Saturday, 27 October, 2007, marks the 40th anniversary of the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act in the UK. This law, which, unusually, has application throughout the entire United Kingdom, has led to the death of 200,000 unborn children per year in England and Wales alone; that is a rate of 550 per day.
Many Christians are, rightly, concerned about the issue of abortion. A biblical opposition to abortion is based on answering the question: is the unborn child (or fetus) a human being?
The reason why that question is so fundamental should be clear. Very few Christians would have a problem with the controlled killing of animals. For example, a veterinary surgeon who thinks that his subject animal is in too much pain will suggest that the animal be “put down”—in other words, killed. This is deemed to be kinder to the animal. Human medicine does not work on this principle. If a cat has had too many kittens for a family to cope with, it is not deemed wrong to humanely destroy some of the kittens. But the same would not be proposed if a family had too many children to bring up.
If the unborn baby is not human, then there can be no moral objection to its being controlled in the same way. However, if the unborn baby is human, then the deliberate ending of the unborn baby’s life is no different than the deliberate ending of any innocent human life—murder.
The Bible also gives clear guidelines to help us answer the question posed above. The best clue to the Bible’s view of the unborn child is to look at the many passages where unborn babies are featured. In Jeremiah 1:5, we read that God formed Jeremiah in the womb: “Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” In Genesis 25:21–22, we read about Rebekah being pregnant, and how the children “struggled together within her.” These are hardly the words that might be used to describe mere blobs of flesh. Other passages also give testimony to the humanity of unborn children. In the New Testament, John the Baptist was said to have “leapt” inside Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1:41–44). Interestingly, the Greek word used to describe him is the word usually translated as baby. Most tellingly, Psalm 139 gives an account of how God formed us, prior to our birth.
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
This description of how we were “fearfully and wonderfully made” seems to clinch the argument. The creature being talked about in this psalm is definitely a human being.
If the unborn baby is human, then the sanctions against killing it are severe. Indeed, the word “it” is often inappropriate—it becomes “him” or “her.” Language is often used to distort an argument. That is why the pro-abortion campaigners seek to use dehumanised language about the unborn baby, such as fetus.
And yet, the whole anti-abortion argument can still fall down for those Christians who use only the above passages. What if the early chapters of Genesis were not literally true? In that case, the sanction against those who destroy the innocent (Genesis 9:5–6) is not valid. Nor would it be valid to describe the unborn child as being made “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27).
Yet the language of Psalm 139 resonates well with Genesis being literally true. So many schoolteachers in the UK have taught their charges that the human embryo undergoes a number of evolutionary changes inside the womb, reliving stages of evolutionary history—despite the fact that such teaching has been shown for over 50 years to be erroneous. Psalm 139 says nothing of this evolutionary process, but rather acknowledges God as Creator. It is He who made human beings in His image. Therefore, our opposition to abortion rests firmly on a foundation of our belief in the truth of Genesis.
Forty years of abortion in the UK have coincided with years of decline in biblical teaching in the church, such that today, even so-called evangelical churches have abandoned their belief in the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture. Christians should use this dreadful anniversary to call the nation back to righteousness, and to call the church back to biblical foundations.
The following organisations in the UK and the U.S. can give more help and assistance. We would particularly urge anyone currently going through a crisis pregnancy to contact one of them for caring, advice, and counsel.
In the UK, the evangelical organisation IMAGE hold a National Day of Prayer every year on October 27. If you have never before participated in this, please consider contacting IMAGE at the web address above.