A Website for Basic Christian Doctrine

Is Abortion a Sin?

By Jeremy Cagle

Statistics are not always trustworthy but they do help us to identify trends and the trends tell us that abortion is still very popular today. The Guttmacher Institute, which supports the practice of abortion, says that 21 percent of all pregnancies today end in abortion and one in 10 women will have one by the age of 20. One in four will have one by the age of 30 and three in 10 will have one by the age of 45.1 Since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973,2 more than 54 million babies have been legally aborted in the United States.3 That is more than the population of the state of California.4

So how should a Christian respond to the issue of abortion? The following article provides several answers to that question.

I. THE PRO-CHOICE ARGUMENT

The Pro-Choice Argument upholds a woman’s right to abort her child.5 It says that the baby is a part of her body and she can do with it as she pleases. There are several components of the Pro-Choice Argument.

1. Privacy

Pro-Choice says that abortion is a private decision. Every woman has the right to do what they want to with their own body. As mentioned above, since the baby is part of a woman’s body, a woman has the right to abort. This was the argument that convinced the courts in Roe v. Wade.6

The problem with the argument is that if God created the baby, then the baby does not ultimately belong to the mother. He or she ultimately belongs to God. The baby is God’s property and God can do with him or her as He pleases. No one else has that prerogative.

A mother does not own her child. She is responsible for her child (as is the father) but she does not own the child. God will hold her accountable for his life.7 This argument from privacy does not acknowledge her responsibility. Instead, it sees the baby as a woman’s personal possession to dispose of as she wishes.

2. Quality of Life

Another component of the Pro-Choice argument is that if a child’s quality of life will be impaired by his birth, then the mother has the right to abort. If the doctor says that a child’s life will be handicapped or deformed in such a way that he will not enjoy life then the child should not be “punished” with life.

To flesh this out a little bit, interviews have been conducted with handicapped people where they have been asked: “Are you glad to be alive?” Here are some of their answers:

Because the start was a little abnormal, it doesn’t mean you’re going to finish that way. I’m a normal, functioning human being capable of doing anything anyone else can . . .

At times it got very hard, but life is certainly worth living. I married a wonderful guy and I’m just so happy . . .

I really think that all my operations and all the things I had wrong with me were worth it, because I really enjoy life and I don’t really let the things that were wrong with me bother me . . .

If anything, I think I’ve had an added quality to my life – an appreciation for life. I look forward to every single morning . . .8

The Pro-Choice Argument would disagree with these statements. It would say that if defects are found in the womb, a parent can terminate the life of the child no matter what the child would say about it later in life.

3. Non-Personhood

A third component to the Pro-Choice argument states that a fetus is not a person and, if you abort it, you do not actually kill it. After all, you cannot kill something that is not alive. You cannot kill “non-persons.” This point will be taken up in Section II below, so I will hold off on saying more on it for now.

4. Religion

This Pro-Choice Argument says that laws should not be built on religious principles. The separation of church and state prevents that. As one website put it:

Freedom of religion is guaranteed to any citizen in the United States; so why would beliefs and values of one religion mandate actual laws for all citizens?9

The problem with this is that religion is not the only field that disagrees with abortion. Science disagrees with it as well, which will be seen below. Furthermore, everyone says it is wrong to murder, even non-religious people. The United States government will prosecute you if you kill someone. In fact, in some states it is ruled as a double homicide if you murder a pregnant woman and her child dies. You are charged with two counts of murder instead of one.10

So the argument against abortion is more than just a religious argument. It is a scientific and legal argument as well.

II. THE PRO-LIFE ARGUMENT

The Pro-Life Argument upholds a baby’s right to live.11 It says that the safest place in the world should be the womb and, therefore, abortion should be illegal. There are several components of the Pro-Life Argument.

