Introduction: Our church passionately and unapologetically preaches the gospel in an open-air fashion, prays, and performs sidewalk counseling outside a local abortion clinic two to three times monthly. While we believe that graphic images of aborted human persons have their place in anti-abortion outreach, education, and ministry, we have not decided to use such measures to deter people from murdering their pre-born children because such measures, while effective, do not immediately answer to the source of the outward societal problem of abortion, an outward problem which serves as the symptom of the foundational problem, namely, a cold, God-hating, unregenerate heart. Thus, while we truly appreciate many of our dear brothers and sisters in the Lord who use graphic images of aborted human persons as a means to stop abortion, we believe that the gospel (not graphic images) is the power of God unto salvation, and if you have an opportunity to preach the gospel in the hearing of murderous people, then that is always the primary means by which you should seek to stop the atrocity of abortion (Rom. 1:16).
As you can imagine, preaching the gospel outside of one of our local clinics has created no small stir since unregenerate people naturally hate the offensive message of the cross. We try to go out of our way to not add to the offensiveness of the cross by being courteous, loving, and respectful to those going in and out of the clinic. We never block traffic into the clinic, whether by foot or car. We always seek to greet these troubled sinners with a smile and remind them that we are there because we love them and that we are very concerned about their situation. I cannot emphasize it enough that we go out of our way to avoid being personally offensive. As a matter of fact, we always try to figure out a way to quickly let these abortive mothers, fathers, doctors, and clinic workers know that we truly love them and that our love for them is the great motivation for us being there (Matthew 22:39). We self-sacrificially love those who are killing their pre-born children to such an extent, that if necessary, we are willing to suffer the consequences associated with persecution in order to bring the gospel to them (i.e., legal repercussions such as jail time, court fines, physical harm, etc.). We also desire to help them not only in word but also in deed through our willingness to provide food, clothing, and shelter for them if necessary and we also offer to adopt their baby should they be unable or unwilling to care for it (James 1:27). The bottom line is that we must obey God rather than men and we love lost sinners enough to bring the gospel to them even if it costs us physically or financially (Acts 4:18-20; 5:27-29).
Discussion: During our Saturday morning outreach at a local abortion clinic in the Summer of 2008, a man angrily shouted at me, “My wife has a 90% chance of dying if we don’t have this abortion” to which I immediately responded, “Sir, that still doesn’t justify having an abortion!” When I got home later that morning, providentially, I was sent an e-mail link to an excellent article written by the evangelical and Calvinistic Christian Philosopher Doug Groothuis titled “Recovering from Fetus Fatigue”. Dr. Groothuis said something in his article that caught my attention immediately: “The vast majority of these abortions were not done to save the life of the mother, a provision I take to be justified.” Since he didn’t specify in his article, I do not know whether Dr. Groothuis is speaking of elective, 2nd and 3rd trimester late-term abortions to save the mother’s life (which the church has always historically opposed), or of ectopic tubular pregnancies, molar (abdominal) pregnancies, and other similar situations. Dr. Groothuis’s statement encouraged me to write about this particular issue in some detail, starting with a discussion about the common justifications of abortion to save the life of the mother that depend upon explaining the differences between elective and medical abortions. This view says that with any type of elective abortion, the murder of the child is intentional and premeditated. With a medical abortion however, the loss of the child’s life is unintentional and always unavoidable and usually occurs when the intention is to save the life of the mother. According to this view, there is an ethical difference between the two that is based upon the intention of the person having the medical procedure. Is the procedure designed to kill the child for the sake of the mother or is it designed to save the mother with the unintended and unavoidable result that the child dies? For example, with tubal ectopic pregnancies it is often argued that there is a 100% certainty that the embryo will die and should the pregnancy remain viable and allowed to continue growing, there is a high probability that it will kill the mother as well due to a ruptured fallopian tube with subsequent internal hemorrhaging. Many pro-life supporters take this type of situation to be the only ethical justification for having what could rightly be deemed a medical abortion. In their well-written position statement titled “Are There Rare Cases When an Abortion Is Justified?”, the Association of Pro-Life Physicians essentially confirms this position when it states the following regarding tubular ectopic pregnancies,
The abortion exception for the life of the mother is the exception that most commonly seduces the sincere pro-lifer. The scenario in which this exception is most frequently packaged is an ectopic pregnancy, which is when the embryo attaches somewhere inside the mother’s body in a place other than the inner lining of the uterus. It is argued that in an ectopic pregnancy, an abortion must be performed in order to save the mother’s life.So, we read from this group of pro-life physicians that the life of the baby in the case of the tubular pregnancy will usually die on its own, the situation will spontaneously resolve, and so in most cases will not need chemical or surgical interventions. However, if such an abortion is suggested and the unborn is still alive, before the surgery is performed the following question needs to be asked: What is the unborn? Scripture and medical science affirms that a human person begins at the moment of fertilization and an act of taking that life of that unborn human person constitutes murder, whether the pregnancy is ectopic or not. Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Although the subject of this verse is not the beginning of human personhood at the moment of conception/fertilization per se, King David assumes such by using the first person singular pronouns “I”, and “my” to refer to himself as a fully constituted human person existing in his mother’s womb from the moment of conception/fertilization. David says later in Psalm 139:13-16,
What is rarely realized is that there are several cases in the medical literature where abdominal ectopic pregnancies have survived! There are no cases of ectopic pregnancies in a fallopian tube surviving, but several large studies have confirmed that time and patience will allow for spontaneous regression of the tubal ectopic pregnancy the vast majority of the time. So chemical or surgical removal of an ectopic pregnancy is not always necessary to save the mother’s life after all.
