I was reading the news and couldn’t help but focus my attention on the newest laws regarding abortion in the state of New York. It is now legal to abort a full term baby in that state—which completely blows my mind.
I’m the father of three beautiful children who I remember holding just moments after birth. To think that in my own country it would be legal, just before they are born, to kill a fully formed human baby makes me physically sick to my stomach.
Where does the church stand on this? You would assume that there would be some guidance given to those with spiritual questions about abortion.
Have you ever read the official statement by the Seventh-day Adventist church regarding abortion?
It was voted in 1992 by the General Conference executive committee and is one of the weakest attempts at a statement that I have ever read. At the end of the article, it has taken a stand for nothing, and by standing for nothing it essentially rubber stamps an affirmation for the death of a child in the womb. Because of the vote of this group, many unborn children have been murdered in hospitals with the word Adventist on them. “Murdered” too strong of a word? That’s the exact word Ellen White uses for the death of an unborn child.
Stay with me.
Adventists have been in the spotlight for our weak statement on abortion. The Washington Post had an article feature an Adventist hospital where people were protesting outside the hospital because that Christian hospital performs abortions. Here’s what the hospital spokesman said about our church beliefs on abortion as quoted in WaPo: “Hospital spokesman Reg Burgess said the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not condemn abortion, and abortions "aren't just performed willy-nilly at the hospital." If you wonder about the wording in our official church statement, clearly Adventist hospital leaders read it as an endorsement to perform these monstrous procedures in the name of Adventist health.
You might be familiar with Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart, I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
Who formed you in the womb? God did! The same God you sing to each Sabbath. The same God that died for your sins and offers you grace and salvation also formed you in your mother’s womb!
The Psalmist praised God realizing that he was fearfully and wonderfully made. You are a miraculous creation! It is nothing other than a divine process that creates humanity in the womb. It’s either that or evolution—those are our only options for this type of creation. Since I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, I have to believe that humans are a divine creation with endless potential, regardless of how they were created.
But some would have you believe there is no value to a developing baby in the womb. As Christians, we must remember what it says in Genesis 1:27, that we, every one of us on this planet, are made in the image of God. That includes the babies that are unwanted. That includes the babies that have defects in the womb. It includes every single baby ever conceived, doesn’t it? The Bible doesn’t say that only the perfect babies born to families that are ready for them were created in His image. He created us, all humans, in His image.
Abortion seems to be a political topic, but it isn’t. It’s a moral topic and morals are all mixed up in this country. In the state of Florida, if you destroy sea turtle eggs—a developing baby sea turtle—you can go to jail and receive a fine! If you destroy bald eagle or golden eagle eggs, the same thing can happen to you. If you destroy a HUMAN fetus, the government will pay for it and there is no penalty. This is not about politics or any political party, it’s about what is right and what is wrong.
To find out what right and wrong are, we must look to writers that God has inspired.
For starters, the 6th commandment states “thou shall not murder.” Your translation might say “thou shall not kill” however the best translation is the word murder. Is there a difference in biblical designation and wording for the born and unborn? Is one less than the other, indicating the possibility that ending a fetus’ life isn’t murder?
Genesis 25:22 describes the twins Jacob and Esau in the womb. They are unborn fetuses. In Genesis 5:4 it describes the already born descendants of Adam after Seth.
The same word in Hebrew is used for these children, both born and unborn. That’s because in God’s eyes, they are both humans made in His image and He has plans for their lives! Born or unborn, it doesn’t matter—they are both children.
In Luke 1:36, Gabriel is sharing the news that Elizabeth has conceived a son. Notice that the angel Gabriel, who ministers in the very presence of God, designates it as a son at conception. He doesn’t say that she’s just pregnant, he shows the gender and states his mission! At conception, there are plans for this baby. Gabriel doesn’t wait until there’s a heartbeat to say what John the Baptist is going to do or be. At conception, Gabriel states how special this baby is.
In Luke chapter one and two, the angels describe the unborn John the Baptist and the born Jesus Christ with the same word. The angels of heaven see no difference between a baby in the womb and a baby lying in a manger with his parents. All are precious in heaven’s sight.
As Seventh-day Adventists, we are blessed to have the inspired writings of Ellen White. I unhesitatingly quote her insight into biblical topics when I preach on Sabbath. The inspiration of her writings is core to Adventist beliefs. So what does she say about abortion?
Patriarchs and Prophets p. 316: “All acts of injustice that tend to shorten life…are, to a greater or less degree, violations of the sixth commandment.”
Is there life in the womb? Absolutely. If we acknowledge that there is life in the egg of a sea turtle or a bald eagle, we must also acknowledge that there is life in the human womb. To shorten that life is a violation of the sixth commandment.