1. Medical

Medically, it can be proven that an unborn baby is alive. Alfred Bongiovanni, a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, writes:

The standard medical texts have long taught that human life begins at conception.12

Jerome Lejune, a former Professor at the University of Descartes in Paris and the discoverer of the chromosome pattern for Down Syndrome, writes:

Each individual has a very unique beginning, the moment of its conception.13

Landrum Shettles, a researcher at Columbia University and a pioneer in the field of in vitro fertilization, says:

There is one fact that no one can deny; human beings begin at conception.14

They say this because of what happens in the womb. At 21 days after conception, the embryo has an irregular heartbeat. By the 9th and 10th weeks, it can squint, swallow, and move its tongue. By the 12th week, it has fingernails, can suck its thumb, and recoils from pain. In the 5th month, skin, hair, nails, and sweat glands come into use and the mother feels the baby move. In the 6th month, the child responds to light and sleeps and hiccups. In the 7th month, the nervous system comes into play.15

What does that sound like? It sounds like a human being. It sounds like a living person. No one looks at an ultrasound and says: “Wow, I can’t wait for that to be alive.” Deep down, we all know that life begins at conception.

2. Historical

Historically speaking, there are parallels between the arguments that are used to support abortion today and the arguments used to support slavery in America and the Holocaust in Europe. For example, in the 1700’s and 1800’s, African Americans were considered “non-persons” by their slave owners.16 They were not considered to be alive or they were considered to be alive on a lower order than everyone else. The same was said for Jews in Nazi Germany17 and now it is being said about children in the womb.

The most frightening thing about this line of thought is that, once you start going down this road, where do you stop? If you can kill the unborn, who else can you kill? Can you kill old people? Can you kill the handicapped or disabled? What about people of other races? Are they non-persons too? And who determines who the non-persons are? Doctors? Politicians? University professors? Bill Shannon correctly sums it up this way:

The irony is that a newborn baby is immediately granted full legal rights as a human being, yet only a few months (or even hours) earlier, that same child is not even considered a person.18

3. Social

Abortion does not operate in a void. It leads to other pitfalls in our society like child abuse, for instance. Roe v. Wade was passed in 1973 and there were 60,000 child abuse cases that year in the United States. Just three years later, those cases had passed the half a million mark.19 In the words of Dr. Irwin Hedlener:

If child abuse were polio, the whole country would be up in arms looking for a solution.20

This does not mean that everyone who has an abortion abuses children but it does mean that there is an interesting connection between the two. After all, if you can abuse a child inside the womb, then what keeps you from abusing a child outside of the womb? If you thought about hurting him before he was born, what keeps you from hurting him after he is born?

Abortion also increases the rate of depression and suicide.21 The majority of women who abort babies struggle with these issues because abortion has a negative impact on society.

4. Safety

It is not always safe to abort a child. You can tell this just by describing the different methods for abortion.

One method is the Dilation and Evacuation Method, which dilates the woman’s body and pulls the fetus out with forceps or some other surgical instrument.22 Another method is the Suction Abortion Method where the fetus is sucked out of the womb either whole or in pieces.23 Next, there is the Induction Abortion Method where a saline solution is injected into the abdomen to kill the baby and induce the mom to deliver a dead child.24

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a Pro-Choice website:

Abortions performed in the first trimester pose virtually no long-term risk of such problems as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries.25

The risk, however, increases the longer an abortion is delayed. In the 16th through 20th week, the death rate is one in every 29,000. In the 21st week, the death rate is one in every 11,000.26

The Pro-Life Movement makes the argument that those odds are not good enough. The health risk is too significant to allow abortion to continue.27

III. THE BIBLICAL ARGUMENT

I say this with a qualification but the Bible is unashamedly Pro-Life. It upholds a baby’s right to live. The qualification to that statement is that the Bible does not agree with everything in the Pro-Life Movement. For example, the Bible does not agree with people blowing up abortion clinics. It does not agree with those who belittle women who have had an abortion.28

The Bible does, however, agree that life begins at conception. It does say that it is murder to kill an unborn child.29 Job 10:8-11 says:

Your hands fashioned and made me altogether, And would You destroy me? Remember now, that You have made me as clay; And would You turn me into dust again? Did You not pour me out like milk And curdle me like cheese; Clothe me with skin and flesh, And knit me together with bones and sinews?

Some scholars say that Job is one of the oldest books in the Bible.30 If that were the case, it would give the book a very unique perspective on the origins of life. And here Job says that God poured him out like milk and curdled him like cheese. He clothed Job with skin and flesh in the womb. To abort a child in the womb is to kill someone that God has created.

