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All Creatures Great and Small: Abortion and the Meaning of Persons

“You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you. . . .”

— Pocahontas, “Colors of the Wind,” in Pocahontas (1994)

Ask most Americans to name the most controversial ethical issue of our time, and the chances are most will answer with one word: abortion. It may not be the most important ethical issue in most people’s minds (although it is for some people), but it has probably been the most contentious issue in American politics for the past quarter of a century. It is also an issue relating to virtually every area of life and touching on a variety of other controversial social, political, philosophical, and religious questions, including the relationship between sex and procreation, feminism, the relationship between church and state, contraception, euthanasia, biotechnology and bioethics, the meaning of life and the meaning of personhood.

In this chapter we will look at the issue of abortion from the perspective of defending the Christian approach to values discussed in the previous chapters. That is, we will be using the question of abortion to illustrate our claim that there are moral absolutes known to all humanity by our creation in God’s image and definitively revealed to us by God in Scripture.

Abortion from the Bible to the Present

We begin by surveying the history of the abortion question from the Bible to the present. Our purpose here is to see if there are moral absolutes which Christians have upheld throughout church history, and to set the stage for the modern abortion debate.

The Old Testament and Judaism

It is well known that the Old Testament does not specifically mention abortion. In one passage it does appear to speak about a miscarriage caused accidentally during a fight (Ex. 21:22-25). Recent interpreters have made a good case for understanding this passage to have allowed a fine if the fight caused a premature live birth and a more serious punishment if either the child or the mother died.1 On the other hand, it must be admitted that most interpreters have understood this passage to allow a fine if a miscarriage takes place and a more serious punishment if the woman is injured or killed. This was how most of the Jewish rabbis understood the passage by New Testament times, and it was the view held by the first-century Jewish historian Josephus.2 This does not mean the Jews approved of abortion: the rabbinical view of Exodus 21 related to the question of accidental miscarriage, not deliberate abortion. While the evidence is sparse (since deliberate abortions except to save the mother’s life were extremely rare in ancient Judaism), it appears that the Jews generally regarded the unborn as human beings and deliberate abortion as akin to infanticide.3 Thus, modern defenders of abortion who cite Exodus 21 in support of a pro-choice viewpoint4 are certainly placing more on the passage than it can bear, even if the rabbinical interpretation is assumed.

The Septuagint (the translation of the Old Testament used by Greek-speaking Jews in the New Testament period) paraphrased Exodus 21:22-23 to say that a fine would be imposed if the child was miscarried while unformed while death was the punishment if the miscarriage resulted in the death of a fully formed child. As Michael Gorman notes, the distinction between an unformed and fully formed child originated from the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who thought male children were formed in 40 days while female children were formed in 80 days.5

The Jewish heritage, then, was generally opposed to abortion, but not adamantly so. The rabbis were uncertain when the soul became joined to the body of a human being (conception, formation, and birth were all suggested), and no definite position was set forth in the Talmud. The result is that Orthodox Judaism generally discourages abortion except to save the life of the mother, while more liberal forms of Judaism allow abortion for a variety of reasons.6

The New Testament and Historic Christianity

The New Testament also does not specifically mention abortion, although some biblical scholars have suggested that passages condemning the use of certain drugs (e.g., Gal. 5:20; Rev. 21:8)7 are referring to the practice of using abortion-inducing drugs. Again, the silence of the Bible should not be construed as approval or permissiveness. It is difficult to find any discussion of the ethics of infanticide in the Bible, but it is clear enough that infanticide is a form of murder.8

As soon as the Christian church became predominantly Gentile and had to deal with the practices of the pagan Greco-Roman culture, Christian writings began specifically mentioning and condemning abortion. The Didache, for example, probably written close to AD 100, prohibited abortion and compared it to infanticide: “You shall not kill the fetus by abortion or destroy the infant already born.”9 The early second century Epistle of Barnabas also prohibited abortion and classified it as a form of murder.10 In the late second century, the apologists Athenagoras and Tertullian and the theologian Clement of Alexandria all explicitly stated that Christians considered abortion to be a form of murder.11 Similar views were taken by the third-century church fathers Hippolytus and Cyprian.12

One of the first Christians to make use of the distinction between the unformed and the formed unborn child was Origen, an Alexandrian theologian heavily influenced by Greek philosophy.13 The distinction was accepted in the late fourth century by the biblical scholar Jerome and the early church’s greatest bishop and theologian Augustine of Hippo, both of whom concluded that abortion prior to formation, though immoral, was not murder. The acceptance of this view by Augustine in particular assured it a permanent place in Christian thought, although other fourth-century church fathers, such as Basil of Caesarea, rejected that view.14 The thirteenth-century theologian and philosopher Thomas Aquinas, for example, accepted the view that the unborn were not persons prior to formation. Thomas sought to interpret Christian theology and ethics in light of Aristotle’s philosophy and science, and he accepted Aristotle’s view that unborn males were formed at 40 days and unborn females at 80 days. Again, Thomas regarded abortion at any stage of pregnancy as immoral, but viewed abortion as murder only after the baby was fully formed in the womb. Thomas’s view prevailed in the Roman Catholic church until the late nineteenth century.

Some pro-choice advocates point to the medieval Catholic view as represented especially by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas as evidence that the pro-life position is not the solidly traditional Christian view that pro-lifers imagine it to be.15 When pro-lifers claim that Christians have always regarded abortion as murder at any point after conception, such a claim is admittedly overstated. But it would be an even greater mistake for defenders of abortion to read their position into church history.

First of all, the medieval view clearly regarded abortion as immoral at every stage of pregnancy. This was not merely because abortions were commonly linked to adultery, as is sometimes emphasized (although in the medieval period that was also true), but because abortions even during the earliest stage of pregnancy destroyed a life which God was forming into his image.16

Second, abortion after “formation” was uniformly regarded as murder, and this means that abortions after the sixth week (for boys) or possibly the thirteenth week (for girls) were regarded as murder. In modern terms, all abortions after the first trimester were uniformly regarded by Christians as murder throughout church history until modern times. Such a position is entirely unacceptable to the pro-choice movement.

Third, the distinction between abortions performed before formation and those performed after formation was introduced into the church’s thinking from a pagan source (the Greek philosopher Aristotle) and was accepted somewhat hesitantly by Augustine. There is no biblical basis for the distinction, and it was accepted because it was as close as medieval thought could get to a “scientific” understanding of when the body growing in the womb was actually human. That is to say, the medieval view was that as soon as the unborn attained human nature, they were human persons and their destruction was murder. Accepting what Aristotelian “science” told them about the development of the unborn — that they were not human until they were “formed” — the church qualified its earlier blanket condemnation of all abortion as murder while holding firmly to its conviction that abortion at any stage of pregnancy was a serious sin.

