Abortion—And “the Source of Life”
TODAY, with modern technology, doctors can easily determine the sex of a fetus. But who can determine its disposition? Who can see its potential as a living, human soul? (Genesis 2:7) Only Jehovah God can, since he is “the source of life.” (Psalm 36:9) Consider the following Scriptural examples.
The patriarchal laws of inheritance related to the primacy of the firstborn. Yet, when Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, was pregnant with twins, God told her: “The older will serve the younger.” The lives of their two boys, Jacob and Esau, testified to Jehovah’s understanding of their personalities long before their birth.—Genesis 25:22, 23.
Centuries later, an angel told Zechariah the priest that his wife Elizabeth would have a son who should be named John. It was the privilege of this son, later known as John the Baptizer, to prepare the way for Jesus, the Messiah. Humility of mind was an exacting requirement for this commission, as God well knew.—Luke 1:8-17.
The Human Fetus—How Precious?
King David acknowledged: “You [Jehovah] kept me screened off in the belly of my mother. . . . Your eyes saw even the embryo of me, and in your book all its parts were down in writing.” And that is just as true of any one of us.—Psalm 139:13-16.
Every human pregnancy is precious to “the source of life,” Jehovah God. Just how precious, the Mosaic Law makes clear at Exodus 21:22, 23: “In case men should struggle with each other and they really hurt a pregnant woman . . . , if a fatal accident should occur, then you must give soul for soul.”
Some Bible translations make it appear that in this law the crucial matter was what happened to the mother, not the fetus. The original Hebrew text, however, refers to a fatal accident to either mother or child.
Early Christian Thinking
Following the death of Jesus Christ’s apostles in the first century, many men expounded on their teachings. These writers were not inspired as the Bible writers were, but their comments are of interest, for they reflect the religious thinking of their time on this crucial issue. Here are some excerpts.
The Letter of Barnabas, chapter 19:5 (c.100-132 C.E.)
“Thou shalt not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shalt thou destroy it after it is born.”
The Didache, or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (c.150 C.E.)
“This is the Way of Life: . . . You shall not kill the child in the womb or murder a new-born infant.”
Tertullian: Apology, chapter 9:8 (c.197 C.E.)
“But with us murder is forbidden once and for all. We are not permitted to destroy even the foetus in the womb, as long as blood is still being drawn to form a human being. To prevent the birth of a child is anticipated murder. It makes no difference whether one destroys a life already born or interferes with its coming to birth. One who will be a man is already one.”
Basil: Letter to Amphilochius (347 C.E.)
“She who has deliberately destroyed a foetus has to pay the penalty of murder. And any hair-splitting distinction as to whether the foetus was formed or unformed is inadmissible to us.”
The Christian View
A spontaneous abortion or a miscarriage may result at any time from human imperfection or from an accident. A deliberately induced abortion, however, simply to prevent the birth of an unwanted child, is a different matter. According to the Scriptures, as we have seen, it is a willful taking of human life.
Who is “the One laying out the earth and its produce, the One giving breath to the people on it, and spirit to those walking in it”? It is not man but the Source of all life, Jehovah God. (Isaiah 42:5) Our God-given ability to pass life to our offspring is a precious privilege for which, as in all things, “each of us will render an account for himself to God.”—Romans 14:12.
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A Happy Conception
In 1973, The Watchtower, the companion magazine to Awake!, carried a short article discussing the Bible’s viewpoint on abortion. Two young students read it. The girl was pregnant, and she and the father had agreed on an abortion. But the article made them think. As a result, they decided to have their baby.
Recently the man was again contacted by Jehovah’s Witnesses, and he said: “I have the highest esteem for your Bible literature. It is because of that jolting article that my wife and I are the proud parents of a lovable 13-year-old daughter today!”
It was certainly rewarding for them to take the Scriptural course.
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H. Armstrong Roberts