When Does Life Begin?
When Does Life Begin?
Since the US Supreme Court decision to reverse Roe v. Wade three weeks ago the issue of Abortion is back on the table and rightly so. At the heart of this conversation/debate I believe, is not the mothers rights (pro-choice) vs the babies rights (pro-life) but rather being clear as to when life begins. The key issue seems to me to be a moral and theological one. It concerns the nature of the fetus (fetus is Latin for offspring). How are we to think of the embryo in the mother's womb? It is our evaluation of the fetus which will largely determine our attitude to abortion.
Christians the world over, both Protestant and Catholic by and large agree that life begins at conception. This view is informed by theologians, ethicists, doctors and scientists1. For example two weeks ago I asked esix Christian doctors this very question. All six said, life begins at conception. Further, because of this fact they would not refer a patient for an abortion. Instead they would refer their patient to a doctor who will.
Dr Ben Carson (former Paediatric Neurosurgeon), responded to this question in a TV interview with Tony Perkins at the Washington Watch on the 28th June 2022. It is a very clear, succinct and compelling response. Its 15 minutes long-please take the time to watch this.
A quote from the NZ Catholic Bishops on this issue under the heading ‘The Unborn Life’.
“It is providential that just when the attack on the unborn child's right to life is gathering momentum, recent scientific research is able to illustrate so clearly that the foetus is new, separate, alive and human; a real person, endowed with all the inalienable human rights, but so very vulnerable. Modern technology has brought this home to thousands of ordinary, non-scientific people. Through new techniques of colour photography people are seeing for themselves the development of the human individual following conception. They see the unborn child's own separate response to the stimulus of light and sound, and of pain and discomfort”.
Both David (Psalm 139:13-16) and Jeremiah (1:5), who as we know, didn’t write as doctors but certainly wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, both talked about the unborn child (in both cases about themselves) as a person, a unique individual with their own soul and who were known by God before they were born.
So for me I have come to the rock solid conviction that life begins at conception and that conception in in fact a profound ‘miracle’. And further, because it is a life that God has created it is by definition sacred.
That said. I do want to close with an urgent appeal to all my brothers and sisters who hold to a pro-life position. As pro-lifers we must be more than just ‘pro-birth’. Pro-life is a broad category and includes such things as supporting pregnancy centres, involvement in foster care, advocating for adoption reforms, supporting a liveable wage (as a minimum), equal wages for equal work, supporting all legislation that reduces alcohol harm, generous refugee policies, and yes gun control measures etc. On a more controversial note being pro-life is also urging unmarried yet sexually active people (when a case for abstinence has failed) to take a reliable birth control (contraceptive) measure. That means use a condom or take the pill. And that is a pastoral/ethical dilemma for sure.
I welcome your comments and feedback.
Here are some other resources I have found helpful:
- John Stott in Issues Facing Christians today. Chapter 6
- Karen Swallow Prior (with Joshua Chatraw) in Cultural Engagement. Chapter 14
Unplanned by Abby Johnson. Book and Film.
- Five NZ Doctors answer to the question-when does life begin? Contact me or Liz for pdf. Liz.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Life Institute
- The Christian Institute - 47 Page Article
- Voice for Life NZ
- Family First Video.