The high destiny of every human soul, that destiny which we affirm in the reading of Psalm 139, makes many a Christian chill with distaste at the very mention of abortion. Such a threat to the right to life, the right to God-given privileges and mandates, is in their view simply and frankly appalling. God gave life, and gives life as a continuing gift, a gift always to be welcomed no matter how inauspicious its beginnings. There is no child who should not have been born (or almost none, if we wish to leave some margin), for redemption is freely offered to all human beings, none excepted, and the privilege of drawing even one breath of fresh air is more profound than we can ever imagine. Made in the Image of God, that is what man is all about. Who shall say that it is nothing?

But our enthusiasm for the mystery of life and for the secret of the human soul so perfectly “knit together” in the foreknowledge of God can sometimes turn into a blinding enthusiasm. “Sold” on life, and on God himself, we are struck dumb at the thought that anyone could actually want an abortion. The sooner we can dispense with the arguments and protestations of such a person, the sooner we can get back to the realities we love so well.

But the temptation to put down quickly the abortionist view when it confronts us has led to certain short circuits in our ability to communicate. And at a time when anti-abortion amendments petitions are circulating widely among evangelical Christians we need to think out our reasons for this keenly felt stand. In the days ahead we will have to be communicating more and more about this vital subject. We must do so without those short circuits that cut off our listeners before we make our point; we want to speak worthily, as God would have us. For if we don’t explain our own minds, and God’s, a little better than we sometimes have done, we may even lose our opportunity to make a difference—though we may not ultimately believe that we can frustrate God’s purposes.

Since we believe that what we read in the Bible is true, is from God himself, and since we often sense from our reading of that Word that we are right about a lot of important things, we may feel especially secure about an issue such as this. But sometimes, especially on an issue we care a great deal about, we have a bad way of explaining ourselves. We can’t get enough distance from the subject to hear the sound of what we say, and when we have finished we can tell by the look in our listener’s eyes that we have somehow said it all wrong. In fact we even suspect, sometimes, that we have made God come off sounding illogical, and we know that isn’t fair to him or to the issue we defend in his name.

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So if stepping back for a minute will help at all, perhaps we can re-examine some of our tactics and our words. If we don’t like this thing called Abortion, let’s untangle our strategy, so that our reasoning makes some better sense on its own grounds. First of all we need to avoid what lies closest at hand on such an issue, the use of emotionally charged words accompanied by a shaking of the head. Trundling out words like “evil” and “disastrous” and “dangerous” just confuses the issue. Such words may give vent to how we feel about the subject, but we need to explain why. If abortion is undesirable, it must be so for soundly stated biblical reasons, reasons that even our listeners will say sound clear enough, if we have avoided the temptation to dismiss the issue emotionally, as hastily as possible, or by proof-texting our way around the real biblical underpinnings for our argument. Nothing short of careful biblical exegesis will do, exegesis that considers at least two things: not only the “moment” when human life originates, but, even more significantly, God’s purpose in making man at all.

Some clear and well expressed understanding of the high purposes of God in creating man and offering life will then temper our handling of the medical facts in the abortion issue, so that we can in the same way stand back from emotional and judgmental phrases and let the medical information do its own work. Let us seek out objective medical research on the life-status of the fetus at the moment of conception. Such purely medical data, carefully rendered, should stand by itself; we shouldn’t have to prop it up with moral judgments. For instance, if the live fetus disintegrates during suction abortion, let that information stand as an awesome fact to do its own work. But on the other hand, if some of the facts suggest that abortion is not as medically dangerous to the woman as we “wish” it were, for the sake of finding a deterrent to the practice, let’s not juggle those facts to make it sound mysterious and fearful. Statistics say that the risk of abortion to the mother in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy is three times less than the risk to her in a full-term birth. Abortions in the early weeks, therefore, cannot be labeled “dangerous,” and any such statements must be balanced against the risk of full-term births. What risk there is in abortion occurs during the twelve-to-twenty-week period rather than in the early weeks, and even that risk is proportionately small. To pretend otherwise would be shady, and unworthy of our calling.

