Why you (yes, you) should care about abortion

Here it is. The topic you probably wish I hadn’t touched.

Messy. Divisive. Emotionally loaded.

When I was younger, abortion was a fairly abstract word. I knew what it was, of course, but it was vague. I knew little then about life in the womb and even less about what an abortion procedure really is. Once I got informed, my heart was changed for good.

I don’t know what your thoughts are on this most controversial of subjects. Perhaps you consider abortion a ‘political issue’; one for the lobbyists and crisis pregnancy centres to take care of. If you haven’t been personally affected by it, surely it’s better not to interfere? Shouldn’t Christians just focus on preaching the gospel?

Recently, I read Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter from Birmingham Jail  (highly recommended reading!) In his letter, he wrote about a response he often received to his plea for support: ‘In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.”‘

It’s hard to wrap our heads around this. How could these good Christians turn their backs on the Civil Rights Movement?

We feel disappointment at this passivity and we tell ourselves that in their place, we would have spoken up. I’m not so sure. Hindsight is a beautiful thing.

I only pray that in 50 years, the Church won’t look back at us with the same disappointment.

Now is your chance to exit this post if you don’t want to read on.

Assuming you’re still reading, I have to be blunt: We are, all of us, already guilty of silence in the face of injustice.

If scientists agree that life begins at conception, separate and distinct from the mother, and the taking of human life is clearly stated in the Bible as wrong, then abortion, at any stage, is fundamentally wrong.

In the UK, around 550 abortions take place every day. This a whole lot of wrong. The World Health Organisation estimates that between 40-50 million abortions take place worldwide every year.

But statistics can be detached, distant things, so if anything can prick our conscience, it may be this, penned by King David thousands of years ago:

“You shaped me first inside, then out;

    you formed me in my mother’s womb

… You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,

    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.

Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;

    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,

The days of my life all prepared

    before I’d even lived one day.”

(From Psalm 139, MSG)

To God, there is no concept of ‘less alive’ or ‘less human’ inside the womb. God’s intimate involvement with our lives and destinies begins before we are even conceived.

The lives lost to abortion every day are created with purpose and value. God dreams over those lives just as he does over yours and mine. But those voiceless ones don’t get to tell the world that their existence is designed to have impact and meaning. They don’t get to say anything at all.

God’s heart is as grieved by this injustice as he is by others we might comfortably mention in church and actively work towards ending. And whilst mentioning abortion in a church context risks hefty emotional fallout, is silence an alternative we can live with?

A quote attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer reads: ‘Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.’ These are some hard-hitting, uncomfortable words.

Maybe you’re thinking, what about the women? Most women are not committing a wrongful act out of pure malevolence. No-one wants to make such a choice.

I remember reading an article on the BBC last year that featured stories of women who’d had abortions. I was so struck by the guilt and regret expressed by a number of the women featured. Two or three had actually been forced into their abortions, or felt a desperate lack of alternatives. A far cry from the ‘choice’ and ’empowerment’ narrative spun by abortion’s proponents, these stories were sad and devoid of hope. Abortion is no bargain for women either. It’s a tragedy.

But there’s still a level of ignorance when it comes to what abortion actually involves and this is partly what drives our apathy. It fascinates me that whenever public education project Abort67 displays their images of aborted foetuses, people react by calling the police, or by hysterically trying to block the images from view. The images are offensive and shocking precisely because the reality is offensive and shocking.

What’s shrouded in euphemism is easier to downplay. Ignorance excuses turning a blind eye. But when you come face to face with the unpalatable truth; to be shocked and broken and haunted by it, it’s almost impossible to do nothing. I know because it happened to me. I’ve watched the same conviction hit other Christians.

Maybe you’re angry because I’ve reduced a complex, sensitive issue to something that looks very black and white. There will be tough ‘what if’ questions you may be asking, there will be questions about abortion and the law, questions about how to support women, questions about practical solutions. I will explore all of those things in future posts. But there needs to be a moral bottom line on which to anchor ourselves first.

