WHILE driving on the freeway between Los Angeles and the airport recently, I followed a station wagon that was packed full of children, ten by actual count. A large bumper sticker became more obvious in relation to the many passengers inside as it blurted out "Abortion is not the answer."
The question of abortion has become a serious problem to many of our ministers as they counsel with their parishioners, as well as with our hospital administrators as they deal with demanding patients and eager clinicians. The issues involved are confusing since they vary in philosophy from the ultraconservative position of our Roman Catholic friends, who disallow prevention or interruption of pregnancy under all circumstances, to the ultraliberals who insist on the position favored by a number of States—abortion on demand. World health planners favor the latter position. Like the Jewish leaders of two thousand years ago they say, "Better for the embryo to die than the whole world perish."
In attempting to arrive at a Christian ethic in respect to the sanctity of life we must accept the mother's life as para mount. This priority is distinctly given in Holy Writ in the instruction given Moses relative to the punishment of a person injuring a woman with child (Ex. 21:22, 23). Based upon this concept, Seventh-day Adventists place a higher priority upon the mother's life than upon the unborn embryo or fetus. For this reason it is believed that an abortion is indicated if such is necessary to keep the mother's health from, being placed in jeopardy or if her life is endangered.
God's Original Plan
In the beginning God created man after His image. Man was instructed to be fruitful and multiply, to procreate after his kind—in the image of God. For this reason it is believed that man should attempt by every means at his disposal to ensure that his offspring be perfect in mind, body, and spirit. It is therefore believed that a pregnancy may be terminated if it is known that the product of conception while in utero has been mutilated, deformed, or maldeveloped to the extent that it cannot become a normal individual. This may result from German measles, other severe viral infections, the taking of certain medications, or excessive radiation during early pregnancy.
It is also believed that it was God's plan for mankind to reproduce as was designed in order that he might more fully understand the close relationship between the Father and the Son. In the very beginning God established the marriage relationship, stating, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:24).
It was in this sacred fellowship that children were to be conceived, born, and reared. Anything short of this holy arrangement is sinful. Pregnancies conceived as a result of rape or incest are not after this pattern. It is believed that such may be terminated justifiably.
One of the problems over which many have stumbled has been a distinction between principles and rules; between standards and laws; between morals and technics. Morality and the sanctity of life are principles. Modern technology has altered concepts and rightfully so. There was a time when an attempted abortion, regard less of the indications, was a much more serious undertaking than continuing the pregnancy, even though the expectant mother could not survive a delivery. That was before the days of aseptic technique, when infections were prime killers.
Regard for the "Person Image"
Sanctity of life was the principle then, as now. At that time this principle forbade instrumentation and abortion because of infection. To day the same principle may indicate that the pregnancy be interrupted. The basic problem that needs to be considered in analyzing the Tightness or wrongness of abortion lies in the attitude of those concerned in respect to their appreciation of the human image or person image. History has shown that a society that loses respect for the person image soon becomes degenerate and falls apart. This was true of ancient Rome. Utter disregard was shown for the person image as they cast human beings into the arena to be devoured by lions. The person image was ignored when more than a million Jews were murdered in the gas chambers of Dachau.
It is believed that the person-image concept is vital to an adequate appreciation of the abortion issue. A thorough knowledge of this concept will dictate whether or not an abortion should be done; it will determine at what stage of pregnancy it should be done; it will evaluate priorities to be used in arriving at conclusions. An understanding of the person-image concept also gives meaning to sympathetic understanding while dealing with retarded children, senile oldsters, cripples, or those suffering from an incurable illness. It enables us to view life with stereoscopic vision.
An appreciation of the person image will require that the abortion, if done, shall be done as early as possible in the pregnancy, preferably during the first trimester. During those first three months the embryo develops to a total length of approximately three and one-half inches and has not reached the stage where it can be considered an identity. During this time the procedure will be less traumatic to the woman and can be done without placing her in jeopardy.
In the total program of family planning, which includes birth control, abortion must be thought of as a last resort. If there is any reason why the wife should not have children, it is far better to prevent conception .than to interrupt it after it has occurred. The reasons for this preference are obvious.
God's Way Out
A "war on the womb" is being waged throughout most of the so-called civilized world. Statisticians have reported that there are currently 350 abortions performed per 1,000 live births in Eastern Europe, and 720 abortions per 1,000 live births in Japan. Based upon present trends it is expected that within ten years there will be 4 million abortions performed annually in the United States, or 500 per 1,000 live births.
As Christians we abhor the thought of wholesale carnage on this level. Although we accept therapeutic abortion based on proved medical indications, we do not find abortion on demand compatible with our person-image concepts. We believe that when there is a proved indication for abortion that such should be done during the first trimester, or during the first three months, before the embryo can be considered to possess life in itself.
We are living in a godless age. Men have turned to their own inventions to work out their destinies. It is then no wonder that they press the panic button when faced with the possibilities of world famine, pandemic pestilences, pollution to the point of making life untenable, or crowding to the degree that there is no ground upon which to stand. We see a solution to this world's problems through the second coming of Christ. We have a hope that nonbelievers do not possess. We need to look at this whole problem of family planning, including abortion, with sane minds and sound judgment. Realistically we provide for priorities, we honor the sanctity of life, we have respect for the person image, we recognize that we are children of God created in His image. Procreation was designed by God as a means of populating the earth. He created millions of angels, but He saw fit to create but one man and one woman.
In dealing with the world let us not be judgmental. They do not have our hope. World health leaders can see salvation of our planet in no way other than in limiting population growth. Their first try is prevention through adequate family planning; when this fails or is not used, they urge abortion. God has the answer to man's futility—a new heaven and a new earth.