However, if through careful follow-up it is determined that the ectopic pregnancy does not spontaneously resolve and the mother’s symptoms worsen, surgery may become necessary to save the mother’s life. The procedure to remove the ectopic pregnancy may not kill the unborn child at all, because the unborn child has likely already deceased by the time surgery because necessary. But even if not, the procedure is necessary to save the mother’s life, and the death of the unborn baby is unavoidable and unintentional.
A chemical abortion with a medicine called methotrexate is often recommended by physicians to patients with early tubal ectopic pregnancies, when the baby may still be alive, to decrease the chances of a surgical alternative being necessary later, but we have found this to be an unnecessary risk to human life. We offer the following true case to demonstrate this point.
One patient was diagnosed with a tubal ectopic pregnancy by her obstetrician, and he informed her that they were fortunate to have made the diagnosis early and that she should have a methotrexate abortion. The patient was pro-life, and did not want to take the medicine, but the physician insisted. The baby was not going to survive, he argued, and a chemical abortion now could prevent the need for a surgical procedure later. The chemical abortion would lessen her chances of a rupture of her fallopian tube and subsequent life-threatening hemorrhage. The chemical abortion was also better at preserving future fertility than surgical removal of the ectopic pregnancy later.
Feeling like she had no other reasonable alternative, she took the methotrexate. However, there was a complication. Two weeks later, she still had vaginal bleeding and pelvic discomfort. A repeat ultrasound confirmed the physician’s worst fears: his patient was pregnant with twins - one in the fallopian tube, and one in the uterus! He missed the uterine pregnancy in his ultrasound examination, and that baby was dying from his prescription. Holding off surgery and watchful waiting in this case might have resulted in spontaneous resolution of the tubal pregnancy or would have required surgical removal of the tubal pregnancy when the embryo was likely to be dead, but in both cases the uterine pregnancy would probably have survived. Unfortunately, the chemical abortion killed both babies, much to the dismay of this young pro-life woman.
It is only ethical to remove the tubal pregnancy if spontaneous resolution does not occur after watchful waiting and if the physician is 100% certain that there are no twins. At this point, the embryo in the fallopian tube is likely to be dead and, even if not, the death is unavoidable and unintentional, and the procedure is necessary to save the life of the mother. In conclusion, there are no occasions in which the intentional killing of the pre-born child is justified. Scientific fact and divine law are clear: life begins at conception, and there are no exceptions to the prohibition of intentionally killing an innocent human being. We must stand true to these foundational principles through every emotional appeal and in every tragic scenario if we are to have any principles at all for which to stand.
For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.
The mother and her unborn child were protected under Old Testament Law, thus indicating their equal worth before God as His image bearers,
If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman's husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. 23 "But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot . . . Exodus 21:22-24When he wrote the God-breathed book of Matthew, the apostle recognized that Jesus was fully constituted as a human person before His birth,
“But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’” [Matthew 1:20-21]When he wrote the God-breathed book of Galatians, Paul the apostle recognized that he was fully constituted as a human person before he was born when he said, “But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood.” [Galatians 1:15-16]
There are many other Scriptures that I could turn to in order to demonstrate that the Bible assumes the personhood of the unborn from the moment of conception/fertilization onward, but before we move on with our argument, we first need to present a few medical facts about the embryo.
Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoon development) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.
A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).
Development begins with fertilization, the process by which the male gamete, the sperm, and the female gamete, the oocyte, unite to give rise to a zygote.Faye Wattleton, the former long-time president of the largest abortion provider in the world, Planned Parenthood, argued as far back as 1997 that well-informed pro-choice adherents already know that abortion kills people. She said so in an interview with Ms. Magazine:
[The zygote], formed by the union of an oocyte and a sperm, is the beginning of a new human being.
Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a ‘moment’) is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.
Human embryos begin development following the fusion of definitive male and female gametes during fertilization... This moment of zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic development.
