What is the question?: There are really two, different, very active abortion questions:
1. If a woman finds herself pregnant, what it the best (or least worst) solution for her and the potential newborn that she is carrying? 1) To do nothing, have the baby and raise it herself (hopefully with help from others).2) To do nothing, have the baby and give it up for adoption.3) To have an abortion and end the pregnancy. 2.If a woman finds herself pregnant, discusses her options with her physician or counselor, and decides to have an abortion, should the state override her decision and prevent her from having an abortion?
Life and personhood are two very different matters. The human ovum (egg) is already clearly alive when it enters the fallopian tubes, many hours or days before it has the opportunity to be fertilized. Women release one about each month between puberty and menopause – a few hundred in a lifetime. Almost all of these are destined to die and be ejected from the body. Unless a couple is having difficulty conceiving, very little thought is given to these hundreds of deaths. Although the ovum is a form of life, there is a consensus that it is not a human person.
Hundreds of millions of male sperm are liberated during a typical sexual encounter — a sufficient number to theoretically double the earth’s human population in a week or two if each were used to fertilize a separate ovum. Sperm are also clearly alive. Viewing them under a microscope reveals them to be energetic swimmers. Essentially all of these will die within days. Again, unless infertility is a problem, little attention is given to these deaths. An average man produces thousands of sperm a second. At most, a very few during his lifetime will contribute to the formation of a baby. The rest will die. Few men are consciously aware of the loss. Although sperm are very much alive and kicking, there is a consensus that they are not human persons.
Among women without an IUD, about 50% of fertilized ovum develop into a baby which is born some nine months later. Some of the rest are aborted. Others, because of genetic imperfections or other reasons, are lost by a miscarriage.
A consensus exists that an infant is the most precious form of life on earth, and needs to be protected under law. The philosophical and religious principle behind the pro-choice/pro-life argument is: when does human personhood begin? After that event occurs, terminating life is a form of murder which many people believe can only be justified to prevent the death of the mother, to prevent permanent disability, or to prevent extremely serious injury. Some would also allow an abortion in cases of rape or incest. The only reason we could see for an appropriate abortion is only in extreme situations, like if your family would disown you or the mothers life would be at risk. Socially, we see abortion as not very acceptable, being Christians, we dont believe in the murder of babies.
Unfortunately, there is no consensus of when human personhood starts.
Science can tell us, with increasing detail, the processes that start with a sperm and ovum and end up with a newborn baby. But it cannot tell us:
Does the fetus have a soul?
When do the products of conception become a person?
Does a zygote have a full set of human rights?
Is an ovum and sperm a person?
Is abortion murder?
These are questions with philosophical, religious and political aspects. Science cannot contribute a great deal towards resolving them. And because these questions have a religious component, there will always be a wide variety of beliefs among persons in different faith groups.
Aristotle (384-322 BCE) wrote in one of his biological treatises that the male embryo develops a human soul about 40 days after conception, whereas a female fetus acquires its soul at about 90 days. For much of its history, the Christian Church believed in this, delayed-ensoulment principle and allowed abortions up to 90 days into pregnancy.
In 1997-JAN, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data indicating that the abortion rate in the US had dropped to its lowest level in 20 years. They recorded 1.3 million abortions in 1993 and 1.2 million in 1994.
The number of legal abortions increased from 1970, until it reached an all time high in 1984 at 36.4 abortions for every 100 live births. The rate has gradually declined to 33.5 in 1992 and 31.1 in 1995.
The abortion rate for 1996 was 20 per year per 1000 women ages 15 to 44. This was unchanged from the previous year
The total number of legal abortions increased slightly from 1995 (at 1,210,883) to 1996 (at 1,221,585). This is an increase of 0.89%. Since the national population increased by about 0.92% from mid-1995 to mid-1996, the abortion per-capita rate has decreased slightly
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention figures for 1996, released in 1999-JUL, showed that the highest abortion rate is in California (39 per year per 1000 women ages 15 to 44). California was followed by New York (37), Florida (27), Delaware (26) Rhode Island (24). The lowest was Wyoming with 2. State laws probably influence these numbers. Tough state regulations will cause significant numbers of women to travel to a nearby state for abortions. This will reduce the rate of abortions in their state of origin and increase the rate in nearby states
92% of abortions were obtained within the woman’s state of residence, for those women whose state of residence was known
Worldwide, about 46 million women have abortions. This represents 22% of the 210 million pregnancies that occur yearly
When abortions are done:
Up to 7 weeks: 13.8%
During the 7th week: 15.2%
During the 8th week: 20.9%
During the first 8 weeks: slightly more than half or 49%
During the 9th or 10th week: 24.6%
During the first 10 weeks: 74.5%
During the first 12 weeks: 88%
During first trimester: about 91%
During second trimester: about 9%
Elective terminations during third trimester: essentially none; one source estimates 100 (0.01%); others estimate a few thousand.
