Our Real Position on Abortion

Vantage Point

A friend told me about several couples whose babies had a serious genetic condition that results in severe deformity and death. One baby died in the sixth hour of labor. Another died three days after birth. The third couple decided not to carry their baby to term and had an abortion.

Our denomination asserts that the latter couple violated the sixth commandment and is guilty of murder. It asserts the same about those who have an abortion because of rape, incest, or other "hard cases."

In his January 2011 editorial, Banner editor Bob De Moor calls us to encourage the "countless CRC folks who quietly and steadfastly continue the battle against abortion" in a variety of ways. That's excellent advice. He also calls us to bring our official position to the attention of governments in both the United States and Canada. Some of us cannot do that, however, because we believe the official position is pastorally insensitive and lacking in Christian grace toward those who wrestle with the "hard cases."

The Christian Reformed Church's official position is this: "An induced abortion is an allowable option only when the life of the prospective mother is genuinely threatened by the continuation of the pregnancy." Synod 1993 did say that our members could be guided by material in the Reformed community that indicates that abortion in the hard cases is permissible (Acts of Synod 1993, p. 515). Regarding in vitro fertilization, Synod 2003 was asked to declare that "it is morally wrong to intentionally cause the death of a human embryo . . . except when it must be done to save the life of the mother (our official position)." It defeated that request (Acts of Synod 2003, p. 644).

On paper, Synod 1972's decision on abortion is still our official position. In reality, it is not. Many church members, including delegates to synod, are no longer willing to say that an induced abortion is an allowable option only when the life of the prospective mother is threatened. Rather, an induced abortion is also morally defensible in cases of rape, incest, severe genetic disorders, and other "hard cases"—something asserted by the 1972 study committee but not adopted by Synod 1972.

It's past time for us to demonstrate pastoral sensitivity to fellow members who wrestle with the hard cases. It's time for us to adopt the original recommendations of the 1972 study committee. Then all of us would have no difficulty bringing our official position to the attention of our governments.

About the Author

George Vander Weit is a retired pastor in the Christian Reformed Church.

See comments (50)

Comments

Your proposal is like; Telling an alcoholic to take an extra drink of vodka, so he may forget he is an alcoholic.Or tell an alcoholic to become a drug user in order to cover up for his alcoholism. With other words when do two wrongs make a right? The ofspring of a rapist is just as human as any other unborn baby. Yes, we must demonstrate pastoral sensitivity to fellow members who wrestle with hard cases. WE do have organizations who deal with post abortion cases. Garden of Hope in Grand Rapids is one of them.

Before I Had Time to Think

"Nancy Anders"

It was May 19, 1973. I was pregnant from a date rape. I had tried to hide it from my parents but of course they found out. Then the pressure started. "How are you going to go to college with a baby?" "How are you going to support it?" "It is only a blob of blood. It's not a baby yet." Before I had time to think about what I wanted, the abortion was over.

The abortion itself was like a living hell. I thought my guts were being pulled out. It was degrading and I was terrified. When it was over, something made me ask the doctor, "Was it a boy or a girl?" He answered, "I can't tell. It's in pieces." The counseling consisted of throwing some birth control pills at me.

Its so hard to put into words how the abortion affected me. Looking back and knowing what I know now, I realize that I was going through almost classic Post-Abortion Syndrome. I became a tramp and slept with anyone and everyone. I engaged in unprotected sex and each month when I wasn't pregnant I would go into a deep depression. I was rebellious. I wanted my parents to see what I had become. I dropped out of college. I tried suicide, but I didn't have the guts to slit my wrists or blow my brains out. I couldn't get my hands on sleeping pills, so I resorted to over the counter sleep aids and booze.

When that failed, I then tried to make relationships work with men, any man. I was driven with a need to have a child and knew if I was married my parents couldn't do anything about it. Then I married in 1975. While my husband and I are still together, we have had to work extra hard because I married him for all the wrong reasons.

Five months after we were married my first child was born. I was in heaven. I doted on that baby. In three months, I was pregnant again. But this time we lost our baby at 6 months. Then the depression that I had conquered came back full force. I can remember thinking: "I deserve this pain. I killed a baby and now God has taken one from me. I deserve it." The doctor felt that I had a weak cervix, a common aftereffect of abortion, and that the weight of the baby was too much for it and she just fell out. Four months later I was pregnant again.

