One Imagine that one of the Old Testament prophets was to suddenly emerge in Britain today, and begin thundering down God’s judgement on our society. What would be their first target?
Sadly, there are many possibilities but I would be very surprised if it was anything other than abortion. Now I know it’s not a popular subject to talk about – there’s almost a conspiracy of silence about it – but the figures are dramatic and troubling. Currently, around 185,000 abortions a year are performed in England and Wales. Since the passing of the Abortion Act in England and Wales fifty years ago, 8.7 million abortions have occurred. That’s 8,700,000 lives rich in endless possibility that have gone unlived. Now there are a range of views on abortion but, however you view it, this is too many lost lives. Far, far too many. What was once promoted as a last resort for doctors has now become little more than a brutal form of retroactive contraception.
The current status of abortion in the UK is a fourfold offence.
It’s an offence against the unborn child. We live at a time when it is fashionable to stand up for living things and to express angry concern about factory farming, the wearing of fur and the hunting of birds and beasts. All well and good but why do we overlook the wholesale killing of creatures with moving limbs, beating hearts and consciousness, who have the potential to be as human as us? It’s easy to consider ourselves good with a selective conscience where we stand up for what is right in some areas but fail miserably in others. Yet goodness is like a tyre: it takes only one puncture to deflate it. It’s hard to claim that you are any sort of moral being if you turn a blind eye to lethal assaults conducted against the weakest in our world.
It’s an offence against women. Oh yes, abortion is marketed – and it is marketed – as a ‘woman’s right to choose’ but it is the woman who almost entirely bears the burden of terminating a pregnancy. Abortion becomes the convenient male get out. ‘Of course,’ he murmurs, ‘I leave the choice up to you . . . it’s your decision. I’ll let you take the responsibility.’ And where sex-selective abortion is practised, guess which gender gets terminated most? You could argue that abortion with such a goal is the most brutal act of violence against women in existence: in an ugly word for an ugly act, it is gendercide.
It’s an offence against reason. The law in England and Wales allows abortion up to the twenty-fourth week of pregnancy but medical advances mean that there is now a 50 per cent survival rate of babies of that age. So we can have the outrageous situation that while in one operating theatre every effort is being made to keep alive a twenty-three-week-old baby, in the one next door an unborn infant of the same age is being killed.
Finally, it’s an offence against God. The Bible is clear that we are made in the image of God and as a result every human life has value. We are God’s, from conception to the moment of death and beyond. He is our maker and we are his handiwork. As it says in Psalm 139 (NIV): ‘For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.’ The way that we choose to dispose of our unborn offspring as if they were no more than some unwanted growth of tissue, is a defiant rejection of God’s claim over us. In abortion, we arrogantly set ourselves up against God as the lords of life. Yet God is not mocked and neither are his laws, and sometimes he doesn’t so much judge us as stand back while we bring judgement down on ourselves. A society that considers the unborn to be disposable, undercuts the value of every human being. In a culture that treats those yet to be born as rubbish, it’s hardly surprising that so many people feel that they are worthless. Do you feel disposable? Abortion says that’s exactly what you are. Just be glad your mum wanted you.
It’s tempting to ignore the horror that is abortion but we mustn’t. May I suggest three guides for our response?
First, we should resist firmly. There is enormous pressure for us simply to agree to the status quo on abortion; indeed to allow the further loosening of the already weak legislation. It must not happen. We may have lost battles here but the war is not over.
Second, we should instruct truthfully. A tissue of lies, cosy words and convenient euphemisms has been allowed to cover the subject. We need to graciously but firmly declare the facts. There are excellent resources available from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (spuc.org.uk) and the ProLife alliance (prolife.org.uk). For those who want informed medical opinion, the Christian Medical Fellowship has a compilation of articles and videos at http://www.cmf.org.uk/advocacy/early-life/abortion/.
Finally, we should act wisely. In our actions, we should be careful that we do not pile blame on those women who have been pressured, often against their better judgement, into abortions. They no doubt already hurt enough. We should, too, not simply condemn the termination of pregnancy but be prepared to offer alternatives: adoption beats abortion every time.
Yet I should warn you that to stand up for the unborn will bring you into conflict with an ugly and unholy alliance between those who wave the banner of ‘pro-choice’ and the readily available tax-payer funded NHS. It’s a powerful and ruthless combination and you can expect scorn and ridicule. But what nobler – and more Christian – action can there be than to stand up for the smallest and most vulnerable members of our society? I know what the prophets would say and I have a pretty good idea of what they would do.
Revd Canon J.John and Killy John
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