Proponents and opponents

  • God is omniscient, able to penetrate our thoughts- even the most subtle, hidden, and fleeting.
  • When we sin or fall from grace, Jesus is saddened.
Such beliefs are an integral part of the Christian religion, and events in the Bible (particularly in the Old Testament) indicate that God has passed judgment upon large groups of people- even the entire humanity- based on the wrongdoings of a subset of the population.

Before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Lord agreed to withhold His wrath if a minimum number of innocent people could be found dwelling within those cities. This implies that if the number of innocent people fell short of this criterion, they would still be wiped out due to the sins of the others.

In the story of Noah’s Ark, God used the Deluge to wipe out all of sinful humanity, except for the occupants of the Ark. Believers who take this tale at face value must believe that numerous innocent people, including infants and children, were killed as well.

The belief that the actions and perceived transgressions of others will affect God’s treatment of unrelated individuals persists today. Many believers feel that traditional, religious moral codes take precedence over national laws. For example, although abortion is legal under US law, and considered a human right internationally, many believers continue to consider it a sin.

Importantly, many believers think that when abortions are carried out, God scrutinizes not only the actions of the people who perform and undergo abortions, but the actions of all believers, and passes judgement accordingly. Evangelical Christians believe that if they do not do their utmost to convert non-believers, God will be displeased. Similarly, some believers think that if they do not do their best to prevent others from ‘sinning,’ then God will judge them harshly for their passivity, and condemn them for not having tried to stop abortions from occurring. This perception of righteous superiority, accompanied by the fear of God’s retribution, emboldens anti-abortionists to commit crimes ranging from vandalism to murder, in the belief that they are preventing ‘worse’ sins from taking place.

The fact of the matter is that abortions occur all the time, with or without conscious human intervention. Miscarriages are spontaneous abortions. In nature, embryos are not sacred- at least no more than the chicken eggs and caviar we consume as food. One could just as well view the assistance of an abortion clinic as an ‘act of God,’ and consider the doctor who performs the abortion to be an agent of God’s work.

Believers also tend to think that once children are brought into the world, God will look after them, just as he looks after ‘the lilies of the field.’ Anti-abortionists thus have less reason to be concerned about whether a potential parent is ready for parenthood, or has the necessary resources, maturity, and state of health to bring up a child. The hand of God is thought to act in all situations, under all circumstances, and if a child is born, it must have been brought about by God’s will. This implies that even if a potential parent is in poor health and risks serious injury or death during child birth- even if the parent is young or not ready, or lacks economic and emotional support- if one takes any action whatsoever, that can be construed as a contravention of ‘God’s will.’

These believers are willing to overlook the many factors that are likely to impose a low quality of life upon the unwanted child, from poverty and emotional instability, to poorer caregiving, and focus only on their personal religious belief that embryos are sacred (which they are not). Parents who do not subscribe to such beliefs and are intent on providing the best environment for their child are more concerned with other issues, such as emotional and financial support for the child.

These differences in priorities and beliefs are summarised in the following table:
Anti-abortionists Everyone else
God will provide an acceptable quality of life for unwanted children Unwanted children are likely to be disadvantaged for numerous reasons, and the prospect of landing up in a suitable foster home is far from guaranteed
God allowed conception to occur, and must therefore want a child to be born If conception occurred, a child may or may not be born- that depends on nature and the parents’ decision
If a spontaneous abortion occurred, that must be part of God’s overall plan Spontaneous abortions are part of the normal biological order. Conception does not lead inexorably to birth
If an abortion was carried out at a clinic or under medical guidance, that is a contravention of God’s will An abortion is a medical procedure, like any other- many factors are taken into account, including the decision and health of the patient
Factors such as availability of emotional and financial support for a child are relatively irrelevant, because God is in control and God will provide Factors such as availability of emotional and financial support for a child are crucial, especially when bringing up and educating children is expensive
Abortion that occurs under medical guidance is a sin, and the judgment of God will be extended to all other human beings Abortion is a human right, and it is society’s responsibility to facilitate the highest quality of life for children
If believers do not actively try to prevent others from carrying out abortions, God will punish all of us People have the right to choose the timing and circumstances of their procreative activity, and no one will be negatively affected, beyond the parties who are directly involved. Society as a whole will be better off, when resources are optimally distributed among a sustainable number of children
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