Not since the controversial issue of slavery ripped America apart at the seams has one subject troubled our country like abortion. The abortion issue divides families and friends, striking passions that run deep. It is the great moral debate of this century.
Abortion is not merely a medical procedure that ends the life of a fetus inside the mother's womb in order to prevent the birth. Abortion is an ethical issue concerning what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad, what is beautiful and what is grossly horrible, what is life and what is murder.
On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court, in the now famous Roe v. Wade case, ruled that during the first six months of pregnancy the decision of whether to abort a baby should be left to the mother and her physician. Later in the Doe v. Bolton case, the court effectively destroyed all safeguards for the fetus during the third trimester by permitting abortions for broadly defined "health reasons."
I. The staggering facts about abortion
Since then "abortion on demand" has become accepted medical practice in the United States. It is the second most common surgical procedure, only slightly behind circumcision. Hundreds of clinics derive their primary income from non-therapeutic abortions. Their annual gross earnings are in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Since the Roe v. Wade decision an estimated 30 million babies have been aborted. Let me put this number in perspective. That is 23 times the number of Americans killed in all U.S. wars. In two weeks, more babies die from abortions in this country than the total of all Americans killed in the twelve years of the Vietnam War. In fact, if a memorial were built on the same scale as the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., to honor all the pre-born babies killed through abortion in America over the past twenty years, that wall would be almost fifty miles long.
Every year American doctors kill at least 1.5 million unborn children. Today nearly one of every three babies conceived in the United States is aborted. The scale of this killing should be compared to the Holocaust during the Second World War.
And what is the impact of this slaughter on our society? A 1993 Tampa Tribune editorial cartoon has a lone man shouting at God, "God, why haven't you sent us people with cures for cancer and AIDS, and answers to world hunger and all our social problems?" God answers, "I did!" The man responds, "But . . . but . . . where are they?!" God answers, "You aborted them!"
Those in favor of abortion cite a number of reasons for holding to their pro-choice position. Some of these reasons eloquently defend the rights of the mother while others twist facts and statistics. When, however, the smoke screens are removed, the sad fact is that the vast majority of abortions performed in this country are done for social reasons. Rape, incest, life of the mother, and severe fetal deformity account for only 2-5 percent of all abortions. The remaining 95-98 percent is done strictly as a matter of convenience. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute (formerly an affiliate of Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider), more than 90 percent of the women seeking abortions are motivated primarily by the difficulties pregnancy would cause for their careers, education, finances, or family lives. In effect, abortion has become the ultimate form of birth control. It allows sexually permissive Americans to continue their lifestyle with a minimum of disruption and inconvenience.
It has come to the time where the most dangerous place to be in America is not in the inner city where gangs threaten innocent lives or in angry prisons where only the fit survive. The most dangerous place to live is in the womb of a mother who is being told if she doesn't really want the baby, an abortion is the solution.
How would you like to be that baby inside the womb of a woman, who isn't sure she wants you to live any longer? Since when does anyone's right to live depend upon someone else wanting him or her? Should any civilized nation give to one citizen the absolute right to kill another in order to solve that first person's personal problem?
What are we to do?
II. The stand for life (Prov. 24:11)
"Rescue those being taken off to death, and save those stumbling toward slaughter" (Proverbs 24:11). This is a general statement. No specifics are given. No illustrations. And the reason for this is so that we will not limit it to one group of humans and try to leave out another group We are not simply to rescue the white people or the wealthy or the healthy or the intelligent or the strong. This command applies to all people.
This verse teaches us: If a group of humans is being taken away to death that ought not to be taken away to death, the people who fear God in the vicinity ought to try to rescue them. What is being commanded is some kind of intervention from us when we become aware of neighbors being killed that ought not to be killed.
The pathetic tragedy of abortion is that those who are being killed can neither represent themselves before a court of law nor defend themselves from sure death. Lives are being taken brutally, tragically, and thoughtlessly. Some are being sucked out limb by limb and then disposed in a garbage disposal or hauled to a garbage dumpster. We must hear the silent screams of those children being aborted.
I can hear a few passionate pro-life activists urging me to turn to the verse that says, "Thou shalt not get an abortion," so everyone will understand that the issue, so far as the Bible goes, is a slam-dunk. Only one problem with that request: There is no such verse. But there are principles in God's Word that assist us in formulating reasons for intervention. As Southern Baptists -
A. We stand on the conception of life
The question that goes to the heart of the abortion debate is, "When does life begin?" The Bible teaches that life begins at conception. "The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life" (Job. 33:4). "Then the LORD God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being" (Gen. 2:7). Human life began when God shaped Adam in his own image and breathed into him the breath of life. This life is transmitted from generation to generation in an unbroken chain that links Adam and Eve with every child conceived in the mother's womb. The developing unborn baby is a human life as surely as is a fully developed adult.
