It’s been forty-five years since the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal by a vote of seven-to-two in the Supreme Court.
The majority opinion could not find anything in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights that would make having abortion a right. Instead, they argued that the individual’s right to privacy gave a woman a right to abortion.
They also pointed out how abortions had been a legal procedure throughout history, even in Greek and Roman times, and how only recently, in the 19th century, had it become illegal (by 1900, every state had a law against abortion).
Using that argument, you could make slavery legal again, because, for most of history, slavery was legal. Of course, no one would do that because we have come to understand that to enslave a person is wrong. A Christian would go further and say that human beings are made in the image of God, and so should be treated with dignity and respect.
But the Supreme Court, in 1973, observed that there was no consensus on whether an unborn baby was a person or not, and so it was not compelling that it would have the right to live. (The whole decision was far more nuanced and complicated, but that’s the gist of it).
Whatever a court or science says about when a person is a person is really not important for the Christian. For the Christian, what really matters is what God says about a baby in the womb.
A PERSON’S A PERSON, NO MATTER HOW SMALL
Dr. Seuss, in his book, Horton Hears A Who, writes about an elephant who hears a small noise.
On the 15th of May, in the Jungle of Nool, In the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool, He was splashing… enjoying the jungle’s great joys… When Horton the elephant heard a small noise.
So Horton stopped splashing. He looked toward the sound. “That’s funny,” thought Horton. “There’s no one around.” Then he heard it again! Just a very faint yelp as if some tiny person were calling for help. “I’ll help you,” said Horton. “But who are you? Where?” He looked and he looked. He could see nothing there but a small speck of dust blowing past through the air.
“I say!” murmured Horton. “I’ve never heard tell of a small speck of dust that is able to yell. So you know what I think?… Why, I think that there must be someone on top of that small speck of dust! Some sort of a creature of very small size, too small to be seen by an elephant’s eyes…
“… some poor little person who’s shaking with fear that he’ll blow in the pool! He has no way to steer! I’ll just have to save him. Because, after all, a person’s a person, no matter how small.” 1
In my research for this message, I came across a description of a baby at the time of conception being no bigger than a grain of sugar. Instantly, the phrase from that Dr. Seuss book popped into my mind, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Horton the Elephant understood that a person’s size doesn’t matter when it comes to them being a person.
The Bible also understands that a person is a person, no matter how small. Here are four ways in which it does so:
1) The Bible Treats Unborn Babies The Same As Babies Who Have Been Born.
When Mary came to visit Elisabeth in Luke 1:40ff., the unborn John the Baptist leaped for joy in Elisabeth’s womb. Elisabeth said:
Luke 1:44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
The word for “babe” is brephos, which is used eight times in the Bible to refer to a young child, an infant, and a baby in the womb. For example,
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. (Luke 2:12).
15 And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them… (Luke 18:15).
15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:15).
My conclusion: the Bible treats the unborn and the born the same. The Bible never calls an unborn baby a fetus, as if it were some blob of cells without any value. In the Bible, a baby is a precious human life from the very beginning, in the womb and out.
Advances in technology since 1973 have made it easier to believe that a baby is a person, even in the earliest stages of development. One pastor wrote:
Ultrasound technology has given a stunning window on the womb that shows the unborn at eight weeks sucking his thumb, recoiling from pricking, responding to sound. All the organs are present, the brain is functioning, the heart is pumping, the liver is making blood cells, the kidneys are cleaning fluids, and there is a fingerprint. Yet virtually all abortions happen later in the pregnancy than this date. 2
The Bible treats unborn babies the same as babies who have been born. Also…
2) The Bible Shows Babies Having Emotions In The Womb.
Elisabeth, in Luke 1:44, says, “the babe leaped in my womb for joy.”
What is joy? It is an emotion, a human emotion. It is an emotion that comes as a result of sensing something good about your situation. We are joyful when something good happens to us, or will happen to us.
How do we know that Elizabeth was correct in saying that the baby leaped for joy? What if he was just kicking and shifting positions, as babies do?
Because, in verse 41, we see that Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Ghost.” This is how Elizabeth knew that it was a leap of joy, not just an ordinary movement of a baby in the womb.
