Abortion – A Religious Issue or a Secular Issue?

Ever since Roe v. Wade abortion has been quite a hot topic in the United States. It seems like every presidential election, Supreme Court Justice nomination, congressional election and senatorial election, this is one of the major topics of discussion. Where does each given candidate or nominee stand on the abortion issue?

Personally, I think that many of the pro-lifers out there who’s rhetoric I’ve heard discussed are taking the wrong approach. It would seem pretty fair to say that most of the pro-lifers in the U.S. take their stance based on religious convictions. Whether they are Christian, Jewish, Muslim or whatever, one of the largest arguments I’ve heard against abortion is that it is wrong for religious reasons.

It could probably go without saying that this tactic has really not been all that effective. And with the recent approval of government-funded abortions, we can see that we’re fighting a losing battle when we try to take this particular stance. So, what other options are there?

Well, I’ve heard it said before that the best way to defeat an opponent is to do so in their own front yard. The fact of the matter is, the more we use religion as a basis for fighting against abortion, the more we’ll get “separation of church and state” thrown back in our faces. However, if we approach this from a naturalistic or scientific angle, they won’t really be able to hide behind such rhetoric.

In order to do that, we have to “prepare the soil” as it were so that we can lead them down a path which ultimately should bring them to the same conclusion…that abortion is wrong. The first part of this preparation will be to address the underlying issue that is reallyat the heart of this debate. As Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason is fond of saying, the question that needs to be asked, and ultimately answered, with regards to abortion is simply, “What is the unborn?

The purpose behind that question is to arrive at a conclusion that identifies the unborn as a living, distinct human being from the moment of conception. Which then brings us to a place where there are really two other questions that have to be answered. The first is, “How can we know that the unborn is alive”  and “How can we know that the unborn is distinct from any other human being?

The short answer to the first question is: dead things don’t grow. It almost seems so self-evident that it would insult one’s intelligence to feel a need to point out that something that is growing is quite obviously alive. From the moment of conception, cells begin to replicate and the organism begins to grow. It draws nutrients from the mother in order to facilitate this growth.

If the organism begins to grow once the egg is fertilized by the sperm, it would seem intuitively obvious that life has begun. Medical science backs up the fact that this growth begins at such an early stage of development and this fact his not refuted. At least, not by anyone with any amount of credibility in the medical or scientific field.

That leads us into the second question about how to determine if the unborn is distinct. Again, medical science proves this point. As early as it is possible to do so, embryos have been “tested” and verified to have their own DNA, separate and distinct from either of the individual parents. If the embryo were not a separate and distinct being from the mother, one would expect the DNA to match the mother’s. This is not the case. Nor does it match the father’s. Instead, the DNA is unique that that embryo.

So, if we have been able to establish, by means of science, that the unborn is a living and distinct organism, we can recognize the type of organism it is. Simply by merit of observing the growth and development of the organism we already know that it is a human organism. That being the case, we can assert with scientific and medical certainty that the unborn is a separate, distinct, unique, living human being.

Many might continue to argue about the viability of the embryo at this stage, however, it cannot be argued that it is a living human being. It then becomes an issue of recognizing that this human being is every bit as “human” as any other human being and is simply at a very early stage of development. Now, that does not seem as though it would be sufficient cause to legitimize the termination of the pregnancy.

At further stages of development, say two or three years old for example, people would not terminate the life of a child for the reasons that people typically do so by aborting pregnancies. So, what is the only difference between the child in utero and the toddler? There are essentially two differences. First, location. One is inside the womb the other is outside the womb. Second, they are both at different stages of development.

Aside from those two differences, there really are no others. So, essentially, both should intrinsically have the same value as individual human beings. And if it is objectively wrong to terminate a human being at one stage of development, it should be equally wrong to terminate that human being at a different stage of development.

That brings us to the reasoning behind having an abortion. And, for the most part, as Mr. Koukl often points out, we do not take the life of innocent human beings for the same reasons that most people have abortions. In other words, any justification for destroying the unborn would, necessarily, equally justify destroying a three-year-old…or a 15 year-old. Or a 30 year-old. Etc., etc.

