Friday, November 04, 2011

Abortion: My Views

Discussion on another blog has pushed me to lay down my views on abortion. I think they need to be broken into three categories: theological, ecclesiastical, and civil.


I think a strong biblical case can be made that as Christians we are to consider the fetus to be a complete human being with a soul and an eternal destination. The humanity of the fetus is expressed most explicitly by the reaction of the en-wombed John the Baptist in the presence of the even less developed Christ.

The aborted child, however, is not the theological focus. Arguments that the child might have grown up to cure cancer are essentially arguments that the will of God can be thwarted by the abortionist. May it never be. The theological argument is, as it always is, about glory to God. How is the glory of God revealed and sought among those who live, work, counsel or for whatever reason fall into the abortion sphere? The focus, theologically speaking, is on those who involve themselves, one way or another, in the abortion.

Another theological point is that there is nothing in the bible about "age of accountability" as it pertains to salvation. And if it were so, then abortion would have to be viewed at some level as mercy killing. The bible describes an age of accountability in Jewish criminal law, but not in terms of avoiding God's judgment. We are born in rebellion and conceived in sin. We can have hope, as King David expressed, that we will see dead infants in glory as a result of God's mercy--but in fact the bible is silent on the matter.


It is a mistake if fighting abortion approaches anything like a raison d'ĂȘtre for a church. The church is not in the business of fighting abortion. It is in the business of making disciples and tending to the saints. Infanticide was present in the Roman world--primarily in the form of abandonment: taking unwanted newborns (usually girls) to the wilderness and leaving them to die. This would have been known to Paul, yet we find no instruction to any church that they should adopt fighting this atrocity as a primary mission.

Individual Christians should and did rescue abandoned children when they could. But that is quite different from making abortion a "cause".


Adultery is a sin. Adultery is not against the law. At some level we have to acknowledge that it is not our responsibility to make sin illegal for unbelievers. It is our responsibility to hold each other (in the family of believers) accountable for our behavior.

That doesn't mean that we should not vote for candidates who share our views. It does mean that in doing so we are participating in the secular government, and have to respect and obey the laws that are passed.

If a non-believer wants to have an abortion then we can offer, without subterfuge or misrepresentation, counseling and the gospel. We should offer the same services post-abortion. In fact, we should double-down on the love we show post-abortion. I am happy that the organization our church supports is well known for maintaining the relationship it has begun even when the woman decides to have an abortion.

For believers--we need sensitivity as well. We can all agree that abortion of a healthy baby in the birth canal, when there is no risk to the mother, is murder. That establishes the principle. How far back into the pregnancy you can extrapolate and what is the effect of extraordinary circumstances (rape, incest, severe deformity, etc) is problematic. What would I say to a sister in Christ who had an abortion? I would say: "I love you, and what's done is done. Let's move on." What would I say to a sister in Christ who was raped and contemplating a first trimester abortion? I would say: "I cannot pretend walk in your shoes." I would tell her to pray. I would tell her that if there is a clear right or wrong answer here I don't claim to know it. I would tell her that her salvation is not dependent on her making the correct choice here. I might hope she chooses to keep the child but I would not berate her into that decision.

I would support a law that made abortion (with no mitigating circumstances) illegal after some point in the pregnancy in the same manner that I support making murder illegal. How far I would push that I don't know. At some point I would rather be inclined to leave it between the woman and God.


  1. Wow. I couldn't have come to more different conclusions. Some of your arguments made me shudder in anger and frustration. (Probably because they are difficult to refute.)

    I see abortion as killing. I don't see how a child conceived as a result of incest or rape as more (or less) guilty than the child conceived by parents who want that child very much. The child bears the image of God regardless of the circumstances.

    In my view, I see arbitrary time markers (first trimester, 3rd trimester, 2 years after birth, etc) as creating arbitrary classes of persons who we can dispatch as they are an inconvenience to ourselves or our society.

    I often have been heard to say, "I'm not against abortion, per se, I just think it ought to be legal in the first 400 trimesters."

    Thanks for forcing me to put my abortion views in writing. It's an excellent exercise.

  2. Such a sensitive topic that will probably be debated until Christs return. It is hard to apply a Christian standard to societies that don't ascribe to its principals; therin, leaving it without direction in Godly understanding.

  3. Thank you for offering this nuanced article about a very polarizing topic.
    Abortion is definitely not black and white, no matter how forcefully the extremists on either side present it. But the level of hypocrisy is much higher on the pro-choice position. Be that as it may, removing the ability to choose will definitely have unintended consequences.
    We need more moderate voices to speak up on this topic. Mainly because I believe the majority of people are conflicted on this issue. It's easier to just avoid the topic than to deal with the confrontational response from either side.
    Sorry, but abortion is not pleasant whether the circumstances would seem to justify it or not.
    For the life of me, I can't understand why stem cell research couldn't utilize aborted fetal tissue. There is an abundance of it being dumped as medical waste. The ethical dilemma of creating human embryos for purely research purposes is eliminated. What's the difference between using cadavers and demised fetal tissue in medical science, besides the cause of death?
    By not addressing the moderate positions on abortion, this topic is pretty much off the table.

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  5. David,

    How do you square the belief that a strong argument can be made for considering the fetus a completed human with the belief that a christian woman should not necessarily be unequivocally dissuaded from artificially terminating that completed person, such as in the case of a rape?

    Pax Christi,


  6. Patrick,

    I would try to dissuade any Christian woman from getting an abortion. However, under certain circumstances (say, incest) I would feel far less enthusiastic. Some of that is human nature--I simply cannot understand what she is going through. Some of it is theological: it is the state that places legal restraints on our actions not our theology. Our theology teaches that the motivation to commit the sin is the sin. And we cannot police motivations. At some point I give up and say: the woman--as are we all-- is responsible for her decisions. My responsibility is to love her and minister to her. Having said all that I readily admit I do not have a coherent self-consistent position on this topic. It's the best I can do.