When you discuss abortion with someone who supports their personal “right” to an abortion, one of the first things they will argue is the instances of rape, incest, and the life of the mother. These situations are cited so frequently that you would think they make up a significant proportion of abortions in America each year. You may be surprised to find in researching the topic that the percentage of abortions following rape, incest, or life of the mother is around 2 percent of abortions nationwide.
Instances of Rape, Incest, and Life of the Mother
The overwhelming majority—98 percent—are elective decisions made primarily because the baby is unwanted. Certainly, social, relational, and financial decisions weigh into the decision of mothers who abort their babies, but less than 2 percent have anything to do with the rare circumstances of crime or physical crisis.
In spite of the rarity of these exceptions, I do want to say a brief word about these three circumstances. What can we learn from God’s Word about how to respond to them?
Abortion in the Instance of Rape or Incest
First, let me affirm that abortion in the instance of rape or incest is still wrong. This is not to minimize the horror and immorality of sexual assault or incestuous relationships, but we must remember that “two wrongs don’t make something right.” In other words, responding to the criminal act of rape or incest with another criminal act— murder—does not correct the first crime. The wrong committed by a man who sexually assaults a woman is not “made right” by taking the life of the baby.
According to God’s Word, even evil committed against us takes place under the sovereign plan of God who can take the sinful actions of man—which God is not responsible for—and fit them into His ultimately good plan.
In Genesis 19, the two daughters of Lot conceived children by their father; and while this incestuous act was a violation of God’s design for procreation, one of the results of this sin was the birth of Moab. Moab became the patriarch of the Moabites, from which Ruth, the great-grandmother of David, would later come.
Consider the crimes against Joseph who suffered in prison, only to learn later that God had complete control of the evil actions committed against him. Consider David’s adultery, murder, and polygamy, in adding Bathsheba to his harem, which God used to bring Solomon into the world.
While I deeply sympathize with the victims of sexual violence, the sin committed does not justify committing yet another sin against the unborn child.
Pregnancy Complications and the Balancing of Lives
In some pregnancies, complications arise which may risk the life of a baby to save the life of the mother. The most common example is an ectopic pregnancy, in which the embryo does not implant in the woman's uterus. Ectopic pregnancies must be monitored closely. If it does not resolve itself, a doctor may need to surgically deliver the baby prematurely to save the mother's life. This procedure should be handled in a loving and careful way. Even when measures are taken to save both lives, the baby may not survive.
In these instances, parents face the difficult decision of balancing two equally precious lives, the mother's life and the baby's life. Let me offer an observation and an encouragement to anyone in this circumstance.
Keep in mind: the life of the mother is not the same as the health of the mother. Putting the life of an unborn baby at risk can only be morally considered when the doctors and parents determine that the mother's life is in imminent danger. If there is any way that both the life of the mother and the baby can be saved, that avenue must be taken.
Rejecting Abortion Based on Genetic Disorders
Additionally, women need to reject the advice of any doctor who encourages an abortion because the baby has a growth defect or a genetic disorder. A baby with autism or down syndrome is still an image-bearer of God and deserves life. Quality of life does not justify an abortion but saving a life through ending a pregnancy is not an immoral decision to make.
Counsel for Those Faced with Difficult Decisions
If you or a loved one is faced with this situation, let me offer some counsel. Get a second opinion from a pro-life doctor, one who shares your worldview and your perspective on the value of the unborn. You will want expertise and medical counsel from someone who shares both your values and your priorities in this matter. Pray for God’s wisdom to lead you to the right decision.
Finding Encouragement in the Midst of Loss
Lastly, be encouraged by this: even if a mother loses her baby in order to spare her life, a reunion will take place one day. We believe the Bible is clear that aborted and miscarried babies are immortal souls upon fertilization; so eternity with them is just ahead in Heaven.
And on that day, sorrow and death will be but a distant memory.