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Understanding Abortion: A Thoughtful Analysis, Part 1

From the series Culture Shock

Regardless of where you stand on the topic, abortion is one of the most controversial, pivotal, and emotionally charged issues of our day. Chip takes the emotion out of the debate, and looks at understanding abortion from both the pro-abortion and pro-life sides of the issue.

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It’s near quitting time, you’re at your office and you’re packing some things up and there’s a light tap on the door. It’s Debbie. She’s twenty-nine years old, she’s an up and coming executive. She’s on the fast-track, huge potential. And she asks just before you leave, “Could I, can I get a moment? I need to ask you something.”

You stop unpacking, go to your desk, invite her to sit down. And the second that she needs ends up forty-five minutes. Debbie begins, through tears, to talk about the man that she thought was going to be the answer to her dreams that was in her life and is now gone and she’s three months pregnant.

And she’s on the fast-track and she doesn’t know what to do. And she turns to you and says, “I know you’re a good person. And you’re my boss. What should I do?” What would you tell her? And why would you say that?

Scene number two: you sit down to eat dinner and, wow, the day is over, it’s great, the phone rings, you look down, you press the button, you’re not going to take it right now. And within seconds a text pops up and it says, “Amy – I really need to talk to you tonight.” Amy, wow.

It’s a sixteen year old girl that you’ve known her since she’s four or five years old, great family friends, you vacation with their family. You’ve seen her grow up and be this amazing student. She has a volleyball scholarship ahead of her. And she said, “I just gotta talk to you.”

She comes after dinner and you go into the study and close the door and spend some time and she relives that moment that she was so excited about three months ago when that guy that is so popular and so cool asked her to go to the prom. And the dream of going out with that super good looking guy turned into the nightmare of her life. And she became a statistic of date rape.

But she felt so overwhelmed and so ashamed and didn’t know how to handle it she just shut it down. She has told no one, not her mom, not her dad, not her sister, not a girlfriend. But you’ve been in the high school ministry and a family friend and you’re safe.

And with tears flowing down her eyes she goes, “What can I do? I mean this will ruin my parents’ reputation. My dad is a leader at the church. My mom teaches women’s Bible studies.” What would you tell her? Why?

Scene number three is June. She’s forty-one years old. You really like her, she’s real rough around the edges. She’s been a Christian about eighteen months. She doesn’t know the social graces of when to talk about what. She’s a little bit loud. She has four kids, comes from a difficult, drug background, has four kids by two different guys.

But it’s so exciting to see what’s happened to her life and she’s really changed and she’s growing and she’s got a great job now and supporting the kids by herself.

And she pulls you in the hall and people are listening and you know this is inappropriate and she goes, “Look, I gotta ask you a question. You remember my husband when he came back, I tried to work it out, and then he left, and he left for good? While he was here … I found out just yesterday I’m pregnant, and I’ve got four kids, and I can’t miss a day of work, and I sure can’t handle five. You’ve been a Christian a lot longer than me. What should I do and why?”

Regardless of where you find yourself landing on the issue of abortion it’s one of the most pivotal, volatile issues in America today.

And it’s an issue that just isn’t out there. It’s not like this is a theological issue. We’re going to address sixty-five percent of all women who have abortions self-identify as Christians. This is what happens inside of all kinds of churches. So what would you say to that person? Not just what do you think but what do you believe and why?

When this topic comes up, usually it’s like missiles being fired at two different groups. I mean there’s heat, heat, heat, heat, anger, often violence. And so we’re going to take a little bit different approach and lean back and do a thoughtful analysis.

We’re going to look at some research. We’re going to look at what Planned Parenthood says and what the Right to Life groups say and we’re going to evaluate where they’ve been, where they are now, look at the evidence.

Because I’ll guarantee, in the next few years, either you’ll have an experience where you’ll need to know the answer to those questions or someone will ask you or you’ve already had one where you really need to know, “Where’s God in all of this?”

So open your teaching handout if you will and to begin I want to frame the issue. And as I frame it, it’s very interesting; I need to do sort of the then and a now. Because if you don’t get the history it won’t make sense to you.