It is hard to explain this need to keep having babies, but I did. From 1976 with the birth of my first living child, to 1985 at the birth of my fourth and final living child, I was pregnant a total of eight times. With the birth of my last child the doctor didn't leave me any choice but to quit having children if I wanted to live to see the ones I had grow up.

In trying to deal with the abortion, I had to face what I had done and beg forgiveness from my God. The hardest thing of all is trying to forgive myself. It is a daily struggle to accept the forgiveness I know the Lord has given me. And I will never forget it. Only now I don't want to forget it, because it keeps me from getting complacent. I know if it helps others, I can talk about it. It always makes me cry, but if it saves just one mom and baby the pain, it's worth it.

I joined our local Right to Life and crisis pregnancy center. I have also had to forgive my parents. I can still remember when I walked into my Mom's house and threw down a picture of an aborted fetus and snarled, "See what you made me do?" She has since become pro-life herself and has told me how sorry she is. I still have to fight against my anger at my Dad, because he still won't admit the abortion was wrong, at least for me.

Do all these things help? That's a hard one. Sometimes it does and sometimes the depression is too strong and time has to pass. Not a day goes by that the abortion doesn't cross my mind. It is a constant struggle trying to overcome my guilt and depression, even knowing I have been forgiven. I dread the day when I have to come face to face with my little child and explain to her why mamma took her life. But I also think I am a softer, more caring person than I might have been. If not for the abortion, I might have turned out "pro-choice."

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Originally published in The Post-Abortion Review 2(1),Winter 1993 Copyright 1993 Elliot Institute

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Regarding Permission to Reprint

Since when did the moral standard become "hard" vs. "easy" as opposed to "right" vs. "wrong"? Many times in life we have to make decisions that are "hard" but "right". How could Pastor Vander Weit counsel someone to forgive an abuser? That's not easy at all, but God's Word says we should. I expect more from an ordained Minister of the Word than this.

Rather, an induced abortion is also morally defensible in cases of rape, incest, severe genetic disorders, and other "hard cases"—something asserted by the 1972 study committee but not adopted by Synod 1972.

So, if there is a 2 year-old whose life came about because of rape or incest, or if he has a severe genetic disorder, or some other hard case, it is permissible to kill him? Is it really morally defensible in the womb, but not outside it?

That's a baby in the womb, a human being, life. God said do not kill. What part of that is so hard to understand.

Your logic dictates that we can take a category of people and exempt them from the rule (Thous Shalt not Kill.) You you want to include the category of imperfect babies, and babies of criminals, and babies that can be placed in a "hard case" category. So why not remove that protection from other goups, say people that live in New Hampshire, or grocers, or people with a hair color we don't like, or Jews, or lawyers. Pick a group, any group, then explain why in your view someone is being denied their choice because they're not allowed to kill them.

They're are hard choices in this life, Not killing a completely defenseless baby is NOT one of them.

George, what about showing pastoral sensitivity and Christian grace to the babies whose lives you seem willing to destroy? You claim that abortion in the "hard cases" is "morally defensible," yet you don't advance a single argument or reason for why you think it is. You say that since "many church members" don't agree with the 1972 decision on abortion, it follows that "in reality" it's no longer the official position of the CRC. Of course, that's a non-sequitur; the 1972 decision is in reality the official position. It's just that you and "many others" (you give no indication of how many others there are)don't like the official position of the CRC. The official position doesn't change just because you and some others don't like it.

Bob, what's your rationale for publishing George's article?

Steve says: “George, you claim that abortion in the ‘hard cases’ is ‘morally defensible,’ yet you don't advance a single argument or reason for why you think it is.”

You are correct. “In My Humble Opinion” articles are limited to 400 words.

Steve also says: “George, you say that since ‘many church members’ don't agree with the 1972 decision on abortion, it follows that ‘in reality’ it's no longer the official position of the CRC.”

That’s not what I said in the published article and certainly not what I said in the submitted article. The editors did me a huge disservice at this point. In my submitted article I said “Many, including synod itself, are no longer willing to say that an induced abortion is an allowable option only when the life of the prospective mother is threatened.” The published article says, “Many church members, including delegates to synod, are no longer willing to say that an induced abortion is an allowable option only when the life of the prospective mother is threatened.” If you consider only this sentence, you would be correct when you say: “Just because ‘many’ disagree does not change our official decision.”