If we were to follow the medieval church’s lead, then, we would take the best scientific information available to us regarding the humanity of the unborn and regard the destruction of human life in the womb as murder. Presumably no one today thinks that the unborn are human at 40 days if they are male but do not become human until 80 days if they are female. That is a bit of ancient scientific theory which no one in the abortion debate accepts today, and therefore it makes no sense for pro-choice advocates to criticize pro-lifers because they have abandoned the medieval view.17

The Roman Catholic church, committed to a strong view of church authority and tradition, accepted the medieval view until the late nineteenth century. Increased knowledge about fertilization gradually led the Catholic church to abandon the medieval view in favor of its present position that the unborn are human persons from the moment of conception. Some pro-choice writers have suggested that the real reason for the Catholic church’s change was its new emphasis on the idea of the Virgin Mary’s “immaculate conception” (the idea that she was conceived in her mother’s womb without original sin).18 While this doctrine may have contributed to Catholic sensitivity to the significance of conception, it does not appear to have been the driving reason for the church’s change on the abortion question. In any case, the attempt to dismiss the church’s new position because of some debatable aspect of the historical origins of that position is a classic instance of the genetic fallacy — the mistake of reasoning that a person’s view is wrong because of how he or she happened to come to that view.

Protestant thinking on abortion took a somewhat different history. Since Protestants placed more emphasis on the Bible and less on tradition, they quickly reverted in the earliest years of the movement to the pre-Augustinian view that all abortions destroyed human lives and were therefore always tantamount to murder except when performed to save the mother’s life. Martin Luther and John Calvin both strongly condemned abortion as murder, as did Protestants after them uniformly for centuries.19 It was only the rise of liberalism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that made it possible for some Christian theologians to entertain any other view of abortion.

The Modern Abortion Problem

Although testimonies to the Christian judgment of abortion as at least immoral and typically as murder are not wanting throughout church history, the subject came up rarely until modern times because abortion was quite rare. Abortion was almost always an act of desperation by unmarried women which risked their own lives as well as killing their unborn. The method of choice throughout the centuries was essentially drinking some form of poison and hoping that it would expel the fetus but not kill the woman. Women were therefore more likely to commit infanticide than abortion, and of course infanticide was uniformly regarded by Christians of all traditions and denominations as murder.

It was not until the nineteenth century that abortion became a major social issue. Several factors contributed to the rising importance of the issue during that period, all of which have been ably discussed by Marvin Olasky in his history of abortion in America.20 We will highlight two of the major factors.

First, the urbanization of the West, especially in America and Western Europe, produced a social environment in which abortion became more popular. As men traveled in their business more, and as cities became larger and society more anonymous, both adultery and prostitution became far more common than previously. Prostitutes in particular were likely to have multiple abortions over their short careers. The most reliable estimates suggest that by the mid-nineteenth century there were tens of thousands of prostitutes (working mostly from brothels of various kinds) in America, including about 6,000 in New York City alone.21 Because the crude methods of contraception available at that time were ineffective, prostitutes made frequent use of abortion. Olasky estimates that prostitutes during this period may have been averaging 1.8 abortions per year, resulting in roughly 100,000 abortions per year total.22 Such a high rate of abortions may help to explain why the life expectancy of a full-time prostitute was only about four years (since abortion often resulted in the death of the mother).

Second, in a small but growing minority in Western culture abortion was seen as a means of expressing freedom from the traditional, Christian world and life view. During the 1840s (often called the Mad Forties) and the 1850s spiritism (usually known then as spiritualism) became widespread, especially in the northern states. Spiritism was a movement that sought guidance from disembodied spirits — generally thought to be the departed — whose messages typically encouraged self-indulgence and extreme individualism (messages Americans in particular seemed to want to hear). Inspired by such messages, both men and women in the movement were encouraging women, married or not, to have abortions if having a child interfered with their pursuit of sexual pleasure and individual happiness. Typical was an 1858 book by spiritist Henry Wright entitled The Unwelcome Child, which argued that abortion was preferable to bringing “unwanted children” into the world. Wright reported women saying that they felt that “it would be a greater sin to give birth to a child” whom they could not love “than to kill it before it is born.”23 The spiritists also argued that neither men nor women should be bound to marriage and that women should have complete control over their wombs, determining whether and if they will become pregnant or give birth. Olasky offers a “speculative” estimate of roughly 45,000 abortions per year performed on women in this spiritistic, free-love movement during its heyday in the mid-nineteenth century.24

Combining the number of “free-love” abortions with the abortions obtained by prostitutes, in addition to the relatively few abortions obtained by young unmarried women, yields a very rough estimate of about 160,000 abortions in a single year during the mid-nineteenth century. Since the non-slave population of America at that time was about 27 million, Olasky concludes that the abortion rate in the mid-nineteenth century was roughly akin to what it has been since the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade (about 1.5 million per year in a population of over 250 million).25

The swelling abortion rate led Americans to enact state laws specifying various punishments for women who obtained abortions and especially for persons aiding women in producing abortions. The first state law specifically prohibiting abortion was an 1821 Connecticut law authorizing sentences up to life in prison for any person intentionally giving a woman an abortifacient. The law specified that the law applied to women who were “quick with child” — not, as some have argued, because the unborn were not considered persons prior to quickening, but “because — in the absence of pregnancy and blood tests — fetal movement was the only legally established indicator of unborn life.”26

By the end of 1868 thirty states had overcome all legislative and cultural obstacles to passing an anti-abortion law, and twenty-seven of them punished attempts to induce abortion before quickening. Twenty of the states had bitten the bullet and were punishing abortion at all stages equally, regardless of the added evidence given by quickening; others had an increased range of punishment.27

These anti-abortion laws reflected the prevailing cultural abhorrence of abortion and the general belief that the unborn were human persons. Although various physicians were in the forefront of the public discussions of the blight of abortion, the American Medical Association did not exert inordinate pressure on legislatures to pass anti-abortion laws, as is sometimes claimed.28 These laws did not stop abortion, although they probably helped to contain it.

During the first half of the twentieth century the abortion rate declined significantly, partly because contraceptive technologies became more efficient, more available, and generally more acceptable. The growing use of contraception, societal disapproval of abortion, and to some extent the legal penalties associated with abortion, made abortion comparatively rare during this period.

