Would You Have an Abortion?
By “Awake!” correspondent in Japan
● She knew that she had serious health problems. When her second child was born, she had almost died. Now the doctor sincerely appealed to her to consent to an abortion: “You have two fine, healthy children. It would be a shame for them to grow up without their mother. It is just too dangerous for you to consider bearing the child you have conceived.” The argument had persuasive appeal. Should she have the abortion?
● Elsewhere in Japan a husband tried emotionally to convince his wife: “In your present state of health you surely cannot bear a child. You must go to the doctor tomorrow and have an abortion. If you do not accede to my wishes, I will divorce you and you can raise the child yourself!” Should she have an abortion?
The above are not isolated cases. In 1978, with 1,708,643 live births in Japan, 618,044 abortions were reported, and it is believed that perhaps twice that number were actually performed. Worldwide, it has been estimated, upward of 40 million abortions take place each year.
MORE than a decade ago many abortions were being performed by persons who lacked medical training and who were interested only in making money. The fatalities were appalling.
In time a number of countries passed laws to allow abortions if one of the following conditions applied: (1) Risk to mother’s physical health. (2) Risk to mother’s mental health. (3) Impaired health of fetus. (4) Unwanted pregnancy due to rape or incest. (5) For social or sociomedical reasons. If any of the above conditions are met, neither the doctor nor the patient is said to be guilty of a crime.
Japan, along with a number of other countries, allows “abortions on request.” Technically, they should be requested in harmony with one of the above conditions. However, the request is often made simply because the woman does not want any more children.
The average number of children in Japan is now under two per family. So there is social pressure to maintain the status quo. As a result, many married women have had two or three abortions; others, ten or more. In relatively few cases is economic hardship the real reason.
Though limiting one’s family by abortion is not supported by the law, this is circumvented by the claim that the mother’s health is involved. It is reported that 99.7 percent of the abortions in Japan fall into this category. So abortion is relied upon as a form of birth control. As a result, a Japanese doctor reported that in one month he had delivered 40 babies but also performed 80 abortions!
In Japan there is now growing concern for the following reasons: (1) Easy abortion has lowered the value of human life. (2) Reliance on abortion demonstrates that there is general ignorance of modern contraceptive methods. (3) Since abortions keep the population down, it is said that Japan may become a country of elderly people with comparatively few young ones to care for them.
Religion—How Strong a Deterrent?
Japan is basically a Buddhist country. Buddhist teaching includes respect for life, even of the unborn. How is it, then, that abortion is so easily obtainable?
When the priests at 10 Buddhist temples were interviewed, they generally expressed themselves like this: Abortion is considered wrong, a sin. It is taking life and destroying it. But since abortion is legal in Japan, it is felt that open or firm opposition to the practice would stir up “unnecessary trouble.” So silence is observed.
One priest mimeographed a tract and circulated it among members of the temple. The tract opposed abortion. However, when asked what would be done if a member had an abortion anyway, the answer was: ‘The person would be lectured on the wrong that was committed and sternly told to refrain from such in the future.’ And what if the offense was repeated? Would excommunication follow? ‘No, such drastic action would not be taken,’ was the answer. The offender would be asked to take certain steps to amend or seek forgiveness by rituals.
As an example of the kind of action suggested in order to be absolved, some months ago 21 Buddhist temples in Numazu City sponsored an advertisement for an “Aborted Child Memorial Jizo.” (“Jizo” is the patron saint of children.) It offered a stone image for $354 (U.S.) or a smaller version of it for $77, before which prayers were to be offered for having had an abortion. Does that really encourage one to avoid the sin?
What about Christendom? The stand of some churches, though not all, is that abortion is wrong. But is it enforced? Clearly, No. Of 66 countries that have legalized abortion, nearly half are recognized as “Christian” countries, and about half of these are strongly Catholic! Although the pope has made appeals to uphold the Church’s opposition to abortion, those appeals, for the most part, have fallen on deaf ears.
Of course, this does not mean that all who are Buddhist or who belong to one of Christendom’s churches accept abortion. But these religions definitely offer no strong deterrent to it.
What About the Bible?
The Bible does not directly mention medically induced abortions. Although the term “abortion” is found in some Bible translations, it is used with reference to a miscarriage that might result from natural causes. Nevertheless, the Scriptures do not leave a person in any doubt as to God’s viewpoint regarding the life of an unborn child.
Properly viewed, the fruitage of the womb is a blessing from Jehovah God. (Psalm 127:3) The Bible shows that the Creator himself is lovingly aware of the developing human embryo or fetus. (Psalm 139:13-16) And for the protection of both the mother and her unborn child, he stated in his law to ancient Israel: “In case men should struggle with each other and they really hurt a pregnant woman and her children do come out but no fatal accident occurs, he is to have damages imposed upon him without fail according to what the owner of the woman may lay upon him; and he must give it through the justices. But if a fatal accident should occur, then you must give soul for soul.”—Exodus 21:22, 23.
Some Bible translations express the matter somewhat differently. But the original Hebrew text makes clear that in Israel a fine was to be imposed if a child was born prematurely due to injury done to the mother. And if the accident was fatal to either the mother or the child in her womb, then the penalty was “soul for soul.”
Has God’s viewpoint toward human life changed? After the Mosaic Law covenant was terminated, Jehovah caused this forceful reminder to be written to the Christian congregation: “You know that no manslayer has everlasting life remaining in him.”—1 John 3:15.
