Mon | Nov 23, 2020

Christians speak out for abortion in the first 12 weeks

Published:Sunday | July 28, 2019 | 12:00 AM

It is clear that, while holding to the identity of Christian, Christians can and do take fundamentally different, while still prayerful, approaches to the Bible. The writers of this message do not expect to find in the Bible handy texts prescribing ethical solutions to drug abuse, abortion, sexual orientation, migration or the many other issues that previous or present peoples have faced. We, therefore, do not use the Bible to provide proof texts for our position.

When church officials in the 16th century mistook the everyday language of Scripture for divine teaching, they put Galileo under house arrest for following Copernicus. On scientific grounds, Copernicus had showed the earth revolving around the sun. Far from conflicting with revealed truth, such knowledge only deepens appreciation of divine creation. Technological, scientific and general human development over two to three thousand years have brought up new situations that the Scriptures could not have known about, did not anticipate and did not intend to give answers for. Yet, time and again, Christians have attempted to impose pre-scientific modes of thought on issues encountered in our world.

What Scripture does is set out examples of how humans should relate to God and to one another, fundamental principles of moral goodness, unselfish love and forgiveness combined with prohibitions of their opposites – murder, parental disrespect, marital infidelity and greed. Above all, we have the example of the extraordinary saving love of Jesus, the Son sent by the Creator.

God’s Care for children and mothers

Surely we could agree that a God of love does not want children to grow unwanted, in suffering, in unhappy circumstances where they may be cruelly beaten, where their incipient self-esteem can be crushed through daily cursing, or to be among those sent to children’s homes, some tragically with abusive conditions. The fact that some survive such situations cannot remove the fact that many do not, and sink into drug addiction, mental illness, a life of crime.

A God of love would want every child conceived to come forth in loving welcoming circumstances. Sadly, the tragedy of our world forces too many women and girls into situations in which they conceive in ignorance or through force. Others, with as many children as they can manage to raise, may unwittingly conceive or can be subject to threats of abuse if they do not continue to ‘prove’ their partner’s virility. The pregnancy can be a threat to a woman’s life. Should this be disregarded by having a life-threatening pregnancy? There are many examples of when a child may not be wanted for good reason at a particular time.

It is only poor women and/or innocent women besieged by a guilt that they did not earn, who cannot choose to terminate their pregnancy under proper medical conditions. Desperate, many resort to dangerous ‘back street’ methods that may cause serious injury and sometimes death – and are made criminals for so doing. The abortion we see as sensible and appropriate is not against life but for it. It is a matter of public health, social justice and fidelity to Jesus’ example of compassion.

Parents – men and women, but especially women – must be given the freedom, after counselling, to exercise their consciences and choose abortion up to 12 weeks if they feel this is best in the circumstances. Where there is disagreement or the father is absent, it is ultimately the woman’s choice. It is her health and life that are at risk, or that will be disrupted. She has to bear the pregnancy in her body and raise the child, with or without the father.

Before we were even conceived

The belief that God knew us before we were even conceived (Jer 1.5) and formed us in our mothers’ wombs (Ps 139) says nothing whatever about the precise time in those nine months when we become human persons. That is determined by first identifying the bodily development able to match and sustain the level of psychological, emotional and mental ability that go with being a human person. And that, we assert, is the task of medical science. When John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1.41), she was in the sixth month (weeks 22–26) of her pregnancy.

The number of weeks over which sperm and egg, united into zygote at conception, pass to become embryo, then foetus, is a finding of science on which Scripture does not pronounce. It is from science that we learn that the zygote is located initially in the fallopian tube and that many zygotes never get to be implanted in the womb but are passed out in menses; many others are spontaneously aborted even after implantation. The fecundity and complexity of the inner universe of the human reproductive system is as mind-boggling as the plurality of the galaxies in the outer universe.

It is from such facts about the early stages of development of embryo and foetus that the sincerely held position on abortion in the first 12 weeks, as morally justified, is reached. Though living and human, the foetus up to 12 weeks cannot, we maintain, be viewed as the human person that develops later and emerges at birth. The notion of a soul infused by God and, therefore, making the zygote a human person at conception is a gratuitous assumption, not a faith belief.

We believe in a God who demonstrates, over and over again, loving kindness to all human beings and judgements only of our acts of injustice. Shall we not as Christians strive to demonstrate the same to all?

- Jennifer Jones, Rev Dr Rachele ‘Evie’ Vernon O’Brien, Gillian Glean Walker, Linnette Vassall, Horace Levy, Rev Fr Sean Major-Campbell, DrLeith Dunn, Rev Dr Sonia Hinds, Rev Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth, Rev Kelli Jolly, Patricia Donald Phillips, Dr Pansy Hamilton, Rev Dr Margaret Fowler, Dr Deanna Ashley, Prof Affette McCaw-Binns, Prof Elizabeth Thomas-Hope, Rev Raymond Coke, Ruth Coke, Rev Canon Garth Minott. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com