Looking at the map of Europe it is easy for Christians to be bitterly disappointed.
The availability of unrestricted abortion is growing. With the exception of Malta and Northern Ireland it appears that most countries offer easy access to ‘termination’. Reports of the near total elimination of Down’s Syndrome in Iceland by pre-natal screening have captured attention. A culture of death and euthanasia is embracing us. We are being silenced as witnesses to the horrific truth of what happens in the abortion industry.
Nine million lives
As an ageing celibate male, why should the abortion issue capture my attention? Pro-Choice feminists might argue that I have no right to express an opinion on this matter. With almost 9 million lives lost to legal abortion in the UK, and presumably half of these female, I beg to differ. This is surely the burning moral issue within our society, and one where Christians need to speak out more loudly than ever. The witness of history is that abortion can represent an incredibly powerful opportunity for evangelism. Are we ready to grasp the nettle, though? I want to briefly share my story of coming to faith as encouragement to Christians to continue witnessing to the horror of abortion.
I came to faith while working as a GP in the UK. Working in mainstream practice I became, like so many other NHS workers, almost oblivious to the moral sleaze engulfing our country. Requests for ‘the Morning After Pill’, requests for ‘abortion’, and requests for ‘underage contraception’ are commonplace.
But one single-handed and very isolated rural GP practice, where I came to work, had essentially opted out of the sexual revolution. The Christian GP there told me that I was free to prescribe and refer as my conscience dictated while covering his absence. He outlined his own strategy in regard to these matters, based on his biblical faith. It was a sheer joy to work for a period in this environment, where one man’s public witness and faith meant that a surgery was untainted with the ubiquitous sexual degradation. Local patients may have accessed sexual health services through alternative facilities, but it was a real pleasure for me not to have to deal with these issues.
The gospel over coffee
The senior receptionist in this surgery was an evangelical Christian and started to share the gospel with me at coffee time. She posted me evangelical literature even after my employment there finished. The witness of these two stayed with me, and over time I made a decision to follow his practice on abortion and the Morning After Pill (whatever the consequences and whatever unpopularity might follow).
Three years later the seeds sown by the Christian doctor and his bold receptionist bore fruit, when I came to faith in March 2001. The intense conversion experience brought a joy and peace I had never imagined possible in this life.
With time for reflection following recent retirement it has been utterly fascinating to study the ways in which God has drawn many people to faith through their adverse experiences of abortion. It might take many telephone directories to record that list of names. There are the healthcare workers who have come to Christ in the process of rejecting abortion. There are women who have been delighted to be redirected to keeping their babies by pavement prayer vigils. There are the women drawn to Christ by guilt over past abortion. There are men convicted of their sexual sin and saddened by abortion.
An elderly man recently broke down in tears, speaking with me at a church meeting. He remembered with sadness a 1960’s or 1970’s abortion, and deeply regretted a former sexual partner’s decision. There is the woman I met who changed her mind about her abortion just as the anaesthetic was about to be delivered. What joy she had in her baby. There are the cases (maybe 1% or less) of failed abortion. Some GP or nurse colleagues may have witnessed the joy a child can bring in these circumstances, and the way a child can bind a family together. I saw this once and was amazed at how the natural law of maternal bonding reverses any earlier feelings of anger or ambivalence towards the previously ‘unwanted’ baby. Increasingly psychiatry doctors are encouraged to challenge those who see suicide as a benign or passive act. Should we as Christians always take great care to affirm that social abortion is a premeditated aggressive act? I do not want to digress into the complex and distracting area of abortion semantics; but one American tract resource maybe says it all in five words: ‘Abortion stops a human heart’.
Science our friend
Science and the Internet are the greatest friends of the pro-life movement, but few Christians seem to fully realise this as yet.
The problem for Christians defending the pro-life position resembles that which we face when defending the resurrection. The problem is not so much a lack of evidence for the personhood of the unborn child, as being inundated with far too much evidence. The solid evidence of human embryology unequivocally affirms the humanity of the unborn.
The idea presented to me 40 years ago in school biology classes was that the early human embryo is some kind of hybrid species. The mythology of the early embryo being a common ancestor ‘tadpole’, with ‘potential to become a human’, is utter rubbish. We should always speak of ‘a human with potential’, rather than a ‘potential human’, when referring to the unborn. Does the witness of Louise Brown and millions of other IVF babies really leave us with any other choice? The scientific evidence is plainly before us to affirm the biblical picture of personhood from conception.
Has the abortion industry in Europe reached its zenith of power, and will increased public knowledge of science see it collapse? The map of the Nazi empire in 1942 looked impressive; but come February 1943, and defeat at Stalingrad, a new picture started to emerge. It is far from clear if many younger UK doctors or nurses are willing to be involved in abortion. Is the use of ‘medical abortion at home’ (using drugs rather than surgery) one response to abortion clinic staffing crises? ‘Partial birth’ and third trimester abortion is increasingly viewed as utterly repugnant.
As a GP in the 1990s I noted that the local hospital seemed reluctant to accept abortion referrals beyond ten weeks gestation. The visible innate humanity of the second trimester embryo may make the practice of mid trimester abortion increasingly repugnant to all involved in it. Is it no accident that the Republic of Ireland abortion referendum aimed at introducing terminations at or below ten weeks gestation?
Are the new battle lines drawn within the first third of pregnancy or earlier? Christians need to take note of this and to be prepared for the next phase of conflict. Some people reading this article may be called to a deeper understanding of the science-ethics-history sequelae of abortion, and to take a more prominent role in opposition to mass abortion. The new Brephos ministry started under Dave Brennan may be a great source of training for anyone wishing to deepen their knowledge and effectiveness in pastoral ministry (or evangelism) with victims of abortion.
I suspect that many church members find abortion repugnant, but lack some basic science resources that could radically transform their witness on this subject.
1 ‘Life From Birth’(tract by Crossway). 2 ‘In the Womb’(tract by Living Waters) with National Geographic images. 3 Christian Medical Fellowship website ‘Any Cause for Celebration?’ (YouTube) 4 SPUC Foetal feet at 10 weeks scale model+brief embryology outline (£1-49) 5 SPUC newsletter (free on request by post or email) 6 Abort67 website (they have one superb iconic image of a 7-8 week pregnancy) 7 Abort73 website (Has ‘Aborting America’ quotes by Dr B. N. Nathanson) 8 New York Times on-line Obituary Dr B. N. Nathanson (Abortionist to Pro-Lifer) 9 1st Trimester Medical Abortion: Abortion Pills Dr Anthony Levatino (YouTube) 10 ‘Abortion – Open Your Mouth for the Dumb’ (pamphlet by Banner of Truth) 11 Brephos website 12 Facebook – If you find quality pro-life resources/ pictures share them.