The Truth About Abortion
January 12, 1990 | Ray Pritchard
I think it goes without saying that abortion is a difficult issue to talk about. It is difficult because it is almost impossible to find someone who is neutral on the subject. It is the most emotionally-divisive issue in America today. The pollsters tell us that Americans are deeply divided on the morality of abortion.
Add to that the fact that abortion is an unpopular subject generally. There are some people who would simply rather not hear about it or think about it or talk about it. And there are some who would certainly rather not hear about abortion on Sunday morning.
My Personal Experience
I speak in part out of my own personal experience as a pastor. When I graduated from seminary twelve years ago, I had never thought much about abortion one way or the other. The thing that began to change my mind was an issue of Moody Monthly back in 1979. It had a picture of Dr. C. Everett Koop (the renowned pediatric surgeon and later Surgeon-General) holding a baby in his lap. The interview inside convinced me that abortion was a major moral crisis in our country.
I began to study the whole question for myself. I read everything I could get my hands on—the medical data, the legal discussions, the moral implications, and most importantly, what the Bible itself has to say about abortion.
Over time I came to certain settled convictions in the matter, convictions which were crystallized when some dear friends decided to have an abortion. I talked with the husband for hours on end. I knew the agony they went through. I went with them to the hospital and sat in the same room with them. I saw the hospital staff ignore them. I heard her scream in terror. I felt the darkness close around us.
I learned that night what abortion is all about. In the years since then I have had numerous opportunities to talk with women who have had an abortion. And I have had a few occasions to talk with women who were considering it. It is from that background that I speak to you today.
This morning there are at least four distinct groups in the audience. There are those here who profoundly believe that abortion is morally wrong. I hope my words will be an encouragement and challenge to you. Then there are others who are basically undecided about abortion. I hope I can help you make up your mind. There are still others who are pro-choice on the abortion issue. We welcome you to our service. I hope you will simply hear what I have to say. If you still don’t agree with me when I am finished, I won’t be angry at you. Finally, there are some women here who have had an abortion. I am most concerned about this last group. Let me say frankly that my words are not primarily addressed to you. You already know the truth about abortion. Nothing I can say can add to what you have been through. But I want you to know that we love you, that we are glad you are here, that we will never do anything to hurt you or embarrass you. Our deepest prayer for you is that you will experience God’s grace and forgiveness. We will not condemn you this morning. I promise you that.
Running The Numbers
Let us begin with a simple definition of what abortion is. Abortion is the deliberate, premature ending of a pregnancy by medical means, with the intended result being the death of the unborn baby. As that definition makes clears, abortion is different from miscarriage because it is the deliberate ending of a pregnancy. Abortion is also different from premature birth caused by an accident because it ends a pregnancy by medical means. It is also different from premature birth because its intended result is the death of the unborn baby.
Abortion has been legal in America since 1973. Tomorrow marks the 17th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion. On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court, by a vote of 7-2 legalized abortion. In so doing, they overturned the abortion laws of all fifty states. It has been called “one of the most radical decisions ever made.” In his dissent, Justice Byron White called the majority decision “an exercise in raw judicial power.”
Here are the statistics. Since 1973 approximately 25 million abortions have been performed in America. That’s roughly l.5 million a year, 4500 per day, 180 per hour, 3 per minute, 1 every 20 seconds. Compare that 25 million with the fact that the total American casualties in all our wars together (Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War) is just over 2.5 million. That’s 10 abortions for every wartime casualty.
When it comes to a state-by-state breakdown, California is first in the number of abortions, New York is second, Texas is third and Illinois is fourth with 60,000 abortions per year.
It’s Worse Than You Think
What is the situation in 1990? The Chicago yellow pages contain 25 different listings of clinics which provide abortion services. There are huge ads which say such things as “Free pregnancy testing,” “Walk-in basis,” “Immediate results,” “Same day appointments,” “Student discount with current ID,” “No parental consent required,” “Private and confidential,” “We bill insurance direct,” and “Free limo service to and from center.”
