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Abortion FAQ

The Bible
Abortion, infanticide and child abandonment were permitted under Roman law at the time of Jesus
1. Surprisingly, abortion is never mentioned in the Bible, despite the fact that it has been practiced throughout recorded human history. However, a number of Bible passages may be relevant. These verses and others are often cited as evidence that a fetus is truly a living human being, and deserving the same protection:

This site comes to the same conclusion as I do that :

"The Bible gives direct guidance on many, many topics, but not on abortion. None of the passages above (nor the many others often cited) were originally intended as statements about abortion, so any conclusions drawn from them represent opinions rather than Biblical evidence."

In 1973, the United States Supreme Court, in its Roe v. Wade decision, ruled that a woman has a right to an abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy. However, the 50 states are still allowed to regulate abortion during the second trimester and prohibit it during the third trimester2. Since that time, abortion has become one of the most controversial and divisive issues within society.

Anti-abortion activists represent one extreme of opinion. They believe life begins at the instant of conception. Therefore, abortion is murder and is prohibited by the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:13). They strongly support laws banning all or almost all abortions.

However, the belief that life begins at conception does not have clear support from medical science, the Bible, religious tradition or legal tradition. Early Christians apparently did not view abortion as murder until well beyond conception. In the thirteenth century, Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas wrote that a soul enters the body at 40 days after conception for males and 80 days for females. That became church doctrine for many centuries, and abortion before the time of ensoulment was not considered a mortal sin. The belief that life begins at conception apparently has its origins in an 1869 decree by Pope Pius IX that abortion at any point in pregnancy was cause for excommunication.3,4

English common law apparently tolerated abortion until "quickening," the first detectable fetal movements, around the fifth month. Similarly, abortion was largely unregulated in the U.S. until the mid 1800s. Anti-abortion laws were passed around 1900, but the primary reasons had to do with the injuries and deaths resulting from unskilled abortions and a struggle for control of medical practice.5

Pro-choice activists represent the other extreme of opinion. They believe that abortion does not differ fundamentally from other forms of birth control, and they strongly support the right of a woman to make her own choice about abortion, free of any legal constraints. They point out that legal abortion does not force anyone to have an abortion against her will and say that anti-abortion laws amount to forcing a religious doctrine onto people of other faiths.

However, the pro-choice position ignores the fact that many widely accepted laws are the result of moral concerns and that there is a long history of moral opposition to abortion and legal regulation of its practice.6

Public opinion polls in the U.S. consistently show about 25% of people say abortion should be legal in all circumstances. Another 55% favor legal abortion in some circumstances, and about 17% say abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. About 60% are opposed to any additional legal restrictions on abortion.7

As with society as a whole, Christians are divided on the issue of abortion. The polls show that a majority of people have reservations about both the extreme anti-abortion and pro-choice positions. These are some of the issues that are of concern to that majority:

Avoiding Self-righteousness
The strong emotions surrounding the abortion issue may lead those on both sides of the issue into the sin of self-righteousness. Jesus was greatly offended by self-righteous religious people who thought they were better than those they considered "sinners."

The Pharisees were a Jewish sect noted for their strict observance of the laws of God. Tax collectors were among the most despised people in Israel. As agents of the occupying Roman forces they often extorted excess taxes and were considered traitors to their people. That is why Jesus used a Pharisee and a tax collector to illustrate the sin of self-righteousness:

Then [Jesus] told this story to some who boasted of their virtue and scorned everyone else: "Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a proud, self-righteous Pharisee, and the other a cheating tax collector. The proud Pharisee 'prayed' this prayer: 'Thank God, I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don't commit adultery, I go without food twice a week, and I give to God a tenth of everything I earn.' "But the corrupt tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed, but beat upon his chest in sorrow, exclaiming, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner.' I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home forgiven! For the proud shall be humbled, but the humble shall be honored." (TLB, Luke 18:9-14)

Further, Jesus told us to eliminate the sins in our own lives rather than passing judgment or looking down on others. For if we judge other people harshly, we will, in turn, be judged harshly by God:

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (NIV, Matthew 7:1-2)

Christians have a responsibility to correct matters of wrongdoing among themselves (Matthew 18:15-17), but this should always be done fairly and with compassion. We are never to take upon ourselves the task of judgment that belongs to God alone (Hebrews 10:30, Romans 14:10-13, 1 Corinthians 4:5.)

As Christians, we need to remember that we are all sinners in God's eyes, and that God loves all His children, even those who believe differently than we do. We cannot afford to let our strong feelings on abortion issues blind us to Jesus' commandment to "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:36-39).

Church Doctrine
Many churches, including United Church of Christ,
18 Episcopal,19 Presbyterian (USA)20 and United Methodist, do not approve of abortion as a means of birth control. However, they support the right of a woman to obtain an abortion, if she deems that is the best choice in her circumstances, and they favor keeping abortion legal. Other churches, including Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist, oppose all abortions and favor making abortion illegal. Here is a sampling of official church positions from the three largest denominations in the U.S.:

Roman Catholic:

2270. Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.

2271. Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.
From Catechism of the Catholic Church, (c) 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc., http://www.nccbuscc.org/catechism/text/index.htm

Southern Baptist:

Procreation is a gift from God, a precious trust reserved for marriage. At the moment of conception, a new being enters the universe, a human being, a being created in God's image. This human being deserves our protection, whatever the circumstances of conception.
From Position Statements, Copyright (c) 1999 - 2001, Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, http://sbc.net/default.asp?url=position-statements.html

United Methodist:

The beginning of life and the ending of life are the God-given boundaries of human existence. While individuals have always had some degree of control over when they would die, they now have the awesome power to determine when and even whether new individuals will be born. Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother, for whom devastating damage may result from an unacceptable pregnancy. In continuity with past Christian teaching, we recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures. We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection. We oppose the use of late-term abortion known as dilation and extraction (partial-birth abortion) and call for the end of this practice except when the physical life of the mother is in danger and no other medical procedure is available, or in the case of severe fetal anomalies incompatible with life. We call all Christians to a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions that may warrant abortion. We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries to those who terminate a pregnancy, to those in the midst of a crisis pregnancy, and to those who give birth. Governmental laws and regulations do not provide all the guidance required by the informed Christian conscience. Therefore, a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel.
From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church–2000, 161J. Copyright 2000 by The United Methodist Publishing House, http://www.umc.org/abouttheumc/policy/

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