Of Children and Choice |
By Jason Shults of Washington, Illinois
(This article appeared in the 2012 November edition of the Berea Baptist Banner)
“If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small. If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works” (Prov. 24:10-12)?
Approaching any subject in which you want to gain attention, a good way to start is to tell a cute story or an interesting anecdote. But since it is my purpose to address the topic of abortion, I do not know any cute stories to start that with. It is a topic – plain and simple – that demands our most serious attention.
Now some modest explanation of our text is important, I think, before seeing how it can and will be applied to this issue this evening. The main thought is in verse 11 where the writer says “If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain...”
Pictured in this verse is any group of individuals who through no fault of their own are found to be in a moment of mortal danger. They are drawn to their death. They are being dragged toward that final moment. They are ready to be slain. That word is literally “slaughtered.” And the assumption is that we – who are strong – are in a position to lend some aid but we do not.
This does not specify a group of unborn children and I will not pretend that it does. It is intentionally vague. It could have said “prisoners for their faith” or “innocent bystanders” or “widows weak and uncared for.” It is specifically vague. By saying none, it applies to them all. There is no group named because the writer wants to encourage support for any innocent group of weak individuals being carried unjustly to their demise.
Verse 10 deals with a possible cause for our failure. Perhaps we faint. That word there in Hebrew means to sink down, to relax or to be disheartened. Perhaps we think our strength is small.
But verse 12 is where I want to bring your attention. It deals with the consequences of failure and it is startling. The folks there defend themselves by saying “We did not know!” But we do know, do we not? We can not claim that the past 39 years have gone by in our ignorance. We do know!
However, the writer does not say that they defend themselves by claiming “We do not know” and God says “Yes you did” The writer makes it clear that even ignorance is not an excuse for inaction.
“If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works.”
Why did you not know? God will look in your heart and find out. If you knew, you have no excuse for allowing it. If you do not know, you have no excuse for not knowing. We cannot dodge God’s judgment when we fail – be it by fear or ignorance or apathy – to intervene in the unjust deaths of individuals who find themselves innocently placed in mortal danger.
That is essentially our introduction into why this issue of abortion is so important. God’s people are absolutely held accountable for their inaction and/ or indifference when innocent people are taken to their deaths.
Oh, but that word “people” is the sticking point, is it not? This is important to understand the entirety of the abortion issue comes down to one single question, “Is it a person?” That is important, I think, even in our text. After all, God does not demand action to protect an unviable fetus, but He demands defense of innocent people! So which is it? If that entity within a mother’s womb is merely a fetus – some scientifically defined mass of blood and tissue – then we have done nothing wrong. But if that is a person, if it is a child, if it is a baby – then we have clearly crossed the line.
It is important for us to determine if this call to action in Proverbs is applicable to the question of abortion today. And the best way to do that is to ask the question, “Is it a person?” We will try to answer that question in a couple of different ways. We will first consider, from just a logical standpoint, the potential personhood of an unborn child. Secondly, we will examine if the Word of God lends any definition for the unborn.
THE LOGICAL ARGUMENT FOR PERSONHOOD
It is fair to say that the question of Pro- Life and Pro-Choice can get muddled into a thousand different directions when the two sides start debating. However, it is always going to prove fruitless debate if we do not keep it focused on the single important question, “Is it a person?”
Both sides are guilty of ignoring this question. We immediately begin to jump to the “is it right or is it wrong” arguments without answering this question first. We are trying to answer a question of morality without ever establishing the facts. We need to get rid of all the side arguments by bringing it back to that issue alone.
Scott Klusendorf, president of Life Training Institute makes a good argument for this. He writes that the issue can be brought to that single point by using what he calls “Toddler Tactics.” Essentially if we will apply any of the reasoning for the allowance of abortion to a toddler instead of a fetus we will see the question really becomes one of definition. Is it a child?
For example, a common argument is that a woman has a right to privacy in making these decisions. Is it okay to kill a toddler in private? No! A toddler is a person even in private.