Clearly, providing abortion services has become a highly-profitable business. For those who want one, it is simple, easy, relatively cheap, quick and confidential. And best of all, you can have an abortion at any point during pregnancy. If you get it done soon enough, it is relatively simple and relatively inexpensive. You make an appointment, have the abortion, take it easy for a few days, and then you are as good as new.
I mentioned that Illinois has the fourth-highest number of abortions. We also have no laws regulating abortion. None. There is no informed consent law, no parental consent law, no spousal consent law and no mandatory waiting period. The recent Supreme Court decision upholding the law in Missouri has so far had no effect here in Illinois. Abortion is completely legal.
The result is a kind of moral schizophrenia. In America today, a 14 year old girl may not buy cigarettes or alcohol or attend an X-rated movie. In many parts of the country, she can’t get her ears pierced without her mother’s permission. But she can have an abortion.
John Noonan, Professor at the University of California, notes that under present law, human life has less protection in the United States than in any country of the Western world. In the words of Francis Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop, “there are quotas on whales and porpoises. but it is always open season on unborn babies.” If you destroy the egg of a Bald Eagle, you can be fined $5000; if you destroy an unborn baby, you’ll make about $350.
Here is the sad truth. In 1990, the most dangerous place in America is not some high-rise ghetto; it is inside a mother’s womb. You have a 1 in 3 chance of not making it out alive.
Is There Life Before Birth?
Is the unborn baby really an individual human being? Consider this: From the moment of conception, the baby has an individual identity. The baby has its own set of genes and chromosomes. Before implantation, the baby’s sex has been determined. At 19 days after conception, the eyes begin to develop. At 24 days, the heart begins beating. At 30 days, the unborn baby is only one-quarter of an inch long and yet he has a brain, eyes, ears, mouth, kidneys, and liver. At 35 days his fingers have formed. At 40 days brain waves can be detected and recorded. In the 7th week after conception, the baby begins to move spontaneously. In the 10th week, the baby squints, swallows and hiccups. He has fingerprints which will stay with him for the rest of his life. In the 12th week, the baby responds to touch and begins to suck his thumb. By the 4th month, his ears are functioning. He can hear his mother’s voice for the first time. By the 7th month, he can see and hear and taste and touch. He recognizes his mother’s voice when he hears it. By the 9th month, the baby weighs between 6 and 9 pounds. His heart pumps 300 gallons of blood per day. He is fully capable of life outside the womb. If only he gets the chance.
Do women know these things? Do they know what they are doing? “Jane Doe,” writing anonymously for the New York Times about her abortion, put it this way:
“It certainly does make more sense not to be having a baby right now. We say that to each other all the time. But I have this little ghost now. A very little ghost that only appears when I’m seeing something beautiful, like the full moon on the ocean last weekend. And the baby waves to me. And I wave to the baby. ‘Of course we have room,’ I cry to the ghost, ‘Of course we do.’” (Cited in Death Before Birth by Harold O. J. Brown, p. 108)
The Critical Question
That brings me finally to the critical question—What does the Bible say about abortion?
The answer to that question in one sense is quite simple—The Bible says nothing about abortion. Nowhere will you find a biblical writer directly discussing the issue. Jesus never talked about it. Why? Because it wasn’t important? Or because it wasn’t wrong? No. The Bible does not discuss abortion directly because it was not practiced in Israel. Abortion was always a pagan practice, something that happened in Greece or Rome or in one of the pagan nations surrounding Israel. The Jews did not kill their unborn, so there was no reason to address the issue.
But that does not mean the Bible is silent on this issue. To the contrary, it has a great deal to say about the value of unborn human life. Consider the following passages of Scripture:
1. Psalm 139:13-16 “For you created my inmost being: you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
This is the strongest statement on God’s prenatal care in all the Bible. How much does he know about the unborn baby growing in the womb? Everything. Like a skillful weaver God takes the tiny hands and legs and joins them to the body. He forms the heart and then sets it beating. He watches over the thumb and makes sure it finds the mouth.