Ten, twelve years ago the issue of abortion, when you looked at Planned Parenthood’s information or Right to Life information it was very, very clear, the issue was very clearly addressed.

Planned Parenthood, this is from their literature, basically had three premises. Premise number one: as you read the literature they talked very little about the pregnancy, they did not use the word “baby,” the focus was on the mother, her rights, her feelings, her needs, the quality of her life, and the unborn fetus. Not baby.

Premise number two was the anguish she was going through, the pain, the numerous reasons why an abortion was a live option for her. And then third: the basic reasoning was the “who” of the mother versus the “what” of the fetus and the fetus was a mass of tissue, an appendix, if you will, and it’s not different than getting your literal appendix out or a wisdom tooth. And who’s to tell a woman what to do with her body?

That was the Planned Parenthood statements of ten to twelve years ago.

The Right to Life position, on the other hand, was very simple. This group believes that life begins at conception. The developing fetus is a full-fledged human being. It’s just not fully developed.

And so at conception the Y and X chromosomes come together and a human being will never get any more, it will just develop more, and more, and more and so, in essence, the conclusion is very simple. To kill a human being would just be the legalization of murder.

So that was ten or twelve years ago. So the issue became this, the core issue became: is the fetus a human being, just not fully developed human being, or is it a mass of tissue, not unlike some other parts of a woman’s body, that she should have every right to do with as she pleases?

Now that was the core, in fact, I have a statement here from Planned Parenthood that specifically states, “To call the fetus a human being is arrogant and absurd.” So that was then. And you need to know the history because what you need to understand is that times have changed.

Technology has transformed the argument completely. It used to be, when you got a sonogram, a lot of you ladies have seen those and guys you’ve seen those, and they were black and white, kind of grainy, and you could see a little baby moving in there and something.

But technology moved up to 4D. It’s no longer there is a baby that you can feel and you can see and moving and arms and legs. You now have, with technology, a photograph of your child. It’s very clear. Eighty-five percent of all women who see this picture when they have an unplanned pregnancy decide to keep the baby.

This is not a fetus. This is a baby.

So the argument, then, began to shift. Let me give you a read from Planned Parenthood. “The pro-abortion position now is that we all have many important decisions to make in life. What to do about an unplanned pregnancy is an important and common decision faced by women.

In fact, about half of all the women in the United States will have an unplanned pregnancy at some point in their lives. About four out of ten women with an unplanned pregnancy decide to have abortions. Overall more than one out of three of all US women will have an abortion by the time they are forty-five years old.”

So when you read Planned Parenthood’s information now it is no longer “fetus,” they talk about a baby, they talk about a pre-born baby, and so the message is: This is the new normal. It’s unfortunate. We wish there weren’t so many abortions but for very specific reasons we need to keep this as a real option.

And so it will go on to say, then, that the real issue in abortion is simply a matter of timing, viability, and what method that you use.

Interesting, the Guttmacher Institute is the national and international authority on abortion research and status and statistics and so this is how they frame, listen very carefully, this is the messaging of Planned Parenthood.

It says, “The reasons women give for having an abortion underscore their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life.” So in other words, it’s being responsible and understanding the impact.

So three out of four women site their concern for taking care of another person in the family as a reason to abort the baby. Three fourths state that they can’t afford another child, three fourths state that it would interfere with their work, their school, or their ability to care for a dependent. And over half say that this abortion is necessary because they do not want to be a single parent because they’re either unmarried or have conflict with their husband or wife.

Now with that, then, what I want you to do is take a deep breath and I want to reframe, this is the abortion debate today. And I’m going to walk through this and I’m going to use Planned Parenthood’s actual material, I’ll use Right to Life material, we will look at some medical evidence, we’ll look at the history of abortion, which probably will really surprise you. We’ll look at what God says from Scripture.

Because here’s what you’ve gotta understand. Those three stories that I gave, the names were changed to protect the identities of those people. That’s real.

If you haven’t already been faced with that you will be. And you will need to have an answer that’s not what someone else thinks, not what someone else believes. This is a real issue, a core issue of life for all people but especially followers of Christ.

