The Big Question 92: What About Abortion?
Feb 22, 2022 921
What About Abortion?
Christians like to characterise themselves as pro-life, and that designation is entirely true. It’s worth remembering that it’s because of Christianity’s historical emphasis on the innate and equal worth of every human life, that today we have the positive qualities in our civilisations such as human rights and equality for men and women.
The world before Christianity was a nasty place. Believe it or not, it was even nastier than it is today!
Girls were not as valuable as boys, so infanticide by strangulation, crushing, or exposure outdoors was a common way to get rid of unwanted baby girls, or unwanted baby boys too, for that matter. Killing babies was not illegal in any way, nor was it seen as immoral or wrong. If you didn’t want a baby you got rid of it. Babies, and even children, weren’t considered to be complete human beings.
That applied whether they had already been born or whether they were still in the womb. As the Roman Empire declined, at some point in antiquity the sewers of ancient Rome stopped working. When investigations were conducted, they found that they were clogged up with the foetuses of untold infants.
It was Christians who came along and said, hang on, you can’t do this. Every human life is valuable and sacred to God. The Christian writer Tertullian, for example, said around 200 AD that,
The embryo therefore becomes a human being in the womb from the moment that its form is completed.
Christian Thinking about Abortion
Now, you might agree or disagree with that, but it shows you that Christians were thinking about abortion very early on.
They understood that the commandment not to kill applied to human beings both in the womb and outside of the womb.
There are complex moral issues involved. What about babies who are identified as having a severe disability in the womb? What about a rape victim who ends up pregnant? While it might be easy for some to give a stock, theoretical answer, we shouldn’t underestimate how heart-wrenchingly difficult these decisions must be for mothers, and often fathers as well.
Sadly, in some parts of the world, the whole question of abortion has become politicised, and has been the cause of violence, murder, attitudes that are hardly Christ-like.
It’s very, very important that when we talk about abortion, we do so with the utmost kindness and respect for women who have had to make these terrible decisions, that have, in many cases, left them with deep sorrow, and regret, and even shame. Whatever may be our view, it isn’t our role to rip open old wounds and to judge and condemn.
I think it’s very possible to uphold the value of human life, and to do it in a kind and loving manner.