Abortion and the Christian

Editor’s Note: Please visit our home page for a full listing of abortion facts.

– John Jefferson Davis, Ph.D.


This volume has grown out of years of teaching and research in the area of Christian ethics. Several years ago I began to realize that abortion not only is an intensely ethical issue in its own right, but is also symptomatic of a larger crisis in contemporary American human values. The abortion controversy reflects tensions and conflicts felt widely in marriage, the family, role identities, and human sexuality in general. Addressing the morality of abortion means addressing the very meaning and value of human life.

Any book about such a complex social reality is bound to have its limitations, and this book is no exception. I make no claim to having presented a comprehensive analysis of all the intricate psychological, philosophical, moral, social, and theological issues involved. I do hope, however, that I have presented enough information for the reader to formulate, in the light of Scripture, thoughtful positions on the basic moral issues involved.

I wish to acknowledge the encouragement and support I have received from my wife, Robin, and from many students and friends to complete this book. A special word of thanks is in order for Mrs. Adelaida Schlueter, who patiently typed the manuscript, and for James Moran, who assisted in reading the manuscript and in preparing the bibliography.

Abortion and the Christian

The abortion controversy has polarized Americans like no other national issue since the Vietnam War and Watergate. The divisions cut across regional, ethnic, and religious lines, and are evident at the personal, political, and ecclesiastical levels. At times even women who defend their right to an abortion, and have had one, display deeply ambivalent feelings on the subject. Linda Bird Francke, a general editor for Newsweek, reflects on her own abortion in her book, The Ambivalence of Abortion:

There was no doubt, when I became pregnant, that life was right there, in my womb. Left undisturbed, that blob of cells and tissue would have grown into a baby. The process was beginning, and I chose to end it……I was totally unprepared for my mounting ambivalence as the time for the abortion came closer, an ambivalence that turned into grief and guilt for a period after the abortion was over. The little ghost haunted me for about six months before it disappeared, and after it was gone, I even missed it a bit. But as my children grow and take up more and more of my time and energy, I realize emphatically that the addition of another child for me would have been negative rather than positive.[1]

The ambivalence of Linda Bird Francke typifies that of countless American women who have had abortions. Traditional values about prenatal life and childbearing are thought increasingly to conflict with personal goals and career plans.

Ambivalence and divisions appear also at the political level. Each year the Congress engages in protracted debates on whether the federal government should subsidize abortions. Some senators and congressmen argue adamantly that fairness requires giving the poor as much access to abortion as the more affluent. Others argue with equal adamance that abortion constitutes the unwarranted taking of human life. Both sides are lobbied heavily by “pro-life” and “pro-choice” groups.

At the state and local levels, legislatures and city councils have had to wrestle with the issue. Most state legislators have debated whether the state should subsidize abortions through its welfare programs. By 1978, some 33 states had imposed restrictions of one sort or another on such funding.[2] City councils have faced the issues of whether zoning ordinances can be used to restrict the location of abortion clinics, and whether local ordinances can place restrictions on their operation. The most widely known instance involved ordinances passed by the city council of Akron, Ohio, which placed the following restrictions on abortion clinics: (1) informed consent (i.e., requiring the clinic to give the woman a description of the fetus); (2) performance of all second-trimester abortions in a hospital; (3) parental consent or court order for minors 15 years or younger; (4) a 24-hour waiting period. The ordinance, scheduled to go into effect on May 1, 1978, was challenged in court by attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and was struck down on June 15, 1983, by the U.S. Supreme Court.[3]

Divisions over the abortion issue are also evident in the churches of America. Prior to the 1960s, most denominations had very conservative positions on abortion. But the 1960s brought significant changes. In 1968, the American Baptist Convention adopted a resolution stating that “abortion should be a matter of responsible,

personal decision,” and that legislation should be provided for termination of pregnancies prior to the twelfth week.[4] In the same year, the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association urged that efforts be made to abolish existing abortion laws, and that the decision to have an abortion be a private matter between a woman and her physician.[5] Other American denominations such as the United Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church, and the Protestant Episcopal Church adopted similar resolutions.

After the Supreme Court’s sweeping abortion decisions in 1973, striking down most of the then-existing state legislation restricting abortion, a conservative reaction began taking place. Several denominations went on record as opposing abortion on demand. They included the Southern Baptist Convention, the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, the Presbyterian Church in America, the Free Methodist Church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church (Evangelical Synod), the Mennonite Church at General Assembly, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), and the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches.[6] The Roman Catholic Church has consistently opposed abortion, both before and after the 1973 Supreme Court decisions.

One of the main purposes of this volume is to discover and clarify some of the principal issues and values that divide Americans in the abortion controversy. When does human life begin? Should the unborn be considered persons in the eyes of the law? What circumstances, if any, make abortion morally justifiable? Should abortion be a purely private matter between a woman and a physician? Would a return to more restrictive abortion laws violate the separation of church and state? These are some of the issues to explore as we examine the biblical, ethical, and medical data. That examination will serve as the basis for offering specific guidelines for decision making on abortion at both the personal and public policy levels. But before moving in that direction, it will be helpful to listen to a few voices from the Christian past.

Voices from the Christian Past

The attitude of the early Christian church toward abortion forms a sharp contrast to the permissive attitudes found in America in the 1980s. The early church, living out its faith in a Greco-Roman culture that tolerated both abortion and infanticide, vigorously and consistently opposed the taking of life in the womb. In the Didache, or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, a manual of Christian principles that may date back to the first century, abortion is explicitly prohibited. “Thou shalt not procure abortion, nor commit infanticide” (Did. 2:2).[7] Similar strictures are found in the Epistle of Barnabas (19:5). The second-century Christian philosopher and convert, Athenagoras, answered the slander that Christians were “homicides and devourers of men” in his defense of Christianity to the emperor: “How can we kill a man when we are those who say that all who use abortifacients are homicides and will account to God for their abortions as for the killing of men. For the fetus in the womb is not an animal, and it is God’s providence that he exists.”[8]

Tertullian, another convert to Christianity and a lawyer by profession, was also an outspoken opponent of abortion. In his Apology to the emperor, written near the end of the second century, he responds to the charge that Christians practice cannibalism and infanticide. This cannot be so, since “for us, to whom murder has been once for all forbidden, it is not permitted to destroy even what has been conceived…..He is a human being who will be one….”[9] Tertullian did, however, consider a direct threat to the life of the mother to be justifiable grounds for abortion.