Job 31:13-15 says:

If I have despised the claim of my male or female slaves When they filed a complaint against me, What then could I do when God arises? And when He calls me to account, what will I answer Him? Did not He who made me in the womb make him, And the same one fashion us in the womb?

Job says that God made slaves and God made free-born men. He made those at the top of the social ladder and He made those at the bottom. Further, verse 15 says that He “fashioned us in the womb.”

Psalm 139:13-14 says:

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.

Other passages in the Bible teach that human beings are sinful from the moment they are conceived. In Psalm 51:5, David says:

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.

This does not mean that David’s parents sinned in having him.31 It means that David was conceived as a person. Only persons have the ability to sin.

Other passages talk about infants in the womb just like they would talk about normal human beings. Genesis 25:22-23 says this about Jacob and Esau:

But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is so, why then am I this way?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. The Lord said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.”

The Lord speaks of Jacob and Esau as if they were persons even though they were not yet born. God said that they were as two nations.32

According to the Bible, life starts at conception. It starts before birth, not after. We cannot do whatever we want with a fetus and get away with it because it is a life that God has created. It is a living person and we will all be accountable for how we treat it.

So how should we respond to this? What should a Christian do about the abortion epidemic? Here are a few answers to that question.

1. We should never counsel a woman to abort her child

God says that life begins in the womb, and to end a life in the womb is to commit murder. If someone asks us about getting an abortion, we should help them find other options.33

It would be helpful to explain here that there is a difference between an abortion and a miscarriage. If a woman gives birth early and the child dies, it is not an abortion. Not in the sense that we mean in this article. It is a miscarriage. However, to intentionally kill a child in the womb is far different. We should never counsel a woman to do that.34

2. We should be compassionate towards those who have had an abortion

Abortion is not the first choice for many women. In most cases, it is the last choice. It is a choice that they feel compelled to make as the result of their circumstances. So we should show mercy. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God35 and we can have compassion towards those who have sinned in this area of life.

3. We should tell those who have had an abortion that they can be forgiven through the cross

God’s offer of salvation is for everyone.36 Abortion doctors. Abortion nurses. Abortion scientists. Pro-Choice politicians. Men who have gotten a woman pregnant and wanted an abortion. Women who have aborted their sons or daughters. All of them can be forgiven at the cross. Jesus’ blood covers every sin.37

Abortion is not the unpardonable sin.38 It will not lead you to Hell if you repent of it and trust in Jesus Christ.

4. We cannot break the law in order to stop an abortion

In the past, there were instances in the news of people blowing up abortion clinics or going into them with handguns and shooting the workers. Christians do not have the right to do that. That does not honor God. That would be like going into a pornographic store and blowing it up to stop the adultery. One sin does not justify the other.

Romans 13 tells us to submit to the governing authorities.39 First Peter 2:13-15 says:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.

The United States Government says that abortion is legal and we have to submit to that. However, we can do something to stop it.

5. We should voice our objections through the proper channels

We can submit to the government and still voice our disagreements with the government. We have the freedom to do that under the law. We can protest and still honor God.

Abortion is sinful. That is clearly stated in the Bible and there is a platform for us to announce it. We can vote for politicians who are Pro-Life. We can write letters to our state capitol. We can serve at pregnancy centers that provide options for those considering abortion. We can protest at the local abortion clinic as long as we do it according to law.

We can do all of that and still honor God. We can speak out for the unborn.

We cannot get in people’s faces and shout at them as they are entering abortion clinics. We cannot protest on someone’s property when they have forbidden us to do so. That does not please God but it does please Him when we object through the proper channels and with the proper motives.

While we should not agree with the Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize abortion, we can do something to change it. We do not have to sit back and do nothing. In the words of Francis Schaeffer:

Will future generations look back and remember that – even if the twentieth century did end with a great surge of inhumanity – at least there was one group who stood consistently, whatever the price, for the value of the individual, thus passing on some hope to future generations? Or are we Christians going to be merely swept along with the trends – our own moral values becoming increasingly befuddled, our own apathy reflecting the apathy of the world around us, our own inactivity sharing the inertia of the masses around us, our own leadership becoming soft? . . .

