I was recently asked these two questions from a friend. They are great questions, and asked in the correct order. We must answer, “When does life begin?” before we can give a good, reasonable answer to, “When am I in favor of abortion?”
Life begins at conception. This is not a catchphrase or political statement. This is an irrefutable (with anything of substance) fact. That life begins at conception is unambiguously attested to both by science and by God’s Word.
Science is settled on this question. Though many doctors support abortion, the very textbooks they use in training new doctors explicitly teach that life begins at conception. For example, the Thompson & Thompson Genetics in Medicine textbook is used by Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine. On page 132 it says, “A human being begins life as a fertilized ovum/egg”, aka a zygote. Read that again.
“A HUMAN BEING BEGINS LIFE AS A FERTILIZED EGG!”
That is huge. At this point, as soon as a sperm fertilizes an egg, 100% of its human genetic code is present. Life having begun, apart from a miscarriage or abortion, this child is coming out of that belly 9 months later crying. And recognizing that the life of a human being has begun at the moment of conception, it is then established scientifically that a miscarriage is a death, not an inconvenience, and an abortion is a murder, not simply a women’s health medical procedure.
The Bible, God’s Word, is also settled on this question. In Luke 1:39-45, Mary, pregnant with Jesus, visits her cousin, Elizabeth, pregnant with John.
We read this,
“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
What is worth noting here for the question at hand? Elizabeth refers to that which is growing in her womb as a baby. John doesn’t become a baby when he is birthed. He already is one. And notice that as a pre-born baby, John can leap and feel emotion. He leaps for joy when Mary comes.
Now, Luke 1 looks at two babies after conception. Does the Bible identify human life earlier than this or is it silent? Well, here is what David writes in Psalm 51:5.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
The last part of this sentence is particularly relevant. David says that in sin did his mother “conceive me“. Here we see, at the moment of conception, there is a “me”, a person; and this person is a morally significant person, already being in sin.
So that answers when I believe life begins, and why. The answer to those questions dictate my answer to the next. When am I in favor of abortion?
At this point, many people who profess to be “pro-life” will say they think abortion is acceptable in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is at risk. I am not one of these people. I hate rape. I hate incest. If anyone were to hurt my mom or my sister in such a way I would be enraged. When rape or incest is committed, the perpetrator must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. That said, a second horrendous crime does not make right an initial horrendous crime. Once conception occurs, no matter the cause, we are now dealing with two humans, two living people. We ought to vigorously work to care for women physically, emotionally, and spiritually when they experience such a crime against their person. The child must also be cared for, for the child is just as full a human as the mom. Many women will not emotionally be able to cope with raising a child following a rape. If such is the case, adoption services should be made readily available to her. That said, many women will find great joy and healing through the beautiful life that emerges from such a dark and tragic experience.
What if the mother’s life is at risk? Again, my answer is dictated by my factually based understanding that human life begins at conception, and thus there is a human baby in the mother’s womb. If one day I am blessed to be married and have kids, my wife and I would both lay down our lives to save the life of any one of them. I believe this is part of the job God would give me as a parent. I will love my wife, and weep if she were to die. But whether our child is 6 years old or has only been alive in my wife’s womb for 6 days, my wife will not need me to tell her. She will willingly and joyfully lay her life down for her child. Parents sacrifice life for their kids, not the other way around.
There is such a thing as an ectopic pregnancy. Basically this means that when the child is just at the fertilized egg stage, the baby doesn’t make it into the uterus, but rather is lodged in a fallopian tube. Just as I cannot survive on the moon without a space suit, tragically the child cannot grow and live in such an environment. There is no way for the child to live. The worst case scenario in an ectopic pregnancy is that the baby grows enough to rupture the fallopian tube and causes the mom to bleed out. In this case and this case only would I be in support of what is technically an abortion. It would crush me as a dad. But my guiding principle is that God creates human life, in his image, and thus it is magnificently valuable. That situation is awful. My two options are: 1. my wife and my kid die 2. my kid dies. That is a no win. But I would act to preserve life as much as possible.
So, in summation, I believe life begins at conception and I would be in favor of “abortion” in the case of an ectopic pregnancy.
As an ending note, there is forgiveness for all moms, dads, and even doctors who have participated wrongfully in abortions if they repent of their sin and turn to Christ for salvation. They have murdered. But Christ was murdered on the cross so that anyone, no matter what they’ve done, who repents and believes in him, giving their life to him as their Savior and King, can be forgiven and cleansed of all unrighteousness.