In the 52 years since the Abortion Act came into force in the UK, 9,446,068 unborn babies have lost their lives to abortion in England, Scotland and Wales. That is a baby every three minutes or, put another way, twenty babies every hour for 52 years.
Abortion is an experience that will directly touch one in three women in the UK in our lifetimes, as well as indirectly the lives of countless others who care for affected sisters, mothers, wives, girlfriends and daughters.
The latest available figures show that 90% of children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome before birth are aborted and that 3,269 disability-selective abortions took place in 2018 in England and Wales.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK government has approved the use of telemedicine for abortion care. Women can take pills for medical abortion up to 10 weeks in their own homes, without seeing a doctor.
There is money to be made in abortion. Marie Stopes International, one of the main abortion providers in the UK, had a record income in 2018 of £296.8 million from operations here in the UK and overseas, receiving over £48 million from the Department for International Development (DfID), who remain their single largest donor. That donation represented an increase in British government funding of over 5000% in the last 12 years.
The numbers are shocking, or are they?
Why is there a resounding silence from our churches on an issue which the Bible speaks so much about? A lost generation looks to Twitter and Cosmopolitan to learn what justice, truth and love look like in this confusing social area.
And yet, it’s too easy to be critical. Abortion is an extremely sensitive topic, and so often we can be unsure what true compassion looks like. The concept of human rights is historically grounded in Christianity – but what about when rights seem to conflict? Can we be supportive to a heartbroken victim of rape, and also advocate for the life of her child? What about in the case of severe disability, or when the child is headed out of the womb and straight into the social care system?
If we truly believe that the Bible is as applicable today as it was a thousand years ago, and that it can shine light into a broken and hurting nation, it’s time that we applied the truth of scripture into this somewhat clinical “valley of the shadow of death”.
But what does the Bible actually say about abortion? It’s true that scripture never mentions a clinic. However, as we distill the Biblical narrative down into five essential themes, it’s clear that love, compassion and respect for every life is interwoven throughout the rich tapestry of redemption.
“You knit me together in my mother’s womb”1
At the heart of the gospel is the unique and awe-inspiring love that God has for us, who are the work of His hand.2 It’s clear throughout scripture that the plan God has for those made in His image doesn’t begin at the moment of birth. For example:
In Genesis, Rebekah felt her twins “struggling together” within her belly, and the Lord confirmed that “two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided”.
David wrote, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16 ESV).
“Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you” (Isaiah 44:2 ESV).
God’s carefully crafted plan of redemption that will bring glory to His name throughout eternity does not include mistakes. Each life has been known and is a part of God’s plan from before the beginning of time. God told Jeremiah (1:4-5 NLT) “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”
There is truly, then, no such thing as an “unplanned pregnancy”.
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the Great!”3
As sin spread its seditious contamination from the “apple” of Eden, the infected culture that the Minor Prophets found themselves confronted with thousands of years later was one of mistreatment, injustice and defilement.
It isn’t difficult to draw comparisons today, in a news cycle repetitive with pain, suffering and evil deeds. Even in the walled safety of our homes, we’re only one phone tap away from the darkest hovels of human nature.
Technologies may differ, but the root of our issue remains consistent throughout time: our love, our money, and our time spent daydreaming become the burnt offerings to the golden calves of sex, success, or social acceptance. Desires may vary in design; yet in substance, consistently across humanity, we have unitedly come to worship the God of pleasing “self”.
The Prophets pointed to the sickening sacrifice made to false gods in their time: “And you took your sons and daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your whorings so small a matter that you slaughtered your children and delivered them as an offering by fire to them?”4
Fast forward now through various millennia to find actress Michelle Williams standing on a spot-lit stage in 2020, clutching a golden globe, thanking her abortion for putting her in a place for Hollywood success. At a rally in Washington DC two months later, chat-show host Busy Phillips thanked her abortion for her stellar career and her coveted sports car. Under the Hollywood spotlight, we’re still sacrificing our children on the altars of the idol-gods of fame and fortune.
Of course, not all abortions are obtained for the want of a penthouse – many arise from circumstances of socio-economic need. Yet, a consistent factor across many is the pressure of a society that worships an ideal of achievement and image, and offers limited ways to grasp these goals with a baby in one’s arms.
We’re championing the ideal that women’s happiness and success must come with no umbilical cord attached. And we’re doing it to thunderous applause.
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”5
Our sin is great; His love is greater. From great despair in the Old Testament arises great hope in the gospel. In his saving grace, the God of the universe humbled himself to become the most lowly, uncelebrated and unprotected of human beings – taking the form of an embryo in Mary’s womb and in whose presence a fetal John the Baptist jumped for joy.6
Born into poverty, Jesus grew into manhood - sinless, the perfect Lamb of God - and became the sacrifice for sin on the cross, defeating death in a victory for all creation.
