Participants at the Topix forum have asked for biblical mandate opposing abortion. Of course, the very simplest would be the fifth Commandment: Thou shalt not kill; however, some of the pro-“choicers” on that site are adamant that the preborn child is not a person (she is human, she is alive, they acknowledge, but they insist that she is deprived of personhood until she is born), and so they are not satisfied with those four direct words. Therefore, it becomes necessary to take a deeper look into the Christian scriptures to examine how we come to the conclusion that abortion is never justified
Our respect for the sanctity of human life finds its provenance in Genesis 1-3, where God creates man(kind) in His own image – male and female. This creation, this “Theology of the Body” gives an inherent dignity and worth to every human being, from the moment of conception to natural death.
With this creation, too, comes the command to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28) From this, in the very early history of humankind, pregnancy is recognized among the righteous as a sign of God’s favor and blessing; infertility, childlessness, is seen as a rebuke and a sign of reproach and judgment. – (Ex. 23:26, Deut. 7:14, I Sam. 1:18-20, II Sam. 6:23, II Kings 4:14-17, Hos 9:11, Lk 1:7, 13. 57)
Sarah, wife of Abraham, laughs when she overhears the messenger of the Lord telling her husband that within a year she will bear a son, after many, many years’ childlessness – and it is important to note that conception is associated with sexual pleasure, here (Gen. 15:13) Other women who are grieved in their infertility are Rebekah (Gen. 25:21), Rachel (Gen. 30), the unnamed wife of Manoah (Samson’s mother – Judges 13), Hannah (I Sam. 1:18-20), the Shunamite woman (II Kings 4:14-17), and in the New Testament, Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist (Lk 1)
Jewish law recognized the dignity of the unborn, in providing legal remedy for the loss of a child through miscarriage, when said miscarriage was the result of others’ actions (Ex. 21:22-25)
Now – it is critically important to recognize this: the deliberate killing of one’s children, including abortion, is identified throughout Scripture as a pagan practice. When the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob repeatedly tells Israel in the Law, “I am the Lord your God…” He is reminding them that, as His people, they are to live in such a way as demonstrates His distinctive identity from the myriad of gods worshipped by all the world around them.
In fact, there were two major distinctives that set Israel apart from the pagan world: the restriction of sexual activity to heterosexual monogamy (in which Israel, even her kings, failed terribly, but this becomes the standard against the pagan civilizations which practiced all manner of sexual licentiousness, which was expressly forbidden to Israel) and the prohibition of human sacrifice – violations of both being identified by some of the strongest condemnation in the Scriptures: an abomination.
The practice of human sacrifice associated with worship of false gods and prohibited by the God of the Hebrews is noted in Lev. 20:1-5, Deut. 12:31, II Kings 3:26-27 and 23:10, II Chr. 28:3, and Jer. 19:5.
Some of the posters at Topix are insisting that Christianity never prohibited abortion. This will take other research into the writings on the topic by the Apostolic Fathers and others, and will have to wait.
However, we have a keen example of how abortion is not an acceptable course of action in the story of David and Bathsheba (II Samuel 11). Bathsheba is the wife of Uriah the Hittite, a commander in David’s army and his friend. David gets the hots for Bathsheba, seduces her and she becomes pregnant. What David does is despicable – he calls Uriah home from his military duties, hoping Uriah can be persuaded, later, to think the baby is his own. But Uriah – that noble hero – refuses even to go to his own house, saying it is not right (read the chapter to find out why). David’s desperate – he tries everything, even getting Uriah drunk, and when he fails to get Uriah in his marital bed, he sends Uriah to the very front lines, where in the heat of battle that man is killed.
Now – had abortion been an acceptable alternative, as some of the Topix posters have insisted, it would have been a simple matter for David to arrange it, yes? After all, he is the king; he gets to dictate whatever he wants and no one dares to question him. No one would ever have been the wiser. A simple, tidy remedy for a sticky, humiliating situation. But an abortion is not pursued.
We also have the Psalmist’s sense of being known by God from the time before his birth – Psalm 139: 13-16
... my frame was not hidden from Thee…
Thine eyes have seen my unformed sbustance;
and in Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me,
when as yet there was not one of them.
But the single most important reason for Christians to oppose abortion is the Incarnation. In Isaiah 7:14, we see the prophecy, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and thou shalt call his name Emmauel: God with us.” – “And the Word was made flesh…” (Jn 1:14) That prophecy, we believe, was fulfilled and noted in Luke 1. God, in the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, was conceived by Mary. He grew in her womb as all babies do, and this Incarnation – this taking on of human flesh – so greatly dignifies our humanity, even before we are born, that it is impossible for us to support the termination of life through abortion.
Even Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, gives witness to the unique personhood of the life in the womb. Hers has been a miraculous conception, occurring at an age where she had given up all hope. And when Mary comes to visit her, when she is late in her pregnancy, she greets Mary with a profound affirmation.
She recognizes Mary as “The Mother of my Lord” and says, “When the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.” The pre-born John the Baptist demonstrates his own personhood in recognizing the voice of the Mother of God and the approach of her Child –