Since 1973, this real issue, fifty million, not fetuses, pre-born babies have been killed. Fifty million people. Both Planned Parenthood and Right to Life would agree these are pre-born babies.

And it’s not just some number or statistic that’s why this is important to talk about, this is real.

Last night, and I don’t know how God works this but it was just before the service and I was walking up that aisle. And as I walk up the aisle a guy stopped me and said, “I just want to say something. I’ve looked at the notes, I see what you’re going to speak on tonight.” He came pretty early, was sitting next to his wife.

He says, “If I get up and leave I just want you to know it’s not you.” I said, “Well, what do you mean?” He goes, “Well my mother was fourteen years old when she was pregnant with me and her entire family and everyone wanted her to abort me. And this fourteen year old was just like a crusader who refused to have me aborted. And every time this subject comes up…” and he just started to cry. He goes, “It is so emotional for me.”

And what I want you to get, this isn’t about statistics or numbers or theories or political views. This is about life. And then it was very interesting, his wife sitting next to him, she said, “Well I’m sure glad she did because I don’t know where I’d be without him.”

And all I want you to know is you listen as we weigh the evidence, as you evaluate how you would answer that question. It’s easy to answer it hypothetically. It’s real different when it gets down to a real life situation.

And so with that let’s look at the issue. The issue today is that does the pre-born baby have an inalienable right to live, under any circumstances, or does the mother have the right to terminate her pregnancy to care for her family and her welfare, both present and future?

The Right to Life position hasn’t changed. If the pre-born baby is human life then it’s inconceivable to take the life of an innocent human being. It amounts to murder.

The pro-abortion position has changed. If a pre-born baby negatively impacts the mother’s mental or physical health, or that of the welfare of her family or future, then safe, legal, abortive options must be kept available to that woman.

So all I want you to do is realize these are polar opposite views that people are deeply passionate about. Often so passionate they’ve not only been vocal but violent with one another.

And we need to understand what’s the evidence? What’s the medical evidence when you look at this? What’s the historical evidence and then what’s the biblical evidence?

Let me go through and give you a little medical evidence or background on what happens inside of a woman as she’s pregnant. The heart begins to beat between the eighteenth and the twenty-fifth day after conception. Brain waves have been recorded as early as forty-five days.

The baby’s movements can be felt by the mother as early as six weeks or forty-two days. At eight weeks the baby possesses the fingerprints that it will have the rest of its life. All the bodily functions, all the systems are present by eight weeks and they’re functioning by eleven weeks. And at eleven to twelve weeks a baby can suck its thumb.

So there’s the medical evidence - what exactly has happened in those early weeks up to eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve weeks.

Now interestingly, someone did an evaluation. Harvard Medical School has a criteria for, “How do you know when someone is dead?” Right? I mean, how do you know for sure when someone is dead?

So Harvard Medical School has four criteria to determine whether someone is dead. And so I’ll give those to you and then what I want to show you is that if you reverse those it tells you something about when someone is actually alive in the womb.

According to Harvard Medical School, the four criteria are, one: no response to external stimuli. In other words they don’t respond to pain. Two: no spontaneous movements or respiratory efforts. Three: no deep reflexes. And four: no brain activity by a flat electroencephalogram.


If you would say to someone, based on that criteria and did not tell them the age of a pre-born baby at eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve weeks, they would say, “It’s alive. This is a human being.” Fully human just not fully developed.

So there’s the medical evidence. We’re not disagreeing on this anymore.

Historically then. What’s the background on abortion? You might think that, like I did, several years ago the first time I ever heard the word “abortion” I have a sister who is a nurse and I think I was a senior in high school.

I’d never heard the word and she said something about it and it was right around the Roe versus Wade and all of that. I graduated from high school in 1972 and so ’73 maybe I was a freshman in college or so.

And she gave me all this information and I did not know what she was talking about. Later, like you, I’ve seen what’s happened in America and so I thought abortion is this big issue in America right now.


Three different eras of abortion. The first is the Greco-Roman world. Okay? Aristotle, Plato, all the way up through the first three hundred years of the Church. Abortion and infanticide were just normal. It’s just the way it is.