While Augustine had some hesitation about the exact time of ensoulment, he unhesitatingly opposed abortion as a practice. Characterizing abortion as an expression of “lustful cruelty,” he stated, in reference to pagan practices, that “sometimes this lustful cruelty or cruel lust comes to this that they even procure poisons of sterility, and if these do not work, they extinguish and destroy the fetus in some way in the womb.”[10] Augustine’s attitude became the dominant one in the latin churches of the West. In the East, Greek church fathers such as Basil of Cappadocia were equally emphatic.

Those who “deliberately commit abortion are subject to the [ecclesiastical] penalty for homicide,” which involved ten years of penance.[11]

Thomas Aquinas, the leading theologian of the Middle Ages, opposed abortion but distinguished between the moral gravity of early and late abortions.[12] Aquinas’s position presupposed the embryology of Aristotle, who taught that the “rational” soul was not present before the fortieth day in the case of a male, and the eightieth day in the case of a female. Later, in 1585, Pope Sixtus V, his principal target being prostitution in Rome, condemned abortion without any distinction between a “formed” (ensouled) and an “unformed” fetus. By the middle of the eighteenth century, Catholic teaching had moved away from the earlier position of Aristotle and Aquinas and had identified conception as the time of ensoulment.[13] The change was, in part, due to new embryological information unavailable to Aquinas.

While Martin Luther apparently did not directly address the question of abortion, his teachings on original sin and the origins of the human soul had the effect of personalizing the unborn child.[14] John Calvin was more explicit. In his commentary on Exodus 21:22, which deals with an unintentionally induced premature birth,[15] Calvin wrote:

This passage of first sight is ambiguous, for if the word death only applies to the pregnant woman, it would not have been a capital crime to put an end to the foetus, which would be a great absurdity; for the foetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being, and it is almost a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a foetus in the womb before it has come to light.[16]

For Calvin, the unborn child is “already a human being,” a judgment in harmony with the early church fathers such as Tertullian.

During the nineteenth century, abortion became a public concern in America. In 1869, the General Assembly of the “Old School”

Presbyterian Church adopted the following resolution as its official denominational statement:

This assembly regards the destruction by parents of their own offspring, before birth, with abhorrence, as a crime against God and nature…..We also exhort those who have been called to preach the gospel, and all who love purity and the truth, and who would avert the just judgments of Almighty God from the nation, that they be no longer silent, or tolerant of these things, but that they endeavour by all proper means to stay the floods of impurity and cruelty.[17]

The congregationalist churches in New England and the Great Lakes region also engaged in anti-abortion activities. Arthur Cleveland Coxe, episcopal bishop of the diocese of western New York, publicly supported efforts by American physicians to tighten up the abortion laws. “As to those crimes which I have likened to the sacrifices of Moloch,” wrote the bishop, “I am glad that our physicians are beginning to be preachers.”[18]

In recent years, conservative Protestant opposition to abortion has increased. Prominent leaders such as Billy Graham, Francis Schaeffer, Harold O.J. Brown, Donald Bloesch, C. Everett Koop, R.C. Sproul, Bruce Waltke, John Frame, Jerry Falwell, and others have gone on record as opposing the present abortion situation in America. Such opposition has, as we have seen, deep roots in the history of the Christian church.

The Magnitude of the Problem

Legal abortions in the United States increased from 898,000 in 1974 to 1,533,000 in 1980, the latest year for which figures are available, according to researchers at the Alan Guttmacher Institute. Of those obtaining abortions in 1980, 30 percent were under age 20, 70 percent were white, and 79 percent were unmarried.[19] The last figure shows that abortions in the United States are most often sought as a “solution” to the problem of pregnancy outside of marriage.

Abortion represents a $700-million-a-year industry in this country.[20] The United States leads the world in teenage abortions, with about half a million each year. Some 150,000 abortions are performed in the second trimester of pregnancy, “the most grisly of all,” notes Dr. Matthew J. Bulfin, “the ones that some hardened abortionists refuse to do because the killing is so real and unmistakable.”[21]

These figures mean that each day an average of 4,257 unborn human beings are aborted in the United States. In Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, abortions now outnumber live births.[22]

The statistics are especially disturbing in light of recent findings concerning the medical hazards of abortion. The preliminary results of a study being sponsored by the National Institutes of Health indicate that women who have had abortions increase significantly their risks of having adverse outcomes in future pregnancies. Those who had one or more abortions were 85 percent more likely to have a miscarriage in a future pregnancy; were 32 percent more likely to give birth to an infant with low birthweight; were 67 percent more likely to have a premature birth; were 47 percent more likely to have labor complications; and were 83 percent more likely to experience complications in delivery.[23] While these preliminary results should be interpreted with caution, they clearly signal a health hazard. Studies by physicians in Eastern European countries where abortion has been legal for many years have reported significant rates for complications, including internal bleeding, infections, perforation of the uterus, and damage to the cervix.[24] Despite the claims made for the safety of abortion — now one of America’s most common surgical procedures — it is becoming evident that a full disclosure of the hazards has not yet been made to the American people.