Required hysterotomies: about 4,000/yr. (0.2%)
Age, race and marital status:
About 80% of women having abortions were over the age of 18. 2
The rate of teen-age abortions has dropped from 31 per 1,000 women in 1983 to 21 per 1,000 women in 1994. 6
This rate is highest for women under 15 (77.5 in 1992) and over 40 (47.0 in 1992); it is lowest among women 30 to 34 (18.3 in 1992). This may reflect differences in the rates of unexpected and unwanted pregnancies among women in these age groups.
78% of the women having abortions were unmarried. 1
Abortions are relatively rare among married women (8.1 per 100 live births) vs. those by unmarried women (75 per 100 live births). 7,8 These numbers were 7.8 and 65.5 in 1996. 1
CDC figures for 1995 show that 20% of women having abortions are in their teens; 33% are ages 20 to 24, and 47% are ages 25 or older.
In 1996, about 57% of women who receive legal abortions were white. The abortion rate was 55.5 per 100 live births for black women, 20.2 for white women, and 36 for women of other races. 1
Almost half of American women (43%) will have an abortion sometime in their lifetime.
Reasons for abortion:
Essentially all abortions are done because the woman simply does not want to be pregnant. Only a small minority is done for medical necessary reasons.
Older pregnant women are often urged to undergo a procedure called amniocentesis, in order to determine if the fetus has a genetic disorder. We have not been able to find any statistical data on the percentage of couples that elect to have an abortion after a disorder is detected. There is some anecdotal information that it is close to 100%
98% of abortions in the US were done by a suction technique, either by manual vacuum aspiration or by surgery 5
Less than 0.5% is done by intrauterine saline or prostaglandin instillation.
Fewer than 0.01% were done by hysterectomy or hysterotomy
In Michigan during 1995: 0.06% of abortions involved complications (usually shock)
35% of abortions were performed in freestanding clinics; 64% in physician’s offices; essentially none in hospitals. 11
In the US, 69% of abortions are performed at 441 abortion clinics
Manual Vacuum aspiration (or Mini-vac) is an abortion technique that is gradually becoming widely available in North America. It was developed in the 1960’s as a technique that could be used in the third world, because it does not require electricity. A hand-held syringe creates a tiny, localized vacuum that removes the embryo. It is as powerful as the suction provided by conventional vacuum pumps, but is more focused. The amount of cervical dilation is less than with a conventional abortion because of the smaller size of the instrument; this generally creates less discomfort. It is a simple and safe procedure that gynecologists can use in their office without a general anesthetic. It typically takes less than two minutes. This technique seems to be becoming more common in the US and Canada, but there do not appear to be any available accurate data on the numbers of abortions performed using this method.The technique is limited to the interval from 3 to 6 weeks of gestation (as measured from the day that the last period ended). It is becoming more widely used because of improvements in early pregnancy detection. Home pregnancy tests can now reliably detect a pregnancy as early as 8 days after conception (perhaps a week before the first missed period). Women who suspect that they may be pregnant are taking home tests and then asking for abortions as soon as possible.
Saline or prostaglandin abortions: These totaled about 1.5% of all abortions – perhaps 25,000 in a typical year. A needle is fed through the woman’s abdomen into the liquid that surrounds the fetus. A saline solution, made of salt and water, is passed through the needle. The fetus dies of salt poisoning. Labor follows, and a dead fetus is delivered. The salt burns the skin of the fetus
Hysterotomies: These are almost identical to a Cesarean section. An incision is made in the woman’s abdomen and the fetus is removed
Partial Birth Abortions: These total perhaps 0.2% of all pregnancies. They are normally performed in emergency situations where a delivery is posing an extreme danger to the woman. This might be a threat to her life, or might cause her to be seriously injured, perhaps permanently disabled.