So for now, I just want to tell you why you should care.

If my words are insufficient, I’ll leave you with those of William Wilberforce, addressing Parliament on the atrocities of the transatlantic slave trade: ‘Having heard all of this you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.’

If you’ve read this and been impacted by this issue for the first time, don’t despair or allow yourself to be overwhelmed. If the only thing you do with this is pray, you’re becoming part of the solution. And if you think others should know about this, share this post. I dare you.

For more on the Bible and abortion, this is a helpful resource.

For further reading on abortion from both a Christian and medical perspective, the Christian Medical Fellowship blog has lots of great posts.

If you’re serious about getting informed, former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levatino has created an animated video to show how the different types of abortion procedures are carried out. 

Photo by Joshua Reddekopp on Unsplash

7 thoughts on “Why you (yes, you) should care about abortion

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  1. Maybe it’s because I’m not a Christian and choose not to believe in things like God, but I have to disagree with your arguments. Yes, abortion is something we should all understand clearly, especially those who consider having one or choose to have one.

    You state above ‘If scientists agree that life begins at conception, separate and distinct from the mother’. However, scientists on the whole do not agree with that statement, the legal termination date for a foetus is generally up to 24 weeks for a reason – because before that time it is highly unlikely (almost certain) that a foetus would not survive on its own outside of the womb, and even by that date it is not fully developed and ready to live a life. Saying there is life from conception is not something people tend to agree with, as in the first 8 weeks from fertilisation it is an embryo which starts as a few cells (no body, no mind, no nothing, just DNA), and then when the cells have been giving their orders to become certain body parts by 8 weeks it becomes a foetus but it still hasn’t formed properly, or matured, and isn’t ready to live, it has no mind or thoughts yet. An embryo/foetus is 100% dependant on its mother until at least 24 weeks(approximate), where it is then still greatly dependent on its mother to get it to term (and if it is born early, it is usually greatly dependent on machinery and science to bring it to a time where it can live independently and breath and think for itself).

    You know, there is no evidence to suggest a foetus can even feel things (like pain) until at least 24 weeks, in fact evidence supports the contrary. Scientists have proven that the neuroanatomical apparatus required for pain and sensation is not complete until approximately 26 weeks; what is a person that cannot feel physically?

    Then later on, you say that you have seen the guilt that someone women experience and exhibit after having an abortion, but I ask you; have you seen the issues NOT having an abortion causes some women both physically and mentally. Women who are out of their depths, who are deeply depressed and cannot even properly care for their baby, women who (for one reason or another) cannot look at or love their child, women who do not have the means to raise a child properly – yes there’s adoption but why should a woman be refused abortion and have to go through the emotional termoil of carrying a child for 9 months and then having to give it up for adoption because she cannot care for it herself. How can you justify denying a woman an abortion and causing her to experience pain like this.

    As for ignorance, it excuses nothing. Nothing, at all. Some people know nothing about abortion because they don’t need to, it’s not something they will ever do or experience in any way. Some people choose not to know the details about abortion for their own sanity and mental health, because they know that they have to get rid of the child (for one reason or another) and so they choose not to know the finer details so that they can live with themselves – but that is a choice they have made, it is not merely ignorance. And the people who are ignorant to all the facts, yet chose to preach pro-abortion or anti-abortion just because, that is not excusable either, you should not preach without all of the facts, and you should not preach if you cannot separate your own bias from the issue.

    Finally, you state at the end that people reading this may be angry because you’ve turned a complex, sensitive issue into something black and white, but to the contrary, you have not turned this issue into something black and white at all. Maybe that’s just because I don’t look at it from a Christian point of view, but there are so many factors that influence people when choosing to have an abortion – it is not merely a case for saying life begins at fertilisation or conception and therefore you cannot kill that life because god made it. There are many reasons that abortion may be necessary like age of the mother, mental and physical health of the mother, how the mother became pregnant.

