from “Sanctity and Human Life”
The Assemblies of God views the practice of abortion as an evil that has been inflicted upon millions of innocent babies and that will threaten millions more in the years to come. Abortion is a morally unacceptable alternative for birth control, population control, sex selection, and elimination of the physically and mentally handicapped. Certain parts of the world are already experiencing serious population imbalances as a result of the systematic abortion of female babies. The advocacy and practice of so-called partial birth abortion of babies is particularly heinous.
Contemporary demands for abortion often flow from the practice of sexual freedom without corresponding responsibility. The Scriptures speak definitively against pre-marital and extra-marital sexual intercourse and declare such activity to be sinful (Exodus 22:16; Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 13, 18; Galatians 5:19). To add abortion as an after-the-fact birth control device is to deepen and compound the sin with resultant guilt and emotional distress. The Assemblies of God affirms the biblical mandate for sexual purity and responsibility that, when obeyed, will eliminate many, if not most, situations where abortion is considered necessary or desirable.
The personhood of the unborn
The Scriptures regularly treat the unborn child as a person under the care of God.
1. The Bible recognizes that a woman is with child even in the first stages of pregnancy. When the virgin Mary was chosen to be the mother of Jesus, an angel made this announcement to her: “[Y]ou will conceive in your womb and bear a son (huios)” (Luke
1:31, NASB). The angel then informed Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant: “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child (huios, “son”) in her old age” (Luke 1:36). Scripture makes it clear that in the prenatal phase both Jesus and John the Baptist were recognized as males well before the time of delivery. Moreover, John before birth is recognized as a “baby” (brephos) (Luke 1:41, 44). This translates a Greek word used for children both before and after birth (cf. Acts 7:19). The Bible always recognizes the prenatal phase of life as that of a child and not a mere appendage to the mother’s body to be
aborted at will.
Even when pregnancy in Bible times was due to an illicit relationship, the sanctity and value of that life was not questioned. The daughters of Lot willfully became pregnant by incestuous relationships (Genesis 19:36), and Bathsheba gave birth to Solomon after an adulterous relationship initiated by King David (2 Samuel 11:5). In none of these cases are the lives of the unborn considered to be unworthy and requiring an abortion.
2. The Bible recognizes that God is active in the creative process of forming new life. Concerning Leah, the wife of Jacob, Scripture says, “When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb…. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son” (Genesis 29:31, 32). When Job compared himself to his servants, he asked, “Did not he who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?” (Job 31:15). In pointing out God’s impartiality, Job said He “ ‘shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands’ ” (Job 34:19). God spoke through Isaiah: “ ‘This is what the Lord says—he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant’ ” (Isaiah 44:2). And again, “ ‘This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, who has made all things’ ” (v. 24).
David summed it up, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:13-16).
3. The Bible recognizes that God has plans for the unborn child. Only He knows the potential of this new life. When God called Jeremiah to his prophetic ministry, He indicated the ordination was prenatal when He said: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). When Zechariah the priest was ministering at the altar of incense, an angel announced that his wife, Elizabeth, would give birth to a son who should be called John. Then it was revealed that God had definite plans for this child. He was to be a forerunner of Jesus (Luke 1:11-17).
4. The Bible recognizes that God is sovereign in all things, including the quality of life of the unborn child. When people reject God, eventually they cheapen human life and make it relative. Some are considered worthy to live; others are considered expendable. Who but God knows whether someone destroyed in the holocaust might not have discovered a cure for cancer. Who but God knows what blessing millions of children killed before birth might have brought to improve the quality of life. When people set themselves up as God to determine if a life is worth living—whether before or after birth—they are usurping the sovereignty of the Creator.
There are also things finite humans cannot understand. God’s ways are above human ways. While today’s medical technology frequently makes it possible to know when impairment exists in unborn children, it is important to remember they are still in God’s love and care (Matthew 19:14-15).
The killing of innocent persons. God’s Word is very explicit concerning the taking of innocent human life. “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13) is not only one of the Ten Commandments, but also a moral imperative that recurs throughout Scripture (cf. Matthew 19:18; Romans 13:9).
God inspired Moses to include in the Scriptures a law that brings the sanctity of the lives of unborn children into focus. “If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Exodus 21:22- 24).
It should be noted that the value of the life of both the mother and the child is such that even if there is no critical and lasting harm to either, the responsible party must be fined. However, if either the mother or the premature child is seriously injured or dies, then the severe penalties of the law are to be applied, possibly in this case those having to do with manslaughter (Exodus 21:13; Numbers 35:22-25). It is clear that the life of the unborn child is precious, and even a non-premeditated injury inflicted on the unborn is a serious crime.
God’s attitude toward the killing of innocents is clear. No one is guiltless who takes the life of another, with the possible scriptural exceptions of capital punishment administered by a system of justice (Genesis 9:6; Numbers 35:12), unintended killing in self-defense (Exodus 22:2), or deaths occasioned by duly constituted police and war powers (Romans 13:4-5). John Calvin expressed the horror of abortion in commenting on Exodus 21:22,23: “The fetus, though enclosed in the womb of his mother, is already a human being, and it is a monstrous crime to rob it of life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light.”
Danger to the life of the mother. Those situations in which pregnancy seriously threatens the life of the mother raise a particular ethical dilemma for Christians who value the lives of both mother and child. If responsible diagnoses confirm that childbirth is likely to result in the death of the mother, historic Christian faith usually has favored the life of the mother above that of the unborn child since the mother is a mature person with established family and societal relationships and responsibilities. However, vague threats to the mother’s physical or emotional health must not become an excuse to place the child at risk. Any intervention required must have the intent of saving the mother’s life, not the prior intent of causing death to the child. As in any emergency, in such times God’s children ought to fervently and earnestly pray for divine intervention. In doing so, the persons involved must prayerfully evaluate the medical diagnoses with the assistance of humane physicians and godly leaders and make, responsibly and with a clear conscience, what may well be a very painful decision.
The emotional and spiritual toll. The abortion industry rarely advises pregnant women of the potential impact of abortion on their spiritual and mental health. Desperate women who find themselves in an acutely embarrassing or inconvenient position because of an illicit affair or an unplanned pregnancy, and who are often coerced by selfish lovers and/or embarrassed families, are led to see abortion as a “quick fix.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Women are usually unaware of the depression, guilt, and shame that may plague them for a lifetime. While God can and does forgive and heal the broken hearts of repentant sinners who come to Him for forgiveness, the actual deed can never be undone and probably will always be remembered with pain and regret.