I’m not often asked about my views on abortion, but an article on 7th October written by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown for The Independent newspaper* prompted me to post some of my views in a comment section on the newspaper’s website. Here in the UK, the legal deadline for an abortion is 24 weeks into pregnancy, the point at which a foetus typically becomes viable outside its mother’s womb. However, the question of a reduction in that timescale has recently been raised in government and is currently a heated talking point, as if it wasn’t already.
When it comes to the issue of abortion or termination of a pregnancy, there are differences in opinion both within and outside religious communities. What is a Christian view? How do we assess not only whether abortion is right or wrong, but how to treat those who have had or intend to have an abortion? If Christians are to express their views on this matter, what line of approach or tone should their expression take?
Here are my views. They’re Christian views, biblically based, but I can’t claim to speak for everyone. At the very least, I hope they will help us to think.
I’ve observed that women’s rights, particularly a woman’s right to do what she wants with her own body, are at the forefront of some of the pro-abortion discussion. I support equality for women and I support women’s rights in general. But when it comes to pregnancy, it needs to be pointed out that what we are dealing with is not a woman’s body per se, but rather the life and body of another person inhabiting a woman’s body. I have two children and am pregnant with a third. I am female, my unborn child is male! He is not me, and I am not him. We are distinct, though joined. The question of abortion primarily concerns what I do with him not me. It’s about my rights over his body, not mine.
This recognition of personhood is at the heart of a Christian viewpoint on abortion. Setting aside issues of rape, incest, birth defects, or threats to a mother’s physical and mental health, abortion as a means of birth control is insupportable from a Christian perspective. The Bible is clear that human life is sacred, precious, and purposeful to God. Psalm 139 speaks of a person being ‘knit together’ by God in the mother’s womb. No distinction is made in value between a human life in its earliest stages, and a life that’s viable outside the mother’s womb. God is involved in the creation of new life in all its forms, and he loves everything and everyone he makes.
In Scripture, the question of when life begins (at conception? with the development of a hearbeat? limbs? viability outside the womb?…) is given less treatment than the questions, ‘what is human life all about?’ ‘What’s it worth?’ and ‘does anybody care?’ The author of Psalm 139 writes of God,‘Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.’ The Bible tells us that God has plans for every single one of us. When does life begin? At the very beginning! In the very first stages of human formation. What is my life worth? Worth every resource God has to give. Worth God giving his own life for (John 3:16). Does anybody care? God himself loves and cares for you (whole Bible). He sees where no-one else sees and loves the ones that no-one else loves.
The Bible also tells us that God understands human error and personal conflict, meeting them both with mercy, grace, wisdom, forgiveness and an abundance of love. When it comes to the conception of a baby, to pregnancy, birth and beyond, there is no scenario to which these attributes and gifts of God do not apply.
This God invites us to love and care for each other in the same way, to demonstrate God’s love not only for unborn children, but for their conflicted and compromised mothers, for women who’ve had abortions and regretted them, for women who’ve had abortions and been grateful for them, for the surgeons who’ve provided abortions and regretted them, for those who grant abortions and are glad to grant them.
Abortion may be wrong, but loving both the aborted and the aborter is right. Because in the end, love is the only way for anyone to find life.