... and Suggested Guidelines for the Denomination
The pioneers of Adventism are on record as condemning abortion on the very simple grounds that abortion is murder. An 1867 Advent Review article called “Fashionable Murder” was the first foray into the topic by our writers.
And for a century, printed thoughts on abortion were the same. J. H. Kellogg, James White and others shared the view that once conceived, a person is protected by the 6th Commandment.
Exo 20:13 "Thou shalt not kill."
This view, established by Scripture, was not changed by Scripture. The Bible speaks clearly that David was David from his very conception. And it presents John the Baptist, as Christ’s forerunner, rejoicing in the presence of Jesus when both of them were yet unborn. Yes, John started his work before his first breath.
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me (Psalm 51:5).
And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy (Luke 4:41-44).
More than this, the penalty for accidentally injuring a pregnant woman so as to cause a premature birth was a serious fine. And if the unborn child was itself found to have been injured or killed, whatever injury was suffered was to be imposed on the injurious person.
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, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise" (Exodus 21:22-25 NIV).
The artistic work of God in fashioning you preceded your birth and even the formation of your organs in the womb. As John the Baptist had his mission before he was born, so you had a purpose before you had a breath too.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them (Psalm 139:13).
When was Jeremiah set aside the work of being a prophet? Not at, but before his day of birth.
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations (Jer 1:5 ).
These are all ways of saying, in simple language, that life begins at conception and is protected there by God’s law from being terminated by another person.
But someone says... "What if this pregnancy is the result of rape or of incest?"
I answer, “How tragic that is that the mother was raped or otherwise abused! May the perpetrators be brought to justice. May she be given the support and help she needs. But do you mean to imply that one bad deed deserves another? Do you mean that the baby, already burdened with an unfortunate parentage, ought to be refused a chance to choose the light? How is your ancestry? I mean, do you want to be judged with the same judgment you use?”
In the Bible we find plainly that a child should not be punished for the sins of its parents. If someone must die for the rape, let it be the rapist, not the baby. That is the jurisprudence that comes to us from Moses.
The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin (Deu 24:16).
But, someone counters, adulterers were stoned. That, they say, killed both the mother and the unborn child. And I reply, do not confound the death penalty with abortion. In the former, the end of the unborn’s life is unintended. In the latter it is intended. And intention is the very ingredient that separates manslaughter from murder.
Others say, “but what if tests show that the baby will be blind or deaf or have Down’s syndrome, or unviable? Or be profoundly retarded?”
And the Bible responds that God has a place on earth for all such persons. He created them as they are and gives them to be our friends and to be our children and even our deceased children. They all, in their life and/or in their death, help us cultivate love and sympathy. They were not given to help us cultivate hard and cold calculating skills.
So the LORD said to him, 'Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD? (Exo 4:11).
(As an aside, this is the same reason that life-insurance is counter-productive in the church. God has given the church widows and orphans to awaken its love and sympathy. They are to be laid upon the church’s charity. But with a payout from a robust insurance policy, some of them might even awaken envy in the minds of unsympathetic persons.)
I hope Adventists would not give ear to the cry, “the woman has a right over her own body.” For a secularist, that might be a noble expression. But believers know better. We have a right to do only things that harmonize with God’s law. We are not our own.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
To say this in another way, my rights over my body have a limit. The state may allow me to commit adultery or to lie or to legally gouge my customers, but the law of God condemns all three as sin. And the same law forbids those three actions from being done by the church or by its members.
What I am saying is that Roe vs Wade (I speak here to Americans) offers information to jurists and to parents and to medical practitioners. But it does not so inform the church. We are called to a higher standard than that enforced by the courts.
Now our church has hospitals.
But, someone says, what if the mother’s life is at stake? I answer, “medical emergencies are not abortions except in the broadest use of the term. If in saving the life of a mother the infant is imperiled or inadvertently killed, this was a partial success at saving life. We will not fault as a murderer the first responder who succeeds in freeing only one person of two trapped in a burning car. And in the case of the mother and infant, we know that often it is the mother who is lost rather than the baby. The death of a mother in such cases is no more murder than is the loss of baby in a similar case.”
We justly complain, though, that any language used to permit such emergency procedures is stretched by medical establishments until teen-age distress becomes the emergency that warrants an abortion to save a girl’s future. The solution to such stretching is to close down all abortion services in our church own institutions.
But, someone opines, “they need the money!” I answer, “What they really need is God’s blessing.” Someone else says, “we will lose physicians!” I answer, “let them go and may they take the curse with them that rested on us for murder previously.” Someone yells, “Are you condemning the guidelines voted by Annual Council in 1992!?” I reply, “Yes.”
Those guidelines, like others before them, were written to appease a liberal medical community that has risen among us. That part of the medical community has little respect for the Sabbath or for church order or for our values generally. But on an issue of obedience to the Ten Commandments, their quibbles should hold no weight.
Below are guidelines that I would love to see adapted or used in place of those voted in 1992.
Recommended guidelines regarding abortion:
The Seventh-day Adventist church treasures, as part of its founding principles, the idea that the Ten Commandments are binding on believers today. Consequently, Adventists regard the Seventh-day as Holy even in lands where doing so involves considerable inconvenience or worse.
The church recognizes the sixth commandment as forbidding the taking of human life in abortion.
For this reason, we do not permit abortion services to be performed by any of our medical institutions.
We condemn as sinful the murder of unborn children.
In cases where rape or incest or the youthfulness of the mother makes for an unlikely happy home, we encourage mothers to seek other Adventists to adopt and raise the child from birth.
We repudiate as wrong and shameful the fact that for decades we have failed to stop the practice of abortion in some of our hospitals and clinics. For this we ask God’s forgiveness. As a sign of our repentance we are establishing a fund to establish new life-saving medical work in new areas. All hospitals that have performed abortions will be asked to make payments into this fund until they have turned in an amount equal to their profits from abortion procedures since 1970.
Hospitals that might refuse to go along with these guidelines are advised that they may not longer use the name Seventh-day Adventist in association with their institution until they are ready to harmonize with them.
Eugene Prewitt directs the Bible Teacher Training hosted by Aenon. From there, his teachers train young people from around Asia to reach the various people groups of South East Asia. During school breaks and on weekends he and his wife Heidi frequently travel to put on presentations on Bible topics, canvassing and on Christian Education.