In the end, the main point here is this…let’s stop saying that abortion is wring because the Bible says so, or the Q’uran says so or what have you. Let’s start making it clear that abortion is wrong because it is wrong to take the life of an innocent human being for the reasons most people have abortions. It is wrong to kill an unborn child for the sake of the convenience of the mother, or because we predict that the child will not have a “fair shot at a decent life” or any of the other reasons that people have abortions.

Instead of using religion to ground our arguments, let’s put it in terms that non-believers and those who refuse to accept this truth on religious principles will understand. Put it in their language. Doing that, I can only imagine, will have far more persuasive power with regards to this issue.

Grace, love and peace.

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4 Comments

  1. Paul,

    I agree completely with what you’re saying. When it comes to many of the politically/religiously charged controversies such as abortion, we should avoid trying to persuade others with faith-based arguments.

    To me, there are a couple of options that would be better. One is what I’ve laid out here by showing using science and medicine that abortion is no different than murder which is already an agreed-upon standard.

    The other method, as you point out, is to lead people to Christ which will lead them to the same conclusions with regards to many of the moral situations that there is often so much debate and controversy over.

    I’ve had conversations many times with others about my feeling that we cannot hold non-Christians accountable to the teachings of the Bible since they do not accept the Bible as authoritative. Instead, we should bring them to Christ, after which they likely WILL accept scripture as authoritative and effect those changes in world-view.

    Thanks for the input!

  2. As a Christian, let me make some observations about the religious argument:

    we are not called to police the world. Government is a necessary but usually oppressive way of organizing people that none the less provides order in this world. But outside of the Jewish governments of the Old Testament, no command to enforce God’s commands by government is ever given. (And if you will recall, the Old Testament mostly documents how governments fail at this task, for the most part).

    No teaching of Jesus commands us to make others follow his commandments. We are to make disciples, but the decision to be a disciple is one each person makes for themselves. No call to end crucifixion exists within the early church. When Jesus separates the sheep from the goats in Matt 25, none of the actions that made one a sheep or a goat involved policing the behavior of others.

    We do not come to God by following rules enforced by men on this world, at least not according to Jesus. The revolution Jesus asks us to take up does not forbid bad behavior in others, but only bad behavior in ourselves. Our hearts can break over the choices others make, but it isn’t our job to make these choices for others.

  3. @Fffish

    “our common goal is not to ban abortion ”

    That is actually NOT the common goal. My goal is to show that abortion is actually the murder of an innocent human life which is ALREADY illegal.

    “a determined woman will * always* be able to induce a miscarriage”

    Which would fall under the category of “murder.”

    “these goals are not well-supported by the anti-choice faction”

    What exactly do you mean by these goals not being well-supported?

    The facts of the situation remain unaddressed in your comments. Particularly that the unborn are separate, distinct human beings and should therefore have the same human rights as any other human being. That includes the right to life specified in the founding principles of this country. That would mean that abortion is essentially the same thing as murder.

    In fact, ironically, if anyone OTHER than the mother were to cause the death of an unborn child (excepting, of course, the doctor performing the abortion), that person would be charged with murder (or manslaughter, depending upon the circumstances).

    So, it would seem that the unborn has a right to live unless the mother decides to revoke that right. I can’t help but wonder why the mother would have the power to revoke that basic human right to any other human being.

    I find it almost amusing that people who want to allow women to have innocent human lives taken accuse people like me of being immoral. Very ironic.

  4. You’re halfway to the point of rationality! See, the thing is that *most everyone* would prefer there to be fewer abortions — even those of us who are emphatically pro-choice.

    The means to accomplish our common goal is not to ban abortion — an impossibility, because a determined woman will * always* be able to induce a miscarriage — but to reduce the perceived need.

    We accomplish this thru sex education, access to birth control, and increased social support for child care. Ironically, and very foolishly, these goals are not well-supported by the anti-choice faction.

    We have ample real life data upon which to base a decision. Look at other countries, see what does and does not work. What you propose *does not work*.

    Here’s hoping you continue to fail at your cruel, uninformed, and ultimately futile goal.

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