I will attempt to answer the question, “Should a Christian support abortion?” I will address the status of the unborn and the Christian ethic in regards to this status. I answer this by assuming the existence of God and then use the bible as his revelation to develop my metaethic and apply it to abortion. My purpose is to give rational biblical, philosophical and scientific evidence that abortion is immoral and Christians should publicly denounce it as such and that the church has an ethical responsibility to stand against legalized abortion.
To discover what is right there must be a basis of norms and principles that rise above our personal or cultural prejudices. I believe Divine Nature Theory provides this objective foundation for ethical standards. This leads us to the necessity to learn about the character of God since it is this character that should we should seek to emulate in our own lives and is the definition of what is good and right.
The Christian ethic is based upon God revealing His nature to us by necessity since he transcends us as he also reveals how we have fallen as his created creatures. This is in direct contention with many of the morals of our world describing it as fallen human behavior in direct defiance of the commands of God.
The essence of Christian ethics is the confidence that we have a complete and sure foundation to know what is true, good, and right based on God clearly revealing himself to humanity categorized as his general and special revelation.
General revelation refers to the mode of divine revelation whereby God communicates himself to all people at all times and in all places. This has occurred through natural revelation such as nature , as well as through special revelation where he reveals himself directly to particular persons at definite times and places, through his written word the bible, and through his son Jesus Christ.
Revelation also reveals the character of God. The fact that he reveals at all speaks of the care and love he has as creator since he is never required to reveal himself, yet stoops down to carefully instruct his creation showing that He cares for it, a grace granted by him which he was never obligated to do. This is especially exhibited through Jesus Christ in a loving, sacrificial manner to redeem a fallen world and teach what is righteous and good.
This is a God who can be trusted and certainly worthy of basing our ethical system upon and anything that is contrary to this can safely be considered untrue. Although there have been multiple interpretations of the bible God has clearly and effectively communicated. This can be ascertained by a thorough literal-grammatical-historical-contextual hermeneutic that clearly reveals the authorial intent of God as original author perfectly accomplishing his intent through human authors purposefully and carefully conveying what he has to say in a clear manner that can be readily understood.
The issue of abortion is extremely complex, profoundly ethical, and is a question of life and death importance. Apart from the difficult ethical situations that arise, such as the life of the mother versus the life of the fetus when the mother’s life is in jeopardy or of rape, the vast number of abortions has not fallen in these grey areas. I do not want to minimize the complexity of those issues but instead emphasize that the vast majority of abortions have not taken place under those circumstances.
The pro-choice argument has been based on rights: rights of women, privacy, and the individual. Abortion does have dramatic implications for the woman since it is the woman who carries the embryo and will be responsible for raising and caring for the child. The question of women’s rights such as in the work place has been significant and women have been historically treated unequally so we can’t ignore this. The right of privacy is important since government intrusion in to the lives of private citizens is seen as invasive including decisions of family, pregnancy, birth, and sexuality. Also the rights of the individual weigh in. America was originally formed as a republic but not as a pure democracy. Democratic elections play a crucial part but restraints have been placed on democracy by way of constitutional law. This prevents the tyranny of a majority over a minority and any minority is guaranteed individual rights even if the majority votes against this.
How much rights are afforded the unborn as well as people fearing their rights will be taken over by religious institutions has been central. The constitution does protect people’s rights to not be involved in any religious institution, however the constitution developed by our founding fathers never implied the government is autonomous from its creator and the ethics this carries with it. It is this concept of rights transgressed that converges in to one core issue for pro-choice and pro-life ; is abortion murder? Further definition expands this to mean murder of a living, human, person, the different stages of the embryo and exactly when this becomes a person.
Murder in the general sense has already been established as wrong and criminal based on sanctity of life and the heart of the discussion should revolve around the question that if we’re not sure a fetus is a person this makes it so serious that we must not make an ethical mistake. It is the sanctity of life that should restrain our discussion and the direction it takes.