Who makes babies? God does.
2. Jeremiah 1:5 “The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.’”
When we see the unborn, we ought to worship God for they are his creation. We ought to proceed with holy caution and respect for life. God is at work in the womb and his fingerprints are everywhere. When you touch an unborn child, you touch the handiwork of God.
3. Luke 1:41,44 “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb.” (41) “As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (44)
This is the story of Mary (who was pregnant with Jesus) going to greet Elizabeth (who was pregnant with John the Baptist). When these two expectant mothers greet each other, Elizabeth’s baby (the yet-to-be-born John the Baptist) leaped for joy in the womb. Most importantly, the Greek translated “baby” is brephos; the same word is used elsewhere for an infant (Luke 18:15). It demonstrates the biblical understanding that the unborn child is fully human.
The Rest Of The Story
There is one other passage of Scripture we ought to consider. It is a passing reference by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:31. This is part of a long list of the sins of those who have turned away from God. The Greek word is astorgous, without natural affection. It was used in the first century for parents who abandoned their children by exposing them to the elements. Such cruelty is not natural. To treat your own child with such callous unconcern reveals that you are astorgous, without natural affection. Seen in that light, abortion is not just another sin. It is a mark of a depraved and godless society.
Diary Of An Unborn Child
Our greatest problem with abortion is that we have a hard time seeing the unborn for what they are—real people being put to death. It helps if we understand that what is being aborted is not a fetus but a real person—a little girl with blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes or a little boy with freckles and a dimple. If only we could see the unborn as people just like us, we would know the truth about abortion.
This is called “Diary of an Unborn Child.” It is imaginary, yet full of truth.
October 5 — Today my life began. My parents do not know it yet and I am as small as the seed of an apple. But I am really here. And I am glad to be a girl. I shall have blond hair and blue eyes. Just about everything is settled, even the fact that I shall love flowers.
October 19 — Some say I’m not a real person yet, that only my mother exists. But I am a real person, just as a small crumb of bread is truly bread. My mother is. And I am.
October 23 — My mouth is just beginning to open now. Just think, in a year or so I shall be laughing and later talking. I know what my first word will be: “Mama.”
October 25 — My heart began to beat today all by itself. From now on it will gently beat for the rest of my life without ever stopping to rest.
November 2 — I am growing a bit every day. My arms and legs are beginning to take shape, but I have to wait a long time yet before I can hug my mommy and daddy.
November 12 — Now my fingers are beginning to grow. Funny how small they are. I’ll be able to stroke my mother’s hair with them.
November 20 — Today for the first time the doctor told mom that I am living under her heart. Oh, how happy she must be. Are you happy, Mom?
November 25 — My mom and dad are probably thinking about a name for me. But they don’t even know that I am a little girl. I want to be called Kathy. I am getting so big already.
December 10 — My hair is growing. It is smooth and bright and shiny. I wonder what kind of hair mommy has.
December 13 — I am just about able to see. It is dark around me. When mom brings me into the world it will be full of sunshine and flowers. But what I want more than anything is to see my mom. Do I look like her? I hope so.
December 24 — I wonder if mom hears the whispering of my heart? Some children come into the world a little sick. But my heart is strong and healthy. It beats so evenly: tup-tup, tup-tup. You’ll have a healthy daughter, Mom.
December 28 — Today my mother killed me.
The Bottom Line
I come to one simple conclusion this morning: Abortion is wrong because it is wrong to kill babies. It is as simple and profound as that. I know of no other conclusion that is consistent with the Christian faith.
We know the truth. Now what will we do? I remind you of the words of Dante who said, “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in the time of crisis maintain their neutrality.” This is no time for neutrality. This is no time for a silent witness. This is no time to look the other way.
In a day when the killing of babies has become not only tolerated but accepted, the church of Jesus Christ must speak out. We must let our voice be heard. We must speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Where should we begin?