The door to the present laissez-faire abortion scene in America was swung open in 1973 by the Supreme Court’s abortion decisions, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. These decisions struck down some 31 state laws then restricting abortion and permitted abortions even in the final trimester, if the woman’s “health” — very loosely defined — was said to require it. Legal scholars have criticized the decisions as lacking grounding in sound constitutional law.[25] In July of 1976, the Court ruled in Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth that a father had no right to prevent the abortion of his unborn child, if the mother desired it. Critics of the decision saw it as a further undermining of the family unit. [26]

In June of 1977, the Court decided three related abortion cases; Maher v. Roe, Beal v. Doe, and Poelker v. Doe. In these rulings the Court, by a six to three majority, held that states were not required to pay for elective abortions under the Medicaid program.[27] Likewise, in Harris v. McCrae, decided on June 30, 1980, the Court held that states could cut off funds for “medically necessary abortions.”[28] The effect of these decisions was to hand back to state legislatures the volatile issue of public funding of abortion, making it a continuing focus of controversy. More recently, on June 15, 1983, in City of Akron v. Akron Center For Reproductive Health, Inc., the Court struck down an Akron city ordinance restricting abortion, and reaffirmed the basic abortion-on-demand stance of its Roe v. Wade decision ten years earlier.

Far from settling the national controversy on abortion, the Supreme Court’s decisions have provoked a still increasing volume of debate. With this brief overview of the American abortion scene, we now turn to representative positions held today on the ethics of abortion.

As we have seen, abortion is a complex moral issue with psychological, social, medical, and political dimensions. In the heat of debate the basic ethical considerations are sometimes lost. Communication between the opposing groups rarely gets beyond the shouting stage. It is therefore necessary to clarify the basic ethical issues at stake, which we will do by surveying three major positions held in America today: abortion “on demand”; abortion “on indication”; and abortion “only to save the life of the mother.” This chapter will outline the main lines of argument that characterize these representative positions. In chapter four, after examining the biblical evidence in detail, we will critically evaluate the various positions.

Abortion “On Demand”

A notable representative of the abortion “on demand” position is Joseph Fletcher, widely known author of Situation Ethics: The New Morality, and professor of medical ethics at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Professor Fletcher’s books and articles in professional journals are widely read in the American medical community and have had considerable influence there. In a recent book, The Ethics of Genetic Control, Fletcher discusses abortion in connection with recent issues arising in genetics and medicine, such as artificial insemination, sperm banking, and cloning.[1] He observes that changing attitudes toward human sexuality and the development of modern contraceptive devices have largely separated sexual activity from procreation:

Technology, whether of the “hard” physical kind or the “soft” biological kind, is man’s creation and man’s hallmark…..Love making and baby making have been divorced. Sex is free from the contingencies and complications of reproduction, and sexual practice can now proceed on its own merits as an independent value in life….”Make love, not people.” This is the rock-bottom fact of the new age and the new morality.”[2]

Seen in that light, abortion represents one of the many technological means for controlling natural processes such as human procreation, in deference to personal values such as individual freedom and self-fulfillment. Modern man has learned increasingly to subdue the natural order through science and technology, and now modern contraceptive devices and abortion techniques extend such technological control to the biological dimensions of human life and procreation.

Fletcher’s position on abortion embodies a pragmatic approach to moral reasoning. Decisions are made not on the basis of a priori moral principles, but on the basis of a rational calculation of the probable consequences of a given line of action:

….there are in the end only two ways of deciding what is right. Either we will obey a rule (or a ruler) of conscience, which is the a priori or prejudiced approach, or we will look as reasonably as we can at the facts and calculate the consequences, the human costs and benefits — the pragmatic way…..Most of us decide for or against things on the principle of proportionate good. We try to figure out the gains and losses that would follow from one course of action or another and then choose the one that is best, the one that offers the most good. This calculation of consequences is often called a trade-off or cost benefit analysis.[3]

In Fletcher’s view, a priori rules must not take precedence over specific calculations of probable costs and benefits to people in the concrete ethical situation. Moral principles may provide useful guidelines for ethical reflection, but they should not be understood as absolutely binding in every circumstance. Under certain circumstances it may be legitimate and morally right to violate widely held moral rules, e.g., rules prohibiting adultery and the taking of innocent human life, if a greater personal good would result.[4]

Fletcher’s cost-benefit approach does recognize that the critical issue is the status of the human being developing in the womb. “The most basic issue is whether a fetus is a person or not.”[5] If costs and benefits are to be calculated with the interests of all the persons involved, then the personhood of the unborn must be resolved in some fashion. Fletcher observes that there are three predominant views concerning human personhood: the identification of personhood with biological life, beginning at fertilization; the identification of personhood with the soul, either at the time of conception or at some discrete point thereafter; and the identification of personhood with the rational functions of human personality.

Fletcher opts for the third alternative: “Humans without some minimum of intelligence or mental capacity are not persons, no matter how many of their organs are active, no matter how spontaneous their living processes are.”[6] In Fletcher’s view, a score of, say, 20 on the Binet scale of I.Q. would be a minimum criterion of personhood. “Obviously,” he notes, “a fetus cannot meet this test, no matter what its stage of growth.”[7] The most sensible position, he believes, is to hold that the unborn become persons at birth, when the umbilical cord is cut and the lungs begin to function.[8] Since on this basis the woman is understood to have full personal status and the developing child none, abortion at any stage of pregnancy becomes justifiable whenever the cost-benefit calculation indicates that it would be in the woman’s own interests.

Fletcher recognizes the difficulty of evaluating the competing claims about the personhood of the unborn in a pluralistic society.

He maintains that the only possible way of evaluating such claims is a pragmatic one:

The only possible moral test of these rival views lies in their consequences. When beliefs or nonempirical opinions, neither of them being falsifiable, contradict or clash with each other, the only possible way to choose between them morally is in terms of their consequences if they are followed out logically in practice. The one which results in greater good for people is the correct one. On this basis there is an open and shut case for abortion. Obvious and overwhelming, it can be justified very often, sometimes for reasons of human health, sometimes for reasons of human happiness.[9]

To Fletcher’s way of thinking, the view that personhood is present from conception not only is empirically unverifiable, but also would cause more harm than good for society. Consequently, it should not be the basis for social policy. The only reasonable policy, he asserts, is to put an end to compulsory pregnancy. “The ethical principle is that pregnancy when wanted is a healthy process, pregnancy when not wanted is a disease — in fact, a venereal disease. The truly ethical question is not whether we can justify abortion but whether we can justify compulsory pregnancy.”[10] Thus, having decided to view the unborn as nonpersons, Fletcher concludes that the freedom to abort is desirable both as a personal ethic and as a public policy.