God imprints his personal image on every human being which makes us in some ways like our creator. This why we have capital punishment for murder in the first degree given to us by God as an imperative that if another person willfully kills they will forfeit their life. The Ten Commandments command “thou shall not kill” , with the rationale for capital punishment being that man is created in the image of God and human life is so sacred that an attack on another is regarded by God as an attack upon himself since it is an attack on an image bearer. Man has dignity because he is created by God and God has declared that every human life is sacred. This is reiterated by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. The deeper implications of Jesus sermon are, don’t think you’ve obeyed God if you don’t commit murder but also that you are not even allowed to be angry with people because you hurt the quality of life of another, or slander them because lives are sacred. The true force behind the ethic of Jesus is that all life is sacred.
We see that virtually every society develops laws protecting human life, their general consensus is that murder is wrong, and it’s right to care for the sanctity of life. Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative can be of value stating everyone is born with a sense of duty or oughtness which is not limited but applies to people in general. There is an international conscious that ties humanity together and it abhors murder. Science can also be of some help in that it observes a universal struggle for life in the biological world with an innate drive towards life. The male contains 30 to 60 million sperm , only one is needed to fertilize, and science’s view is that we have been equipped to conquer the obstacles to reproduce human life. From the perspective of government our own Declaration of Independence states that we have been endowed by our Creator with the rights of life, liberty, and happiness.
Sacredness and value of human life are universal and the burden of proof is upon the side that declares the fetus is not an actual life. Good examples of this can be seen in war and capital punishment. Before we enter a war to take human life we need to be one hundred percent positive our cause is just and we need this same assurance if we are going to put someone to death for a capital crime. Life is too sacred to relegate it to personal preference, convenience, or economic condition.
Concerning women’s rights where do we appeal to this moral right and does natural law justify the right to have an abortion? Women do have many ethical rights to their own body such as protection from violence and rape, but is this right absolute and unlimited and are there other principals and rights that restrain this? God prohibited self mutilation of the human body in the Old Testament and suicide is against the law in practically every society. A larger question to be answered is the unborn child part of the mother’s body simply because it is within her?
The child within the womb is distinct from the mother. The unborn child’s fingerprints are different, have its own genetic code established from conception , within 25 days have its own heartbeat , in eight weeks its own brainwaves, and 12 to 13 weeks recoils from pain distinctly its own. Life at conception is genetically differentiated from the mother and in addition to the mother’s life and certainly points to unique personal attributes that are present in everyone who is a person. Regarding the right of privacy we all forfeit this to some extent by submitting to credit checks, warrants, and search and seizure laws. The right to privacy does not give the right for someone to do harm to another privately.
The implications from scripture are that life begins at conception Although I cannot absolutely claim this the principle applies both ways that neither side can claim more than they can absolutely; pro-choice has not proven absolutely that life does not begin at conception. Scripture forbids potential destruction of life which also speaks to the actual destruction of potential life. The bible speaks of people being known by God and sanctified in their mother’s womb. The book of Luke describes the baby (John) leaping for joy within her responding to a conceived Jesus while both are still in the womb with genuine recognition and reaction. In Exodus we see the Law of Vengeance , life for life. In this case it would clearly mean the fetus was alive and at very minimum the unborn child in Israel was protected by Jewish law and considered extremely valuable. What I can state absolutely is that natural development begins at conception and the difference between a sperm and an ovum is that the entire process of human development is initiated and driving towards development of a human being. Upon this I would argue that potential life is no less potential in the first week or after. Potentiality is always moving toward life.
Given the complexity and emotions regarding abortion our response needs to be one of compassion for the mother but passionate intensity for the unborn. The questions of caring for the child, economic resources, and personal convenience, although significant should not be the deciding factor for abortion. There is no crime more severe than murder and we must error on the side of protection of life when in doubt and even at the sake of personal convenience. This put’s a dual emphasis on the church to rise up against this as evil as well as to be compassionate toward the mother’s of these children who lack the means to bring up a child.