Medical authorities determine a person to be "alive" if there is either a detectable heartbeat or brain wave activity. With that in mind, it is eye-opening for some to realize that unborn children have detectable heartbeats at 18 days (two and one-half weeks) after conception and detectable brain-wave activity at 40 days (a little over five and one-half weeks) after conception.
What is shocking is that essentially 100 percent of all abortions occur after the seventh week of pregnancy.
There are some hospitals in this country that are caring for premature babies on one floor while on another floor older unborn infants are being aborted.
The issue becomes one of geography. In the womb an abortionist can perform the ultimate form of child abuse but a few inches farther through the birth canal that same practice is called murder.
B. We stand on the sacredness of life
Not only do humans possess life but also we possess life in the image of God. "So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female" (Gen. 1:27). As lovely, beautiful, colorful, and full of variety as the plant or animal kingdom may be, none have divinity stamped on it. Only humans are created in the divine image. Only humans are capable of divine fellowship - to know, love, and obey God. Only humans are called to divine purpose - to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
It should not surprise us, then, when we turn to Exodus 20:13, that we read, "Do not murder." Why? Because there is something distinctly precious and unique about human life. In God's estimation, it is so precious and so unique that he commands that it must be protected and preserved. It alone represents "the image of God."
C. We stand on the development of life
Not only did God reach down and originate the unborn life, but also he continues to fashion the unborn child. The hands of God are upon that life and are developing the life into a unique person. The prophet Jeremiah wrote of God's Words to him, "I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born" (Jer. 1:5). To Isaiah, "And now, says the LORD, who formed me from the womb to be His servant" (Isa. 49:5). The most eloquent passage supporting the development of life in the womb is Psalm 139. The Psalmist writes, "For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I will praise You, because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know [this] very well. My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all [my] days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began" (Psalm 139:13-16). Think of it. God was there when you and I were being formed in utter seclusion, and he personally made all the delicate inner parts of our bodies. The Great Creator of the universe lovingly supervised my development during those preconscious days, as he did for every human being on earth.
God's Word reveals what it has taken science centuries to prove. The unborn fetus in not a blob, masses of tissue similar to an egg yoke. The unborn fetus is a person that is developing. That living being within the mother's womb sleeps, kicks, sucks its thumb, breathes (fluid), and responds to pain.
Up until the advent of ultrasound technology, ethically, abortionists referred to their practice as removing a black spot or a mass of tissue. I will never forget the first time I saw my daughter. It was not in the birthing room of the hospital, but in a doctor's office via an ultrasound. I can attest that what I was viewing was not a black spot or a mass of tissue but a living, developing person.
Dr. Bernard Nathanson, former director of the world's largest abortion clinic and a founding member of the National Abortion Rights Action League, changed over to the pro-life choice side in 1975 because of ultrasound technology. He changed his mind not for religious or spiritual reasons, but because he witnessed an abortion viewed through an ultrasound.
4. We stand on the sovereignty of life
Almost without exception today, the major part of the argument is that the woman's rights take over or have precedence over the life within her, as though she were solely responsible for the conception of life within her. She is not, really.
How often couples will have sexual relations again and again with or without the use of contraceptives - but there is no conception. And then one day God sovereignly causes life to be conceived. The couple can no more say they had the creative powers to begin that life within the woman than they can say they have the final authority to end it.
III. Suggested action steps
These are the four reasons for intervention. But reasons without application are useless. How can the instructions of Proverbs 24:11 be put into practice? Let me offer a few suggestions.
- Volunteer your time, energy, and financial resources to pro-life organizations.
- Make your home available to unwed mothers.
- Write letters to and contact governmental leaders.
- Participate in demonstrations of your personal preference. This is not for everyone, but it is for many.
- Practice in your private life what you claim to believe publicly. Model moral purity. Abstain from premarital and extramarital sexual involvement.
- Consider adopting a child.
- Pray, pray, and pray. Pray for those on the front lines of the battle. Pray for the politicians, the physicians, the ministers, and the pro-life leaders. Pray for the mothers-to-be that more and more will be courageous and choose against abortion.
Finally, allow me to close with a true story. A couple married during the Great Depression. Into their family God brought two girls and a boy. As the couple reached mid life they thought child bearing and child rearing was over. But when the mother was forty and the father was forty-five they conceived again.
It was a truly difficult time for this couple. At the time, the youngest child was ten; the oldest was beginning college. The emotional and financial weight would have tempted some people to seek the help of someone who would perform an abortion.
The year was 1956, an era when abortions were illegal. The woman and her husband, however, were convinced that they should accept whatever God sovereignly had planned for them. Sacrificially, they chose to have that baby - which turned out to be not one but two boys - twins. They were born in April of that year.
I'm grateful for what that couple's decision, because I was one of those twin boys born, my mother and father's last children. Little did anyone realize back then that God's plan for me would be to preach and to write to advance the kingdom of God. Because my parents valued life, taking a stand for life, many years ago, I am able to write these things today.