Although contraception (which prevents a new human being from being created) should not be confused with abortion (which ends the life of the new human being in the womb), the leading advocates of contraception in the first half of the twentieth century laid the groundwork for the modern abortion rights movement. Many of the leaders of the movement to promote contraception were heavily influenced by eugenics, the belief that society should try to maximize the procreation of the “well-born” (eu, “good” or “well,” and gen, “born”), typically meaning middle and upper class whites. In turn eugenics assumed the view of the Malthusians that population growth would be arrested by wars or other disasters if society did not take prudent steps to control population growth. Margaret Sanger (1883-1966), whatever her other motivations (some selfish, some perhaps noble), was also influenced by eugenics: “More children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the chief issue of birth control.”29 Sanger, founder of what became Planned Parenthood, generally opposed abortion, but after her death Planned Parenthood became the leading organization promoting abortion rights. The heightened concern about the population explosion in the 1950s was also frequently focused on the growth of non-white populations around the world.30

Although contraception was becoming increasingly common, after World War II abortion rates appear to have begun rising again. In part this was made possible by the fact that medical technologies were making abortion much safer for women than in the past. Contrary to the rhetoric often heard from advocates of legalized abortion, during the 1950s and 1960s most abortions, even though illegal, were performed by physicians using ever more sophisticated and safe equipment and procedures.

Pro-life and pro-choice partisans disagree vigorously as to just what the rate of abortion was during the decades leading up to the legalization of abortion. Pro-choice advocates often claim that women sought between one to two million illegal abortions a year prior to the 1970s, a figure that is almost surely exaggerated. A somewhat more responsible estimate offered by James Mohr, whose research was generally oriented toward supporting abortion rights, was that illegal abortions in the late 1960s numbered somewhere between 200,000 and 1.2 million per year, with Mohr unable to be more precise.31 On the pro-life side a 1981 study is commonly cited which found that about 39,000 illegal abortions took place in 1950, with that number rising to a high of about 210,000 in 1961.32 Even if these figures are thought to be too low, it is almost certain that the abortion rate was significantly less prior to legalization, probably a lot less.

What is more important than the numbers is the fact that the abortion rate was rising during this period; most of the studies, whether biased toward pro-choice or pro-life interests, show an increase in abortion from the late 1940s to the late 1960s. Although medical technology made abortions safer for women during this period, the reason more women were seeking abortion was a social one: a dramatic growth in premarital sex among teenagers and young women in the context of a culture that was becoming increasingly materialistic and individualistic. These cultural changes were taking place under the surface during the 1950s, and only became more overt in the 1960s with the advent of the counterculture, its glorification of sex, and its exploration of Eastern mysticism and the occult.

Note that in many respects the 1960s resemble the 1840s when spiritism and free love prompted a sudden increase in abortion. As in the “Mad 40s,” advocates of abortion in the 1960s saw abortion as a symbolic declaration of the autonomy of women and their right to enjoy the sexual revolution without being “forced” to accept maternity as a consequence.

However, abortion advocates generally did not advertise sexual license as the reason for liberalization of abortion laws. Instead, they focused attention on the so-called “hard cases” to generate sympathy for women seeking abortions. The most celebrated such case in the 1960s was that of Sherri Finkbine, a married suburban mother of four children who discovered in 1962 that while pregnant with her fifth child “she had unwittingly taken the drug thalidomide, then surfacing in Europe as the reason why some children were born with phocomelia (flipperlike limbs) or without any limbs at all.”33 When Finkbine was unable to obtain a legal abortion in her home state of Arizona, Planned Parenthood and other advocates of abortion seized upon her case as evidence of the need for “updating” America’s abortion laws. Finkbine rejected the offers that came from couples all over America offering to adopt the child, claiming, “It wouldn’t be fair to the child.” She eventually obtained an abortion by traveling to Sweden. The media handling of the Finkbine case evidently encouraged roughly a majority of Americans to accept the reasoning that abortion should be permitted in cases where the child is expected to be severely deformed or handicapped.34

The other, even more famous “hard case” which changed abortion law dramatically in America was that of “Jane Roe” (Norma McCorvey), an unmarried Texas woman who filed a class action lawsuit in 1970 challenging Texas law which denied her a legal abortion. Roe’s case was regarded with sympathy because she claimed that she had sought the abortion on the grounds that she had been raped. (Years later McCorvey admitted that she had lied about the rape; recently she has publicly confessed to having become a Christian and now says she is pro-life.) In 1973 the Supreme Court decided the case of Roe v. Wade in Roe’s favor, with Justice Harry Blackmun arguing for the majority that the Texas anti-abortion law (and by implication all such state laws) was unconstitutional.35

This review of the history of the events leading up to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision makes it clear that the main issue in the abortion debate was sex, not saving women’s lives or their health or defending women from rape. (In most states abortion was permitted to save the mother’s life, and even before Roe v. Wade some states interpreted this exception broadly to allow women to have an abortion for reasons of physical and even mental health.) As Paul Savoy, a pro-choice attorney, has written:

What the Supreme Court, in effect, has recognized over the last quarter of a century in its rulings on birth control and abortion is a constitutional right of women to have sex for pleasure rather than procreation as part of a more general freedom from sexual subjugation. . . . the Court had legalized the sexual revolution without so much as a nod of acknowledgment that its rulings had anything to do with the liberation of women as sexual beings.36

Roe v. Wade sparked a national debate about abortion that intensified in the 1980s and has continued to the present. Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants have been the largest and most visible opponents of abortion in America, though one should not ignore the fact that Muslims, Mormons, Orthodox Jews, and people of other religious beliefs have also opposed abortion. (Indeed, internationally the strongest opposition to abortion has come from nations dominated by Islam.) Liberal Protestants, liberal Jews, adherents of Eastern and New Age religious beliefs, and secular humanists have generally all supported abortion rights, though one can find occasional exceptions. The most vocal support for abortion rights in America has come from feminist groups which see abortion as a key element in securing equality and autonomy for women.

Opponents of abortion label their position pro-life, indicating that for them the issue is not really sexual immorality or women’s roles but the life of the unborn. Defenders of legalized abortion label their own view pro-choice, emphasizing their belief that the issue is the right of women to choose whether to continue their pregnancy or end it by abortion. We use these terms rather than the labels anti-abortion and pro-abortion, because these terms are generally used by the opposing sides against one another (although technically both terms seem accurate enough).

Although not all pro-lifers regard the entire Bible as the infallible word of God (since there are Orthodox Jews and Muslims who are pro-life), within Christianity nearly all pro-lifers accept the orthodox view of the Bible as God’s word, while most pro-choice Christians hold to a more liberal view of the Bible. There are some pro-choice Catholics and evangelicals who hold a high view of Scripture, but they are a small minority. It therefore seems reasonable to conclude that biblical values (at least some of which are shared by Muslims, Orthodox Jews, and Mormons) inform the pro-life position, while the pro-choice view is in some respects out of keeping with biblical ethics. In the rest of this chapter we will test this conclusion by examining the pro-life position and considering crucial objections to the pro-life view raised by Christians who do profess a high view of Scripture.

