Before I begin, I would like to start by saying that I believe it is important to care about both the unborn child and their mother and to work to provide support and encouragement for them both before and after the baby is born.
Abortion has become a hot topic at the moment in New Zealand and a lot of arguments for and against it are being discussed. It is easy to get lost in the myriad of factors relating to the debate but when it is distilled down to the essence of the issue there is only one question that matters— one question that can resolve the issue.
That question is—“Is an unborn child a human being” because if the answer is ‘Yes’ then they must automatically be granted the same rights as all other humans—chief among them the right to life. If the answer is ‘No’ then there are no grounds upon which it makes sense to protest against abortion—it would be as silly to protest abortion in that scenario as it would be to protest about a person having their appendix removed.
How then shall we resolve this question? I’m going to present evidence from scientific and biblical sources that shed light on this question.
The case from science
At the moment a sperm penetrates a human ovum—egg—a zygote is created which has a genetic composition that is completely unique and different from any other human that has ever existed—including that of the mother. It also follows that when two humans produced offspring their offspring would be human, just as when two cats produce offspring they produce kittens and when two sheep produce offspring they produce lambs. The unborn child is very tiny and has a lot of developing yet to do but that is not grounds for disqualifying them from human status.
The acronym S.L.E.D is often used to discuss this point—it stands for ‘Size, Level of Development, Environment, and Degree of Dependency.’ A five year old is not less human than a 10 year old because they are smaller, neither is a person with a learning difficulty less human than a person with a high IQ because they are less developed. Also, it does not change a person’s humanity when they take a plane trip from New Zealand to America, so why should a trip down the birth canal change the unborn child’s status from non-human to human? Finally should those that depend on medicine such as insulin to keep them alive be considered less human than those that don’t? We don’t apply these arguments to anyone else in society, so we should not apply them to unborn children either.
Another amazing fact about the unborn child is that their heart starts beating around 20 days after conception and 28 days from conception a baby has eyes, ears, and even a tongue!
The case from the Bible
The Bible also has several passages in which it directly refers to unborn children. The first—Exodus chapter 21, verse 22–23—is talking about the penalty for hurting a pregnant woman and causing her to give birth prematurely: “If people are fighting and 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.”
The Hebrew word here is different to the Hebrew word for miscarriage so it is not, as some have suggested, talking about if the mother dies from the miscarriage, but it is talking about whether the baby dies after they are born prematurely—if they die then a life for a life is demanded which emphasises the equal value God puts on the unborn child’s life and a born (adult) person’s life. There were other laws discussing this ‘life for a life’ principle, but this one is specifically addressing pregnant women and providing protection and justice for their unborn children.
There are also several verses that talk about God forming people in the womb such as Isaiah chapter 44, verse 2: “Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you.” And also in Psalms chapter 139, verse 13: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.”
The science and the Bible provide clear evidence that the unborn child is a human being and as such they should be given the rights of any other human person. If there comes a situation where both mother and baby cannot survive then a heart wrenching decision will be needed to be made, but it should be made with the understanding that both are equally valuable human beings and that whichever one dies is the tragic death of a human being.
 Keith L. Moore and T.V.N. Persaud, (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Co., 1998): 77, 350.
Jessica McPherson’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jessica-mcpherson.html
Jessica McPherson lives with her best friend and husband, Eoin and their family of rescue animals in Christchurch. She loves reading, writing, photography and scrap-booking but most of all sharing God’s love and truth with a hurting world. Jessica is particularly passionate about encouraging children and building them up in gospel truth.