Fred A. Shewmaker
Recent legalization of abortions by some of the states has raised the question of the moral implications of abortions. I believe that it has been generally, recognized by the children of God that things morally wrong can be, and often times are, legalized by civil governments. Therefore, the right or wrong of abortion cannot, and will not, be settled in the minds of Christians simply by legalization.
In the past the moral question has gone unstudied by most elders, preachers and Christians in general. We did not need to resolve the moral implications of abortion because we could appeal to its violation of civil law. But with more and more states legalizing abortion we must learn to walk without that crutch. We must now begin dealing with abortion as the moral issue it has, in reality, always been.
It is already obvious that to those who have their minds made up that abortion is murder; an objective study of the subject will be next to impossible. Such persons will find it difficult to escape emotionalism when they consider the matter. Their emotionalism will militate against objectivity. But it will probably be those who are thus unable to reach objectivity that will do most of the early preaching and writing about the moral implications of abortion.
One brother has well written, "If you are of the persuasion that all of the questions regarding this matter are very easily answered you have a lot more thinking to do.
Now, you can sweep the whole thing aside by dogmatically declaring it to be wrong (or right) under all circumstances.... But when all the facts are in it is certain that more study is indicated if we are to arrive at correct answers."
There are some aspects of this issue that I do not understand. There are questions that I cannot at this time answer. Whenever I suggest a passage of scripture that I feel should be explained, or ask a question I cannot answer, it will not help me in the least for some brother to react emotionally, jump to an unfounded conclusion and insinuate that I have espoused some false doctrine or become an atheist.
To Save the Mother?
There are some things about the discussion of abortion that is developing among brethren that disturb me. One of those things is the tendency of some to brand any brother who is unconvinced that all abortion is murder, an apostate. It also disturbs me that some seem to be using passages of scripture quite carelessly in this discussion. Please, brethren, when you preach or write on this subject do not throw your hermeneutics book out the window before you start.
A thing that bothers me concerning the question of abortion has to do with whether an abortion should be performed in order to save a mother's life. I am not competent to make such medical judgments as to whether it is necessary to terminate pregnancy in order to save the mother. Traditionally we have opposed the Roman Catholic view that when it is one or the other, the mother must be sacrificed and the child saved. But the question that bothers me is not a matter of one or the other. Unless we have been wrong in opposing the Roman Catholic position, the question is whether to save the mother by induced abortion or save neither! Assuming that we have been correct in opposing the Roman Catholic view, my question is: If it is murder to induce abortion to save the mother, would it not be double murder to refuse to induce abortion in such cases?
Brethren, in this article I am not taking positions but asking questions. I do not know the answers to all the questions that can be asked. I certainly am not advocating abortions in wholesale lots; neither am I ready to accept some brother's dogmatic pronouncement, "All abortion is murder."
When Does Life Begin?
Some feel that the issue of abortion and the moral implications of abortion revolve around a determination of when life begins. But is, "At what point does life begin?" the pertinent question? For some brother to thunderously assert that life begins with conception will not prove it to the mind of a brother who does not believe that. To assume an authoritative tone and solemnly declare that Dr. Widefame said, "Life begins with conception," will not prove that it does to the mind of a brother who does not believe it.
There are a number of questions concerning when life begins to which I have not heard or seen satisfactory answers. If life begins with conception, does that mean that there is not life in the sperm and ovum before they unite? Is this the reason some uphold the use of contraceptives while holding that all abortion is murder? If there is life in the sperm and ovum before conception, is that life human life? If not, am I correct in assuming that this would mean that life begins before one is human? Laugh at such questions if you will, but as you laugh remember that you are in no way edifying those who are asking such questions.
To my knowledge there are three positions which men take regarding when the soul of a person enters into that person: 1. At conception; 2. When the fetus first moves; 3. With the first breath. When does the soul of a person enter into that person? To the minds of some this may be the same as the question of when life begins in an individual but to others it is an altogether different matter. Those who consider these as two entirely different questions would say to the doctor that proclaims, "Life begins with conception!" - "So what? I am not asking about when life begins but when does the soul enter a person?" To the mind of the one who would ask this question, a man's medical training in no way qualifies him to answer. They do not think of the soul as a subject to which medical science gives any attention. To them the soul is either a subject for religion or philosophy. To their minds the right or wrong of abortion is not a question to ask medical science.
Some seem to feel that the subject of the moral implications of abortion is as simple as a feather bed but I am inclined to think that such feelings arise from a failure to carefully examine the complexity of the feathers, much less thoroughly examining the bird from which they were plucked.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 42, pp. 12-13