Abortion – Questions and Answers

Pointed and lucid, this article gives clear and unambiguous answers to the questions being asked about abortion. Dr. Edwin H. Palmer, a CRC minister, is the Executive Secretary of the New International Version of the Bible (New York Bible Society International).

1. Question: Why, if the state does not forbid the use of contraceptives to prevent pregnancy, should it forbid the termination of pregnancy if the contraceptives fail? Why should women be forced to give birth? Why is not the abortion decision made by the woman and her doctor, just as it is in the case of contraception?

Answer: Because contraception is not abortion! Contraceptives prevent the sperm and ovum from being united. Abortion destroys the new being, formed by the union of the sperm and the egg. In the case of contraceptives, no human being is involved. In abortion, it is. As the question states, contraceptives “prevent pregnancy.” A sperm and an ovum by themselves, before they unite, are not the beginning of a life that will grow, mature, and live for eternity. By themselves, eggs and sperms will die. But once they are brought together, then human life is formed. It may be impossible at an early stage of union for the human eye to see physical features that are like a twenty-year old man, but incipiently they are there. The color of the eyes, hair and skin, the sex, and other physical and mental features are determined right at conception. And it is only a matter of a few weeks in which readily definable human features are recognized. The New York law allows the destruction of the unborn baby up to the seventh month of should be able to recognize the difference between destroying that well-developed life and the prevention of such a life from starting in the first place.

Yes, the use of contraceptives is and should be a private matter. That is a matter of the bedroom, and the state should not interfere. But when a third life is involved, the life of the unborn, formed by the union of the sperm and egg, then it is the obligation of the state to step in and protect that life. To protect human life is one of the main functions of the state. That is why abortion cannot be treated the same as the use of contraceptives.

2. Question: Should not a woman have the right to govern her own body? Shouldn‘t she be allowed to abort if she so desires?

Answer: A woman does have right over her body within limits. Neither before God nor the present laws of the United States, however, does she have the right to destroy her life. That is immoral and irresponsible.

But she does have the right to decide whether her tonsils should be removed or not, whether she should have an appendectomy or not, whether she should have her infected toe amputated or not. These are private matters and the state must leave the decision to the woman.

But an unborn baby is not be compared with a tonsil, an appendix, or a toe! A toe is not a human being, an unborn baby is. An appendix will one day rot, even if it is in formaldehyde, but the unborn baby will live forever. A tonsil does not have an eternal destiny, but the unborn do.

If the unborn are to be equated in value with toes and tonsils, then, of course the mother has the right to do with it what she wants. But medical science indicates that the unborn child at 20 weeks, for example, is just like the born child of 20 weeks. except it is not quite as fully developed, just as the born child of 20 weeks is like the child of 20 months, but not as completely developed. Whether it is 20 weeks after conception, or 20 weeks, months or years after birth, it is a human being in any case. And it is irresponsible before God to kill a human, whatever stage of development he may be in.

So a woman does have a right over her own body within limits. But the unborn is not a part of her body! It is an independent human life.

3. Question: Abortion laws impinge on the freedom of religion. Some fecI that abortion is killing a human being. Others do not. If laws are retained that prohibit a woman who docs not hold the belief that abortion is killing, then her freedom of and freedom from religion are being infringed. A permissive abortion law, however, would allow people to follow their own religious convictions.

Answer: A state must protect the freedom of religion and the freedom from religion. No one should be allowed to coerce another citizen to follow his religious convictions.

However, people can be misled and in the name of religion commit crimes, which the state ought to prevent. For example, in the Old Testament times certain pagan people sacrificed their children to their god Molech. A pro-abortionist may say that if the state should make laws against this practice, it would be an impingement on someone‘s religion. But we all feel intuitively that the state has an obligation to protect that child in spite of the parent‘s religious convictions. The freedom of religion is not an absolute, unqualified right of man. It stops when it violates the rights of another.

And so also the state has an equal obligation to protect the life of the unborn, regardless of a mother‘s sincere but ignorant notion about the facts of life. whether they be religiously based or not. If a state has the duty to protect the life of a one-day old baby, then it has the same duty for a baby one day before birth or even one month. It is the same human two. And the same could be said for a baby one week before birth or even one month. It is the same human being whether it is seven months old (after conception) or eleven months old (that is two months after birth). And so it is possible to use the same logic back at six months (the New York law of 24 weeks), and it is completely irrational to say as the New York law implies, that before 24 weeks the unborn baby is not a human but one day later it is, and that it is permissible to destroy before the end of 24 weeks, but it is not one day later! Such an arbitrary view is completely indefensible on medical grounds.

Although a mother may be completely sincere in her convictions that a 24 week old fetus that has toes, hair, eyes, a tongue, brain, heart, and kidneys is just a glob and therefore may be destroyed, the state has a moral obligation to decide the facts of life itself. If, on the basis of fetology and other facts, the state should conclude that it is a human, although not fully developed (neither is a year-old baby fully developed!), then the slate has a duty to protect the life of that child. And an appeal to the principle of freedom of religion may not hinder the state.

The above is precisely the reasoning of the courts in the cases of Jehovah‘s Witnesses. For example, in New Jersey doctors told a pregnant mother that her baby would probably die if she did not have a blood transfusion. The mother, however, refused because blood transfusions are against the religious principles of her faith. But the Supreme Court of New Jersey ruled that the child in utero was entitled to the law’s protection (Raileigh Fitkin-Paul Memorial Hospital v. Anderson, 1956), and ordered a blood transfusion if necessary. It did not allow the baby to be killed in the name of religion.

So, also, it is not an infringement of someone‘s religion if the state in order to save the life of the unborn prohibits abortions on demand.