The Life of the Unborn

The pro-life argument is actually a very simple one. One of the most elegant statements of the argument has recently been set forth by Patrick Lee. He begins his book by summarizing the case against abortion with the following argument:

Intentionally killing an innocent person always is morally wrong.
Abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent person.
Therefore, abortion is always morally wrong.37

He then explains that there are “only three ways of challenging this argument, and therefore only three ways of trying to justify abortion.”38 (1) Deny the second premise by arguing that the unborn are not persons. (2) Deny the second premise by arguing that abortion is not intentional killing. (3) Deny the first premise by arguing that intentionally killing an innocent person for certain purposes is not morally wrong.

Although pro-life advocates usually give most of their attention to defending the second premise by arguing that the unborn are persons, in fact the most common pro-choice strategy appears to be denying the first premise. We will therefore start there and consider the premise that it is always immoral to kill an innocent person.

Abortion and the Sixth Commandment

The basic reason for the pro-life view is the Sixth Commandment, “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17; Matt. 19:18; Rom. 13:9). The Bible does not specify all classes of human beings who may not be murdered — that is, it does not bother saying, “You shall not murder women, people of color, old people, infants, deformed people, retarded people,” and so forth; it covers all the bases by the universal prohibition against murder. Nor was it necessary for the Bible to say, “You shall not murder the unborn.” As Randy Alcorn puts it, “All that was necessary to prohibit an abortion was the command, ‘You shall not murder’ (Exodus 20:13).”39

In biblical teaching, murder is prohibited because what is killed was created in the image of God. The classic text on this point is Genesis 9:6:

Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made man.

This text is extremely important for the abortion debate because it makes certain crucial points explicit. First, all human beings are in God’s image. The word translated “man” is ’adam, a Hebrew word which simply means “human being” or “humanity.” The same word is used in Genesis 1:26-27, which says that God created ’adam in his image — and states specifically that this includes both male and female. In other words, if it is a human being, it is in God’s image. Thus, if the unborn are human beings, killing them is forbidden because it is an attack on the image of God.

Second, the prohibition against murder does not forbid killing non-human animals. In the immediate context of Genesis 9, God specifically gives humanity permission to kill animals and eat their meat (vv. 2-3). Pro-choice writer Stephen Asma is therefore mistaken when he claims that the person who opposes abortion on the grounds of the “sanctity of life” does not realize that on those grounds he “must now sin nightly as he devours his sacred sirloin.”40 It is not all “life” that the pro-life movement regards as sacred, but all human life (as Asma presumably knows full well).

Third, the prohibition against murder forbids killing innocent human beings. In Genesis 9:6, human beings who are guilty of murder are themselves subject to having their life taken away by man. This makes it clear that the prohibition against murder is a command prohibiting the taking of life away from human beings who have not killed and are not threatening to kill other human beings. It does not forbid killing in self-defense or the use of lethal force by police, soldiers, or executioners. It is therefore not inconsistent for pro-lifers to oppose abortion but endorse capital punishment and military force. The essential pro-life claim is not that it is always wrong for human beings to kill other human beings, but that it is always wrong for human beings to kill innocent human beings. Some pro-lifers do oppose capital punishment and all warfare, and believe this position to be a more thoroughly ethical stance, but pro-lifers who do not take this approach are perfectly consistent with their own premise.

Whether or not it is ever morally right to kill murderers, it should be noncontroversial that in biblical ethics it is always morally wrong to kill those who are doing no harm to others. The pro-life position follows directly from this premise. It asserts that it is always morally wrong to kill the unborn except where they pose a danger to the mother’s life.

A key pro-choice objection to applying the sixth commandment to abortion is that it assumes that the unborn are persons. We should therefore consider the question of the personhood of the unborn as it relates to the morality of abortion.

Human Beings, Persons, and the Unborn

It is common for the abortion debate to be framed in terms of the personhood of the unborn. Pro-lifers routinely defend the claim that the unborn are persons, and many pro-choicers argue that abortion is morally permissible because the unborn are not persons. Patrick Lee uses the term “person” as the key term in the two premises of his argument against abortion, quoted earlier.

The trouble with making personhood the decisive issue in the abortion debate is that our culture no longer has a consensus view of what personhood is. Some people define personhood in terms of the developed characteristics of self-awareness, individuality, rational thought, the capacity for moral choice, and so forth. Defining personhood in this way virtually guarantees that the unborn will not be considered persons, but arguably six-month-old infants will not qualify as persons either.

Others define personhood as the possession of an individual soul or spirit distinct from the body. The trouble with this way of defining personhood is that there is no unanimity in our society as to whether such things as souls exist, let alone when they become part of the human being. Jewish thought has always been uncertain as to whether the soul is united to the body at conception, at formation, or possibly even not until birth. Christian theology has historically carried on a debate as to whether the soul is procreated along with the body or is specially created at some unknown point in time by God. Eastern religions believe in something like a soul, but it passes from body to body in reincarnation and may or may not have a unique individual personal identity. Atheists and skeptics generally do not believe in a soul or spirit at all. If the pro-life position were to depend on one particular theological view of the soul, the pro-choice side would seem to have a point in arguing that such a specific theological doctrine should not be made the basis for the claim that abortion should be illegal for people of all religious beliefs.

Although we believe that it is proper to defend the claim that the unborn should be regarded as persons from the moment of conception, it might be prudent to avoid the term “person” and make the simpler and more direct argument that the unborn should not be killed because they are human beings. After all, the Bible does not use the word “person” in Genesis 1:26-27 or 9:6 but speaks instead of human beings, ’adam, as created in God’s image possessing life that is not be violated. Nowhere in the Bible or in the legal traditions of our civilization is there any suggestion that only some classes of human beings are deserving of life. It is therefore unnecessary to defend a particular view of personhood or to argue its applicability to the unborn at any or every stage of development in order to argue that the life of the unborn should be protected by law. Rather, all that is necessary is to defend the claim that the unborn are human beings.

