Published: 5 October 2020 (GMT+10)
The following meme shows up on social media once in a while:
On the surface, this seems like a reasonable argument. The idea is that each of these items is a matter of personal choice that does not affect anyone else, so should not be curtailed. We will not spend time here discussing the criteria for establishing various laws (i.e. whether something does/does not hurt someone else). So without getting into whether cigarette smoke or guns can potentially harm others, let’s consider abortion. This is not merely a case of personal preference and there is no question that another human being is harmed by it.
Pro-choice advocates like to frame the debate as simply a matter of ‘choice’. The argument is that a woman has a right to choose what happens to her body and how dare anyone infringe on her personal freedoms by compelling her to do something that will have a profound impact on her life? Since it is considered to be entirely a woman’s decision, men aren’t even supposed to have an opinion. But if evolution is true, can there even be freedom of choice? If our thoughts are simply the result of chemical reactions, how can we trust them? Freedom to choose comes from God, who allowed us this freedom so we could choose to love Him and do His will, not choose our own selfish desires.
Let us examine the question of ‘choice’ a little further. There are actually three choices at play here.
The most obvious choice is whether to abort a preborn child. In contemplating this, we must acknowledge that there is another human life at stake. No one, male or female, should be allowed to choose whether to kill another human being with impunity. One of the reasons we have law s is to protect people from the harmful choices of others. Consider also that the aborted child does not get a choice; and roughly half of them are female. It’s ironic that our culture finds it necessary to prohibit smoking in public places to protect others from second-hand smoke, but will not protect a preborn child from abortion. There are even warnings on cigarette packs to indicate smoking may harm the baby. Should we put such warnings up at abortion clinics, I wonder?
It used to be argued that a preborn child is not a human being. Haeckel’s fraudulent embryo drawings were sometimes used to support this argument; suggesting the fetus went through evolutionary stages of development (e.g. fish, reptile) and was therefore, not yet human. Sometimes, a fetus was referred to as a “cluster of cells” or “lump of flesh”. 4D ultrasound technology has proven these ideas false. Also, a person has his/her own unique DNA from the very first cell which means that there is a unique human being at every stage from conception to death. Embryonic research has completely debunked the idea that humans during development retrace evolutionary stages. But it is still in textbooks. Some argue that, although the fetus is not part of the woman’s body, she still has a right to abort the child because the child is inside her body. But Scripture teaches us the preborn child is worthy of consideration as a distinct human being. (Exodus 21:22–23).
The Bible tells us we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). In fact, we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), which is why murder is so serious. Killing someone means destroying that image. Scripture indicates that a preborn child is considered human while still in the womb. Consider Rebekah’s twin sons, who “struggled together within her”, referred to by God as “Two nations” in [her] womb” (Genesis 25: 22–23). In Luke 1:44, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy when Mary arrives carrying the preborn Jesus. The word used for ‘baby’ here is the Greek word brephos, also used to refer to baby Jesus in Luke 2:12. Clearly, children in the womb are as important to God as those already born.
Another choice is made even before conception. One could add to the above list: “Don’t want a baby? Don’t do the thing that makes babies.” Having sex without birth control includes the risk of pregnancy, but contraceptives are not 100% effective either. The only 100% effective method of preventing conception is abstinence. In any other scenario, one must acknowledge the possibility of pregnancy, just as driving a car while impaired carries with it the risk of hurting someone, regardless of the driver’s intentions. Just as one ought to make plans not to drive even before starting to drink, one ought to consider all the possible implications of having sex.
The debate really circulates around a person’s freedom to have sex without taking responsibility for one of the potential outcomes of that act. When God “made them male and female” to “become one flesh”(Genesis 2:24), this involved a commitment to one another and any resulting offspring. In fact, God also said, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Can you imagine how people might operate differently in our culture if they lived by this standard?
A variation of the above-mentioned meme ends with something like, “your religion dictates what you can’t do, but it doesn’t dictate what others can’t do”. In other words, your religion has nothing to do with reality (which affects everyone); it is just a personal opinion, so keep your religion and morals to yourself. This line of thinking ignores the fact that religion (or Christianity at least) compels believers to protect the helpless. No one has an issue with protecting children from abusive parents or the marginalized from discrimination and bullying. So how much more should we protect the preborn from murder?