Abortion “On Indications”

While few evangelicals support abortion “on demand,” many argue that certain medical or social circumstances provide justifiable grounds for abortion. An important representative of this perspective in evangelical circles is Professor Norman Geisler of Dallas Theological Seminary, who articulates his position in the widely used textbook, Ethics: Alternatives and Issues.[11]

Geisler begins by making a careful distinction between contraception and abortion: contraception is an attempt to prevent life from beginning; abortion, a much more serious matter, is an attempt to take life after it has already begun.[12] But is abortion the moral equivalent of murder? Geisler thinks not and points to Exodus 21:22 as scriptural support for this view: “When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined…..”[13] According to this reading of the text, the capital penalty was to be inflicted for the death of the mother, but not for the death of the child in the womb. On this view, the Mosaic law did not consider an unborn child to be a person in the full sense of the word. Such a view permits one to weigh the value of the actual life of the mother against the value of the potential life of the unborn child when there appears to be an inescapable conflict between the two.

Geisler’s position grew out of an ethical framework he calls hierarchicalism. It holds that there are many universally valid moral norms, and these can be arranged in a hierarchical fashion. In the case of a tragic conflict between two moral norms, the higher norm (e.g., preserving innocent human life) takes precedence over the lower norm (e.g., telling the truth). Thus, when Rahab the harlot lied to protect the Israelite spies [Joshua 2], she chose not the lesser of two evils, but a positively right course of action. The hierarchical approach makes it possible for the Christian to choose a positive good in any situation, no matter how tragic the circumstances.

As it applies to abortion, the hierarchical understanding affirms as a matter of principle that “an actual person is of more value that a potential person”:

….just as the actual plant is more valuable than the seed (potential plant), so a mother is more intrinsically valuable as a person than the fertilized ovum within her womb. For the mother is an actual person, whereas the embryo is only a potential person. She is a mature, free, autonomous subject; the unborn has only the potential to become such. Hence, it would follow that when there are irresolvable conflicts between the values involving potential humans and actual humans, the actual should take precedence over the potential.[14]

This distinction between “actual” and “potential” personhood is based on a view of personhood in which qualities such as self-awareness, self-determination, and the capacity for interpersonal relationships are the determining factors. Since the unborn only exhibit these qualities to a very limited degree, they must be considered potential rather than actual persons.

Geisler is careful to point out that the hierarchical view does not imply that the developing child is of no value, or that abortion on demand is justified. “An unborn baby is a work of God which He is building into His own likeness. It is a being with increasing value as it develops.”[15] Geisler cites Psalm 139:13-15, which speaks of God’s providential care for developing human life, as evidence that the Bible does not consider the embryo to be simply an expendable piece of human tissue. Abortion is a very serious moral matter, much more serious than birth control. “Since God is the Author of life, it is a serious thing to stamp out a life which He has permitted to come to pass……Conception is a prima facie case in favor of giving the undeveloped person a chance to develop. One must have some higher moral duty which demands abortion before he initiates it.”[16]

When, then, in Geisler’s view, is abortion morally justifiable? He cites three fairly well-defined cases: when the life of the mother is at stake; when the birth would result in a sub-human and not merely deformed or retarded being; and in cases of pregnancy due to rape or incest. “When it is a clear-cut case of either taking the life of the unborn baby or letting the mother die, then abortion is called for.”[17] In such a case the actual life of the mother is of more value than the potential life of the unborn child. Geisler deals with a possible objection to this position, which can be posed in the following manner: Might some potential humans not be more valuable than some actual human beings? A future Albert Schweitzer than a drunken harlot? While acknowledging such a possibility, Geisler argues that basing a decision on such considerations would require an omniscience possessed by God alone. Finite human beings must decide on the basis of knowledge available to them.[18]

In his discussion of anticipated birth defects, Geisler distinguishes between cases of deformity or retardation, and cases that are “sub-human”. Only in the latter would “therapeutic” abortion be justified. Specifically, “…..handicaps do not destroy one’s humanity. In fact, they often enhance the truly human characteristics in both the handicapped and those who work with them.”[19] Anticipated birth defects usually do not constitute grounds for abortion. Many are minor or surgically correctable, and the deformed are still human and capable of interpersonal relations. “The handicapped are human and have the right to life. Abortion thwarts this right in advance.”[20]

Rape and incest, as Geisler acknowledges, raise difficult questions. Is a mother obligated to give birth to a child conceived in rape? Geisler cautiously answers no. “Birth is not morally necessitated without consent……A violent intrusion into a woman’s womb does not bring with it a moral

