A few thoughts on abortion

First things first, I need to point out that I’m not taking a position on whether you should consider abortion to be right or wrong for you in this article. As far as those of us in the church called the body of Christ go, worrying about whether something is sinful or not isn’t something we’re even supposed to do anyway. In fact, we aren’t supposed to actively try to avoid sinning at all (to actively try to avoid sinning is what Paul referred to as “walking according to flesh”). The truth is, all things are permitted for us, even if not all things are beneficial. So even if something is a sin, we’re technically still allowed to do it no matter what it is, even if it might still be something that would be better for us to avoid.

In addition, whatever any believer concludes about the sinfulness of an action, we aren’t meant to enforce our own conclusions about what would be sinful for us to personally participate in on others, or to judge our brothers and sisters in Christ for whatever they might decide to do or avoid. Nor are we meant to get involved in politics to try to enforce our own preferences on the rest of the world (politics and moralism are the domain of the unbeliever, and are not activities those of us in the body of Christ are called to participate in). So, if you have concluded that it would be a sin for you to do so, by all means, avoid having or performing abortions. However, like all decisions about sin, this is something for each of us to consider for ourselves and ourselves alone. That said, for those who haven’t decided whether abortion is something that might be best avoided or not, it’s still helpful to consider the facts, which is why I’ve published this article.

Before we get into any of the other details about the topic, however, it’s important to know that, because murder is a legal term, abortion can’t legitimately be defined as murder in places where it’s not illegal. Yes, abortion might involve killing, but killing can only be classified as murder if the killing is unlawful under one’s human government, otherwise capital punishment and the killing of enemy combatants in war would also have to be called murder, as would killing in self defence, and so the claim of many anti-abortionists that abortion is murder (at least in most of the western world) isn’t something even worth taking into consideration. Now, some have tried to get around this fact by saying, “It doesn’t matter how humans define the word. The only thing that matters is how God defines it.” Well, “murder” is a human word, and like all words, if we aren’t all using the same definition when we use a word, the word becomes entirely meaningless as far as a discussion goes and there’s no point in even using that word to begin with.

That said, even if we were going to redefine the word based on what Scripture says about the topic, something most Christians aren’t aware of is that abortion isn’t actually condemned, or even ever discussed, in the Bible (if you disagree, though, please let me know what passages I missed in that article), which means the idea that God calls it murder doesn’t appear to be true anyway. And so, whatever conclusions one comes to about abortion, it seems that people will have to decide for themselves based on an entirely extrabiblical perspective.

Of course, most people today also aren’t aware that abortion (at least if performed during much of the first two trimesters) was not actually considered to be wrong by most Christians throughout much of history either (at least among Christians who hold to Sola scriptura, and the theological perspectives of those who don’t hold to Sola scriptura are rarely even worth considering). This doesn’t necessarily matter as far as one’s consideration of the morality of abortion goes, since those of us in the body of Christ don’t base our theology on what Christians have historically considered to fall under the purview of “orthodoxy” or “orthopraxy” anyway (because we consider the doctrines of the Christian religion to be entirely wrong about nearly everything), but it is still useful for us to know that until relatively recently evangelicals and other Protestants have actually been mostly okay with abortion, and that it was only due to the machinations of certain conservatives who decided to join forces with the Roman Catholics in their fight against abortion (although it appears that even Catholic opinions on abortion have changed over the years) in order to create the movement now known as the Religious Right so they could fight against desegregation and continue to promote racism that nearly everyone has been swayed into incorrectly assuming abortion has always been thought to be a sin by all Christians.

And it’s also important to note that a large number of Christians who today claim the “Pro-Life” label are only actually against abortion when it comes to other people’s abortions, thinking that the abortions they themselves have had are somehow okay, but that everyone else’s abortions are wrong and should be illegal, basically telling us that they believe the only moral abortions are the abortions they have, as well as that a large reason they’re fighting against abortion is actually because they want to punish other women for enjoying sex, and to ensure that those women suffer long-lasting consequences for their actions (they’ll argue that it’s actually because they think abortion is immoral and that they believe in “the sanctity of life,” but their hypocrisy, along with the way they treat those who have been born — especially in the United States, where religious conservatives only care about the unborn until they are born, after which it’s up to those who are born to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, as far as they’re concerned — reveals the real truth about them to the rest of us: that they don’t actually believe in “the sanctity of life,” or in ethical practices at all, for that matter). In fact, this quote by Dave Barnhart, a traditional Christian pastor, explains the real reason most conservative politicians and religious leaders fight against abortion:

“‘The unborn’ are a convenient group of people to advocate for. They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; they don’t resent your condescension or complain that you are not politically correct; unlike widows, they don’t ask you to question patriarchy; unlike orphans, they don’t need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don’t bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn. It’s almost as if, by being born, they have died to you. You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without reimagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus but actually dislike people who breathe. Prisoners? Immigrants? The sick? The poor? Widows? Orphans? All the groups that are specifically mentioned in the Bible? They all get thrown under the bus for the unborn.”

But what are the scientific facts when it comes to abortion? Well, from what I’ve been able to determine, the brain physically cannot have a consciousness until at least 24 weeks of gestation have passed (and likely more; maybe much more) because it does not have the structures necessary to develop consciousness or sentience (at least based on what I could find when researching for this article). Therefore, since only about 1% of abortions take place after the 21st week, abortion in the overwhelming majority of cases doesn’t seem to be the killing of a person. It might kill something that could technically be called biologically human (or at least something with human DNA), but it doesn’t appear to be killing a conscious being with “personhood.” (In addition, scientists believe that it takes even longer than that — not until at least the 29th week — before a fetus could feel pain, in case that’s a concern you might have.)

It’s also important to note that abortions in the third trimester basically only ever take place because something has gone horribly wrong and the baby is going to die anyway (often in an extremely painful manner), and many times because the pregnant mother will jeopardize her health (and even her life) if she continues with the pregnancy as well. No woman goes through months of pregnancy only to abort it near the end unless something is very wrong, and it’s almost certain that no doctor would do so for any other reason either, so these are all facts to keep in mind whenever someone insists that abortion is definitely wrong.

Now, some like to argue that a fetus has soul, and that killing a “living soul” would be wrong. Well, whether or not fetuses have souls, killing someone or something that has a soul isn’t necessarily wrong anyway. We kill animals for food (and animals obviously have souls, which is a fact the Bible clearly agrees with as well, I might add), and God commanded the killing of lots of people in Bible times (including women and children and babies, and there’s no way that none of those women were pregnant, which would mean God actually commanded some abortions to be performed, since killing those women would result in aborted pregnancies), not to mention killed plenty of them Himself (see Noah’s Flood, for example), so killing “living souls” is obviously not something God forbids, nor considers to be inherently wrong, so even if fetuses actually were “living souls,” it wouldn’t necessarily even matter.

All that said, I’m still not here to tell you that you should (or should not) have or perform abortions. This is a very personal matter, and one that people have very strong feelings about. The only thing I’m here to do is to remind you that, regardless of the conclusions you’ve come to as far as the sinfulness of abortion would be for you, if you’re in the body of Christ, you are not called to condemn the rest of the world for what they do, or to try to influence it to straighten up their walk. All you’re called to do is walk in accord with spirit, and let the rest of the world make their own decisions about morality.

[Just as a quick side note, if you’ve read my eBook, you’re likely experiencing some déjà vu right about now. That’s because I included parts of chapter 5 of the book in the above post.]