What about a question of affordability? Some families will opt for abortion because they simply can not fit the ever expanding cost of children into their available budget. Well, would it be okay for a family in hard economic times to eliminate three mouths to feed by putting their toddlers to death? No, a child is a person even if their parents are poor.
What if the child is not wanted? Well, first as an adoptive parent I can assure you, it is wanted somewhere. But even if not, would we apply the same standard to an infant? After all, it does not become more or less wanted just because it has been born. Let us say that there is a 3-year-old who is not wanted. And by the time he is 5 he will have been physically and mentally abused. At what point does that make it okay to kill him? A child does not stop being a person because they are unwanted or might be treated badly.
What if the baby will have disabilities? After all, medical science can now somewhat accurately predict some mental and physical disabilities. But imagine there is a 2-year-old, mentally disabled, can not walk, can not talk, will not ever be able to do either. Let us say it even looks ugly. Should we spare that child and ourselves the pain of its continued existence?
Even the most extreme arguments become focused with Toddler Tactics. For example, I am sure you have heard the question “what if the poor girl had been raped? Should not she be allowed to have an abortion?” To answer that, we must consider how should a civil society treat innocent human beings that remind us of a painful event?
If a woman came to you and said “here is my child. He is the product of rape. He looks like his father and he reminds me of that horrible experience every waking moment. I’m afraid he is going to grow to be just like him.” You would have a great deal of compassion for that mother and her dreadful situation. But, you would never say “grab the pillow and put it over his face.” A person – even if that person reminds you of horrible experiences – is still a person and there are better options available.
By the way, just to give you that statistics, less than 1 percent of abortions are performed due to rape or incest. Six percent are because of potential medical problems with the child. Saving the life of the mother does not even make the chart. Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop said that in his entire career he not once encountered such a situation. The vast majority – about 93 percent – fall into the category of social reasons such as: a child would be too expensive, unwanted, inconvenient, etc.
So then, that is the real question, is it not? It does not matter if it is wanted or not, if the mother can afford it or not, if it has disabilities or not, or even if it is the product of rape. If it is just tissue, then get rid of it. But if it is a child – it has a right to life. All else is irrelevant. So let us start trying to answer that question.
GENETICS AND APPEARANCE
Unborn children, from the earliest stages of development, have all the genetic material necessary for humanity. The smallest particles of life which we now understand is the DNA code included in our cellular system. Within that code we have all the parts of a working human from the color of their hair to the propensity for talent in certain areas to the likelihood of specific diseases.
In fact, if you gave a DNA scientist the smallest cells of life they would be able to identify it as to the genus and species. “This is human,” they would say – not knowing if it came from you, me or an unborn baby two days after conception.
It is that code which starts the human fetus on the remarkable development journey through its first nine months. Within the first moments of fertilization, the gender of the child is a forgone conclusion. In the first few weeks, the neural tubes are formed, setting the foundation for thought, senses and feeling.
The heartbeat begins in the fifth week and arms and legs begin to appear. By the seventh week, eyes, ears, mouth, nose, fingers, toes are forming and clearly recognizable. By week eleven, almost all the organs are not only formed, but also operating. By week fourteen in development, babies can be seen sucking their thumbs.
By the time the child is only half-way to the normal pregnancy, the baby has developed the cells needed for taste, smell, hearing, sight and touch. He or she will kick, punch, wiggle, calm when they hear familiar sounds like music and voices and be startled when they hear loud and unexpected noises.
Legally, you still have another month or sometimes more after that to have an abortion. If it was an eagle egg, it is illegal to destroy even if it has just been laid and is nothing but a yolk and some goo. Eagles are a protected species. Nobody argues that the egg is not an eagle yet. It is given that status just because, if let to natural processes, it will become an eagle.
Yet, an unborn child with all the genetic code for humanity, with heart, lungs, fingers, toes, eyes, ears and nose - who can think, feel, kick, suck its thumb, be comforted, be frightened – is not a person until the moment it is born. The difference, as far as I can tell, is somebody will stand up and say they want the eagle to live, but the child is not wanted.
