In a previous Langstaff Letter, we looked at abortion in terms of a brief history and how it has been handled in recent times. In this letter, we want to look at the central issue itself.
THE CENTRAL ISSUE
In my opinion, the central issue regarding abortion is the issue of when life begins. If you believe life begins at conception, that consequently means you believe that an unborn baby is a person and deserves to be treated as one.
If you don’t believe that life begins until later, or you approve of abortion up to and including the actual birth itself, you don’t consider an unborn baby to be a person, not until they take a breath.
Now it may be helpful to look at what people do to justify that last position, that an unborn baby is not a real person.
WHEN DOES SOMEONE BECOME A PERSON?
The argument is about personhood. Some will say, “It happens after birth takes place and not just at conception.” They believe that the fetus is not a real person. An article in “Breakpoint,” states this argument,
“‘What are people?’ Well, if you ask an abortion supporter that, they’ll say a person is someone who’s rational, conscious, and self-aware, and an embryo at the beginning of pregnancy might be human but isn’t those things. I have a nine-month-old baby. Yes, she interacts with me to a degree, but let me tell you, she does not act rational, conscious, or self-aware very often. I even have to get boogers out of her nose for her. She is entirely incapable of doing many things. ‘Is she a person?’ Yes, because she’s human, because she’s a member of the human family, and she has the inherent capacity to be rational, conscious, and self-aware like all of us. But due to her age, she can’t yet act on that capacity.
In the same way, if someone is having surgery under anesthetic, in that moment, they’re not rational, conscious, and self-aware. If you have a conversation or try to with someone under anesthetic, they will not respond back. If you say, ‘May I kill you?’ They will not object. It doesn’t mean it’s okay to kill them because they have the inherent capacity to be rational, conscious, and self-aware. But due to the circumstances of surgery, they can’t act on it. In the same way with a born baby, like a nine-month-old, they have the inherent capacity for this higher brain function. But due to their age, they can’t act on it. And the same is true for human embryos. They have the inherent capacities as all of us have. But due to their age, they can’t yet act on those capacities.
The question then is this: ‘Are human rights grounded in how old we are, how developed we are, or who we are as members of the human family?’
Throughout history, humans have been denied personhood status based on features that don’t matter. Women were denied personhood status at one point because of sex, blacks because of skin color, Jews because of ethnicity. And we reject the denial of personhood status of those humans. We reject the denial of personhood status when it comes to pre-born humans because the only difference between them and you and me is their age. And human rights are grounded in being a member of the human family, not how we currently function, how developed we are, or how old we are” (breakpoint.org).
A second argument, like the first, in favor of abortion is the concept that life does not begin until the baby takes a breath. Hence, it is permissible to proceed with an abortion right up to (and sometimes including) the moment of birth.
During the 2020 elections in Georgia, Rev. Raphael Warnock, who describes himself as a pro-choice pastor, sought to endorse abortion, declaring that biblical passages state life commences with the first breath (See Genesis 2:7) (thehill.com)
However, he ignores many other biblical issues that elevate the state of the unborn to a human being. See Psalm 139:13-18, Jeremiah 1:5, Job 31:15, Psalm 22:10-11. Then consider the story of Mary visiting Elizabeth in Luke 1 when the baby in her womb, John the Baptist, leaped for joy.
ADVANCE IN MEDICAL SCIENCE
One thing that has happened since the 1973 supreme court verdict on abortion is the advance in medical science—particularly the invention of the ultrasound. World Magazine illustrates this in an article entitled “Seeing Life” by Geeta Swamidass, the first director of the first US pro-life medical pregnancy center.
“A woman came to the center in the late 1990s after having 10 abortions. The center staff shared the gospel with her and gave her an ultrasound. She had never seen an ultrasound image before and said, wow, it is a baby. Nobody told me this before. She still had abortion 11 – and regretted it immediately. When she became pregnant again, she married her boyfriend and kept baby 12.
Swamidass has shifted into the role of president because she says she’s been blessed to see so many women come to know Jesus Christ through her work at the center: ‘He is the only one that can truly help'”(wng.org).
As she declared, “it was so effective because when you show a woman her baby’s heart beat… she knows it’s alive” (wng.org).
Like many evangelicals, I did not give much attention to the question of abortion. It was an issue that didn’t seem to touch my life. That changed later when a particular event changed my position. Shown a video on abortion from a Pro-life Ministry in the Twin Cities, I saw abortions being performed as doctors removed the baby, often limb by limb. This impacted me and my thoughts about abortion. I often say that if “60 Minutes” were to show an abortion for all to see, the opinion of Americans would change dramatically.
So, let us pray for the Supreme Court as it makes its decision on abortion, and let us pray for peace in our land this coming summer.
ONE FURTHER THOUGHT
We need to be loving and compassionate towards those who have had an abortion. If you are a pastor, the chances are you will have women in your congregation who have had an abortion. Here is a testimony of one of our readers in response to the previous Langstaff Letter on abortion.
“As one who had 2 abortions before falling in love with Jesus, these are the awfullest regrets in my life ever! And, at the time, it ” seemed” the only plausible thing to do. It took me a very long time to forgive myself and I almost took my own life when the realization and remorse set in.
God showed me the babies I would’ve had are in Heaven with Jesus. And when I come Home to Jesus, they will appear as young men, running to me and calling me Mom. I named them David and Seth. And I wrote them a tear stained letter about what kind of Mom I would’ve been,including many times in the park and sometimes ice cream cones for breakfast! And, most of all to love their Jesus! Oh, the deep, deep mercy of our Triune God! Where there is much forgiveness there IS MUCH love. Keep praying for Victory in the Supreme Court!”