    On a side note, you’ve mentioned previously that the only way to consider abortion is if the double effect is in play and it will kill the mother to have a child, I have two questions for you in relation to this;
    1- If you agree with and say that life begins at conception then why do you, as a Christian, consider the mother’s life to be more important that the foetus’ life?
    2- If you were told 100%, no doubts, that a foetus would grow up to be a murderer or a rapist or a paedophile (or something else inexcusably bad), and there is 100% no way that this could be changed, whatever you did this foetus will still grow up to be this person and commit these atrocities, would YOU still be against it being aborted?

    Thank you for taking you time to read this, I look forward to your response, and to your next post (I find your views somewhat compelling, even if I do not agree).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there, thanks so much for taking the time to read and to comment on my post, especially considering you have different views to mine. I appreciate that you’re willing to engage with this thoughtfully 😊 I’ll try and address the points you made one by one (forgive me if I miss any).

      Firstly, let’s talk about when life begins. I don’t know if you clicked on the link I included in the article, but here it is again: https://www.princeton.edu/~prolife/articles/embryoquotes2.html

      It features quotes from a long list of scientists who believe that from the moment of conception, a new life begins. I understand you’re making a distinction between the stage where the growing baby is often referred to as an ‘embryo’, and the stage where it is referred to as a foetus. Regardless, it’s a separate, living organism. A baby’s heartbeat begins at around 21 days of a pregnancy. Arms and legs start forming at 4 weeks. A foetus responds to touch at only 8 weeks.

      Secondly, there are more and more instances of babies being born at 22 or 23 weeks and surviving, with the help of advanced medical care. Premature babies are given every possible attention to help them live, yet it’s perfectly acceptable in the UK for lives inside the womb to be terminated. The only difference is that one is outside the womb and the other is inside. If anything I think this exposes the fragility of the pro-abortion argument. It is inconsistent.

      But to return to your argument that a baby at that stage cannot survive on its own outside the womb. I’d pose the question, when CAN a baby survive on its own outside the womb? Can a newborn survive without being fed by its mother? Can a toddler survive without being cared for? A 5 year old? If we believe it would be wrong to terminate the life of a newborn simply because it couldn’t survive without its mother anyway, shouldn’t this same argument extend to a child inside the womb?

      Regarding whether a foetus can feel pain, the jury is still out on this one, but research suggests most believe a foetus feels pain at around 20 weeks, not 24, and some say it is even earlier (though you’re right that some scientists argue that they still cannot feel pain until after 26 weeks). But even if they can’t feel pain. You said, ‘what is a person that cannot feel pain physically’. Would you also apply that argument to an adult in a coma? Or a paraplegic? They can’t feel pain either; does that mean they are any less of a person?

      You raise some valid and important points about the mother’s ability to care for the child. I am in no way attempting to ignore or downplay a woman’s emotional experience. Sadly, a lot of women do get pregnant who are not fit to raise a child; in these cases adoption would certainly be preferable. But you’re asking me how I would justify denying the woman access to abortion – simply because I believe that the right to life should trump the convenience and even comfort of the mother. Emotional pain is an unfortunate reality for all of us, one way or another. We will all have to endure emotional turmoil, as you put it, at some point in our lives, and we all look for ways to ease our own suffering. But I think there’s something valuable about sacrifice for the sake of another – something society rarely promotes. The women who do put the life of their child above their own needs are to be commended.

      Do I believe women should be given greater support, both emotionally and practically, to carry a child to term? Absolutely! How that is to be done remains to be seen, but I think if enough people campaigned hard enough for it, it could become a reality. It’s certainly something I’d love to be part of working towards.

      Moving on to your point about ignorance. I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying here. Are you saying that no-one should be ignorant of the facts, or that some people can be excused from knowing the facts for certain reasons? Yes, some people know nothing about abortion because it doesn’t affect them. But you could apply that line of thought to all sorts of social issues, such as human trafficking or poverty. If we only got involved in issues that affected us personally, who would fight for the ones who are unable to fight for themselves?

      You say some women choose not to know the finer details so they can ‘live with themselves’. I think you hit the nail on the head there. If abortion is not morally wrong, then why does it need to be hidden?

