In the first post in this series I argued that, notwithstanding the cost, abortion is worth thinking and speaking out about because God cares about the lives of His image-bearers. This week I want to think about the specific image-bearers principally involved in any abortion: the baby and its parents, especially its mother.

Abortion Involves a Baby

The Bible is clear about the personhood of the child in the womb. 1 So is science. 2 So are abortionists. 3 So are many modern pro-choice westerners. 4 Fifty years ago, arguments that the fetus wasn’t a real human being might have held some plausibility. Today, we all know what we’re doing.

In some ways, the fact of the unborn child’s personhood alone settles the question. The baby in the womb is a living human being. Abortion kills that human being through dismemberment, poison, acid-burning, or starvation. 5 God forbids killing innocent human beings. Therefore, abortion is wrong.

Abortion Involves a Mother

The personhood of the unborn child is decisive for the morality of abortion. It is not, however, the only fact relevant to meaningful dialogue about abortion, as pro-lifers so often forget. Abortion can become a huge, life-shaping reality for both the parents of the child aborted, especially for the mother. We do well to remember the words of an abortionist about most women who ‘want’ abortions: ‘A woman does not want an abortion like she wants an ice cream cone, a new dress, or a Porsche; she wants an abortion like an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg to escape.’ 6 God’s word never excuses any kind of disobedience, but it does extend the grace of understanding to sufferers. It’s worth remembering that women are often driven to abortion by truly difficult situations.

Mother vs. Child?

The societal debate about abortion revolves around a perceived tension between the welfare of the mother and the life of the child. In both the US and the UK, the legal justification for abortion stipulates the health of the mother as the only justifiable reason for an abortion (in practice, though, ‘health’ has been extended to include the desire to be free of inconvenience). For many evangelicals, a big reason abortion doesn’t get discussed or opposed is a concern not to hurt or condemn women who have had an abortion. This is surely a noble desire; if the sinless Christ was ‘gentle and lowly in heart’ toward sinful people, much more should His followers be toward their fellow sinners. Whatever approach we take to abortion, however we speak about it, we must keep the dignity, worth and welfare of both the mother and the child in mind.

Abortion vs. Mother and Child

I want to suggest that the ‘woman or child?’ dilemma is a false one. Abortion is the enemy not only of the unborn babies it kills but of their mothers as well.

Women who have had an abortion know this. I wrote in the last post that most people don’t think about abortion very often. A (female) friend corrected me that women who have had an abortion likely think about it every day of their lives. I was recently moved to read a letter on from a woman who suffered deep, horrible feelings of guilt and despair over her abortion. Christian rapper Lecrae shares similar feelings of painful remorse on the website over the abortion he pressured a former girlfriend into having. It isn’t just an evangelical thing, though: I read recently of Buddhist temples in Japan where women who’ve had abortions pay to erect tiny statues of babies to ‘atone’ for what they’ve done and to cope with their grief. 7

Abortion hurts women because sin’s victims always include the sinner. My gossip hurts those about whom I speak and it warps my capacity for loving relationships. My pride belittles others and denies them of my love and it earns me the opposition of God, denying me the joy of knowing and serving Him humbly. Abortion kills an unborn child and it wounds the child’s parents, especially the mother. Every time I’m tempted to think or say or do something I shouldn’t, sin holds out the promise of life and blessing—if only I’ll transgress. But sin’s promises always prove empty, and I end up the loser. So it is with abortion. Abortion holds out the promise of life and blessing in the form of freedom from an unwanted pregnancy, only to deliver a payload of guilt and grief in the end.

As Christians, our posture toward abortion ought to be shaped by earnest love both for the unborn children in danger of death and for their mothers. We ought not believe the lie that to speak against or to oppose abortion is somehow anti-woman. Abortion kills unborn women and terribly hurts their mothers. I realise it’s likely there will be some people reading this who’ve had abortions. If that’s you, don’t for a minute believe the lie that the blood of Christ can’t wash away your sin. ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1, ESV). Full stop. No exceptions. If you suffer from guilt over an abortion, it might help to tell someone. There are caring members of the church who would love to speak with you about the reality of the amazing grace of our God in Christ.

Let’s be people who hold out the grace of the gospel that really cleanses from real sin to women hurt by abortion. Let’s be people who for their sake oppose it.


[David Fullerton]


  6. Unknown origin; often quoted in pro-life/pro-choice discussions