Every baby begins life within the tiny globe of the mother’s egg... It is beautifully translucent and fragile and it encompasses the vital links in which life is carried from one generation to the next. Within this tiny sphere great events take place. When one of the father's sperm cells, like the ones gathered here around the egg, succeeds in penetrating the egg and becomes united with it, a new life can begin.
Biologically speaking, human development begins at fertilization.
The two cells gradually and gracefully become one. This is the moment of conception, when an individual's unique set of DNA is created, a human signature that never existed before and will never be repeated.
I think we have deluded ourselves into believing that people don't know that abortion is killing. So any pretense that abortion is not killing is a signal of our ambivalence, a signal that we cannot say yes, it kills a fetus.Naomi Wolf, a prominent feminist author and ardent pro-choice supporter, makes a similar admission when she writes:
Clinging to a rhetoric about abortion in which there is no life and no death, we entangle our beliefs in a series of self-delusions, fibs and evasions. And we risk becoming precisely what our critics charge us with being: callous, selfish and casually destructive men and women who share a cheapened view of human life...we need to contextualize the fight to defend abortion rights within a moral framework that admits that the death of a fetus is a real death.Pro-choice philosopher David Boonin makes this startling admission,
In the top drawer of my desk, I keep [a picture of my son]. This picture was taken on September 7, 1993, 24 weeks before he was born. The sonogram image is murky, but it reveals clear enough a small head tilted back slightly, and an arm raised up and bent, with the hand pointing back toward the face and the thumb extended out toward the mouth. There is no doubt in my mind that this picture, too, shows [my son] at a very early stage in his physical development. And there is no question that the position I defend in this book entails that it would have been morally permissible to end his life at this point.
Remember that our key question was: “What is the unborn?” According to the combined testimony of the Bible, standard medical embryology textbooks, and even the most ardent pro-choice supporters, from the moment of fertilization, the unborn is a fully constituted human person worthy of full recognition as an image bearer of God and such warrants our utmost care and protection. In light of this evidence, I want to offer the following logical argument:
Premise 1 - If the unborn is an innocent and defenseless human person, then abortion is murder.I realize that there are some very difficult medical circumstances that can make the above logical argument appear insensitive and unloving to the dire situation that the mother is in. Nevertheless, if we truly believe that (1) the mother and the unborn are both human persons that are of equal value and worth before God, and (2) we also believe that they both deserve equal protection under the law, and (3) we understand that God orchestrates all things by His perfect sovereign decree and that the unborn child is part of that perfect plan, then we cannot justify killing one innocent person in order to save the life of another innocent person unless the former consciously chooses to lay down his life for the latter. If you allow for abortion in some extreme circumstances where the mother is told by a physician that there is a high degree of certainty that she will die if she carries the pregnancy further than he recommends, then you are being inconsistent with your position on the unborn and you are giving in to a situation ethics mentality popularized by the atheist Joseph Fletcher. I have thought about this particular issue for quite some time and all of the various complexities that can arise from it and I have come to the conclusion that we simply cannot take the lives of innocent human persons under any circumstances whatsoever, whether those persons are 1 day old or 10,000 days old. If the intent is not to murder the child but to save the life of the mother then you hospitalize the mother until the baby is old enough to be removed via Ceasarean section and in so doing, both lives are maintained. If the situation is that of an ectopic (tubular) pregnancy, then we are still not justified in surgically removing (hence, killing) the unborn to save the life of the mother even if the physicians have stated that the death of the child is inevitable and unavoidable and the mother has a high probability of death herself due to internal hemorrhaging should the pregnancy continue to grow so as to rupture the fallopian tube. For the Christian, God has sovereignly orchestrated all events for His glory and the good of His people, including things like ectopic pregnancies [Psalm 135:6; Romans 11:33-36]. The Christian mother should be carefully monitored by a Christian physician for fallopian tube rupture and emergency surgery should it ever be warranted; but all the while it must be emphasized that according to Scripture, we are never justified in taking the life of the innocent unborn human person, no matter how difficult the situation may be [1 Corinthians 10:13].
Premise 2 - Taking the life of an innocent and defenseless human person in order to save the life of another innocent human person is unjustified and constitutes murder.
Premise 3 - According to the Bible and medical science, the living unborn is an innocent and defenseless human person.
Conclusion - Therefore, abortion performed to save the life of the mother constitutes murder.
