Seeing A Way Forward On Issues of Life and Death
The issue of life and death is paramount throughout Scripture. The seriousness of murder is strongly stated even before the law was given to the people of Israel. Following the flood, Noah is told, “From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. ‘Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His image.’” Understand that this verse is saying that it is a personal affront to God when one human being robs another human being of life because it devalues His image that has been placed within each person.
The sixth commandment given to Moses at Mount Sinai is “You shall not murder.” Over the last 40 years, there has been ongoing conversation about how that sentence can be understood and recast in light of current cultural “life” trends.
One way that people have attempted to recast the prohibition to murder is applying it only to those who have already been born. Let’s not be misled. The discarding of unwanted children is not a 20th-21st century issue. The early church intervened in the practice of “exposure” when children were left out in the garbage to die by making nightly rounds to collect those children and raise them as their own.
The argument proceeds this way: Murder is taking the life of a person. The unborn are unable to survive outside of the mother’s womb and care for themselves; therefore, they are not people. Since they are not people, killing the unborn is not murder.
Yet, the government’s inconsistency in applying a clear logical argument is apparent in cases when a woman, who could abort her child with no repercussion, is physically harmed by another person causing the loss of her unborn child resulting in a charge of murder. More recently, prosecutors have battled that contradictory position by choosing not to file charges related to the loss of the unborn child.
However, numerous verses consistently express that life begins at conception. David recognized his own personhood prior to birth when he said, “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps 139:13). Elizabeth attributes human emotion and activity to the baby (the same term used for a child after birth) John upon hearing Mary’s voice. Finally, perhaps the most significant passage for our discussion of abortion is Exo 21:22-25 which speaks of the penalties that should be imposed in cases where the life and health of a pregnant women and her unborn child are endangered.
Additionally, the abortion debate has been carefully couched in terms of a woman’s right to make her own health choices. I mean, who would be for their health choices to being forced upon them by some outside authority, right? However, the right of the woman to choose is not a choice for which the only impact of choice is with the woman. The choice of the woman runs squarely into the right of the unborn child to live. This becomes the ultimate case of the sins of the “[Mother] being visited upon their sons and daughters to the third and fourth generation.” To think of all of the generations who have never had the opportunity for that first breathe because someone made a decision to end the life of their child, which would have become a mother or father for a succeeding generation.
The right to choose ought to be exercised prior to conception through a choice to abstain from sexual activity or to take precautions to protect against pregnancy, instead of after when another life is put in jeopardy.
The argument for a woman’s right to choose is often made in tangent with arguing for maintaining abortion rights for women in cases of rape and incest, which statistically make up less than 1% of abortion procedures.
However, should we not also seek to safeguard the emotional health of a woman who faced with an unwanted pregnancy aborts the child only to be confronted with overwhelming and ongoing grief and guilt for her decision? Yet, the current strategy for abortion advocates is to limit the amount of information a woman receives in preparation for such a decision.
God created and values all life, and one’s right to live can never be trumped by another person’s right to choice. Even in cases of rape, when a child is conceived as a result, the resulting life is valued by God. Not disregarding the painful experience that the rape was for the woman, is it fair to the child to sentence it to death because of the illegal actions of an immoral progenitor? Would it not be much more humane to offer the child for adoption to a family that would love it without reminders of the pain of rape?
Finally, the shield of politically-correct protection around Planned Parenthood needs to be broken down The recent video exposés which have revealed blatant criminal activity within Planned Parenthood through the selling of baby body parts needs to be welcomed with sound condemnation of Planned Parenthood’s actions.
The government should enact laws restricting, if not prohibiting, abortions except to save the life of the mother. Restrictions should include such things as parent notification for minors, a reasonable waiting period, and full disclosure of the ramifications of the procedure to both the mother’s well-being and the child’s.
No government policies should promote or fund abortions as has been done in the mandate that all health insurance coverage plans approved under the Affordable Care Act carry abortion services as a covered service.
No government policy should compel people to participate in abortions or the dispensing of drugs that cause abortions when it runs counter to their conscience as has been done through the abortion services mandate in the Affordable Care Act.
No funding or support should be given to the process of creating human embryos for the purpose of destroying them in medical research.
Any organization engaged in the trafficking of “fetal tissue” ought to be prosecuted with the same severity as someone charged with illegal trafficking in human organs.
At the same time, the church should so grace to those who have had abortions, helping them to come to terms with their loss and grief, and experiencing the forgiveness of Christ.
Additionally, we should not just advocate a pro-life position that is pro-birth, but disregards the quality of life that the child is born into. Our pro-life position should also advocate for a healthy quality of life for those who are born (which will be discussed in the position paper on poverty). John in 1 John equates the disregard for those who suffer in conditions of poverty as a matter of murder, for by failing to address the issue of poverty they are sentenced to an unjust livelihood.
The other way that there have been attempts to redefine the prohibition for murder is in the euthanasia debate. Here the debate is often cast in the phraseology of “dying with dignity.” Yet, ignored in the conversation is the not so subtle distinction between letting die and helping die.
The direction a society takes on the question of euthanasia is a reflection of how highly it values human life and how highly it values God’s command not to murder. In societies where physician-assisted suicide becomes legal, this will set the stage for a further erosion of the protection of human life. Some people will be thought “too old” to deserve medical treatment. Compassion and care for the elderly will diminish, and they will be more and more thought of as burdens to care for, rather than valuable members of the society.
Moreover, concerns about a “slippery slope” in public policy have some persuasive force. If euthanasia is allowed for some patients who are suffering, then how can we prevent it from being applied to more and more patients who are suffering? In fact, “nations that have allowed physician-assisted suicide find that a society can quickly move from merely allowing ‘the right to die’ to the belief that there is ‘an obligation to die’ on the part of the elderly.”
The situation in the Netherlands has become particularly notorious, where approximately 2000 people per year are put to death according to the Netherlands’ “adult euthanasia vetting commissions.” In 2005, the Dutch announced their intention to expand its euthanasia policy to allow doctors to end the life of infants with the parents’ consent if it is determined that the child is terminally ill with no prospect of recovery.
In most states, euthanasia is still prohibited. However, Oregon voters enacted the “Death with Dignity Act,” which approved of physician-assisted suicide, in 1994. The law was upheld by the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1997. In November 2008, Washington also legalized physician-assisted suicide.
The Affordable Care Act took a first step to establishing a national policy on euthanasia in the creation of boards to make determinations for continued treatment rather than leaving that decision in the hands of the patient and doctor.
Governmental laws against murder should continue to be applied to cases of euthanasia, and laws that have been passed that open the flood gates to the slippery slope need to be rescinded.
This blog is an adaption of a position paper written by Steven Chapman and approved by the FCC Elders as part of the God’s Politics message series in 2012. We believe that Christian voters should approach the casting of their ballots as an act of worship which brings honor to God.The goal of these position papers was to present a reasoned and Biblical statement on critical political issues of the day that will let us consider how we may best honor God with our votes.