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By Stephen Wiggins

religion, articles, christianity

It is estimated that some 55 million abortions are performed throughout the world annually. Abortion became legal in the United States in the year 1973 with the Roe versus Wade court case. It is now estimated that between 1 and 2 million infants are innocent victims of abortion each year within our own country.

America kills more human lives each year by abortion than she has lost in 200 years of wars all combined. During the Viet Nam war 58,665 American soldiers died. But now this country's medical profession takes the lives of that many unborn children every 12 days!

Doubtless, most Christians are opposed to abortion. However, there are some among us that may have been influenced by conservative politicians to allow abortion in certain cases. For example, let us suppose that a woman conceives a child as a result of rape or incest. I read recently in a local newspaper where a 19-year-old comatose patient in a nursing home was raped by one of the male nurses. She conceived as a result.

What should be our convictions in such cases? If such a traumatic situation arose in our own lives or to one of our family members what should we do? Is abortion, the taking of an innocent human life, permissible in God's sight on such occasions? Unquestionably, this is difficult to answer. However, brother Wayne Jackson, in his book Biblical Ethics & Modem Science, addresses this very point. He writes as follows:

But what of the ethics of terminating the life of the child who was conceived as the result of rape or incest? Some who opposed abortion as a general rule nonetheless would allow it in cases such as these. The issue, however, is not how the pregnancy was initiated. Rape and incest are horrible-there is no question about that. The real issue has to do with whether we are dealing with a person within the womb. If so-and we absolutely affirm this to be the case-then the infant's right to life must be respected. Would anyone argue that it is moral to kill a newborn child simply because it was conceived through rape or incest? If not, why not? The baby was not responsible for the manner of its conception. Two wrongs do not make a right! (p. 14).

I sincerely believe that brother Jackson is right on target. One simply does not have the right to take the life of an innocent human being no matter what the circumstances may have been that led to the conception. In regard to the comatose woman who was raped that I mentioned above, she eventually gave birth to a healthy child. The grandparents will rear the child, hopefully in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. If so, a terrible situation is turned into a good one whereby God is glorified with a human life.

What about the mother's life when endangered during a pregnancy? Is it morally justifiable to take the life of the child to save the life of the mother? Thanks to the advances of modern medicine it is seldom necessary to abort a child in order to save the mother's life. However, such occasions do arise, such as in the case of tubal pregnancies. What should be the convictions of a Christian is such cases? Following is a paragraph from brother Wayne Jackson's book, Biblical Ethics & Modem Science, wherein he addresses this very question:

Occasionally (though rarely), a circumstance will arise where a continued pregnancy would result in the death of the mother, or the child- possibly even both. In such a case, a decision has to be made as to which life will be saved. If an abortion is performed, this is not comparable to arbitrarily taking the life of a healthy child from a healthy mother for convenience sake. If one happens upon two persons who are struggling in the water beside a capsized boat, and he can rescue only one of them, does the fact that he chooses one, in deference to the other, mean that he has murdered the victim who drowns? The answer is too obvious to need comment. We might mention, however, that Dr. C. Everett Koop, former surgeon General, once said that in some 35 years of medical practice, he had never encountered a ease where an abortion was necessary to save the mother's life (pp. 14­15).

One might also argue that this medical procedure to save a human life is not an "abortion" in the general sense of the term. While abortion is defined as a procedure which involves the premature expulsion of the fetus with the intent of bringing about its death" (Encyclopedia of Biblical & Christian Ethics, p. 3), induced abortion is generally an arbitrary act to take the innocent life of a human being irrespective of the mother's health. It is an act of destroying, not saving, human life. Thus, an unavoidable medical precaution to save a mother's life is not an "abortion" in the general sense of the term.

Apologist Norman Geisler, in his book Christian Ethics: Options And Issues, points out that the mother's body will often naturally abort the child when difficulties arise and threaten the life of the mother. He further argues that it is morally justifiable to take every medical precaution to save the mother's life when endangered. First, the intention is never to murder the human life of the child, but to save the life of the mother. Second, when situations like this arise, it is a life­for­a­life issue, and not an "abortion­on­demand" situation which characterizes the majority of abortions practiced in modern times (p. 152).

Admittedly, answers to questions like we are now posing are difficult to come by. Everyone may not agree with the answers given. What we must do as the people of God is to act in harmony with our individual conscience as we are directed by the principles of God's inspired truth. May God generously bless us with wisdom from above in knowing his will when seeking to please him in all that we do.

Published November 1996