Pray for what? For ourselves first of all. In an emotional issue like this, it is possible for hatred to replace compassion and frustration to replace patience. Let us pray for ourselves that we can maintain the ability to love, grieve, care and reach out to hurting people around us. Pray to be delivered from pride and hypocrisy.
If our concern is for the unborn … then good! The Lord will guide us.
If our concern is for vengeance … then hatred will consume us.
Then let us pray for leaders with moral courage. Let us pray for a pro-life governor and pro-life senators and for a pro-life Supreme Court. Then pray for those who are actively reaching out to women considering abortion—for groups like the Loop Crisis Pregnancy Center and New Moms. And pray for the leaders of the pro-abortion groups, that God would open their eyes. Finally, pray for those mothers considering abortion, that they may have compassion and spare their unborn children.
2. Be Informed
For too long we have refused to see and hear. For too long we have stuck our heads in the sand. For too long we have refused to know the truth. We’re like those people in Nazi Germany who after the war said, “We didn’t know for sure. We heard rumors. We didn’t want to hear about the death camps.”
If you want to be informed, it’s easy. Just listen to Dr. James Dobson (Focus on the Family) or to Dr. D. James Kennedy (Truths that Transform) or turn on Channel 38 or watch the 700 Club or go to Logos or Moody Bookstore. Or talk to one of the pastors. If you want to learn about this issue, there is plenty of information out there.
3. Get Involved
You will have to decide for yourself what this means. I cannot tell you what you should do. But I can tell you what we need: Open homes where unwed mothers can stay until they have their babies, parents willing to adopt the babies that would have been aborted and volunteers willing to be trained as pro-life counselors. We need people who will speak up for life at school and at work, write letters to the editor, read and pass along pro-life literature, run for public office, picket abortion clinics, join pro-life organizations, help women find alternatives to abortion, vote for pro-life candidates and help start a crisis pregnancy center here in the Oak Park-Austin area. We need folks to join the Hike for Life and others to put together a pro-life resource center here at Calvary. It could be as simple as offering transportation or babysitting service or clerical help or sewing. Perhaps you could offer professional services such as legal or medical or psychological help. Nobody has to do all those things but everybody here ought to do something.
A Call To Arms
In this—our 75th Anniversary year—I think Calvary Memorial Church ought to become known as an out-and -out pro-life church, a church which protects the unborn and a church which speaks out against those who kill the unborn. It is high time we stuck our neck out and let the world know who we are and what we believe and what we stand for. We’ve been too silent, too passive, too cautious, too timid for too long. We’ve been concerned about maintaining our testimony while the abortionists have been killing babies left and right. We’ve been too worried about offending people while the abortion crowd has been offending Almighty God.
Our silence on this issue has been deafening. It has gained us nothing. Speaking out may cost us some friends in the community but so what This isn’t a popularity contest. The only person we have to please is God and I think he will be glad that his children at 931 Lake Street in Oak Park have finally decided to join the battle.
The Lights Are On And The Door Is Open
I close with one final word. Abortion is not the unpardonable sin. It may sound as if I think that it is, but I don’t. Abortion is a sin, but it is not the worst sin and it is not unpardonable. It is nowhere singled out in the Bible for special treatment.
Nowhere is Romans 3:23 more needed than in the discussion over abortion. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” That applies to you whether you have had an abortion or not. We’re all in the same boat.
And in the end we are all driven to the cross of Jesus Christ. The ground at the foot of the cross is level. We all stand here in need of forgiveness. If you will but say, “I have sinned,” you will hear the Father say, “You are forgiven.” It doesn’t matter what your past is, it doesn’t matter what you have done or where you have been. It doesn’t even matter where you have been sleeping. You can be forgiven… right here… right now… in one shining moment.
If you are struggling with guilt because of abortion, I have good news for you. God still loves you. He has never stopped loving you and he never will. The lights are on and the door is open in the Father’s house this morning. He is standing at the door waiting for you to come in.