Some would argue, “Oh, that is not it! It just is not a person until it is born!” Why? It looks like a person. It reacts like a person. It feels like a person. What standard do we use to determine it isn’t? Stephen Schwarz in his book “The Moral Question of Abortion” discounts the four main arguments against the humanity of an unborn child.
1. Size or Appearance. Many say that an unborn child is simply too small to assign humanity to it. After all, in some of those stages of development I listed, the baby is still only about an inch or two long. However, that argument does not stand to reason. Men are generally bigger than women, does that make them more human? I’m bigger than most of you reading this, but that does not mean I am more of a person than you. Size and appearance are not determining factors of humanity.
2. Level of Development. Some would argue that the stage of development is so early and new that we can not call it human yet. It just is not a person because it has not fully developed. But, do we somehow forfeit rights because we are not as developed? A 14-yearold is more developed than a 2-year-old but that does not mean the teenager is more of a real person. Humans do not become disposable because they are underdeveloped, helpless, defenseless or dependent.
3. Environment. Well, maybe it is about a change of locations? I’ve never understood this one. The birth process from womb to outside world is a change of about 8-9 inches. What happens in that birth canal that makes the child that comes out different from what it was on the inside? A doctor would be convicted of murder if he took that baby after it made that trip and killed it. But somehow it is okay if he reaches inside with a vacuum and sucks it out? A change of locations is a morally trivial argument to whether it is a person or not.
4. Degree of Dependency. The difference, most would argue, is that an unborn child is dependent to such a degree to its mother that the mother’s choice of self-determination supercedes the child’s right to life. But no baby is viable or independent if that is the test we set. When does a baby stop being totally dependent? 1-day, 1-week, 1-month, 1-year? If that is the standard, it also supports infanticide – the murder of infants. What about someone totally dependent on insulin, nitroglycerin or oxygen regulators? We might be dependent on others for our survival, but that does not mean we are dependent on others for our value. Perhaps they are dependent persons … but they are still persons.
Logically, we have every reason to include an unborn child in our definition of valuable humanity and any argument to exclude them from personhood fails based on logic. Is it a person? Yes, an unborn baby is a person.
GOD’S WORD DEFINES VALUABLE LIFE.
However, we are not exclusively limited to the scope of human logic and philosophy when it comes to determining our important question, “Is it a person?” God’s Word makes several statements about the personhood of unborn children.
GOD SEES OUR START AS BEING IN THE WOMB.
“Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb” ( Job 31:15)?
“For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them” (Ps. 139:13-16).
Where was Job made? In the womb. He was not baking. He was not being prepared to be made. Job says God “fashioned us in the womb.” David says in Psalm 139 he was made in secret where none could see but God. He is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” He describes in verse 16 a God that sees us for who we are even before we are fully developed. He sees our substance and our members, even when they are incomplete and “as yet there was none of them.”
Job and David do not picture a passive God. They picture a God who takes an active role in the development and growth of the child in the womb. That unborn child is the creation of God and the development of the unborn child is in the hands of God and only He has the authority to either advance or hinder it.
THE BABY IN THE WOMB IS PERSONALLY KNOWN
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” ( Jer. 1:5).
Do you understand what the Lord is saying there? Not only does it repeat the previous point, that the Lord is the One who controls the formation and development of a child. It also designated that God looks at an unborn baby and sees its purpose and potential and plan for its entire life.
Jeremiah, before he was even born God had made the plan for his life. So what is God’s answer to our question, “Is it a person?” In the Bible, God speaks about those unborn children in a very personal way.
They have personalities. They have wants and desires and gladness and even jealousies. Genesis 25:22 says of Rebekah’s pregnancy with Jacob and Esau that “the children struggled together within her.” Brothers fight. That is what children do, is it not?
Incidentally, in that verse, Moses uses the normal Hebrew term for a child.
“And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me” (Luke 1:41-43)?
This is a wonderful occurrence. Two women, cousins, both pregnant, come together to speak. But they are not the only ones there, are they? Elisabeth is older and she is pregnant with John the Baptist and Mary her young cousin is pregnant with Jesus. While those mothers are happy to see one another and it sure seems like those unborn children are happy as well, does it not?