Chapter 1

  1. ^ Linda Bird Francke, The Ambivalence of Abortion (New York: Random House, 1978), quoted in Family Circle, January 27, 1978, p.57.
  2. ^ “Abortion Under Attack,” Newsweek, June 5, 1978, p.42.
  3. ^ Lex Vitae 1, no. 4(1978):4; Boston Globe, June 16, 1983, p.1.
  4. ^ Cyril J. Barber, “Abortion: A Survey of Attitudes and Research Materials,” Journal of Psychology and Theology 1(1973):67.
  5. ^ Ibid., p.68.
  6. ^ C. Everett Koop, “The Other Human Rights Issue,” Eternity, October, 1978, p.40.
  7. ^ The Apostolic Fathers, trans. Kirsopp Lake (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1912), 1:312-13.
  8. ^ Athenagoras Embassy for the Christians. Cited by John T. Noonan, Jr., ed., The Morality of Abortion (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970), p.11.
  9. ^ Apology 9, 9; cited by George Hunston Williams, “Religious Residues and Pre-suppositions in the American Debate on Abortion,” Theological Studies 31 (1970):25.
  10. ^ Cited in Noonan, Morality of Abortion, p.16.
  11. ^ Ibid., p.17.
  12. ^ Williams, “Religious Residues,” p.31.
  13. ^ Ibid., p.38. For further discussion, see John R. Connery, Abortion: The Development of the Catholic Perspective (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1977).
  14. ^ Williams, “Religious Residues,” p.34.
  15. ^ For an exegetical discussion of this text, I refer you to the discussion in Chapter 4 of this volume.
  16. ^ John Calvin, Commentaries on the Last Four Books of Moses, trans. Charles Bingham (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950), 3:41,42.
  17. ^ Cited in James C. Mohr, Abortion in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), p.192.
  18. ^ Ibid., pp. 192-93. Ironically, physicians tended to be more outspoken than the Protestant clergy in this era.
  19. ^ Presbyterian Journal, March 9, 1983, pp. 6,7.
  20. ^ Matthew J Bulfin, letter to the editor, New York Times, July 1, 1983, p. A22.
  21. ^ Ibid.
  22. ^ Gary Bergel, “Abortion: A Biblical Issue That Must Be Resolved,” Intercessors for America, February 1, 1983, p.1.
  23. ^ “A Prospective Study of the Effects of Induced Abortion on Subsequent Reproductive Function,” research contract No. N01-HD-6-2802, sponsored by the National Child Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. These are only preliminary results.
  24. ^ These medical complications are discussed in greater detail in Chapter 3 of this volume.
  25. ^ See John Hart Ely, “The Supreme Court Decisions,” Human Life Review 1, no. 1 (1975): 44-73; James F. Csank, “Dred Scott and the Abortion Cases,” Human Life Review 3, no. 2 (1977): 79-100; Archibald Cox, “The Supreme Court and Abortion,” Human Life Review 2, no. 4 (1976): 15-19.
  26. ^ Francis Canavan, “The Theory of the Danforth Case,” Human Life Review 2, no. 4 (1976): 5-14.
  27. ^ Legal Defense Fund Newsletter no. 61 (June, 1977): 1-6.
  28. ^ For the text of Harris v. McCrae, see the Journal of Church and State 22, no.3 (1980): 575-95.

Chapter 2

  1. ^ Joseph Fletcher, The Ethics of Genetic Control (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press, 1974).
  2. ^ Ibid., pp.15, 16.
  3. ^ Ibid., pp.119, 121.
  4. ^ This approach was argued by Fletcher in his earlier work, Situation Ethics: The New Morality (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1966).
  5. ^ Fletcher, Ethics of Genetic Control, p.135.
  6. ^ Ibid., p.137.
  7. ^ Ibid.
  8. ^ Ibid., p.139.
  9. ^ Ibid., pp.138, 139.
  10. ^ Ibid., p.142. For similar conclusions, cf. Garrett Hardin, Mandatory Motherhood (Boston: Beacon Press, 1974).
  11. ^ Norman Geisler, Ethics: Alternatives and Issues (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971). Other writers who hold the “indications” position include Daniel Callahan, Abortion: Law, Choice, and Morality (New York: Macmillan, 1970); R.F.R. Gardner, Abortion: The Personal Dilemma (Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1974; Harmon L. Smith, Ethics and the New Medicine (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1970).
  12. ^ Geisler, Ethics, p.218.
  13. ^ The rather complicated questions of translation and interpretation surrounding Exodus 21:22-25 are discussed in some detail in chapter four of this volume. Geisler apparently has not taken fully into account other possible interpretations of this text.
  14. ^ Geisler, Ethics, p.118
  15. ^ Ibid., p.219
  16. ^ Ibid., p.220.
  17. ^ Ibid.
  18. ^ Ibid., p.221.
  19. ^ Ibid., p.222. Evidently, Geisler no longer considers Downs Syndrome (“Mongolism”) a justification for abortion.
  20. ^ Ibid., p.225.
  21. ^ Ibid., p.222.
  22. ^ Ibid., p.222,223.
  23. ^ Ibid., p.223.
  24. ^ Ibid., p.224.
  25. ^ Ibid., p.225.
  26. ^ Ibid., p.226.
  27. ^ Harold O.J. Brown, Death Before Birth (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1977). Other evangelicals holding this general position include Clifford E. Bajema, Abortion and the Meaning of Personhood (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974); C. Everett Koop, The Right to Live: the Right to Die (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1976); C.C. Ryrie, You Mean the Bible Teaches That . . . (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974); Meredith G. Kline, “Lex Talionis and the Human Fetus,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 20, no.3 (1977): 193-202; Donald Shoemaker, Abortion, the Bible, and the Christian (Cincinnati: Hayes, 1976); Bruce Waltke, “Reflections from the Old Testament on Abortion,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 19, no.1 (1976): 5-13. For an excellent exegetical study, cf. John Frame et al., “Report of the Committe to Study the Matter of Abortion,” Agenda, 38th General Assembly, Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1971, pp.90-110.
    This position is also the official position of the Roman Catholic Church. See John T. Noonan, ed., The Morality of Abortion (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970), pp.1-39; John Connery, Abortion: The Development of the Roman Catholic Perspective (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1977).
    Also representative of this point of view are Baruch Brody, Abortion and the Sancity of Life (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1975); Thomas W. Hilgers and Dennis J. Horan, eds., Abortion and Social Justice (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1972); Paul Ramsey, “The Sanctity of Life: In the First of It,” Dublin Review 241 (1967-68): 3-23; Dr. and Mrs. J.C. Willke, Handbook on Abortion (Cincinnati: Hayes, 1975).
  28. ^ Brown, Death Before Birth, p.119.
  29. ^ Ibid.
  30. ^ Ibid., p.120.
  31. ^ Ibid., p.122.
  32. ^ Ibid., p.126.
  33. ^ Ibid., p.127. Some of the criticisms raised against this way of reading the texts, e.g., the objection that such a reading does not take into account the metaphorical language of the Psalms, will be examined in chapter four of this volume.
  34. ^ Cited in ibid., p.134.
  35. ^ Ibid., p.135.
  36. ^ Ibid., p.136.
  37. ^ Ibid., pp.146, 147.