      You’re right that this issue is complex – of course it is. You say that are many reasons why abortion may be ‘necessary’. But what do you mean by necessary? Do you really mean ‘necessary’, or do you mean ‘convenient’ or ‘desirable’? The majority of abortions in the UK do NOT take place because they are necessary. Last year 97% of abortions took place under the category that the woman’s mental or physical health would be negatively affected if she were to continue the pregnancy (Ground C of the Abortion Act 1967). But this is not properly assessed. Most doctors put down this reason as a way to bypass the law. Abortion for inconvenience, or because the child is unwanted, is in fact still illegal.

      You assert that I previously said the only way to consider abortion is if the ‘double effect’ is in play. Technically that’s not what I said. What I said was this: “As in, if the woman must choose between her own life or the baby’s, then this is one thing”. I didn’t say that I consider the mother’s life to be more important than the child’s. I was implying though that I can understand in this case why the woman should be given a choice. She may have other children already, for example. As I also said, though, this scenario is extremely rare.

      Your second question is completely hypothetical and has no bearing on the current situation we’re in, though I guess it’s an interesting ‘what if’ scenario. Personally as a Christian I don’t believe it should be within our power to decide whether a person lives or dies (except in cases of necessary warfare). This is why I also don’t believe in the death sentence, though I’m sure there are others who disagree on that one.

      I hope this answered all of your points. I’m glad I’ve been able to offer food for thought and you certainly gave me lots to think about too.

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      1. Thank you for the reply, I did previously click on the above link, but noted that all of the quotes are from over 20 years ago and in my medical training we are taught that due to the fast advances in science to look more at quotes within the last ten years – as in the last twenty years science and research has progressed greatly and so some of those scientists quotes on that link may have changed now. Anyhow, I would I argue that it is not quite a separate living organism at the ages you mentioned (21 days, 4 weeks, 8 weeks) as during these times it is completely dependant on it’s mother for life, and as such some people would see it as a parasite.

        I feel for your next point it is vital to point out that giving a growing foetus an age is not always accurate, and the last date for termination is 24 weeks as this is considered when a foetus will make it outside of the womb – I’m sure you’re aware though that ageing a foetus is at first it is done from a womans last period, and then a scan measures the foetus and gives another approximate age, however some babies are generally smaller and some bigger, so the 22/23 week babies you are referring to could actually be small 24/25 weeks, (we will never know this though) thus I feel a few weeks is quite negligible as it is not a precise science. And, yes, I understand this could go the other week and a small 24 week baby could be terminated because it is measured at 22 weeks. Anyway, I digress.

        Sorry, I may not have been very clear about this bit. You ask when can a baby survive on it’s own, which is very true, there have been few instances over the years where a child of a few years (3/4) has survived on it’s own for a while because it’s parent has committed suicide or died and were not found immediately – however, out of the home with no access to food and such would probably be fatal. My point, however, was that a baby under 24 weeks is most likely not to survive on its own, by this I mean out of it’s mothers body and with machinery and science, whereas a baby over 24 weeks have a significantly greater chance at survival with this medical help.

        In regards to pain, we must be reading different research as most of what I have read agrees that it is over 24 weeks and usually around the 26 week mark that a foetus can first experience pain – I have read very few articles that would agree it is as young as 20 weeks. I completely value your point though, I would not apply it to adults, as generally they have had the chance to experience physical feelings. You stated about coma patients, however brain scans have revealed that coma patients can actually feel things like pain just as much as a healthy conscious person can but they cannot react to it in the same manner. Yes, it is also true that a paraplegic cannot feel any sensation in the paralysed parts of their body but they can feel it in the rest of their body. So, I feel this examples aren’t really relevant to my comment, however I do understand the point you were trying to make.

