December 18, 2017

The Abortion Debate

Ted Harris

To many Christians today, abortion is a settled issue and not worth discussing with others. Paul’s approach to a similar issue of his day, the “unknown god” of Mars’ Hill, was quite different. He had a tough audience which included Stoics and Epicureans. What were the results of his message? Some believed, some scoffed, and some said, “we will hear thee again of this” (Acts 17:32). In the marketplace of ideas today, we cannot ignore the questions about abortion. If we do, we will miss the opportunity to reach others. Confronting new ethical dilemmas they have not previously considered may shake the faith of some Christians. But with millions of babies being aborted in this country, Christians must know what they believe about the issue of abortion and share it with others.

Statistics from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, place total pregnancies terminated by abortions at 1.3 million in the year 2000, a figure they agree is low. Though there has been an annual decline in the last few years, the total number of infants killed in the womb since 1973 is still approximately 43 million. In other words, “abortion is one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States.”

The Scriptures, however, speak quite clearly concerning this issue. God made man (Gen. 9:6), and He alone owns man (Ezek. 18:4). Moreover, God knows each man prior to birth (Jer. 1:5; Ps. 139:13–16). Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2:6 exalts the Lord alone as the One who has control over life and death, closely connecting the issues of abortion and euthanasia. As Christians we should “know how [we] ought to answer every man” from the Word of God (Col. 4:6), or we will never influence those around us for Christ.

Killing for Convenience?

The Guttmacher Institute states that 92% of these abortions are done for convenience, not medical necessity. “Convenience” would include “inadequate finances— 21%,” “not ready for responsibility—21%,” “woman’s life would be changed too much—16%,” “problems with relationship; unmarried—12%,” “too young; not mature enough—11%,” “children are grown; woman has all she wants—8%.” Yet arguments for abortion such as “choice” or “convenience” are easily answered. The mother made a “choice” when she opted for physical intimacy. The reasons given above arise simply from the self-centered idolatry of putting oneself in the place of the God of life.

What about Abortion for Victims of Rape or Incest?

Guttmacher statistics list rape or incest as the cause for 1% of aborted pregnancies. This difficult situation is one many believers stumble over. A woman has been forced, through no choice of her own, into a pregnancy. Yet Scriptural principles still apply. God still controls all circumstances, and as the unchanging God of life, He still owns, knows, and values this child (see previous references). Though the mother is undoubtedly a victim in such a situation, aborting her baby will only create a second innocent victim. Furthermore, abortions tend to scar the mothers emotionally, often leading to depression. Thus, for these women, an abortion merely creates a second trauma to deal with.

What about Aborting a Child for the Health of the Mother?

How do you deal with the “dilemmas” of pregnancy? I believe there to be four main categories for these “dilemmas”:

  1. In some cases our knowledge is limited and dogmatic pronouncements are mostly opinion. For instance, in two cases I encountered, the mother was assured she would die in labor should she choose not to abort. Yet both deliveries were uncomplicated and produced healthy babies.
  2. At other times, treatment of the mother’s medical problem produces risk, but is in the best interests of both mom and baby. An example would be the medication and monitoring required for chronic hypertension.
  3. The most serious circumstances involve treatment of an aggressive condition such as a rapidly growing cancer. If you do not treat the illness, Mom will die. If you do, the baby may die due to the treatment. In such cases, we leave that result with a sovereign God, who always has more knowledge and wisdom than we have. I recently followed two such cases, both of which resulted in healthy babies and mothers.
  4. Finally, in some situations, allowing Mom to go near to term, then delivering the baby and treating Mom is a valid option. Interestingly enough, there is evidence that breast cancer may fit this category.

In summary, because millions of babies are yet being aborted in this country, Christians must know what they believe about abortion and share those convictions with others. If we as Christians are to have any impact in the lives of those around us, we must be prepared to discuss these topics and willing to declare the reasonable faith that we have.

The late Dr. Ted Harris, a family physician who practiced in Greenville, South Carolina, delivered over 1200 babies.

(Originally published in FrontLine • May/June 2005. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

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