In the end, we must realize that the tide of humanism, with its loss of humanness, is not merely a cultural ill, but a spiritual ill that the truth given us in the Bible and Christ alone can cure.40

May we be that group who stands consistently for the truth given in the Bible and for the cure that is found in Christ alone.

 

  1. These statistics are taken from “Induced Abortion in the United States,” July 2014 at www.guttmacher.org. []
  2. The World Book Encyclopedia, Volume 16 (Chicago: World Book, Inc.: 1994) 399. “Roe v. Wade was a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the United States concerning the right of women to have abortions. In this 1973 ruling, the court declared that, except under certain conditions, states may not prohibit a woman’s right to have an abortion during the first six months of pregnancy. The Roe decision directly affected antiabortion laws in 31 states.” []
  3. These statistics are taken from “54,559,615 Abortions Since Roe vs. Wade Decision in 1973” by Stephen Ertelt at www.lifenews.com. []
  4. “California Population 2015,” October July 10, 2015 at www.worldpopulationreview.com. In 2015, the state of California has a population of 39 million people. []
  5. The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, ed. by Ed Hindson & Ergun Caner (Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House Publishers, 2008) 12. This is my definition but Mark Foreman defines Pro-Choice as the view that “holds that it is always or almost always morally permissible for a woman to have an abortion.” []
  6. The World Book Encyclopedia, Volume 16 (399). “The Supreme Court ruled [in Roe v. Wade] that the Texas law violated a woman’s right to privacy, which was protected by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and by several parts of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights . . . In deciding the case, the court adopted the view that an unborn fetus was not a living person and therefore was not entitled to constitutional protection.” See Point 3 below. []
  7. God will hold all of us accountable for our actions (Matt 12:36; Rom 2:6-8; 14:12). God will also hold parents accountable for how they raise their children (Eph 6:4; Col 3:21). []
  8. These statements are quoted in Francis A. Schaeffer & C. Everett Koop’s Whatever Happened to the Human Race in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, Volume Five (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1982) 315. []
  9. “10 Arguments in Favor of Pro-Choice Policy” by Pheo152, January 16, 2009 at www.amplifyyourvoice.org. []
  10. This is a law that has been hotly debated in recent years as Pro-Choice and Pro-Life proponents consider the full implications of this law. For more information, see “Fetal Homicide Laws,” March 2015 at www.ncsl.org. []
  11. Foreman, 12. This is my definition but Mark Foreman defines Pro-Life as the view that “holds that it is always or almost always immoral for a woman to have an abortion.” []
  12. Quoted in Landrum B. Shettles’ Rites of Life: The Scientific Evidence for Life Before Birth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983) 114. []
  13. Quoted in Richard Exley’s Abortion: Pro-life by Conviction, Pro-choice by Default (Tulsa, Okla.: Honor Books, 1989) 18. []
  14. Quoted in Abortion: Opposing Viewpoints (New York: Greenhaven Press, 1986) 16. []
  15. This information is borrowed from Whatever Happened to the Human Race (297). []
  16. “Slavery in the United States: Persons or Property?” by Paul Finleman, August 9, 2012 at www.scholarship.law.duke.edu. “Throughout the Revolution, southern politicians argued that slaves were property, not persons. At the end of July 1776, just weeks after the Continental Congress agreed to the Declaration of Independence, the delegates debated how to allocate taxes to support the new government. The plan was for each state to send taxes to the national government based on its population. A central issue in this debate was whether to count slaves as well as free people when allocating these taxes. Northerners insisted that slaves contributed to the economy just like free people, and thus should be counted when assessing taxes. Southerners rejected this idea. Samuel Chase from the southern state of Maryland complained that slaves were ‘wealth’, not people, and should no more be taxed than ‘Massachusetts fisheries.’” []
  17. Richard L. Rubenstein quoted in Whatever Happened to the Human Race?, 340-341. “Irrespective of other ideological trappings, the guiding philosophic principle of recent dictatorships, including that of the Nazis, has been Hegelian in that what has been considered ‘rational utility’ and corresponding doctrine and planning has replaced moral, ethical, and religious values . . . Medical science in Nazi Germany, collaborated with this Hegelian trend particularly in the following enterprises: the mass extermination of the chronically sick in the interest of saving ‘useless’ expenses to the community as a whole; the mass extermination of those considered socially disturbing or racially and ideologically unwanted . . . It started with the acceptance of the attitude basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as a life not worthy to be lived.” []