Insofar as 2nd and 3rd trimester uterine pregnancies are concerned, I have sought to read and access the best material dealing with answering the question of what to do when the life of the mother is threatened by the continuing life of the middle to late-term pre-born child. As a result of my own studies, I can find no biblical or consistently logical reason to use the life of the mother as an excuse to justify having an abortion. I completely understand that given our immersion into the American cultural milieu of democracy, that “personal rights”, “autonomy”, and “choice” are the supreme ideals that trump all others and that as a result, there are many reading this article who will not agree with my conclusions. However, if you hold that the murder of a late-term, pre-born child is justified in order to preserve the life of the mother, then I challenge you to take your conclusions to their logical end, and seek to develop a Biblically consistent answer to this question from the laws of Scripture and not from man’s oft tainted and unbiblical theories. With all due respect, this position assumes (1) that the life of the mother is inherently more valuable than the life of the pre-born child, and (2) that this type of abortion is justified because it is a type of medical “self-defense” for the mother since her life is being physically threatened by the pre-born child. Thus, this type of logic teaches that aborting a 2nd to 3rd trimester pre-born child is absolutely necessary to save the life of the mother so as to promote the greater good and well-being of the mother and the rest of the family.
The refutation for (1) is that if some people’s lives are more valuable than others, then it follows that the criteria for determining who is inherently more valuable than anybody else is ultimately determined by man and not God. Thus, the criteria for determining who gets to live or not is usually rooted in the size of the person in question, the level of development of the person, the location/environment of the person, and/or the degree of dependency of said person(s). We will briefly examine each of these proposed criteria, and then offer a brief refutation.
Size: If a person is more valuable and worthy of protection because they are larger or smaller than others, then why should we stop with pre-born children? Why not protect the lives of those adults who are smaller in stature because they generally eat less, have less medical problems, and as a result, are less of a drain on
Level of Development: If people are more valuable than others because of their level of development, why not rid the world of all geriatric patients since, in general, they are a greater socioeconomic burden upon American families and the healthcare system and also are usually non-productive consumers of society versus contributing to it due to their level of human development? After all, it sure is expensive, inconvenient, and takes a lot of work to actually honor your 84 year old mom and dad by cleaning their house, mowing their lawn, taking them to their doctor's appointments and praying for them when they are in a coma or on a respirator. It is terribly expensive for tax-payers to fund granny’s respirator services while she’s in a coma via the Medicare system. Why not just automatically create a mandatory termination date for all people at or beyond a certain age/level of development since they can't contribute to society but are actually a burden to it? It sure would be more "economical", "convenient", and "safe".
Environment: If we can legally murder a pre-born child because it is located in its mother's womb and threatens her continued existence, then we are surely justified in murdering others because of their location. After all, why not kill all the German Jews during WWII because they threatened the well-being of the German economy and society due to their location in that nation?
Degree of Dependency: If we say that it we are justified in sacrificing the life of the child in order to save the life of the mother because the family is obviously more dependent upon the mother than the pre-born child, then we can also say that we are justified in taking the life of granny since the time and money I'll spend on her is obviously better utilized caring for the immediate needs of myself and my family.
As you can see in all the arguments above, the choice is ultimately left to man's opinion as to what constitutes a “right to live”. This is autonomy, something that is at the root of all sin because it questions God's authority from the start and considers the opinions and theories of man to be justified in and of themselves apart from reference to God and usually in direct opposition to God (cf. Gen. 3:1).
The refutation for (2) is that if self-defense is the justification for taking the life of the pre-born child, then paramedics are justified in killing one dying patient in a car wreck by cutting them in half in order to get to and render care to the other dying patient who is trapped below them in the badly mangled wreckage, especially since it is warranted in this case to use lethal measures to take the life of the one in order to preserve the life of the other. After all, if you don't kill the one the other won't live and then you'll potentially have two deaths to deal with instead of one. So, “the greater good” of situation ethics would dictate that you kill the one in order to defensively save the life of the other versus having both dead. No secular paramedic worth his weight in salt would ever consider killing one patient in order to save another. Instead, he would follow ethical protocol and seek to save both lives, regardless of the outcome. Why does the Christian’s inconsistent ethic seem worse than the secular ethic of the paramedic? It’s because the secular paramedic recognizes the inherent value of the life of both people (at least on this point), whereas the Christian has been so brainwashed by secularism that the pre-born child is somehow deemed of lesser worth and value. Thus, the Christian thinks he has justification in believing that it’s okay to take the life of the child if the continued life of that child jeopardizes the life of the mother. This directly contradicts the paramedic’s secular ethic. God help us.
Conclusion: In summary, Scripture never teaches that any person’s life is more valuable than another’s since all human persons are equal image-bearers of God at conception (Gen. 1:26; Psa. 51:5). Although this is a hard truth, we conclude that (1) the mother should be willing to sacrifice her life for the lives of her children if necessary [John 15:13], and (2) we should try to save both lives and if one or both dies, then we trust the sovereignty and providence of the One who is the giver, sustainer, and taker of all life [Job 1:21; 42:1-6].
1. Do you agree with the basic position I have presented here? If so, why? If not, why?
2. If you are a Christian, do you have any suggestions as to how to improve the content and logical argumentation of this article?
 Bolding mine for emphasis.
 Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition, (
Keith L. Moore, Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology, 7th edition, (
 Italics mine for emphasis.