Ministry of Healing p. 372,373,
“The effect of prenatal influences is by many parents looked upon as a matter of little moment; but heaven does not so regard it…two lives are depending upon her [the mother] and her wishes should be tenderly regarded…”
Here she clearly states that a pregnant woman represents two lives.
For possibly the most direct statement by Ellen White regarding the unborn we can look at 2 Selected Messages p. 429,430:
“If the father would become acquainted with physical law, he might better understand his obligations and responsibilities. He would see that he had been guilty of almost murdering his children, by suffering so many burdens to come upon the mother, compelling her labor beyond her strength before their birth, in order to obtain means to leave for them.”
My fellow Adventists, Ellen White clearly equates the purposeful death of an unborn child with murder. How can we see it as anything else?
Ministry of Healing p. 373:
“Every drop of strong drink taken [by a mother] to gratify appetite endangers the physical, mental and moral health of her child, and is a direct sin against the Creator.”
Friends, she couldn’t be any more clear that endangering the health of an unborn baby is a sin against God Himself.
Lets go back to the official Seventh-day Adventist statement on abortion. There is a lot of talk about the beauty of life and how things are different in a fallen world. There’s also the need to be supportive of everyone. All that is nice, but completely contradictory with the rest of the statement! In section 5 it states: “Therefore, any attempts to coerce women either to remain pregnant or to terminate pregnancy should be rejected as infringements of personal freedom.”
This is the main gist of the official statement! Don’t tell someone that it’s right or wrong, just let them decide on their own what is right or wrong.
This advice is completely against clear direction both in Holy Scripture and in the inspired writings of one of our founders, Ellen G. White. If I was in New York and someone was considering having a full term abortion, you’d better believe that I would ignore this unbiblical advice and beg the mother to keep her child. It’s time to change our official statement on abortion.
How can we as Seventh-day Adventists quote her writings on other topics like health and prophecy and ignore something as clear as her statements on abortion?
Often when discussing this topic, it is brought up that it is the woman’s body, and she should have the freedom to choose what she does with her body. Totally true, only the woman’s body and the body of the baby are two separate bodies! The body of the baby is IN the body of the mother. Just like Ellen White says, there are two lives involved, not just one life involved.
We have biblical guidance to take care of our bodies and not to destroy them.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies “(1 Corinthians 6:19,20).
Are we honoring God with our bodies when we kill someone made in His image in the womb? The temple of the Holy Spirit should be the safest place for little babies, and yet it is an extremely dangerous place for God’s little creations.
There are extreme cases where abortion is rationalized. Rape or incest for instance. These are absolutely heartbreaking situations. What do we do with these cases? What should be our official church stance on these situations?
I came across a Bible verse that gives guidance on this exact situation, and it comes in Deuteronomy 24:16:
"Parents must not be put to death for the sins of their children, nor children for the sins of their parents. Those deserving to die must be put to death for their own crimes.”
How can we put anyone to death when they haven’t done anything? These are such hard situations, but clearly the Bible states that we shouldn’t kill children for the sins of their parents, and these are the exact situations we are talking about in rape and incest. The only situation I can think of where it might be necessary is to save the life of the mother.
Public speaker Pam Stenzel was conceived in rape. Here’s what she has to say about this topic:
“I am still a human being. I have value and my life isn’t worth less than yours just because of how I was conceived—and I don’t believe I deserve the death penalty because of the crime of my biological father.”
Singer Ethel Waters was conceived in rape in the late 1800’s. Ethel went on to become a singer and actress, becoming the first black woman to integrate the Broadway theater district. She became the first African American to star in her own television show in 1939. In 1957 Ethel attended a Billy Graham evangelistic series and gave her heart to Jesus. Through her life, one song that she was especially famous for singing was the old spiritual “His Eye Is On The Sparrow.” She would sing this song to thousands at later Billy Graham crusades, sharing her faith in Jesus with everyone she knew.
Ethel’s story is a reminder of the grace and purpose Jesus can give anyone in life, regardless of your past or where you came from.
Over and over in the Scriptures Jesus said he came to give life. If we are to follow Jesus, we must also be about giving life, not taking it.
With the evidence in Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy, as a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, I have no choice but to be in favor of supporting the lives of the unborn if I am to stay faithful to God’s word.
Proverbs 31:8--Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.
It’s time for our Seventh-day Adventist church to take a stand for what is right. It’s time to align our statement on abortion with Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy.
Jamey Houghton is married to Erin, and is Pastor of the Franktown SDA church just south of Denver Colorado.