That claim, it turns out, is exceedingly easy to defend — which is why many pro-choice advocates are happy to keep the discussion on the more debatable concept of personhood. The claim that the unborn are human beings from conception is based on the scientifically certain fact that the event of conception (or, perhaps more narrowly, fertilization) is the first event in the history of the human organism — indeed, the event which constitutes it as a distinct human being. Fertilization is the initial event which produces an organism that can develop into what we all recognize and admit are human persons. Prior to conception, what exists is an egg which is genetically and functionally part of the mother’s body, and a sperm which is organically, genetically, and functionally part of the father’s body. When fertilization is complete a new organism is conceived which is genetically distinct from the mother and father and is functionally developing as a distinct organism. Specifically, from the moment of conception what exists is a human organism, a human being, with potential for development, growth, and full realization.41

The point here is not merely that the unborn are human. As pro-choice advocates never tire of pointing out, our fingernails are human, but we think nothing of cutting them off and throwing them in the trash. The unborn entity from the moment of conception is not merely human, but a whole human being — an entity that is a biologically individual and whole being, an individual member of Homo sapiens, distinct from the being of the mother, needing only time and nourishment to develop into a fully functioning adult human person. Again, this is a well-known and noncontroversial fact of biology which no one seriously denies or questions and which even many people on the pro-choice side freely admit.

Given that the unborn are human beings from the moment of conception, it follows directly that killing them for any reason other than in an attempt to save someone else’s life (that is, the mother’s life) is forbidden by the sixth commandment. It is unnecessary to prove that the unborn are “persons” in order to claim that their lives ought to be protected by law. All that is needed is to point out that they are human beings. Let those who would defend abortion as a legal right say, if they can (and if they dare), that it is permissible to kill some human beings. In fact a minority of pro-choice advocates are willing to say this, but most simply cannot bring themselves to say so — at least not directly and openly. Most proponents of the pro-choice position cannot even bring themselves to use the word “kill,” though most surely know that is what is involved. They hide the truth from the public, and perhaps from themselves, by speaking vaguely of “a woman’s right to choose” — without specifying what she is choosing — or euphemistically of a woman’s “reproductive rights” — without acknowledging that once a woman has conceived reproduction has already taken place, and that fact is not changed whether her child is killed after three months in the womb or three months after birth.

Note also that it is unnecessary, and in some respects possibly misleading, to base the pro-life position on the facts concerning fetal development. Many pro-lifers take great care to explain at what stage the unborn can feel pain, or at what stage the unborn have a heartbeat, and the like. These facts can be helpful in showing that those who try to justify abortions beyond the first trimester cannot reasonably appeal to the developed fetus’s lack of human functions (at least, not without also justifying infanticide). Such arguments also make sense if what one is seeking is a compromise in which abortions after a certain stage of development will be forbidden except to save the mother’s life. But placing great emphasis on the development of various capacities at fourteen days, twenty days, six weeks, and the like invites the question of whether the unborn deserve legal protection before those benchmarks of human development. If the unborn are human beings — even “persons” — from the moment of conception, then logically what functions emerge at various stages of gestation after conception is irrelevant to the humanity or the personhood of the unborn.

Ultimately many defenders of the pro-choice position base it on a kind of agnosticism about the moral status of the unborn. They acknowledge that some people find the arguments for the full humanity or personhood of the unborn persuasive, but maintain that so long as there is diversity of opinion on this question the law cannot “impose” the pro-life view of the unborn on the rest of society. Again, this argument seems to carry more weight when the argument is framed in terms of personhood rather than whether the unborn are human beings. But the agnostic defense of the pro-choice position can be answered regardless of how the question is worded. The standard pro-life response is that if we are unsure whether the unborn are fully human beings or persons, then it is surely wrong to permit people to kill them. One of the ablest expositions of this point has been developed by Peter Kreeft, a Roman Catholic philosopher. Kreeft sets forth a “quadrilemma” on the question of whether the fetus is a person:

    1. It is not a person, and we know that.

    2. It is a person, and we know that.

    3. It is a person, and we do not know that.

    4. It is not a person, and we do not know that.42

In case (1), Kreeft argues, “abortion is perfectly permissible,” but there seems no way to know with certainty, or to prove, that the fetus is not a person. (Again, it is possible to find defenders of the pro-choice position who claim they do know with certainty that the unborn are not persons, but they are a very small minority.) In case (2), “abortion is murder,” because it is knowingly killing a person. In case (3), “abortion is manslaughter,” because it is an act of careless and irresponsible killing. In case (4), even though the fetus is not a person, abortion is “criminal negligence,” because one ought to ascertain whether the fetus is a person before killing it.43

Kreeft’s analysis is helpful, not only because it is an effective response to the agnostic pro-choice argument that no one knows whether the unborn are persons, but also because it introduces important distinctions regarding the seriousness of abortion in criminal law. The sixth commandment says “You shall not murder,” a general statement that does not distinguish between “first-degree” murder, manslaughter, and criminal negligence. These distinctions, however, are biblical, since the Law of Moses clearly distinguished between cases of killing that were punishable by death, exile, and restitution (e.g., Ex. 21:12-14, 20-21, 28-29). Thus, it is not necessary for women who procure abortions to be judged as committing murder in the first degree in order for the pro-life position to be reflected in law. Nineteenth-century state laws in America prohibiting abortion made various qualifications that took into account the often miserable situation in which women sought abortions and the difficulty in making a case for deliberate homicide in abortion cases (since physical evidence, for example, was often lacking). Pro-lifers are not asking for the death penalty for women who have abortions, or even for abortionists. They are asking for reasonable punishments that reflect an understanding of the legal and social difficulties of prosecuting abortion cases (e.g., suspension of physicians’ licenses or possibly prison time for repeated illegal abortions, community service or other penalties for women who obtain abortions).

The argument presented here for the pro-life position has made open use of Scripture to define what we mean by “murder” and on what basis we oppose the destruction of the life of the unborn at any stage of development. But the argument clearly is serviceable outside the community of people who believe in the Bible, since the major premise of the argument is simply that killing innocent human beings is wrong and should be prohibited by law. Though for us who believe in Christ and in his Word this premise will be understood in light of the biblical teaching that all human beings are created in God’s image, it is not necessary for people to accept that understanding for them to see the moral force of the pro-life argument. The abortion issue therefore well illustrates our contention that Christian values are based on the revelation of God’s will provided in Scripture, but that these values can to a great extent be defended in the public realm by appeal to facts and moral principles that people of most religions, or even of no religion, can usually understand and accept.

Abortion and God’s Grace

Before we conclude this chapter, we want to examine some typical objections to the pro-life position that have been raised from within the conservative Christian community of Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants. Our source for these objections is a recent book edited by Anne Eggebroten entitled Abortion — My Choice, God’s Grace.44 The bulk of the book is taken up with testimonies from women, most of whom obtained abortions, all of whom try to explain how their obtaining an abortion made sense to them in a Christian context of belief in a God of love and grace.