John “leaped in the womb” excited at the very sound of Mary’s voice.
Incidentally, the word for “babe” there is βρεφος (brephos) – the exact same word that is used when Jesus is born and the “babe (βρεφος) is wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger” and also in, “And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:15-16).
The born and the unborn are given the same regard in the Bible and it is not some impersonal view, but the acknowledgment of a personal, desired for, and loving God. Is it a person? Praise God, it is a person! It is a wanted person. It is a valued person.
It is a person for whom Jesus Himself turns to His disciples and says “do not stop them from coming to Me!”
Logic – that is facts we can gather and everything we can think or know – demands that unborn child is a person. God’s Word clearly shows that and unborn child is seen as a person. Then on what basis do we exclude them from our text and turn a blind eye to the defenseless being murdered? We have no excuse for our inaction.
WHAT SHOULD CHRISTIANS DO?
First off, you can vote Pro-Life. Those of you who know me have probably noticed that I am not really all that politically-minded. My politics are simple – vote for people who are both Pro-Life and proactive about it. By that I mean, candidates that are Pro-Life in their convictions and also have the courage to act on those convictions.
Very little else matters much compared to this issue. Are you overtaxed, undertaxed, big government, little government, happy with the economy, angry with the economy, etc. The real question is where does a politician stand on the moral issues, specifically the killing of children?
We have been blessed by God with the freedom to vote and we ought to embrace that gift and do it in a way that honors Him. That is certainly something we can do to stop abortions.
Secondly, if you know someone who is considering an abortion, lovingly plead with them, beg them, to reconsider. There are other options available. Do not be foolish and pretend that those options are easy. Keeping a child is a difficult decision and it will not be a simple road. Giving a child up for adoption is heartbreaking and agonizing. Do not pretend that it is not.
But you can certainly point out how the easy decision comes with other problems and the right choice is such a blessing. For example, of my three daughters, at least two are alive only because an attempted abortion failed. God worked so miraculously. I would hope that no rational person would look at them now and decide that the world can do without them … but that is what abortion does.
Having that conversation with someone can be hard, especially when they have not asked for your advice. The easy thing to do is say, “that is not my business.” Do not for a moment think that! It is as much your duty as stopping someone from committing murder in front of you is your duty.
And if they ignore your pleading, your job is not done. That person will be dealing with a great amount of guilt and you need to tell them that forgiveness is found in Jesus Christ alone.
Finally, folks, the absolute greatest tool we have is prayer. If we have learned anything about God and ourselves, I would think that it is that we are unable to do anything, but He is able to do everything. He can and will intervene in situations where we cannot.
• Pray for our nation, because God can turn the hearts of our leaders.
• Pray for those leaders that God will convict them of this truth and give them the courage to follow those convictions.
• Pray for the children because God can protect them through seeming impossible means.
• Pray for the women debating abortion because God can instill in them a love – a natural affection – for that child.
But what we have to do is stop ignoring it. None of us ignored the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Approximately 3,500 lives were snuffed out at the World Trade Center on that day … and abortion took about that same number that day. But it happened again on Sept. 12, and again on Sept. 13, and Sept 14, and every day since – long after the World Trade Center fires were put out.
Perhaps the best way to put it into perspective is a comparison of abortions to live births. While that statistic has been as high as 364 abortions for every 1000 live births the most recent accurate number on that is in 2001 when 246 abortions were performed for every 1000 live births. That is 1 abortion for every 4 live births.
Let us put that into perspective this way. If you remember the school shooting in Columbine, Colo. in 1999 – 12 students and one teacher were shot to death and the entire nation mourned the loss of life. It was a tragic, unnecessary, heartbreaking day. Now, imagine that tomorrow a gunman walks into every schoolhouse in the nation and goes about the room shooting every 5th child.
Do not say such a thing could never happen! It happens every day. We simply can not ignore those who are drawn to their deaths and pretend that we do not know.
Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726