And so they had, there was a time of quickening - a woman could feel a baby - and they said that if you could feel the baby and it was thought to be a girl, you could kill the child forty days and under. If it was a boy you needed to wait until ninety days.

So what you’re going to find about the whole abortion issue, it’s been exploiting women from all the way back to ancient civilization.

If you would take a brand new baby that’s born, similar to like in China today, you could take that baby to the father in the Roman world and if it was a girl instead of a boy, often it would be automatically killed.

If there was some defect for any reason or the father just didn’t want it he had absolute legal right to kill the child, both in or outside the womb.

So what changed? What changed was something called the Church was birthed. And the sacredness of life. And it took a few hundred years but three hundred years later you find that abortion is almost completely eliminated. It becomes a moral code that because of the Church’s stand on life.

In fact, right after the apostles, there are the Church fathers and writings, the Didache, and they passionately argue for the sanctity of human life at every level, post and before a child was born.

Well, for about fifteen hundred years you don’t have much to say about abortion. I’m sure there were some done secretly or illegally but it was never mainstream at all until, are you ready for this? The next time abortion gains huge popularity is in the middle of the 1800s in America.

1840 was like a super promiscuous era in the life of America. Most women before that time averaged about seven children, large families. Fifty years later they’re averaging 3.5 children by the turn of the twentieth century.

What, if you get a magazine, the New York Gazette at the time, had page after page after page of advertisements for abortions. They predict as many as a fifth to one third of all babies were aborted.

So what stopped abortion then? Two unusual groups. One, the American Medical Association, which was just developing. And the early feminist movement. The doctors realized they were getting these women who had been through these abortions, and think of the technology or lack of it that they had then, and half of the children that they were delivering so there was economic reasons and professional and moral reasons.

So the AMA came and then it was a time of huge promiscuity in our country. And so as is today, men were covering their tracks or women were covering their tracks of promiscuity, and so abortion was basically birth control.

Those two groups came together and by the turn of the century there were laws on the books where there was absolutely no abortion in America.

It was about 1967 to 1969 there was a sense that there was a need for therapeutic abortions, in other words, if there was a case where maybe the child versus the mother’s life… and so they argued for a law to allow therapeutic abortions.

Well you turn very quickly, that moves to the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade and we now have the last multiple years with about fifty million pre-born babies that have died. So that’s the history.

It’s kind of interesting to me I had no idea. I didn’t know, this year in the world, forty-four million pre-born babies will be aborted, globally. Globally.

We’re an interesting species that is destroying itself. Now, this final era has added a new twist, at least for me, I just learned this two weeks ago. There is yet another group that has become pro-life, at least a portion of it.

This is Elisabeth Cornwell, she’s the executive director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation. Does that ring a bell? Richard Dawkins? The famous atheist? She says, “There’s a war on the womb. As a secular pro-lifer, I believe my case is scientifically and philosophically sound. Science concedes that human life begins at fertilization and it follows that abortion is ageism and discrimination against a member of our own species.”

So we now have atheists who are pro-life. In fact, the late Christopher Hitchens when asked, “Are you pro-life?” said affirmatively, “Yes.” He repeatedly defended using the term “unborn child” against those, these are his words, on the left who say an aborted fetus is nothing more than a growth, an appendix, or a polyp. “Unborn child seems to me to be a real concept. It’s not a growth,” he says, “you can’t say that the issue of rights don’t come into question.”

Now, I don’t know about you but when atheists are pro-life, and they’re adamant that it has nothing to do with God, they’re adamant it has nothing to do with religion, in fact, they have harsh words to say why they think religious people are pro-life.

But what they’re saying, logically, is how could a species kill itself? How do you remove fifty million people? I mean, a part of you wonders… you know, as I met that man it just struck me last night. He’s forty-eight years old and you think about what if his, whoo, life wasn’t there?

Well then that wife wouldn’t be there and if the wife wouldn’t be there then their kids wouldn’t be there and if their kids wouldn’t be there then…

You know, you start doing the dominos and you start thinking, “Whoo.” This is, in all likelihood the most important moral issue, not just of our day, but in all history.