But if evolution is true, why bother caring for anyone else? If there is no God, there is no objective morality, so we can do whatever we want. If it feels good, do it, and if hurting others (e.g. lying) helps your lineage survive, go ahead. Some evolutionists have even suggested rape is justifiable. Evolution is not about personal survival but survival of the species. The one who has the most offspring wins. Ironically, abortion runs counter to that.
Rape is often cited as justification for abortion.1 Why should a woman who has been raped be forced to give birth to the rapist’s child? Rape is a heinous act condemned by Scripture (Deuteronomy 22:25, 28–29), but as you’ve probably heard, ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’. I know of no other scenario in which it is considered acceptable to retaliate against an innocent third-party for a wrong that’s been committed. We rarely hear of someone getting mugged and then stealing the neighbour’s car to retaliate against the mugger.
This brings us to the third choice, and for this, I will pose a hypothetical scenario. Suppose a woman finds out she is pregnant. Pro-choice advocates would assert that she alone has the choice to abort or not, as it is her body. Suppose she decides to keep the baby, or at least carry it to term. Now, an extraordinary thing tends to happen. Over the next several months, that woman is likely to make choices she wouldn’t have made previously. If she drinks or smokes, studies indicate she is likely to stop doing so during pregnancy.2,3 Studies also indicate she will probably choose a healthier diet.4 Many in our culture would probably encourage such choices. Why?
One could argue these are all beneficial to the woman’s health, but why make those changes now? And if it is her body, what right do we have to advise her anyway? The truth is, this woman is now more likely to make choices that take her preborn child into consideration, but that same child was not worthy of consideration when deciding whether to abort. What changed?
All that has changed is how the woman thinks about her child. He/she is no longer an impersonal clump of cells or a fish, but a human being. She may even be thinking of potential names. A key decision every pregnant woman has to make is whether or not the child is human and therefore, worthy of her esteem. In most cases, once the child is deemed human, letting the child live becomes a no-brainer. There are those who claim the child may be human, but is not a “person”. The distinction between “personhood” and “humanity” is rather fuzzy; but why even make such a distinction unless it is to justify what would otherwise be an unthinkable act? Denying ‘personhood’ to certain people has historically led to terrible atrocities, such as slavery and the Holocaust.
God alone is Creator and God alone determines our worth. Preborn children are made in His image from the very first cell and are loved by Him. They are not to be dismissed as objects of personal ‘choice’.
References and notes
- There are estimated to be about 6 million pregnancies in the United States per year. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/05/01/almost-half-of-pregnancies-in-the-u-s-are-unplanned-theres-a-surprisingly-easy-way-to-change-that/. According to one study, an estimated 32,101 pregnancies per year are a result of rape. That’s amounts to just over 0.5% of all pregnancies. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8765248/. Return to text.
- According to a longitudinal study done in the UK in 2017, “Smoking in pregnancy is associated with increased risks of miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity, low birth weight, perinatal morbidity and mortality, neonatal and sudden infant death, infant respiratory problems, poorer infant cognition and adverse infant behavioural outcomes.” The same study claims “Pregnancy is probably the event which most motivates female smokers to try quitting; for example, in the UK, over 50% of pregnant smokers try to stop” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5695489/#:~:text=Over%20half%20(55.7%25%2C%2095,trying%20to%20stop%20after%20childbirth. Return to text.
- A 2016 paper indicates similar statistics for drinking: 41.3 % of women did not drink during pregnancy; 27 % drank in first trimester only, most of whom stopped once they realised they were pregnant (87 %). Muggli, E., O’Leary, C., Donath, S. et al. “Did you ever drink more?” A detailed description of pregnant women’s drinking patterns. BMC Public Health 16, 683 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-016-3354-9. Return to text.
- 70 percent of women surveyed said they started eating healthier when they became pregnant. https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/nutrition/what-pregnant-women-really-eat/#:~:text=You%20Have%20a%20Love%2DHate,of%20fruits%20and%20vegetables%20recommended. Return to text.