Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Abortion: Personhood and a Scriptural View of Life

Besides euthanasia, abortion is one of the most hot-button but imperative ethical issues of our day. Webster’s dictionary defines abortion as “the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus”. (Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary) Many justify abortion under the terms that you aren’t really killing a baby; it is only a fetus. That is why it is crucial that we understand when life begins and whether the mother has a baby with human rights, or is simply a fetus that has no rights. From a scientific perspective, life clearly begins at conception. Even some in favor of abortion will admit this. However, since abortionists cannot logically argue that the baby is not a baby, the debate has shifted more towards whether life inside the mother’s womb is fully human and should be protected as one.

In the debate over abortion, it is important to define personhood. Many who favor abortion take the stance that a fetus is not a person, and that other standards should define personhood. Mary Anne Warren describes it in this way:
“A fetus, even a fully developed one, is considerably less personlike than is the average mature mammal, indeed the average fish. And I think that a rational person must conclude that if the right to life of a fetus is to be based upon its resemblance to a person, then it cannot be said to have any more right to life than, let us say, a newborn guppy (which also seems to be capable of feeling pain), and that a right of that magnitude could never override a woman's right to obtain an abortion at any stage of pregnancy.”
(“The Moral and Legal Status of Abortion” article, found in the book The Right Thing to Do) Instead of defining humans biologically, Warren prescribes that in order to be “human” we must meet five standards. We must have consciousness, reasoning, self-motivated activity, the capacity to communicate, and the presence of self-concepts and self-awareness. The problem is this view is not logical. If personhood is defined by cognitive skills, than some of us won’t ever reach the definition of “personhood”. If someone is in a coma, unresponsive, or even asleep they clearly don’t meet the definition of personhood, so can we kill them too? Our morality becomes shaky under such terms.

Instead of holding to the view of personhood described by Mary Anne Warren, Christians should base their view of life from the Scriptures alone. Psalm 127 speaks of the blessing of children. Each child is conceived in the Lord’s perfect timing, despite what we may think, and choosing to abort that child rejects God’s sovereignty and His perfect plan, as well as His view of life. Life is precious because each person is made in the image of God. God has perfectly knit each person together in their mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13) and He makes no mistakes. Color, size, cognitive abilities, disabilities, none of these matter; each person is important to God because He created them. Because of the value of life, we cannot be the determiner of who should live; only God can make that choice. Furthermore, Christians know that this life is not all there is, and that each of us has a soul that will live for eternity. For believers in Christ, our future is not dim, but something to look forward to as our life now is not worth comparing with our future glory. (Romans 8:18) Our desire then should be to embrace life, and subsequently see all men come to Christ, that none should perish.


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