Proposed Human Life Statement
Presented to the General Conference Annual Council
as the minority paper of the Human Life Committee
October 1992 (official church document)
Many contemporary societies have faced conflict over the morality of abortion. Christians are among those honestly perplexed. Even Seventh‑day Adventists find themselves confused and uncertain. God is not the author of such confusion. The guiding principles of Scripture will show us His way so we can walk in it, if we set aside personal feelings and the humanistic philosophy of this world.
Adventists value life as a sacred gift. By contrast, contemporary culture insists that we own our bodies and have a right to do with them whatever we please, accountable to no power higher than ourselves. But God in heaven made us and not we ourselves (Psa. 100:3). Life did not evolve here on earth but rather originated through Christ the Creator (John 1:1‑4). In the words of the Psalmist, "You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well" (Psa. 139:13, 14, NIV).
After sin brought death upon the human race, Jesus restored life and brought immortality through the gospel (2 Tim. 1:10). Since He is the architect of creation and redemption, our bodies are not our own but His (1 Cor. 6:20). Only He can give life, and only He has the right to take it away (Job 1:21).
Life from God given in Eden and restored at Calvary is memorialized by the Sabbath (Gen. 2:1‑3; Heb. 4:2‑4). Keeping the Sabbath therefore requires profound respect for all life. The Ten Commandments also enjoin a sacred respect for human life (Exo. 20:13).
In view of the supreme value God has placed upon life, we must not presume to destroy it. Thus the debate about abortion comes down to the question of whether there is life in the womb. If so, it is a grave sin to terminate it.
The Bible leaves no doubt that a pregnant woman has life within her. The virgin Mary was "with child of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 1:18). If unborn babies were not living beings, then Jesus would have ceased to exist for nine months. Actually, in a number of places the Bible refers to unborn babies as living individuals already belonging to the human community, such as the time Christ's aunt Elizabeth met His mother Mary: "For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy" (Luke 1:44). So what Elizabeth carried inside her womb was a baby; not a lifeless mass of developing fetal tissue but an unborn child. Abortion destroys this life in the womb and is thus the work of the enemy. Jesus said, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). In light of all the above, there can be no doubt that abortion desecrates the fundamental principles of life.
God has also given us freedom of individual conscience (2 Cor.3:17). However, He expects us to make responsible choices: "I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live" (Duet. 30:19). When Adam and Eve exercised their power of choice and committed sin, death came to the human family. Still today the well‑being of children‑‑including the unborn‑‑depends upon right choices by parents.
When a man and a woman willingly engage in sexual intercourse, they have also chosen to enter into risk that a baby may result. A man then assumes the possibility of fatherhood, with all the associated responsibilities to which he must be held accountable. Likewise a woman who has chosen to have sex has also exercised her freedom of choice about conceiving human life.
There is no such thing as unlimited freedom of choice; personal freedom cannot violate another individual's rights. Thus a woman's right over her body ends where her baby's body begins. The fact that an unborn baby can't defend itself doesn't mean it has no rights.
Every choice has its consequences; the Bible says we will reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7, 8). In most cases abortion attempts to undermine this basic law of life. Pregnancies from rape or incest deserve special consideration since the mother never had opportunity to exercise her legitimate choice. The victim didn't choose to sow; should she be forced to reap?
Abortion may also be an option when the life of the mother is in danger. In cases of grave fetal abnormality, the mother's body often deals with the crisis by causing a miscarriage. If the Lord allows the baby to develop in the womb, parents may comfort themselves that many handicapped people enjoy profoundly fulfilling lives. Others do not.
In pregnancies that involve grave fetal abnormality or endanger the mother's life, and in those that result from rape or incest, abortion certainly takes on a different dimension. Even so, a strong case can be made that life is so sacred that no human has the right to choose abortion under any circumstances. Some answers don't come easy, but while the church continues to discuss what to do in the exceptional situations listed above, we can and must speak out against the vast majority of abortions in which a healthy mother terminates the life of a healthy baby that exists by her own free choice.
Some suggest that restricting abortion would increase child abuse. Studies show that in the United States at least, the opposite has happened since abortion became a legal option. And abortion itself is the ultimate child abuse.
Others defend abortion as necessary in limiting population growth. They may have forgotten that the shedding of innocent blood is a solution unworthy of Christians following the example of Jesus.
Some Adventists promote abortion rights because they believe that the crusade against abortion will eventually include a push for Sunday legislation. Such may well happen, but consider the example of Ellen White. She joined forces with nineteenth century moral reformers in their drive for temperance legislation‑‑even though they also advocated a Sunday law. She shared their concerns for civil morality but refused to cross the line with them in enforcing religious morality. Adventists today who do otherwise, sacrificing the unborn to save themselves, may someday face a backlash from a society reacting against immorality. Eventually an abortion‑desensitized society will decide that certain Christians are not viable citizens, and the decision will go forth "to abort" them with a death decree. This is precisely the prophetic scenario we find in the book of Revelation.
For nations as well as individuals, aborting a problem may appear to offer the quickest, most pain‑free solution. In reality, women who violate the unwritten law of maternal instinct often suffer a sense of lingering guilt. We should encourage them that God feels their pain. If they confess the sin of bringing death upon their unborn, they can experience His healing grace (Pro. 28:13). Men sharing responsibility for aborted pregnancies must understand their own need of repentance and forgiveness. Physicians and medical institutions should accept their solemn calling to the ministry of healing human life rather than the abortion of it. The church should prayerfully consider how to discipline members and institutions that reap profits, large or small, from the performance of elective abortions. Institutions bearing the name of the Seventh‑day Adventist Church are accountable to the constituency of believers, to the guidelines of the church, and to the law of God.
For women who make the courageous choice of preserving the unborn life within them, their crisis continues. They may need help coping with motherhood and pulling their own lives back together. The paternal parent has a sacred and ongoing responsibility to support his offspring (1 Tim. 5:8). Women left alone in helpless circumstances need spiritual, emotional, and perhaps material assistance from fellow believers in the church. Adoption is sometimes the best option for both mother and child. One woman's nightmare may work for the good in fulfilling the fondest dreams of a childless couple.
Of all parties involved when abortion is considered, no one is more helpless or threatened than the unborn child. In our age of violent solutions to the problems of the world, the church is called to protect the helpless, the endangered, and the unwanted. "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me" (1 John 3:16; Matt. 25:40).