Chapter 3

  1. ^ For the information in this section I am indebted to Andre Hellegers, “Fetal Development,” Theological Studies 31 (1970): 3-9; C.R. Austin, “The Egg and Fertilization,” Science Journal 6 (1970):37-42; E.C. Amoroso, “Development of the Early Embryo,” Science Journal 6 (1970): 59-64; Bart T. Heffernan, “The Early Biography of Everyman,” and Albert W. Liley, “The Foetus in Control of His Environment,” in Hilgers and Horan, eds., Abortion and Social Justice (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1972), pp. 3-36.
  2. ^ California Medicine 113, no.3 (1970), reprinted in The Human Life Review 1, no.1 (1975): 103-4.
  3. ^ R. Houwink, Data: Mirrors of Science (1970), pp. 104-90, cited by Heffernan, “Early Biography of Everyman,” p.4.
  4. ^ The active nature of the unborn child is detailed in Liley, “Fetus in Control.” pp. 27-36.
  5. ^ This Latin term is used in medicine to refer to the unborn child from approximately eight weeks until birth. Since it has tended to depersonalize the unborn in the abortion debate, many prefer to use the terminology “unborn child,” which more accurately communicates the real genetic and physiological continuity of prenatal and postnatal human life.
  6. ^ Cited by Heffernan, “Early Biography of Everyman,” p.15.
  7. ^ Ibid.
  8. ^ Ibid., p.17.
  9. ^ Arnold Gesell, The Embryology of Behavior (1945), cited by Heffernan, “Early Biography of Everyman,” pp. 17, 18.
  10. ^ H.M. Liley, Modern Motherhood (1969), cited by Heffernan, “Early Biography of Everyman,” p.18.
  11. ^ Much of the information in this section is drawn from David N. Danforth, ed., Textbook of Obstetrics and Gynecology (New York: Harper and Rowe, 1971); Jack Pritchard and Paul McDonald, Williams’ Obstetrics (New York: Appleton Century Crofts, 1976); C. Everett Koop, The Right to Live: the Right to Die (Wheaton, Ill.:Tyndale House, 1976); J.C. Willke, Handbook on Abortion (Cincinnati: Hayes, 1975).
  12. ^ J.A. Stallworthy et al., “Legal Abortion: A Critical Assessment of Its Risks,” Lancet, December 4, 1976, p. 1245.
  13. ^ Peter J. Moberg, “Uterine Perforation in Connection with Vacuum Aspiration for Legal Abortion,” International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics 14 (1976):77.
  14. ^ Pritchard and McDonald, Williams’ Obstetrics, p. 500.
  15. ^ Ibid., p. 504.
  16. ^ Danforth, Obstetrics and Gynecology, p. 354.
  17. ^ Pritchard and McDonald, Williams’ Obstetrics, p. 505.
  18. ^ Ibid., p. 503.
  19. ^ M.I Ragab, D.A. Edelman, “Early Termination of Pregnancy: A Comparative Study of Intrauterine Prostaglandin F2a and Vacuum Aspiration,” Prostaglandins 2, no. 2 (1976): 275-83.
  20. ^ Pritchard and McDonald, Williams’ Obstetrics, p. 505.
  21. ^ Stallworthy et al., “Legal Abortion: Its Risks,” p. 1245.
  22. ^ Fred E. Mecklenberg, “Indications for Induced Abortion,” in Hilgers and Horan, Abortion and Social Justice, p.39.
  23. ^ Lawrence C. Kolb, Noyes’ Modern Clinical Psychiatry (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1968), p. 447.
  24. ^ R. Bruce Sloane, “The Unwanted Pregnancy,” New England Journal of Medicine 280, no. 22 (1969): 1207.
  25. ^ Ibid. The study cited is K. Hook, “Refused Abortion,” Acta Psychiat.Scandinav. 39 (Supp. 168): 1-156, 1963.
  26. ^ Mecklenberg, “Indications for Induced Abortion,” p. 40.
  27. ^ N.M. Cogan, “A Medical Social Worker Looks at the New Abortion Law,” British Medical Journal 2, (1968): 235.
  28. ^ E.W. Page, C.A. Villee and D.B. Villee, Human Reproduction (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1976), p. 394.
  29. ^ Robert E. Nesbitt, Jr., “Coincidental Medical Disorders Complicating Pregnancy,” in Danforth, Obstetrics and Gynecology, p. 435.
  30. ^ Page, Villee and Villee, Human Reproduction, p. 396.
  31. ^ Ibid., pp. 396, 399.
  32. ^ Ibid., p. 394.
  33. ^ R. Illsley and M.H. Hall, “Psychosocial Aspects of Abortion,” Bulletin of the World Health Organization 53, no. 1 (1976): 89.
  34. ^ See Thomas W. Hilgers and Dennis O’Hare in New Perspectives on Human Abortion (Frederick, Md.: University Publications, 1981), pp. 69-91. Willard Cates, Jr. et al., “Legal Abortion Mortality in the United States,” Journal of the American Medical Association 237, no. 5 (1977): 452-55, argues that induced abortion in the first trimester is almost nine times safer than childbirth. While Cates and his coworkers have attempted a comprehensive data search, he admits that “we cannot be certain that all deaths related to legal abortion have been reported” (p.452). This leaves open the possibility that the actual maternal death rate from abortion is significantly higher than concluded in the study.
  35. ^ Stallworthy et al., “Legal Abortion: Its Risks,” p.1245.
  36. ^ Stafanos N. Pantelakis et al., “Influence of Induced and Spontaneous Abortions on the Outcome of Subsequent Pregnancies,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 116, no. 6 (1973): 799.
  37. ^ D. Trichopoulos et al., “Induced Abortion and Secondary Infertility,” British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 83 (1976): 645.
  38. ^ S. Harlap and A.M. Davies, “Late Sequelae of Induced Abortions: Complications and Outcome of Pregnancy and Labor,” American Journal of Epidemiology 102, no. 3 (1975): 217.
  39. ^ J. Jurukovski and L. Sukarov, “A Critical Review of Legal Abortion,” International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 9, no. 3 (1971): 115.
  40. ^ Ibid.
  41. ^ Alfred Kotasek, “Artificicial Termination of Pregnancy in Czechoslovakia,” International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 9, no. 3 (1971): 119.
  42. ^ B. Beric et al., “Accidents and Sequaelae of Medical Abortions,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 116, no. 6 (1973): 813-21.

