Tuesday, April 30, 2013

An unborn child

But the unborn child is more than a rock, tree or animal. In a perfectly ordinary sense requiring no elaborate argument, he is human. There are some who would argue that he is only a part of his mother’s body, and not an independent life. But even if he is “only” a part of his mother’s body, he is human — no less human than her arms and legs. Since he is human, he is in the image of God; for the “image of God” in the Bible includes every aspect of man, soul, body, and all parts. The Scripture tells us that we do not have power over our own bodies to do with as we please (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12-7:4, a passage dealing specifically with the sexual function). Be­cause we are made in the image of God, the shedding of human blood (except, of course, in situations where such bloodshed is authorized elsewhere in Scripture) is wrong (Genesis 9:6). In view of these considerations, the abor­tion of an unborn child may never be undertaken casually, and may never be considered except for the weightiest reasons.



  1. Let me propose a slight revision for clarity, and we can see if the shameful latent (or overt?) moral relativism in the above post stands:

    In view of these considerations, the murder of an innocent person may never be undertaken casually, and may never be considered except for the weightiest reasons.

    Under what "weightiest reasons" would we "consider" murdering a four year old?

    A twenty-four year old?

    Mr. Frame is proposing here that there are some circumstances under which we may consider sin. 1 Corinthians 10:13 comes to mind.

    This is shameful.

    1. I don't know if this is the case, but he MAY BE clumsily using "abortion" in that last sentence as shorthand for when medical intervention is performed, aiming at saving the mother's life when the baby's life is already for-sure lost but the baby is still technically alive.

      Just one possibility. He may not be up on the nuances of the current debates and all that.

    2. I can't speak for Frame. But I would guess he's alluding to hard cases like certain instances of tubal ectopic pregnancy or a pregnant woman with late stage uterine cancer.

  2. Patrick/Rhology,

    That could be. Perhaps I was a bit harsh.

    Still- I believe that when evaluating whether or not to murder an innocent person, we should use the same criteria for "the unborn" as we would use on any other living human.

    I'm just not sure what standard/criteria we should use as Christians when we consider whether or not to kill an innocent person.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Justin.

      For what it's worth, here's Christopher Kaczor's take:

      The doctrine of double-effect only permits an act with two effects if the evil effect is neither a means nor an end and if there is a proportionately serious reason for allowing the evil effect....

      Let us consider three cases in which the life of the mother can be at risk: ectopic pregnancy, a pregnant woman with uterine cancer, and a case where the baby has trouble exiting the birth canal.

      In ectopic pregnancy, the human embryo does not implant in the uterus but rather elsewhere in the woman's body, often in the fallopian tube. The frequency of ectopic pregnancy has increased some 600% in the last two decades (Diamond 1999, p. 5). When the human embryo implants in the fallopian tube (or even more rarely, elsewhere), the pathology can lead to profuse bleeding and loss of both maternal and embryonic human life. Ectopic pregnancy may be treated in five different ways, including salpingectomy (removal of tube with embryo), salpingostomy (removal of embryo alone), and by use of methotrexate (MXT). Although there is ongoing discussion of treatment options, especially the use of methotrexate, each of these options has been defended as permissible in accord with double-effect reasoning by scholars who accept that every human being is a person.

      In the past, doctors regularly used salpingectomy, the removal of the entire fallopian tube with the embryo inside it, to treat ectopic pregnancy. At later stages of ectopic pregnancy, when the fallopian tube has already been badly damaged, salpingectomy is still medically indicated.

      In the 1940s, T. L. Bouscaren suggested that salpingectomy is acceptable for those who view the human embryo as a person because the tube itself is pathological and its removal justified by double-effect reasoning (DER). Although the embryonic human life within the tube will die, the surgeon does not intend the embryo's death but only foresees it has a side effect of removing the tube that threatens the woman's life. Almost all critics of abortion accept the permissibility of this practice. The removal of the embryo alone may also be acceptable according to DER, if the removal of the embryo is not considered killing the embryo intentionally. Reported cases of successful implantation of such embryos in utero suggest that removing the embryo from the tube is not always equivalent to killing the embryo (Shettles 1990). Others who affirm the equality of all human beings have argued that using methotrexate, a drug which inhibits rapidly dividing cells such as the early embryo and trophoblast, does not violate DER (Moraczewski 1996a, 1996b); others have challenged this view (May 1998). In sum, there are a number of ways to treat ectopic pregnancy, some or perhaps even all of which do not involve direct abortion. I have explored the ethics of these interventions at greater length elsewhere (Kaczor 2009).

    2. In what has come to be called "the hysterectomy case," a woman is diagnosed with aggressive uterine cancer. Coincidentally, she is also pregnant and, at this stage in pregnancy, the prenatal human being is not yet viable. If the doctor waits to remove the uterus (hysterectomy) until the child is viable, the aggressive cancer will assuredly lead to the woman's death. If the doctor does not wait to remove the uterus, and instead removes it immediately, then the woman will survive but the child will certainly die. Does she commit suicide, if she chooses not to have her uterus removed? Does she have an abortion, if she chooses to remove her uterus knowing that her progeny is not yet viable?

      Neither, actually. She may decide that she does not want to have a hysterectomy although she foresees that this choice will allow the cancer to spread and eventually take her life. Perhaps she has cancer in other parts of her body, and perhaps this is her first child. In such a situation, she may want to help another person continue to live rather than add just a few months to her own life at the cost of ending the life within. On the other hand, she might rightfully defend her own life, foreseeing but not intending the death of the developing human within her that will result from the hysterectomy. Neither choice is for death as a means or as an end, but both choices are for life: either for her own life or for her child's life. If the uterus is removed, the death of the human being in utero is not chosen as a means or as an end but is accepted for the proportionately serious reason of preserving the mother's life. If the uterus is not removed, the death of the mother is not chosen as a means or as an end but is accepted for the proportionately serious reason of preserving the life of the human being in utero. Neither choice involves directly killing an innocent human being; both choices are morally permissible.

      (The Ethics of Abortion, pp. 187-189)