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We don’t need that kind of an approach. It is unworthy of all we stand for in the name of Christ. And there are better reasons and approaches—real, human, important ones. Abortion can better be opposed because it hurts everyone, the mother and father as well as the fetus. We need soundly researched statistical analysis of the psychological after effects of abortion, rather than threatening statements about “how awful it is.” We need carefully documented follow-up statistics. Let us have an informed sociologist to do our homework for us, and let us study his findings. For instance, let him question the parents of the aborted fetus three years later. Do they ever think about that never-born child? These awesome aspects will keep us from the lesser tactics.

The most dangerous thing we can do is to leave the issue at the purely emotional level, consciously or inadvertently introducing language that may permanently cloud the issue. For instance, we may announce that “abortion rates are high in Communist countries” or that “Hitler’s regime practiced abortion,” hoping to make the hearer respond, “If Communists and Nazis are for abortion, I know I’m not!” Such logical traps are a clear case of perpetuating “short circuits,” and God deserves better.

If we are convinced about the real difficulties of abortion and prefer to stand for the God-given mandate of life, we must be sure we make ourselves clear to everyone who is listening, Christian and non-Christian. Christians have tender consciences and believe in the Word of God. But abortion hurts everyone, not just those who believe that Word. Let us come up with arguments that speak to everyone, not just to that closed circle of believers whom we represent. We cannot force our convictions upon anyone else, but we can at least offer clarity. We must have a carefully articulated “apologia,” one whose language speaks to everyone, one that clarifies why it is God’s plan that human life is too significant to interrupt, to accept or reject as one likes.

What if we should, by our careful preparation and clear thinking, actually convince someone away from abortion? That is only the beginning for us. We must be prepared as Christians to help that person face the difficult circumstances of her decision. It is not enough to congratulate ourselves that we have found a better argument and gotten rid of the logical fallacies surrounding it. It is not enough to say “Aha, I convinced her,” and then go home. Choosing to bear a child is a hard and immense decision. Even the legitimate and long-desired child is not carried and borne easily by its mother. Every expectant mother needs compassion and reassurance during that long waiting period. We need to provide vital companionship and unusual reassurance, in the most humane way we can, for the one who chooses to bypass abortion and endure an initially unwanted pregnancy. Let us further praise the unwed mother who shows the courage not to try to correct one mistake with another. Enough of harsh and judgmental treatment from the Christian brotherhood. Such courageous women, and the men who choose to stand by them, demand our love.

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Perhaps we can also activate our adoption and counseling services to do more to encourage unwed mothers to bear these children. Can these agencies work any more closely with Christian doctors in pre-abortion counseling to assure these women that their child has a future? Can the Christian doctors with antiabortion convictions seek out these agencies and initiate some new kind of help for the expectant mothers and their unborn children? And if both agencies and doctors are already doing some of these things to counteract the overwhelming abortion trend, are we adequately aware of them?

And as for the rest of us, let us learn to love without “dissimulation.” If we know an unwed pregnant woman, let us show her compassion and kindness. We are more often reluctant to talk with her; we are embarrassed for her and confused about what to say. If she chooses to bear the child, we need to encourage her, to come out in her active support. Anyone willing to work out the consequences for an act, rather than avoid them, should be supported by the Christian. And if an unwed woman chooses not only to bear but to keep her child, let us still give her our emotional support and, even more, our material assistance, even though we might disagree with the latter decision. She is accepting the consequences for her action in a remarkable way.

But what of those whom we convince too late? We need even more compassion for the woman who undergoes an abortion and then too late learns to grieve over the decision. Let us remind ourselves and that person of the forgiveness and plentiful grace that Christ offers and that Christians daily offer on Christ’s behalf. Let us not close the door on those who go ahead with abortion. There is still room for them in the company of God. Let us be sure we make room for them among ourselves, too.

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Because we believe the unborn child is important to God, we need two things: clear thinking on a difficult subject, and love. Then, as we rejoice in God’s omnipotence and redemptive purposes for the unborn, we will be reminded time and again of the quality of his love:

For thou didst form my inward parts,

thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb.…

Thou knowest me right well;

my frame was not hidden from thee,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.

Thy eyes behold my unformed substance;

in thy book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them.

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