therapeutic abortions” are actually abortions-on-demand.

d.   Opposing sides on the issue:

(1)  Pro-life people stress the value and sanctity of each preborn’s life over the freedom of the mother. They include most of the conservatives, Roman Catholics, and evangelical Protestants.

o        Abortion is the one defining issue that separates the two sides. The pro-life side can also be described as “pro-God” because the more committed a Christian is, the more likely that he/she will be pro-life.

(2)  “Pro-choice” people emphasize the value of self-determination expressed in each woman’s right to reproductive choice. Although they may believe the fetus has a right to live, they claim priority for a woman’s right to freedom. They believe that rules against abortion undermine a woman’s humanity and equality. They include most of the liberals, atheists, and secular humanists.

o        However, “pro-choice” people were not really upholding choice.

Once a pregnant woman puts herself under their influence (such as Planned Parenthood), they try to entice you to have an abortion.

If pro-life people publicly denounce abortion, “pro-choice” people would either silence you (such as destroying billboards) or labelled you as extremist (using words like bigot, ideologue, radical, fundamentalist, ultraconservative, intolerant, anti-progress, narrow-minded). These terms are used deliberately by “pro-choice” people to arouse negative feelings towards pro-life people in order to isolate, marginalize and silence them from the society.

A good example of the venomous words used by secular humanists can be seen from how science fiction author Isaac Asimov ridiculed Christian conservative leaders as “ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make of themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us.”

Because of these intolerant actions (choice for them but no choice for others), a more accurate description of them is “anti-life” people.

13.  Does the Bible talk about abortion?

a.   The Bible did not talk directly about abortion but different verses support the pro-life position:

(1)  The Bible regards preborn babies as life as God cares for a person in embryonic state (Ps 139:16).

(2)  The baby in a mother’s womb is referred to as “child” (Lk 1:41,44).

(3)  God chose people before their birth. Jeremiah and Paul were called by God for their life’s work while they were still in the womb (Jer 1:4-6; Gal 1:15).

(4)  Causing death of child before birth deserves death penalty (Ex 21:22-25).

o        The first part of the verse refers to premature birth. Some argue that it means miscarriage or death of the child. If so, the baby is valued less than an adult as the punishment is only a compensation.

o        However, the law of “life for life and eye for eye” is already prescribed for any adult victim just 10 verses before (Ex 21:12). Since this passage refers only to pregnant women, “the life” must refer to the life of the baby.

b.   Since the Bible supports the sanctity of life before birth, abortion is the same as murder or shedding innocent blood, something that God hates and finds it detestable (Pr 6:16-17). Abortion is deliberate destruction of human life which is sacred in God’s eyes.

14.  Why should Christians oppose abortion?

a.   The right to freedom cannot overrule the right to life. The right to life of the preborn is clearly a higher norm.

·         Abortionists argue for bodily autonomy and freedom of choice to abort unwanted babies. But the choice should be birth control, not killing babies. Reasons such as freedom or better lifestyle can never justify killing a life.

b.   Abortionists argue that a preborn child is not life; if so, then abortion is not murder.

·         Question: When does life begin?

·         There are different opinions: at conception, at 8 weeks, when viable (able to survive outside the mother), or at birth

·         With the recent advance in microbiology, an honest scientist will confirm that life begins at conception (as most biology textbooks confirm).

o        immediately after conception: unique and genetically similar with the parents [with genetic individuality and hereditary uniqueness]

o        4 weeks after conception: formation of organs and starting of heart beats [with functional individuality]

o        6 weeks after conception: movement of body and limbs [with behavioural individuality]

o        8 weeks after conception: presence of brain waves and response to stimuli (can feel pain and try to avoid the needle during abortion procedure as shown in the film “Silent Scream”), all organs present, original embryo subdivided into 1 billion cells [with psychic individuality and social individuality]

o        Thus after 8 weeks, the baby is fully an individual.

·         Most abortions are performed between 9 to 12 weeks. Premature babies delivered after 22-24 weeks are viable (able to survive) but abortion is permitted even after such time.

c.   Recently, abortionists concentrate on the argument that a preborn child is not a person.

·         Abortionists argue that only a “person” has the right to life but a preborn child is only a “potential” person (only with capacity of being an “actual” person later). They argue that a preborn child only becomes an individual person at birth.

·         In the dictionary, the definition of a person is simply “a human being.” Therefore, any human life is a person.

·         But abortionists add more qualifications, including independence, consciousness, self-consciousness, rationality, freedom to act on one’s own reasons, capacity to communicate with others, capacity to make moral judgments, etc. That is why some abortionists will not grant an infant personhood until he/she is one year old. In other words, deliberate killing of an infant before his/her first birthday can still regarded as non-criminal (such as animal rights activist Peter Singer who teaches in Princeton University).

·         According to one abortionist: “The criteria for personhood is an entity that has the actual, not merely potential capacity for consciousness, complex, sophisticated perception, rationality, self-awareness and self-motivated behavior ... when an unwanted or defective infant is born into a society which cannot afford and/or is not willing to care for it, then its destruction is permissible.”