Chapter 4

  1. ^ Gerhard von Rad, commenting on Gen. 9:6, observes: “Attack on man’s body is a violation of God’s honor.”
  2. ^ James 3:8-10
  3. ^ Cf. G.C. Berkouwer, Man: The Image of God, trans. Dirk Jellema (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962), pp. 67-118, and Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, trans. Olive Wyon (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1952), pp. 75-78 for reviews of the various interpretations.
  4. ^ Cf. Berkouwer, Man, pp. 59, 93: “In all his relations and acts, he is never man-in-himself, but always man in relation, in relation to this history of God’s deeds in creation, to this origin of an inalienable relation to his Creator. . . .if we seek to define man merely in terms of various qualities and abilities, we are not giving a biblical picture of man.”
  5. ^ Cf. Joseph Fletcher, “Ethical Aspects of Genetic Controls,” New England Journal of Medicine 285 (1971): 781.
  6. ^ Cf. Q.99 of the Westminster Larger Catechism: “. . .where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded. . . .”
  7. ^ Cf. Q.135, Westminster Larger Catechism: “The duties required in the sixth commandment are: all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others, by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to be unjust taking away the life of any. . . .”
  8. ^ Note the suggestion of Nobel Laureate James Watson on the matter of newborn children with severe birth defects: “If a child were not declared alive until three days after birth, then all parents could be allowed the choice. . . .the doctor could allow the child to die if the parents so choose and save a lot of misery and suffering.” Cited by Dr. and Mrs. J.C. Willke, Handbook on Abortion (Cincinnati: Hayes, 1975:, p.113.
  9. ^ Edward R. Dalglish, Psalm Fify-One in the Light of Ancient Near Eastern Patternism (Leiden:E.J. Brill, 1962), p. 121.
  10. ^ Waltke, “Reflections from the Old Testament on Abortion,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 19, no. 1 (1976): 13; Dalglish, Psalm Fifty-One, pp.123, 124.
  11. ^ Dalglish, Psalm Fifty-One, p. 57.
  12. ^ Ibid., p. 124. Dalglish points out that the notion of the moral law as a natural endowment is found elsewhere in Rom.2:15, where Paul says of the Gentiles that “What the law requires is written on their hearts.” Though the Gentiles do not have the law, on occasion they “do by nature what the law requires” (Rom.2:14). There the idea is clearly that man’s moral sense is not merely the product of postnatal socialization, but is in some sense innate. Dalglish also points to an interesting Talmudic text, Nidda 30b, which is closely related to the proposed rendering of Ps. 51:6: “[The embryo] is also taught all the Torah from the beginning to end. . . . As soon as it sees the light, an angel approaches, slaps it on its mouth and causes it to forget all the Torah completely . . .” (p.125).
  13. ^ For similar retrospective references to prenatal development, cf. Job 10:8-12; 2 Macc.7:22,23. Eccles. 11:5 indicates the sense of wonder felt by the Hebrews in connection with God’s creative activity in the womb.
  14. ^ Albert W. Liley, “The foetus in Control of His Environment,” in Hilgers and Horan, eds., Abortion and Social Justice ( New York: Sheed and Ward, 1972), p. 29.
  15. ^ F. Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Book of Job, trans. F. Bolton (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.), 1:166.
  16. ^ A.B. Davidson, cited by H.H. Rowley, ed., Job: The New Century Bible (London: Nelson, 1970), p.102.
  17. ^ Norman Habel, The Book of Job (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), p.59.
  18. ^ E.M. Good, “Love in the Old Testament,” Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (New York: Abingdon, 1962), 3:167.
  19. ^ Meredith G. Kline, “Lex Talionis and the Human Fetus,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 20, no.3 (1977): 193-202.
  20. ^ Position 1, the “miscarriage” interpretation, is followed by the Latin Vulgate, Martin Luther’s German Bible, the RSV, the NEB, and by modern interpreters such as J.C. Rylaarsdaam and Bruce Waltke (Rylaarsdaam, The Interpreter’s Bible, ed. George Buttrick [New York: Abingdon, 1952], 1:999-1000; Waltke, “Old Testament on Abortion,” p.3, n.3). Waltke, however, pointing to the accidental nature of the alleged miscarriage, does not draw the conclusion that the unborn child is less than a human being on the basis of the nonimposition of the capital penalty. As previously noted, he argues in fact that the imago Dei is present from conception.
  21. ^ Cf. Calvin, Commentaries on the Last Four Books of Moses, trans. C. Bingham (reprinted Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.), 3:41-42; Keil and Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament: Volume 2, The Pentateuch, trans. J. Martin (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.), pp. 134, 135): U. Cassuto, Commentary on Exodus, trans. I. Abrahams(Jerusalem: Magnes, 1967), pp. 273-77; Harold Brown, “What the Supreme Court Didn’t Know,” Human Life Review 1, no.2 (1975):8-11; Donald Shoemaker, Abortion, the Bible, and the Christian (Cincinnati: Hayes, 1976), pp. 37-39; Jack Cottrell, “Abortion and the Mosaic Law,” Christianity Today, March 16, 1973, pp. 6-9; C.C. Ryrie, “The Question of Abortion,” in You Mean the Bible Teaches That. . . (Chicago: Moody, 1974), pp. 86-88; John Frame et al., “Report of the Committee to Study the Matter of Abortion,” Agenda: 38th General Assembly, Orthodox Presbyterian Church (1971), pp. 94-98. Bernard Jackson, “The Problem of Exod. 21:22-5,” Vetus Testamentum 23 (1973: 273-304, holds that v. 22 originally referred to a premature live birth, but that through a long process of redaction the meaning of the entire passage has been substantially changed.
  22. ^ Gen. 25:25-26; 35:11; 38:28-30; Exod. 1:5; Deut. 28:57; 2 Sam. 16:11; 1 Chron. 1:12; Job 1:21; 3:11; Eccles. 5:15; Jer. 20:18. Num. 12:12 indicates the birth of a stillborn child.
  23. ^ Kline, “Lex Talionis.”
  24. ^ In the following discussion I am indebted to G.C. Berkouwer, Man; H. Wheeler Robinson, The Christian Doctrine of Man, 3rd ed. (Edinburgh: T.& T. Clark, 1926); John A.T. Robinson, The Body: A Study in Pauline Anthropology (London: SCM, 1952); Edmond Jacob, “psuche,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (1974), 9:608-31; N. W. Porteous, “Soul,” Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible IV (1962), 4:428-29; George H. Williams, “Religious Residues and Presuppositions in the American Debate on Abortion,” Theological Studies 31, no. 1 (1970): 10-75. Berkouwer and Williams have helpful discussions on the questions of ensoulment and the creationist-traducianist debate.
  25. ^ For a survey of the various positions, and a helpful philosophical analysis of the concept of personhood, see Gabriel Pastrana, “Personhood and the Beginning of Human Life.” Thomist 41, no. 2 (1977):247-94.
  26. ^ J. A. T. Robinson, The Body, p. 14. Robinson cites in this connection the famous statement of H. Wheeler Robinson: “The Hebrew idea of the personality is an animated body, and not an incarnated soul.”
  27. ^ Jacob, “Psuche,”, p. 631.
  28. ^ Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, trans. D. Stalker (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), 1:145. Cf. Berkouwer, Man, p. 75: “It is very noteworthy . . . that there has been an increasing reluctance to exclude man’s body from the image of God — and exclusion generally supported previously, when theologians sought the content of the image in man’s ‘higher’ qualities, in contrast to the ‘lower’ bodily qualities which should not be considered in connection with the image.”
  29. ^ Berkouwer, Man, p.205.
  30. ^ Herman Ridderbox, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, trans. J. de Witt (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), p. 116.
  31. ^ In this section I am indebted to the article by Graham A.D. Scott, “Abortion and the Incarnation,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 17 (1974):29-44.
  32. ^ Calvin comments on these words as follows: “She calls Mary the mother of her Lord. This denotes a unity of person in the two natures of Christ; as if she had said, that he who has begotten a mortal man in the womb of Mary is, at the same time, the eternal God” (Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists [Grand Rapids: Associated Publishers, n.d.], p.23).
  33. ^ In the rare case of identical twins complete individuality may not be present from the time of conception. In such cases the zygote on the seventh or eighth day undergoes “segmentation: and divides into two identical parts. The definition of person proposed above, however, is framed in light of the general case, rather than the exception. For a detailed analysis of the philosophical use of the term “person,” see Gabriel Pastrana, “Personhood and the Beginning of Human Life,” Thomist 41, no. 2 (1977):247-94.
  34. ^ Philippe Aries, Centuries of Childhood, trans. R. Baldick (New York: Vintage, 1965), pp. 38-39, cited by James M. Humber, “The Case Against Abortion,” Thomist 39, no. 1 (1975):75.
  35. ^ Thomas W. Hilgers, M.D., “Human Reproduction,” Theological Studies 38, no. 1 (1977): 136-52.
  36. ^ Ibid., p. 148.
  37. ^ Paul Ramsey, “Points in Deciding About Abortion,” in John T. Noonan, ed., The Morality of Abortion (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970), p. 84.
  38. ^ Germain Grisez and Joseph M. Boyle, Jr., “Life, Death and Liberty,” Human Life Review 4, no. 4 (1978):67.