        Absolutely I agree that there is something vitally valuable in the sacrifice of ones life for another, it is a rare trait these days, however I do not agree that a woman should be made to go through that emotional pain and the physical stress of her body to give birth to a child that she will not or can not keep. As a mother I know what it is like to carry a child for 9 months, and I know how even in that time you bond with a child – I could not bare to then at the end of that lose that child to the adoption system, I cannot imagine how hard that must be, and so in cases like this I feel that if it could cause the mother mental health problems in the future then abortion is the way. And, it is often the case that mothers whose child will be adopted at birth do not care for themselves or the foetus during pregnancy – they drink, take drugs, do the things you’re advised not to and this can lead to harming the foetus or new born child, and again this is an instant where I believe abortion would be best.

        I believe that some people can be excused from knowing the facts for certain reasons, a young child who is pregnant (for one reason or another) should be excused from knowing the facts about an abortion as it could cause them serious mental harm if they did know the facts, yet an abortion is often still considered the best course of action as children/young teenagers are not mentally or physically prepared to carry a child (yes, they could often successfully carry a baby to term, but it would not be right or fair for them to do so, especially if it is due to sexual abuse or rape – which are things I feel are valid reasons for any woman to have an abortion. But that’s another topic), and often if a younger person did carry a child to term this would impact on their growth, education, etc.

        You talk about how is this different to issues like trafficking and poverty, and completely I understand your point. Social issues like these are things that everyone should be made aware of, and if possible give support to stop them from happening in the future. However, with abortion I feel that we are looking at it from different perspectives, it seems that you mostly look at it from the foetus/baby’s view, whereas I look at it from the mothers. And with abortions they tend to be something that a woman has chosen to do (not always, and it is wrong when someone is forced into having an abortion, that I agree with.), whereas trafficking and poverty, etc. are not things people have chosen to have done to them or to go through. So, I think there is a big difference between knowing about things that we choose to affect us personally and things that we do not get a choice in – abortion being something, that from the mothers perspective, is a chosen act, whereas trafficking/poverty/etc. are not chosen at all. I understand from your view, the foetus’ view though that an abortion is something that it has no choice in, but a foetus has no voice and for a while no thoughts/feelings, and so the mother and medical practitioners are meant to do what is also best for the foetus and have it’s best interests at heart.

        I don’t think it is something that needs to be hidden. However, women who are victims of sexual abuse or rape and have become pregnant because of these actions, often do not want to carry their attackers child (and, in my opinion justly so) because it may mentally harm them, but they may also not want to know what an abortion is as they may agree that the foetus is living from conception and be guilt ridden for terminating it. So, in instances like this, I feel that if they do not want to know the finer details of abortion then that is acceptable.

        I do mean necessary, not convenient or desirable. The example above, a rape victim or sexual abuse victim (child, teen, adult), is one which I feel makes abortion a necessary option if that is what the individual victim chooses – some choose to carry the child, and they are admirable and brave women. Personally, I also, feel that if foetus is found to suffer with certain illnesses that mean it can never communicate, talk properly, move on it’s own or that mean it will never develop properly (e.g. Patau’s Syndrome or Spina Bifida, although the later is having increasingly high treatment survival rates) is a reason for a necessary abortion – not a convenient or desirable reason, because a child with these problems will often die soon after birth, or will live a very limited life where they cannot communicate with other people and can never move themselves or make their own choices, and I know that if I was in their place I would not want to live.

        Apologies, it came across that the only way you would understand abortion is with double effect. Even still though, I fail to understand why this is the one instance in which you could understand abortion, to me that implies that this mothers life could be considered more important than the foetus’, or vice versa, when previously you seem to always be for the foetus living even if it causes the mother emotional pain. Why does the risk of the mothers life suddenly make terminating a pregnancy an understandable situation, yet emotionally ruining a mothers life (where she will have to live for years to come with mental health issues that could cause immeasurable pain and toll on her life) is not a valid reason for abortion? (Apologies, if I have mistaken what you have said).

        Yes, that second question was purely hypothetical, I was just interested to see what your view would be. Interesting though that you would view some warfare as necessary, but that’s for another post I’m sure.

        Thanks, I hope you’ve had a nice day ☺

        Like

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