·         An even more extreme position: “A woman can produce a baby in the most squalid circumstances of being homeless, poor, mentally defective and physically ill. The products of conception when they are born at term are then only potentially human.” Then, it is possible to declare the whole populations of crowded or poor cities and even entire developing countries to be sub-human or non-human. Moreover, some living persons in the world will not qualify as persons based on all the criteria, e.g. people relying on tube feeding.

·         These are all arbitrary criteria with no scientific support.

·         According to the Pascal’s wager, wager on the existence of God is the only wise wager. The principle can be applied to the case of abortion. If you are not sure whether the preborn baby is a human being, to avoid abortion is the only wise decision. Otherwise, you are risking murder. Example: Imagine that behind one of two screens stood a person and you are given a gun to make a shot through one of the screens. If you missed the person, you win $1 million. If you shot the person, you commit a murder. Would you do it?

d.   Abortion has been found to cause numerous serious health problems for the mother.

(1)  There are about 100 deaths per year in US as a result of doctor-administered abortion procedure.

(2)  There is risk of damage to the uterus and the cervix.

(3)  The risk of breast cancer is higher: 25 out of 31 worldwide case-control and cohort studies show increased risk of more than twice for women with an abortion, even higher with more abortions.

(4)  There is almost always permanent psychological damage, the most serious being “post-abortion syndrome” which is a profound array of psychological and emotional disturbances that occur to a woman following an abortion, including depression, guilt, intense grief/sadness, anger/rage. It can continue up to 7 or 8 years. A survey of post-abortive women found that: (a) 31% experienced suicidal feelings; (b) 28% attempted suicide; (c) 60% commented that the decision to abort made their lives worse; (d) 94% regretted the decision to abort.

e.   Other considerations:

(1)  Abortions usually ignoring father’s rights to the decision. After an abortion, many fathers feel completely responsible for the death of their child and grieve deeply for the loss.

(2)  Abortions often cause broken relations and divorce.

(3)  The decision to abort is often found to be unwise. Two studies in England showed that: of those women whose abortion requests were denied, 80% said afterwards that they were glad that they were forced to have the baby.

(4)  Finally, there is a reminder of the reality: you would not be here if your parents are not pro-life. [Bumper sticker says: “Thank God that my mother is pro-life!”] Next time in any debate about abortion, remind “pro-choice” people of this fact.

15.  Does the majority of the people support abortion-on-demand?

a.   There is widespread bias in the media against pro-life groups. Public opinion surveys are commonly biased to favour the pro-abortion position.

b.   It is true that in the past, slightly more than half of the people think that abortion should be available when vague questions such as “Do you support abortion rights?” or “Do you think abortion should be legal?” are asked.

c.   Yet, more significantly, when people are confronted with real situations, many more people support restrictions in abortion. For example, a US survey reported that 61% of the people support the statement “No public funds for abortion, except to save a woman’s life.”

d.   There is also a trend toward less support for abortion. A 2003 US polls showed the proportion of those who described themselves as “pro-life” and “pro-choice” is for the first time about the same. The support for abortion among college students had fallen 10% in 10 years. A poll commissioned by a former head of the “proc-choice” Planned Parenthood showed that 5l% of all women were opposed to abortion in all circumstances, except those of incest and rape. Only 30% support abortion-on-demand.

Public opinion surveys, 1989

The following demonstrates how the question can directly influence the answer..

US survey published on the July 17, 1989 issue of Newsweek (Newsweek Poll)

“The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision established a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, at least in the first three months of pregnancy. Would you like to see the decision overturned?” (58% No, 31% Yes)

        Anti-life people can say that 58% of Americans support abortion.

Do you think abortion should be legal in any circumstances?  29% yes

Legal in certain circumstances?  51% yes

        Anti-life people can say that 80% of Americans support abortion.

        In fact, most Americans believe that abortions should be restricted by some conditions.

Do you support or oppose the following restrictions on abortion?

        Medical test must show fetus unable to survive outside the womb? 54% support, 33% opposed

        Teenagers must have parent’s permission? 75% support, 22% opposed

        Women seeking abortions must be counselled on the dangers and on alternatives to abortion? 88% support, 9% opposed

        No public funds for abortion, except to save a woman’s life? 61% support, 34% opposed

        No abortions in public facilities, except to save a woman’s life? 54% support, 41% opposed

16.  Can abortion be practised under special circumstances?

a.   Many abortions were done for population control or birth control, personal preference (sex selection, practised extensively in India) or convenience (avoid burden of raising a child), and social or economic security. These must be considered selfish and malicious.

b.   There are special circumstances where abortion may be justifiable. But hard cases are rare. Even pro-abortion people admit this.