Bunnie Riedel, in her Foreword to the book, makes it clear that she regards the pro-life position as setting an unrealistic expectation on women:

Almost half of the women in the U.S. will have an abortion at some time in their lives. . . . After all, women are fertile for 30 to 40 years of their lives and the likelihood of their having an unacceptable pregnancy during that period is quite high. How many of us can manage anything perfectly for 30 years? Yet many expect every woman to get through all those years without an unplanned pregnancy.45

Of course, this is a caricature of the pro-life position. Everyone understands that many women through no fault of their own will find themselves pregnant in difficult or even wrenching situations. Women occasionally become pregnant as the result of rape or incest. Many women become pregnant by boyfriends or even husbands who then abandon them with no financial or familial support. Even happily married women often become pregnant “by accident,” perhaps before they felt ready to start a family, or perhaps after they had already had the number of children they had “planned” to raise. No doubt a large number of pregnancies are unplanned, but it is difficult to understand why this justifies abortion if the unborn are human beings. What pro-lifers expect is not that women will “manage anything perfectly for 30 years” but that they will not resort to killing their unborn children when things do not go exactly according to plan.

The testimonies from women who had abortions nicely illustrate that woman can often find a silver lining in their decision to have an abortion, but they hardly show that the pro-life position is wrong or that their abortions were morally justified. The first two stories are typical. The first testimony is from a woman who had sex with her Christian boyfriend in college and decided to have the baby and give it up for adoption (the boyfriend had urged her to have an abortion). She went through with this plan, although having to give up the baby was extremely painful.46 Three months later, she became pregnant again (by another man), and this time decided to have an abortion. Her rationale: she had been trying to do what was “right” out of fear, and “trying to be right is a trap that springs from our pride.”47 “For me, carrying a baby nine months and then giving it up is too horrible to recommend to another person. I might as well suggest that she burn her eyes out with branding irons, drink ammonia and sleep on razor blades — because that pain could not hurt as much.”48 Ironically, such gruesome violence is just what abortion does to the unborn child, but this woman does not comment on that fact. She traded her supposed self-righteous concern to do right for a self-centered concern to feel good. Calling the latter “God’s grace” does not make it so.

The second story comes from a woman who was raped by her sister’s husband. The woman, a Catholic, believed that abortion was murder, but her doctor, she says, “was totally against my continuing the pregnancy. . . . She was very clear that by no means should I go through with the pregnancy. She said that if I did, there would be chances of my not living a normal life because the flashbacks from my terrible experience would continue.”49 One wonders how many confused and emotionally vulnerable women are talked into abortions by such persons. Was there not also a chance of “flashbacks” not only to the rape but also to the abortion? Is killing an innocent child justifiable because of a “chance” that doing so might make it easier to forget the evil that someone else did? The woman eventually decided that in her situation abortion “was better for both the embryo and me.” No reason is ever given why abortion was a better choice for the embryo. The woman simply concludes that abortion “is certainly the best solution in a case of rape or serious deformity.”50 So much for Eggebroten’s claim in her Introduction that “no one is pro-abortion.”51 This popular claim is empty rhetoric when so many people go right on to claim that abortion is the best choice.

In a concluding chapter, Eggebroten discusses “The Bible and Choice.” All of her arguments in favor of the pro-choice position would also support a “pro-choice” position on infanticide as well as abortion. Ten such arguments can be discerned in the chapter; we will consider each of them in turn.

1. Eggebroten argues that even if we view abortion as immoral, we should respect the rights of others to hold their divergent views and seek to persuade them of our view rather than forcing them through legislation. “Only those who do not respect the views of others try to implement laws forcing everyone to abide by their views.”52 By this reasoning, how would we object to those who argue that we should respect the views of those parents who opt to kill or abandon their newborn children? If we are convinced that the unborn are human beings, shouldn’t we do all we can to convince the government to extend legal protection to them? We may “respect” the rights of those who disagree with us to voice their views, but if we value human life we will act to protect it lawfully whether the human beings whose value is questioned by others happen to be newborn children, the very old, people of dark skin, or the unborn.

2. Eggebroten argues, as do all pro-choice Christians, that abortion is permissible because the Bible never mentions abortion and gives no clear statement on whether abortion is murder.53 As explained earlier, the Bible rarely mentions infanticide, never discusses the question of whether parents should be allowed to make “hard choices” about the life of their infants, and certainly does not clearly condemn all infanticide as murder. Yet nearly all pro-choice advocates, Christians or not, agree that infanticide is contrary to the Bible and is covered by the sixth commandment. The point is that if the unborn are human beings, the Bible just as clearly condemns killing them as it does killing infants, senior citizens, blacks, Jews, or women.

3. Biblical texts that speak of God’s knowledge of the unborn (e.g., Ps. 139) are read by some Christians as ascribing value to unborn human beings “without ascribing full personhood to them. . . . The difference of opinion arises because the Bible is not explicit about the line between a person and a potential person.”54 By this reasoning, there would be no way to show from the Bible that infants have “full personhood,” since the Bible never actually says that infants are persons. For that matter, the Bible never hints at a distinction between persons and potential persons. Even if we accepted such a distinction (which we do not), there is no basis in the Bible for denying life to a whole class of human beings on the grounds that they are merely “potential persons.”

4. Eggebroten argues that since people have different opinions about the status of the unborn, it does not make any sense to have laws establishing the unborn as persons from conception.55 We discussed this objection earlier as the argument from agnosticism. If people disagree about the status of the unborn, then we ought to err on the side of caution and not allow people to kill the unborn. Regrettably, there are also people in our society who believe that newborn children and infants are not quite persons in the full sense either (since they cannot reason and do not appear to have any sense of personal identity). But from the fact that people have “different opinions” about the status of infants, it does not follow that we are wrong to have laws establishing infants as persons accorded equal protection under the law.

5. According to Eggebroten, if neither the father nor the mother is willing to commit themselves to love and provide for the child, and if they are not willing to trust others to make that commitment, then “no one should force the woman to continue the creative process.”56 This doctrine that only love children should be allowed to live goes back to spiritist, free-love cultural notions, but Eggebroten attempts to give it a Christian theological basis: “The covenant basis of Judeo-Christian theology directs us toward bearing children only as part of a covenant, and that promise of commitment can be freely made only in the context of full procreative choice.”57 As noble and biblical as the language sounds here, the idea has no substantial basis in the covenantal teaching of the Bible. Children of Israelites who found themselves born and raised under the Mosaic covenant, for example, could not “choose” to ignore the Mosaic law simply because they were unwilling to make a voluntary commitment to it. A choice is indeed required in biblical covenants, but God dictates the choice because he is the sovereign God who owns each and every one of us. Again, Eggebroten’s reasoning here leads to the justification of abandonment or even killing of one’s born children. If neither parent is willing to continue loving their newborn children, should they be “forced to continue the creative process” and continue raising their children? After all, the creative process that continues after conception is the process of bringing the unborn to full adulthood and independence from their parents — and this process is continuous from conception to adulthood.