Scientists have been able to determine that babies in the womb do indeed express emotions. One article I read said:
The types of emotions that are developed in the womb vary. Babies in the womb are believed to be able to recognize love, happiness, sadness and stress.
Talking or playing music is believed to comfort a baby in the womb, and help the baby understand the emotion of love. Hearing voices outside the womb will also help the baby determine the difference between happiness and sadness based on pitch and sound level of voices.
In addition, the emotion or feeling of stress is evident in the baby if the mother is also under stress. A rise in the mother’s blood pressure will trigger a response in the baby’s blood pressure as well. 3
The Bible and science show that unborn babies have emotions. Also…
3) The Bible Says That God Has A Plan For The Life Of An Unborn Baby.
In the forty-five years since Roe v. Wade, 58 million lives have been ended by abortion.
Have you ever wondered what those lives might have become? What doctors, pastors, missionaries, farmers, fathers and mothers has the world missed out on? The loss of potential is staggering, especially when you consider that God has a plan for people’s lives, even before they are born.
Zacharias and Elisabeth were too old to have children, but one day an angel came to Zacharias and told him that his barren, old wife would conceive and bear a son. The angel told Zacharias:
Luke 1:15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.
This baby was a person filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb. By the way, in the Bible, only people, human beings, persons, are ever filled with the Holy Spirit, so that is another indicator right there that God considers a baby in the womb to be a person.
But we also see here that God had a plan for John’s life, even before John was conceived. What if Elisabeth had said: “Oh, as much as I want a baby, I am too old to raise this child…why, I might die before he is grown enough to be on his own…my husband might die and I would be left with a small child to support as a widow”? What if Elisabeth had decided to have an abortion?
Here’s a little test for you:
Would you consider abortion in any of the following four situations:
1. There’s a preacher and wife who are very, very poor. They already have fourteen children, and now she finds out she’s pregnant with the fifteenth. They’re living in tremendous poverty… would you consider recommending an abortion?
2. The father is sick with a bad cold, the mother has tuberculosis (TB). They have four children. The first is blind, second is dead, third is deaf, fourth has TB. She finds that she’s pregnant again. Given their extreme situation, would you consider recommending an abortion?
3. A white man has raped a thirteen-year-old black girl, and she became pregnant. If you were her parents, would you consider recommending an abortion?
4. A teenage girl is pregnant. She’s not married. Her fiancé is not the father of the baby, and he’s concerned. Would you consider recommending an abortion?
If you said yes to the first case, you just killed John Wesley, one of the great evangelists in the nineteenth century.
If you said yes to the second case, you killed Ludwig van Beethoven.
If you said yes to the third case, you killed Ethel Waters, the great black gospel singer who thrilled audiences for many years…
And, if you said yes to the fourth case, you killed Jesus Christ. 4
It’s not just a blob of tissue that is being aborted, it’s a life full of potential that is being ended. The Bible says that God has a plan for the life of an unborn baby, and…
4) The Bible Shows God Forming A Baby In The Womb.
Scientifically, we know that a baby is formed through the growing of cells according to instructions encoded in our DNA. But the Designer and Controller of the DNA processes is God himself shaping and forming each child. David, for example, would exclaim:
Psalm 139:13 For thou hast possessed my reins: Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.
Psalm 139:14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: Marvellous are thy works; And that my soul knoweth right well.
Psalm 139:15 My substance was not hid from thee, When I was made in secret, And curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
David was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so every word he wrote is a Word from God himself—a word that says that God is closely involved with what goes on in the womb.
The Lord said something similar to Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 1:5 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.
Not only do we see that God had a plan and purpose for Jeremiah’s life from before conception, we also see that God “formed” him in his mother’s womb, just as he had done in the very beginning with Adam…
7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7).
So the formation of a baby in the womb is not just cells and DNA and impersonal science, it’s the hand of a personal God working to create a person. A person is a person, no matter how small.
A CONFLICT OF RIGHTS
But for many people, this does not matter, even though they may agree with it in some cases. For example, nearly 40 states have laws that say that an unborn baby can be a homicide victim and 23 states say that this applies to the entire development period of a child.