  18. “When Life is a Reduced to a Choice” in Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong: A Biblical Response to Today’s Most Controversial Issues (Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House Publishers, 2009) 80. []
  19. Schaeffer, 292 []
  20. Quoted in Whatever Happened to the Human Race?, 292. []
  21. “Suicide Rates Higher After Abortion, Study Shows,” November 29, 2005 at www.afterabortion.org. “A new Elliot Institute study has found that women who have had abortions are more likely to commit suicide than those who have given birth. The study examined Medi-Cal records for more than 173,000 low-income California women who had abortions or gave birth in 1989. Linking these records to death certificates, the researchers found that women who had state-funded abortions were 2.6 times more likely to die of suicide compared to women who delivered their babies.” []
  22. “Dilation and Evacuation (D & E) for Abortion” at www.webmd.com. []
  23. “Manual and Vacuum Aspiration for Abortion” at www.webmd.com. []
  24. “Induction Abortion” at www.webmd.com. []
  25. “Induced Abortion in the United States,” July 2014 at www.guttmacher.org. []
  26. Ibid. []
  27. Joel R. Beeke & James W. Beeke, Is Abortion Really So Bad? (Pensacola, Flo.: Chapel Library, 2011) 8. Joel Beeke does put this in perspective, however, when he writes: “Every woman who dies from a botched abortion is a tragic loss. But so is every child who dies from a successful abortion.” []
  28. Many people in the Pro-Life Movement do not agree with these methods, either. My point is simply that everyone that everyone in the Pro-Life is not following the guidelines of Scripture. []
  29. The Bible says that it is murder to kill anyone. 1 John 3:15 goes so far as to say: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” []
  30. Roy B. Zuck, Job in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Volume One (Colorado Springs, Col.: Cook Communications, 2004 ed.) 716-717. “Views on the time when Job lived range all the way from the Patriarchal Age (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) to the sixth century B.C. Several factors point to the time of the patriarchs.” If that were the case, then Job would have been written centuries before Genesis, which was written by Moses. []
  31. John Marison quoted in Charles H. Spurgeon’s The Treasury of David, Volume One (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, n.d.) 414. “We are not to suppose that David here reflects upon his parents as the medium of transmitting to him the elements of moral evil; and that by the introduction of the doctrine of original sin he intended to extenuate the enormity of his own crimes. On the contrary, we are to regard him as afflicting himself by the humbling consideration that his very nature was fallen, that his transgressions flowed from a heart naturally at enmity with God; that he was not a sinner by accident but by a depravity of purpose extending to the inmost desires and purposes of the soul.” []
  32. Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 18-50 in The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995) 177. “God’s explanation provides at least three surprises for Rebekah. (1). She is carrying two peoples in her womb. (2). These boys are already designated as the ancestor of these peoples. (3). The older son will be subordinate to the younger son, and hence will surrender his right of primogeniture.” []
  33. Those options could include giving the child up for adoption. They could include the child’s mother getting reconciled with the father. They could include making major life changes so that the woman can raise the child on her own or placing him in an orphanage. Whatever the case, abortion is not the only option for a woman with an unexpected pregnancy. []
  34. Webster’s New Explorer Dictionary (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster Incorporated, 1999). Webster’s Dictionary defines an abortion as: “The spontaneous or induced termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus” (2). This implies that, on the mother’s part, an abortion can be either intentional or unintentional. For the sake of clarity, however, this article is only using the term “abortion” to refer to intentional abortions. Unintentional abortions could be considered miscarriages, which are defined as “[The] spontaneous expulsion of a fetus before it is capable of independent life” (332). []
  35. Romans 3:23-24 says: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” []
  36. John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” []
  37. Matt 1:21; Acts 5:31; 13:38; Rom 6:23; 8:2; Col 1:14; 1 Tim 1:15; 1 Jn 1:7, 19. []
  38. The unpardonable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Matthew 12:31 says: “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.” []
  39. Romans 13:1-2 says: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” []
  40. Whatever Happened to the Human Race, 409-410. []