6. Eggebroten’s next argument is similar. Giving birth should be something a woman does freely, not out of compulsion; the pro-life position would compel women who become pregnant to give birth. “To require a woman to complete a pregnancy against her will, dishonors her sacrifice. . . . Only when motherhood is freely chosen can its difficult work be valued — by the individual and society.”58 To this line of reasoning it must be asked if it is wrong to require a woman to complete the “sacrificial task” of raising her child if at some point after the baby is born she decides she no longer wants to be responsible for the child. Does requiring her to continue caring for the child “against her will” dishonor motherhood? Shall we say that only when motherhood is freely chosen can its difficult work be valued?

7. Eggebroten’s next argument begins with the reasonable and biblically based assumption that God has given us free will59 and allows us to make our own decisions and to bear responsibility for those choices, even though we make mistakes. But from this premise she jumps to the unwarranted conclusion that laws prohibiting abortion “would deny women whose birth control has failed the opportunity to weigh good and evil and to make a responsible moral decision.”60 “If we respected women as a group. . . . We would understand how a woman, faced with a difficult situation, must decide how to handle it to the best of her ability — even if that decision means ending a human life in its beginning stages within her.”61 Actually, no laws prevent women, or men, from weighing the morality of their actions and making whatever decisions they choose. What laws do is threaten legal, state-imposed consequences if men or women make wrong choices. In this sense the state’s laws do discourage women and men from making a variety of choices, but the alternative is anarchy. In this context, laws prohibiting infanticide also deny women who find themselves in poverty or difficult social situations the “opportunity” to weigh good and evil and to make a “moral decision” to kill their infants with impunity. But would we have it any other way? It simply does not follow that if we respected women, we would grant them the freedom to make their own decision to kill their infant children. Nor does it follow that if we respected women we would allow them to kill their unborn children.

8. As the title of her book indicates, Eggebroten emphasizes the idea of God’s “grace” as somehow inconsistent with the pro-life condemnation of abortion. She argues that because we are saved by grace, not by works, our response to women who become pregnant out of wedlock should not be harsh condemnation and rejection but merciful love and support, whether they “keep their babies or choose abortion.”62 It is true, of course, that we are saved by grace, not by works. But while this means that those who have committed sin, whether it be having an abortion or cheating on income taxes, should be encouraged to seek God’s forgiveness and grace, it does not follow that abortion is morally permissible! Shall we say that our response to women who are abandoned by their partners after they have borne children should be to love and support them whether they keep their babies or choose infanticide? Such a position would make a mockery of grace. God’s grace extends mercy and peace to those who confess their sins, not to those who seek to justify and rationalize their actions and deny that they are sins. God’s grace certainly does not provide forgiveness to those who abuse the very concept of grace to justify killing the innocent.

9. Eggebroten also argues that anti-abortion laws are inconsistent with Jesus’ special concern for the poor and oppressed. This is because laws prohibiting abortions would oppress women by telling them they cannot end their pregnancies. “If abortion is made illegal in this country again, the weight of the law will fall only on poor women.”63 Until we live in “an ideal world” in which all women have the economic resources to provide for all their children, abortion must remain legal.64 One wonders if Eggebroten and other pro-choice advocates would allow laws prohibiting rich women to have abortions. The fact is that while many poor women do have abortions, overall the poor tend to be more pro-life than the middle class, and the rich tend to be more pro-choice than either the middle class or the poor. In any case, Eggebroten’s argument assumes that denying abortions to women is depriving them of some good — and that in turn presupposes that abortion does not involve killing innocent beings. One could just as easily (and erroneously) argue that laws prohibiting infanticide oppress poor women by forcing them to continue raising children for whom they cannot adequately provide. Since we do not live in an “an ideal world” in which all women have the economic resources to provide for all their children, should infanticide be made legal?

10. Finally, Eggebroten expresses the worry that laws that prohibit non-Christians from having abortions based on our Christian beliefs might make non-Christians bitter and impede our efforts to preach the gospel to them.65 But if the unborn are human beings and deserving of life, this argument diverts attention from the real issue. Should we worry that laws that prohibit non-Christians from committing infanticide based on our Christian beliefs might make non-Christians bitter and impede our efforts to preach the gospel to them? So far the number of people in our society who openly favor legalization of infanticide is extremely small (but note that there are some).66 If infanticide becomes a hotly debated subject in our society, shall we who oppose it as Christians timidly back away from the debate and allow infanticide to be legal because we don’t want pro-infanticide non-Christians to be bitter toward us? Nor do we need to pose the question in such a purely hypothetical fashion. There are thousands of pedophiles in America; shall we legalize pedophilia because we want pedophiles to be more receptive to the gospel?

There is one more objection to the pro-life position which we hesitate to mention, and which lies mostly under the surface of Eggebroten’s book (though it is made explicit by many others). That is the objection that we have no right to oppose abortion because we are men. Somehow many people have convinced themselves that the argument against abortion is a “male” argument and can therefore be dismissed. While such an objection is completely fallacious, on an emotional level we understand that those who favor abortion rights need to hear the pro-life case from women.

We would therefore like to recommend, as a counterpoint to Anne Eggebroten’s book, an excellent defense of the pro-life position by Terry Schlossberg and Elizabeth Achtemeier. The title itself is instructive — Not My Own.67 Schlossberg and Achtemeier emphasize that the basic premise of the pro-choice position is that women have an absolute right to do what they choose with their own bodies. This premise is wrong, they argue, not only because the unborn child has its own body and is not part of the woman’s body, but also because our own bodies, both men and women, are not ours to do with as we please but belong to God who created us. Both our own lives and the lives of our children belong not to us but to the Creator:

In the Bible’s world-view, our children do not belong to us. . . . It follows, therefore, that to abort any child in the womb is to destroy a child who belongs finally to God.68

Ultimately, the meaning of the abortion debate is that human beings are not autonomous beings free to do whatever they choose, but creatures created in God’s image and responsible to God and to each other in community. By offering legal sanction to the killing of millions of innocent human beings in the interests of women’s autonomy, we sacrifice the innocent for the sake of a principle that degrades women and men alike. Abortion is a grave problem in its own right, but it is also a symptom of an even greater problem. That is the problem of a society that values individual freedom over individual responsibility to the lives of others. It is the problem of a society that has deified choice and demonized restraint. What is all the more remarkable is that such attitudes have surfaced in the church. In opposing abortion, we must be honest that we are opposing not only abortion itself but also the self-centered, hedonistic, and autonomous spirit of the culture that not only tolerates abortion but enshrines it as an integral part of its revolutionary ethic.