If anyone who has been responsible for the death of a fellow human wants God’s approval, it is vitally important for him to cease doing anything that would identify him as a manslayer. He must earnestly seek God’s forgiveness and then put on the “new personality,” one that upholds God’s righteousness and reflects loyalty to his commands concerning the sanctity of life. A genuine change is required.—Ephesians 4:24.
The Morality of It
Why would any woman want to terminate the life of a human that is developing within herself? The answer may not please those who favor abortion. But the fact remains that selfishness is often at the root of the problem. It is usually an evasion of responsibility.
Andrew Hacker, writing in Harper’s magazine, made this point: “In fact, abortion conceals a basic social conflict, but one we are not prepared to discuss. The subject is sexual intercourse.” For many people sex is a very important pastime. They want to enjoy it fully, but they do not want the responsibility of taking care of a natural consequence of sex—a baby! Abortion is a method of birth control—a very sick method—used not only in Japan but in many parts of the world.
Many people are addicted to the pursuit of pleasure. Their respect for life is overshadowed by their selfish pursuit of sexual pleasure. The Bible says: “In the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves” and “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” Is it not obvious that this condition prevails in our day?—2 Timothy 3:1-4.
Proponents of abortion use expressions to cover the real atrocity that is committed. They refer to “the products of conception” and the “contents of the uterus.” The actual act of abortion is called the “termination of pregnancy.” They try to avoid the moral issue. But the honest truth, simply put, is this: Abortion is the killing of a human. It makes no difference whether the life is snuffed out in the uterus within 12 weeks of conception or whether it is choked to death 12 minutes after it is born! It has been killed.
In Britain, after a 24-week-old aborted fetus lived for 10 minutes, it is reported that two of the nurses had “horrific nightmares.” Some have quit their profession after such abortion incidents. Seeing the helpless aborted fetus struggling to live is not a pleasant experience!
Did They Have an Abortion?
We introduced this article with two actual cases in which abortion was suggested as a way to overcome a problem. In the first case, the 27-year-old mother knew that she had a life-endangering sickness. The doctor’s argument was very forceful and sincere. But this woman is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and so is her husband. They knew God’s law regarding the sanctity of life. They had firm faith in the resurrection. So they rejected the doctor’s suggestion.
What was the result? Contrary to the doctor’s sincere warning, the wife gave birth to, not one, but two healthy babies—twins! Her health has not improved, but she has not got worse either. Because of putting Jehovah God’s laws first and trusting him she has four healthy children and a clean conscience.
Realizing that even the doctor cannot be 100 percent sure, many women have chosen to have their babies in spite of warnings that these could be born retarded or malformed. Parents have come to love such children as something special. They have received warm love from these children in return for the love and compassion they have shown. Those with a Bible-based hope know that in God’s new order in the near future their children will be able to enjoy a completely normal human life, free from any taint of imperfection.—Revelation 21:3, 4.
And what about the other case? The wife was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses but her husband was not. She could not agree to an abortion. As he had threatened, the husband arranged to get a divorce and started to live with another woman. His wife had to find a way to provide her own living and care for the new baby when it arrived. A boy was born and the wife was happy with him.
After some months the husband found that his new circumstances were not as good as those with his former wife. He went to see her and he also saw the beautiful boy he had fathered. Now he became determined to end his second relationship and return to his former wife. But she said she would not remarry him because, as a Christian, she would marry only a man who was a genuine follower of Jesus Christ.
This was a challenge to him. He humbled himself and started to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. After several months he was baptized. Following this he was reunited with his family and, during the years since then, he has become a mature Christian, an example to others in the Christian congregation.
These two cases well illustrate that Jehovah does not abandon those who show that they are firmly determined to uphold the sanctity of life.
Perhaps some who read this article will feel that, because they have had an abortion, they have committed a grave sin. But there is reason for them to take courage if they really, from the heart, regret their past course, refrain from repeating the wrong, and seek forgiveness from Jehovah, the Giver of life.—See Isaiah 1:18, also Isa 55:6, 7.
So, would you have an abortion? The answer rests with you. You must live with the decision you make.
[Box/Picture on page 17]
The pope has said: ‘No one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life.’ But, of 66 countries that have legalized abortion, 15 are strongly Catholic. In Italy, there are 200,000 abortions each year. Some 180,000 illegal abortions take place yearly in Portugal, and about 250,000 in Colombia
[Box/Picture on page 18]
Buddhist teaching includes respect for life of the unborn. Priests in Japan agree that abortion is wrong. But they are generally quiet about it so as not to stir up “unnecessary trouble.” And if anyone gets an abortion—well, it can be overlooked
[Box on page 19]
Is the Fetus a Human Entity?
Those who argue for abortion contend that the fetus is not a human entity because it cannot live by itself. If that is the case, what is to be said of adults whose survival depends on the use of an artificial kidney machine or the aid of a battery-powered heart pacemaker? Certainly those people cannot be said to be less than human entities just because they cannot exist independently of these aids.
The medical profession generally agrees that life begins at the moment of conception. The World Book Encyclopedia, 1978, Volume 16, page 228b, has a photograph of an egg and sperm taken through a microscope. The caption over the photo says: “A Human Life Begins when the sperm gets through the outer covering of an egg and fertilizes it.” Yes, at conception! Therefore, can it be said that the aborted fetus is not a life that has been snuffed out? How do you answer?
Let those who favor abortion think about this fact: If their parents, especially their mothers, had held such a passionate desire for legal abortion, they themselves might well have ended up in a garbage can! Do they regret that their mothers were more concerned with the “right to life”?