·         In the US, only an estimated 0.04% of abortions were done for rape or incest; 0.1% for fetal deformity; less than 1% were done for the physical health of the mother; 99% were done for the “mental health of the mother” (another term for abortion-on-demand).

c.   Special circumstances:

(1)  Psychological depression of the mother: This is the most common but unjustified excuse for obtaining abortion for unwanted pregnancies.

(2)  Pregnancy from rape or incest: As a rule, no; but abortion may be allowed only if the psychological problem of continued pregnancy is serious. But many women lie by using this reason to get a publicly paid abortion. In the US, it is estimated that out of the women who got publicly paid abortions for rape, less than 1% of the pregnancies were actually results of rape.

(3)  Abnormal infant or birth defects: Ex 4:11; Jn 9:3 describe God’s sovereignty even in cases of birth defects. If man decides whom to kill for “quality of life” reasons, he is acting God. Putting “quality of life” before “sanctity of life” is always wrong. Judging the quality of life of another person is arbitrary and often mistaken as most handicapped people were glad to be alive. Abortion is thus not justified for a deformed or retarded infant. Only in rare cases which involve sure death shortly after birth, such as infant without a brain, may abortion be justified.

(4)  Danger of the mother’s life: this is the only instance where abortion is justified because:

o        Death of the mother may cause the subsequent death of the baby.

o        A greater loss would be experienced by others if the mother dies because of existing emotional attachment and social relations.

o        But with improved modern medical techniques (such as Caesarean section), it is highly unlikely that any pregnancies would endanger the mother’s life.

17.  What can Christians do with unwanted pregnancies?

a.   Christians must avoid consulting “pro-choice” organizations such as Planned Parenthood (a mega organization with $1 billion budget worldwide) which champions reproductive rights; counsels for birth control, abortions and sterilization. They commit more than 130,000 abortions each year in the US alone.

·         As Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger stated, “Our objective is unlimited sexual gratification without the burden of unwanted children.”

b.   Christians can seek help from Crisis Pregnancy Centre or Birthright which provides financial help, accommodation, and adoption services (if the mother does not want the child after birth).

·         They are targets of frequent attack by “pro-choice” feminist groups.

·         70% of those who sought counselling from Planned Parenthood ended up having an abortion, compared to 24% of those who sought counselling from Crisis Pregnancy Centres.

c.   For those Christians who have had an abortion, repentance (acknowledge and confess the past sin and commit to not to sin again in the future) is compulsory. In Roman Catholic Canon Law, anyone which brings about an abortion will be automatically excommunicated.

Work of “Birthright” in Canada and US and “Alternatives to Abortion International”

        counselling women with an unplanned pregnancy

        offering emergency help to those in despair

        giving advice on practical problems

        finding accommodation for mothers both before and after their child’s birth

        helping to secure employment for them

        granting financial help

        providing personal support groups

        arranging adoption of their children if they do not want to keep the child after birth

18.  How should Christians view infanticide and partial birth abortion?

a.   Some mothers kill their unwanted babies after birth. This is called infanticide and the punishment for such crime is much less severe than a murder.

b.   Partial birth abortion (also called late term abortion) is a cruel and horrifying procedure. The baby is killed when partially out of the mother. In most cases, the babies would have lived if they are allowed to be born. Even many “pro-choice” abortionists admit that it is equivalent to infanticide.

c.   Infanticide is killing of innocent viable human lives and is without doubt a murder.

d.   In the US, the Congress twice passed a legislation with a large majority to ban partial birth abortion with the exception to save the life of the mother. The anti-life President Clinton twice vetoed the bill with the help of Democratic Senators. The Congress passed the law again and was signed into law by pro-life President Bush in November 2003. “Pro-choice” abortionists are challenging the law in courts. In Canada, there is no law to prohibit such a procedure.

 

Partial-birth abortion, an inhuman and extremely cruel procedure

It is defined as “an abortion in the second or third trimester of pregnancy in which the death of the fetus is induced after it has passed partway through the birth canal.”

It includes the following steps:

        Guided by ultrasound, the abortionist grabs the baby’s leg with forceps.

        The baby’s leg is pulled out into the birth canal.

        The abortionist delivers the baby’s entire body, except for the head.

        The abortionist jams scissors into the baby’s skull. The scissors are then opened to enlarge the hole.

        The scissors are removed and a suction catheter is inserted. The child’s brains are sucked out, causing the skull to collapse. The dead baby is then removed.

19.  Can Christians participate in actions to reduce abortions such as Operation Rescue?

a.   Operation Rescue is a kind of civil disobedience to dramatize their opposition to abortion through a rescue movement. Pro-life people block abortion clinics and try to convince mothers not to go through abortions.

b.   Court rulings sometimes prohibit such action or set up no-blocking zones such as 100 feet from the clinic. Depending on individual commitment, pro-life people can justifiably participate in such action, provided that no physical force is used and that the participants are willing to pay the price of imprisonment and lawsuits.

c.   Violent actions such as bombing abortion clinics or murdering abortion doctors are themselves immoral. They cannot be supported.