Yet, in a wild act of inconsistency, people who support fetal homicide laws also support abortion. Why? Because they say the rights of the mother outweigh the rights of the unborn. Yes, the baby has a right to life, but the mother has a right to control her own body.
We don’t have time to evaluate and argue against the many arguments pro-choice people may use, so just consider one of the classic illustrations they use from Judith Jarvis Thomson (Be thinking about what is wrong with it):
She asks the reader to imagine awakening to find that he or she is in bed [next to] a famous violinist who is unconscious. The violinist has a fatal kidney ailment, and only you have the right blood type to help. Therefore, while you slept, [you were plugged into him and now] his blood [is] passed through your system to cleanse it. To unplug him would kill him.
You express your displeasure with the set-up, but are advised that it will only take nine months to complete your task. Thus, the question you are faced with is simple. Since all persons have a right to life, are you morally obligated to spend the next nine months of your life keeping this world-famous violinist alive? Thomson’s answer is no. 5
I suppose that she makes the guy a world-famous violinist to show how valuable he is to the world. If you aren’t morally obligated to keep such a valuable person alive, then certainly you wouldn’t be obligated to keep a small, unimportant, unborn baby alive.
But what is wrong with her argument? John and Paul Feinberg point to several problems, here are three:
1) The violinist is a stranger, the baby is a blood relative. The baby is family!
2) A mother is not normally bed-ridden for nine months. She lives a fairly normal lifestyle.
3) The violinist was hooked up to the person against their will. Most pregnancies come from consensual relations. 6 Therefore, a woman needs to bear a certain responsibility for the pregnancy and the life growing in her.
In the end, the woman has choices, whereas the unborn baby has no choices. The baby doesn’t get to determine it’s gender, it’s hair color, or anything else. The baby has no choice but to grow.
The woman on the other hand, had choices before becoming pregnant. This is where the biblical model of waiting until marriage to have sex is so important. Doing so would save so many lives of unborn babies—85% of women who have abortions are unmarried.
After becoming pregnant, the mother can choose to put the baby up for adoption. Most abortions are done for reasons other than the health of the mother, or deformities of the baby, or because of rape. Those reasons amount to about 7% of abortions. Most abortions are done simply because the mother doesn’t want to raise the child—so please, let someone else do so. 7 Why choose the most drastic option and kill a child?
Let me speak to four groups of people:
1) For a woman who has had an abortion, she probably already regrets it. Many women do. God offers forgiveness through Jesus Christ. The sin of abortion, along with all sins, has been nailed to the cross of Christ. Whether that woman is a believer or not, she can come to Jesus for forgiveness.
If she is a believer, she can cling to this promise:
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9).
If she is not a believer, then there is this word from the Lord:
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17).
She can start again, a new person, completely forgiven, by receiving Jesus Christ as her Savior.
2) For a woman who is pregnant and wondering about having an abortion because of finances, or something is wrong with the baby, or she feels that she is too young, or any number of other reasons, then what she needs to do is: trust God.
I know it sounds trite and simple, it’s not, it will be very difficult, but if you trust God he will help you through it.
3) If you are unmarried: Abortion is a very good reason to keep yourself pure until you are married. Young ladies especially, it’s amazing how fast that nice, reliable guy will turn tail and run when he hears the words, “I’m pregnant” from you. Or worse, he’ll demand that you get an abortion.
Please don’t think that you’ll increase his commitment to you by going further than you ought with him. Never do anything with him or for him that you know that God would disapprove of—it will only bring heartache for you in the end. It will hurt in the short term if he dumps you, but in the end, it’s always best to do what is right in God’s sight.
And speaking of commitment, for both guys and gals, look for someone who is committed to Jesus as much as or more than you are, and you won’t go wrong.
4) Everyone else: we need to value the things that the world doesn’t. We need to celebrate what is discarded. We need to fight for the weak and vulnerable, whether they are unborn, or old, or disabled. We must speak for those who cannot speak.
1 Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears A Who! (New York: Random House, 1954)
2 http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/the- baby-in-my-womb-leaped-for-joy
3 http://www.ehow.com/about_5393861_emotional- development-baby-womb.html
4 Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 6-7
5 John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 66.
6 John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 67.