Rather than risk having the need for an abortion, many women are choosing Emergency Contraception (a.k.a. the Morning After pill) very soon after unprotected intercourse in the off chance that they might otherwise become pregnant. (Unprotected intercourse refers to penile-vaginal sexual activity without birth control, or when a condom broke or when a diaphragm became dislodged.) If taken immediately, this pill will prevent ovulation and/or conception; thus pregnancy cannot occur. Other women wait for two weeks or so and use a home pregnancy kit to determine if they are pregnant.
The alternative is to wait until she reaches the 6-week point in pregnancy and then opt for a surgical abortion. Most physicians are reluctant to perform surgical abortions before the 6th week of pregnancy because the embryo is too small. A few physician successfully perform abortions during the 5th week of gestation
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT ABORTION
Genesis 2:7 God made Adam’s body out of the dust of the earth. Later, the “man became a living soul” only after God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” This seems to state clearly that Adam’s personhood started when he took his first breath. Following this reasoning, a newborn becomes human after it starts breathing; a fetus is only potentially human; an abortion would not terminate the life of a human person. The most important word in the Hebrew Scriptures that was used to describe a person was “nephesh;” it appears 755 times in the Old Testament. It is translated as “living soul” in the above passage. One scholar, H.W. Wolff, 1 believes that the word’s root means “to breath.” He argues that during Old Testament times, “Living creatures are in this way exactly defined in Hebrew as creatures that breathe.”
Genesis 25:21-23 “…Rebekah his wife conceived. And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” The passage refers to the twin fetuses of Rebekah as being “nations.” They are clearly not nations at that state of development; the word has to be interpreted symbolically. They are rather two fetuses who were later born and whose descendents, according to the Bible, became two nations. The passage also refers to the twin fetuses as “banim:” a Hebrew word which almost always means a “newborns” or “infants,” or “children.” The ancient Hebrews did not have a separate word to describe “fetuses.” So they used the same word to describe fetuses that they also used to refer to children. English translations of the Bible use the term “children” here; this would more accurately be translated as “fetuses” except that the latter is really only a medical term. Again, the passage does not address the main question: are the fetuses full persons, or are they potential persons?
Exodus 13:1-2 “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.'” Throughout much of the ancient Middle East, the firstborn son in each family was ritually murdered as a sacrifice to the Gods. However if the first son was preceded either by the birth of a girl or a miscarriage, then the ceremony is not performed, as the son was not the first offering of the womb. In later years, this practice evolved into a substitute animal sacrifice, or a cash donation to the temple, or a dedication of the child to their deity. “…the ancestors of the Israelites probably at one time actually sacrificed their first born children, as Genesis 22:1-14 implies.” 2 These passages relate to infanticide, not abortion, because the infant would be killed after birth. But it shows the low regard for newborn human life during that era.
Exodus 20:13″You shall not murder.” This verse is often mistranslated “Thou shalt not kill.” Murder is being referred to — the killing of a human being. But since the writers of the Hebrew Scriptures and the tradition of the Jewish people regarded a human person as beginning at birth when the newborn first takes a breath, this verse would not apply to abortion.
Exodus 21:22 If men strive fight an hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit fetus depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine
Numbers 3:15 Take a census…including every male a month or more old. Only male babies over one month of age were considered persons for the purposes of enumeration. A baby under one month of age and a fetus were apparently not worthy of being counted as a human.
Matthew 26:24: “…but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.” This verse states that it would have been better for any person who betrayed Jesus if he had never been born. The verse might be interpreted as meaning that a terminated pregnancy might be better than a completed pregnancy, if the child’s life would be miserable
Luke 1:42…Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. This statement by Elizabeth might imply that the embryo that Mary was carrying is a child. Otherwise, she would have said “blessed will be the fruit of thy womb”. On the other hand, it might simply mean that the embryo was special at the time because it will grow, become a human person, and eventually be born as the infant Jesus