1 E.g., Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 246-49; Meredith G. Kline, “Lex Talionis and the Human Fetus,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (1977); Francis J. Beckwith, Politically Correct Death: Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), 142-44.

2 Michael J. Gorman, Abortion and the Early Church: Christian, Jewish and Pagan Attitudes in the Greco-Roman World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1982), 40-41.

3 Ibid., 42-43.

4 E.g., John M. Swomley, “The Bible Does Not Prohibit Abortion,” in Abortion: Opposing Viewpoints, ed. Charles P. Cozic and Stacey L. Tipp (San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1991), 113.

5 Gorman, Abortion and the Early Church, 35.

6 J. Gordon Melton, The Churches Speak On: Abortion: Official Statements from Religious Bodies and Ecumenical Organizations (Detroit: Gale Research, 1989), xix.

7 Some translations render the Greek words used here as “sorcery” and “sorcerers,” but the word pharmakeia can refer to the use of drugs in any negative sense, including sorcery and abortion; cf. Gorman, Abortion and the Early Church, 48.

8 Pharaoh’s ordering infanticide on Hebrew male infants (Ex. 1:15-16) and Herod’s ordering the slaughter of male children two and younger in the Bethlehem area (Matt. 2:16-18) are two notorious examples of infanticide in the Bible. One might also refer to the sacrificing of children to Molech, which was forbidden in the Law (Lev. 18:21; 20:1-5; Deut. 12:31). But nowhere in the Bible do we find a discussion of the morality of infanticide as a “choice” by parents.

9 Melton, The Churches Speak On: Abortion, xvii.

10 Gorman, Abortion and the Early Church, 49-50.

11 Ibid., 50-58.

12 Ibid., 59-60.

13 Ibid., 59.

14 Ibid., 66-73.

15 Notably Stephen T. Asma, “The Roman Catholic Church Historically Condoned Early Abortions,” in The Abortion Controversy, ed. Charles P. Cozic and Jonathan Petrikin; Current Controversies series (San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1995), 59-65.

16 Gorman, Abortion and the Early Church, 68-73.

17 Asma, “The Roman Catholic Church Historically Condoned Early Abortions,” in his zeal to make the Aristotelian-Thomistic view seem more scientific than the modern pro-life view, completely ignores the Aristotelian view that males and females achieve form at widely different stages of gestation.

18 Melton, The Churches Speak On: Abortion, xviii.

19 Terry Schlossberg and Elizabeth Achtemeier, Not My Own: Abortion and the Marks of the Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 4-6.

20 Marvin Olasky, Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1992).

21 Ibid., 47, 57. By 1893 the number of prostitutes in New York City was estimated at 40,000; ibid., 189.

22 Ibid., 57.

23 Henry C. Wright, The Unwelcome Child or The Crime of an Undesigned and Undesired Maternity (Boston: Bela Marsh, 1858), 117, quoted in Olasky, Abortion Rites, 70.

24 Ibid., 77.

25 Ibid., 291-92.

26 Ibid., 93.

27 Ibid., 102.

28 Ibid., 109-30.

29 Melton, The Churches Speak On: Abortion, xxii; the Margaret Sanger quote comes from Rosalind P. Petchesky, Abortion and Woman’s Choice: The State, Sexuality, and the Conditions of Reproductive Freedom (New York: Longman, 1983), 93.

30 Melton, The Churches Speak On: Abortion, xxiv.

31 James Mohr, Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy, 1800-1900 (New York: Oxford, 1978), 254, cited in Beckwith, Politically Correct Death, 58.

32 Barbara J. Syska, Thomas W. Hilgers, M.D., and Dennis O’Hare, “An Objective Model for Estimating Criminal Abortions and Its Implications for Public Policy,” in New Perspectives on Human Abortion, ed. Thomas Hilgers, M.D., Dennis J. Horan, and David Mall (Frederick, MD: University Publications of America, 1981).

33 Olasky, Abortion Rites, 278.

34 Ibid., 280-81.

35 Cf. Francis J. Beckwith and Norman L. Geisler, Matters of Life and Death: Calm Answers to Tough Questions about Abortion and Euthanasia (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), 53-55.

36 Paul Savoy, “Abortion Is a Moral Choice,” in The Abortion Controversy, ed. Cozic and Petrikin, 47.

37 Patrick Lee, Abortion and Unborn Human Life (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1996), 1.

38 Ibid., 2.

39 Randy Alcorn, Pro Life Answers to Pro Choice Arguments (N.p.: Multnomah, 1992), 239.

40 Asma, “The Roman Catholic Church Historically Condoned Early Abortions,” 61.

41 Virtually any scientific textbook on human biology will corroborate these facts; an excellent resource is Landrum B. Shettles, M.D., and David Rorvik, Rites of Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983); see also the excerpt from this book in “Human Life Begins at Conception,” in Abortion: Opposing Viewpoints, ed. Charles P. Cozic and Stacey L. Tipp (San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1991), 17-22.

42 Peter Kreeft, Making Choices: Practical Wisdom for Everyday Moral Decisions (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1990), 119.

43 Ibid., 120.

44 Anne Eggebroten, ed., Abortion — My Choice, God’s Grace: Christian Women Tell Their Stories (Pasadena, CA: New Paradigm Books, 1994).

45 Bunnie Riedel, “Foreword,” in ibid., xiii-xiv.

46 Eggebroten, Abortion, 30-31.

47 Ibid., 32, 33.

48 Ibid., 33.

49 Ibid., 38.

50 Ibid.

51 Ibid., 10.

52 Ibid., 210.

53 Ibid.

54 Ibid., 216.

55 Ibid.

56 Ibid., 217.

57 Ibid., 218.

58 Ibid., 219.

59 The issue here is the faculty of volition or responsible choice, not whether human beings have “free will” in the anti-predestinarian sense. Thus, the premise is biblical regardless of what position one takes on the question of human freedom in relation to divine sovereignty.

60 Ibid., 221.

61 Ibid., 222.

62 Ibid., 224.

63 Ibid., 226.

64 Ibid., 228.

65 Ibid., 229-30.

66 See Beckwith, Politically Correct Death, 174, for some representative quotations.

67 Terry Schlossberg and Elizabeth Achtemeier, Not My Own: Abortion and the Marks of the Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995).

68 Ibid., 27.

Related Topics: Apologetics