Chapter 5

  1. ^ F. Mecklenburg, “Indications for Induced Abortion,” in Hilgers and Horan, eds., Abortion and Social Justice (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1972), p. 48.
  2. ^ Ibid., p. 49.
  3. ^ Ibid., pp. 49, 50.
  4. ^ John Fletcher, “Attitudes toward Defective Newborns,” Hastings Center Studies 2, no. 1 (1974): 27.
  5. ^ Frederick Ausubel, Jon Beckwith, and Kaaren Janssen, “The Politics of Genetic Engineering: Who Decides Who’s Defective?” Psychology Today, June, 1974, pp. 30ff.
  6. ^ Mecklenburg, “Indications for Induced Abortion,” p. 42.
  7. ^ Ibid., p. 47.
  8. ^ Cited by ibid., p. 43.
  9. ^ R.F.R. Gardner, Abortion: The Personal Dilemma (Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming Revell, 1974), p. 210.
  10. ^ C. Everett Koop, The Right to Live: the Right to Die (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 176), pp. 51, 52.
  11. ^ Cited in Gardner, Abortion: The Personal Dilemma, p. 204.
  12. ^ Presbyterian Journal, March 9, 1983, pp. 6,7.
  13. ^ Cf. Peter Skerry, “Defending the Family,” Human Life Review 4, no. 4 (1