At various points throughout His ministry, Jesus was confronted with our sinful nature in the human face of a lost soul. In John 8, a woman who had committed adultery was hauled before Him in judgement. Under the penal system of the time, the woman faced being stoned to death. Radically, Jesus softly challenged the hearts of her Pharisaic accusers by causing them to reflect on their own sin. Jesus – the only one without sin who had a right to stand in judgement – gently forgave the woman. “Neither do I condemn you,” He said. But His next line offered more. He acknowledged the wrong she had done and the hurt she had caused, yet transformed it into an opportunity – indeed, a command, a promise – for transformation. “Go, and from now on sin no more.”7
It’s easy to think of abortion as an anonymous, faceless sin; but the human hearts that turn there with seemingly no other choice are often those in greatest need of Christian love, compassion and support. When launching into the sensitive subject of abortion without prior consideration, we can jump into pharisaical judgement and cast unrelenting shame across post-abortive women. Or, uncomfortable with a biblical narrative that contradicts cultural norms, we can bow to pressure and remain silent on the issue. Doing either robs our hurting, post-abortive neighbours of the opportunity to experience God’s righteousness and redeeming grace.
Jesus’ interaction with the adulterous woman offers the perfect example for the truest love that we as Christians can reflect. He forgives and, in doing so, recognizes hurt; allows for recognition of sin and for healing; bids the sinner to die to their old ways of worship to “self”, washes them free of guilt and shame and offers abundant life in their created purpose of glorifying God.
When coming face to face with women who terminated their pregnancies, we need not compromise on truth while bidding them to come alongside us to “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”8
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”9
The beauty of God’s rescue is not only our forgiveness, but our full redemption and restoration as His children. As Christians, we are completely satisfied in Jesus, beyond all earthly treasures.
Such a message is entirely counter-cultural; yet in reality, pregnant women contemplating termination have often been sorely let down by all that the world has to offer. Some have faced abuse or coercion; some, poverty; some, simply crushed by the cultural weight of being told a mother can never amount to anything. Some feel they are bringing their babies into a hopeless situation of inevitable struggle. Some are unsure of hope for the life growing in their wombs that has shown prenatal signs of disability or “abnormality”.
By adopting Jesus’ example of generosity and giving women and babies confronted by death a hope and a reason to live, and to live rejoicing, we see the life-saving gospel at work in our world in the most tangible way.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”10
As Christians, our lives have been restored from self-seeking destruction to glorying in God by enjoying the abundance of His grace. Now, we are to go and spread the good news far and wide that God is good, He rescues, He restores. What does that look like?
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”11
In one of the many times that Jesus lays out our great mission plan, He compares God to a man preparing a great banquet. He first invites a select group; but when they show reluctance, he throws open the doors so that his servants will “go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame”.12 The Kingdom of God is not for the perfect; it is inclusive of all that may come.
Abortion often eliminates the rejected of society – the disabled, the female, the unwanted “clump of cells”. It propagates that a helpless baby unable to survive without maternal care is not worthy of an equal chance to survive with the rest of us.
The message of Christ, in sharp contrast, is that all may come in. In declaring the way, the truth, the life, we value every person that God created, and invite them to be restored to their God who waits for their return.
The gospel requires a heart of compassion for the most vulnerable individuals of God’s creation – unborn children. The test of our commitment to preaching forgiveness and redemption, perfect love and perfect justice, lies in our action as we see humanity at its most dark and yet most vulnerable – under the clinical glare of a pregnancy termination room. Abortion clinics exist as harbingers of death. Christ died that we might have life, and have it abundantly.
As churches, we must be overflowing with the message of life and hope for everyone, from conception, through childhood and adolescence, through parenthood and until natural death. Our cry, resounding from the pulpit and circulating throughout our communities as we reach out in true love and compassion, must be:
“Deliver us from abortion, oh Lord”.
- Psalm 139:13b NIV.
- Psalm 139:13-16; Psalm 119:73-74; Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 1:4-5.
- Revelation 18:2a ESV.
- Ezekiel 16:20-21 ESV. This practice was already prevalent among the Canaanites when the law was given to Moses. In Leviticus 20, God sets his face against any man who burns a newborn child in sacrifice to the false God of Molech, and in addition, sets his face against the clan of the guilty man and “to all who follow him in whoring after Molech”, should the people remain silent and not enact justice for his crime.
- Isaiah 1:18b.
- Luke 1:41-45.
- John 8:11b ESV.
- Hebrews 4:16 ESV.
- John 10:10b ESV.
- Micah 6:8 NIV.
- Proverbs 31:8-9 NLT.
- Luke 14:21 NIV.