Thursday, 26 October 2017

Abortion contravenes the very values our society cherishes most

This Friday marks fifty years since the abortion act. During that time 8.7 million abortions have taken place within the UK – around 200,000 a year. To get some perspective, if all those babies had lived, that’s the equivalent to the combined population of Scotland and Wales.

Of course whether or not a woman can have an abortion is deeply significant for her. It’s her future that will be impacted if a baby is born. The choice to abort is therefore seen as critical to gender equality – to the woman maintaining her rights over her own body and her freedom to fulfil her potential. Moreover, if she is unable to have an abortion legally, she may seek out an illegal and potential dangerous one.

But when one considers it, this defence of abortion is filled with tragic irony.

Abortion undermines equality.
It is profoundly discriminatory. Many still baulk at the sex-selective abortion, but you cannot consistently deny the woman’s right to abort according to the gender of the child if you have just affirmed her rights over her body and her freedom to fulfil her potential as she wishes. Yet sex-selective abortion usually is one that discriminates against girls and so against women.

However, abortion doesn’t only discriminate according to gender. Abortion discriminates against those with disability, downs syndrome and even a cleft palate, as babies with these conditions are aborted and so unable to contribute to society.

Abortion breaches rights.
A free society is one that always has to balance what it calls "rights," with some curtailed so that others are upheld. Yet abortion is deeply individualistic, disregarding the communal aspects of having children. The rights of wider society to benefit from the child even if he or she suffers from a disability is rarely considered. But many have experienced how enriching it can be to learn how to accept and care for those who struggle because of disability. And what of the rights of wider family to the child that has been conceived?

Of course the major right to be considered is the right of the baby itself - it’s right to life and to protection from harm. It is not simply a part of the women’s body. Whether one is ready to accept the foetus as a person or not, it is certainly an individual entity being readied for independent life and personhood. From conception it has its full 46 chromosomes and entire genetic makeup. Its sex is therefore determined, as is its future growth to some extent. The mother may not want a baby, and the pregnancy may even have arisen from abuse, but the fact is that from the beginning this developing individual is at his or her most vulnerable, entirely dependent on the mother for protection. There is nothing “pro-women” in a woman’s choice to abort such dependents. Pregnancy brings responsibility. And where a mother chooses to continue the pregnancy despite the potential harm or difficulty it might bring her, she is doing something extremely noble. To love is to give up one’s rights for the good of others, especially those in need.

Abortion does harm.
One in three women will have an abortion during their lifetime. Yet many who have, speak of profound regret, guilt and despair at what they’ve done. We might also consider the harm the acceptance of abortion does to our cultural mindset – to how we view children or life, and to how it encourages sexual promiscuity with all the psychological and emotional fallout that can accompany it. But the greatest harm is surely done to the babies themselves. By eight weeks they can respond to touch, implying sensitivity and possibly pain. At twenty weeks they can experience pain more intensely than adults as their pain system is established but its modifying component isn’t. It is in the light of this that we must consider how exactly abortions are carried out.

Medication is used for those early in pregnancy. Pills are taken to end the life of the baby and cause the uterus to expel it. However, 90% of abortions of up to twelve weeks into the pregnancy are not conducted in this way. Rather, they involve a suction tube that may be used to first kill and dismember the baby, before sucking its various parts out for disposal. And what of the 42,000 babies aborted each year after twelve weeks? They can’t come out as easily, and so have to be crushed to death and broken apart with medical tools in order to be extracted. If still later in the pregnancy, contractions have to be induced to expel the baby which will either die in the process or be given a drug to ensure it does. Sometimes it is extracted by surgery.

Pro-abortion websites sanitise all this. They speak of the “pregnancy” being removed not the “baby,” and with little detail about what that involves. But the facts speak for themselves. Abortion wreaks great harm at every level.

A better way.
Debates will no doubt continue as to the appropriateness of abortion when the mother’s life is in danger or the baby could end up severely handicapped. These are currently the only legal grounds for abortion beyond 24 weeks in the UK, although there is much controversy over how these requirements are interpreted. Nevertheless, the vast majority of abortions are not carried out for those reasons. And so even before one considers biblical wisdom on specific cases, we can see that abortion in general is harmful, discriminatory and oppressive.

The sexual revolution is not delivering on its promises. Unrestrained sexual freedom is leading us down a dark path. We need a better way. We need to acknowledge that the inconsistency of our society over abortion reveals just how wanting the secular worldview is. If God is removed and the individual is the final arbiter of right and wrong, there is no ultimate restraint on the strong over the weak. And whilst the strong may self-righteously affirm their opposition to inequality, oppression and the denial of rights, they are quite prepared to turn a blind eye to such things when their personal comfort and freedom is in jeopardy.

Jesus displayed real outrage at this sort of hypocrisy, at those who thought themselves moral whilst trampling on the weak. And the apostle Paul's words are particularly apt: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” (Romans 2v1).

This is serious indeed. Though state-sponsored and generally accepted, abortion is something our society’s own standards judge is wrong. Yet it could be argued that there is more legal protection and anger over the destruction of property and wildflowers in our culture than there is over this mass destruction of human life.

One cannot but think that history will judge our generation terribly for its complacency over abortion. But we must remember the greater judge, turning to him in Christ for his mercy.

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[ This article has not been written to address the sensitivities surrounding abortion. If you have had an abortion or been party to one, please be assured that if you seek God’s forgiveness in Christ you have it – and with it peace and healing with respect to the past. Know too that within his church you will find welcome, acceptance and support as you seek to live the new life he calls us into. ]