However, even with the unfortunate editing of that sentence the preceding paragraph indicates that SYNOD ITSELF did not support our official position at Synod 1993 and at Synod 2003. That is what is significant. We are not talking about “many members, including delegates to synod…” We are talking about official decisions of synod.

Synodical rules state, “A succeeding synod may alter the stand of a previous synod; it may reach a conclusion that is at variance with a conclusion reached by an earlier synod. In such cases the most recent decision invalidates all previous decisions in conflict with it” (2010 Rules for Synodical Procedure, VIII. I. 2. p. 17). In effect the decisions of Synods 1993 (and even 1996 and 1997 which I did not mention) regarding the “hard cases” invalidated the 1972 decision. In effect the decision of 2003, which did not sustain the 1972 decision, also invalidated the 1972 decision.

Some will assert that the 1972 position is still the official position of our denomination because, although four synods did not support it, none of those synods replaced it with anything else. I would assert that our synodical rule doesn’t call for a replacement of anything. It simply says, “The most recent decision invalidates all previous decisions in conflict with it.” We can do better than that, however. That’s why my conclusion was, “It's time for us to adopt the original recommendations of the 1972 study committee.” One of those recommendations allowed for the permissibility of an abortion under “most unusual circumstances, circumstances in which other biblically sanctioned human values are being threatened by not terminating a pregnancy” and called for “communal, prayerful deliberation in every individual situation.”

It’s easy (and not very profitable) to discuss this in the abstract. We need to discuss this while considering fellow believers whose hopes and dreams concerning their child have been tragically altered. I attempted to do that very briefly in the opening paragraph which describes couples whose children had a particular chromosome disorder. When Christian Faith, Health and Medical Practice (Eerdmans, 1989) describes this disorder it says, “life would inevitably be short and subjectively indistinguishable from torture” (p. 227). Suppose this were your daughter or granddaughter whose fetus had such a disorder. Suppose that she and her husband, after prayerful consultation with medical personnel, clergy, counselors, and fellow believers, decided to terminate this pregnancy instead of carrying this child to term. Would you call your daughter/granddaughter a murderer? Do you really believe that in such a case the denomination to which your children belong ought to label them as murderers?

Stan: Whoops! I called you Steve. Sorry. :-)

If you accessed the blog of PNR, a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church, you should have noticed a number of falsehoods. First, he calls my article a “guest” editorial. It is not. The editor has an editorial in the February Banner. My article is an “In My Humble Opinion” article, a department that is open to submissions from any member of the CRC and is, as far as I know, never called a “guest" editorial.

Second, and more relevant to this discussion, PNR describes my article as follows: “He starts out with a comparison of three couples, all with children diagnosed in the womb as having severe genetic defects. Two gave birth to children who died within a year of that birth.”

As you can read for yourself, the article actually begins: “A friend told me about several couples whose babies had a serious genetic condition that results in severe deformity and death. One baby died in the sixth hour of labor. Another died three days after birth.”

The first couple had a baby that died in the sixth hour of labor and was delivered dead less than an hour later. The baby of the second couple lived for 61 hours.
Yet this pastor says “Two gave birth to children who died within a year of that birth.

" In the face of such blatant dishonesty, it’s impossible to have an honest discussion of the issues at stake in these tragic cases.

Feeling a bit touchy, are we?

I'd say "during birth" and "three days after birth" certainly fall in the window of "within a year after birth".

I'd also say that an editorial by somebody not a regular editorialist or columnist or the editor of a magazine qualifies as a "guest" editorial. That lots of others use it doesn't change that fact.

But the substance of my argument holds. You are still advocating the taking of a human life solely for the convenience of other human beings, without regard to justice, mercy, or the right God has to the lives he creates.

I respectfully request that the author review the correct use of quotation marks, especially when used as scare quotes. His use of said punctuation around hard cases implies disbelief and irony, which I believe to be the opposite of his intent.

Grammar Girl states ". I bet you've all seen quotation marks used as something called scare quotes, which are quotation marks put around a word to show that the writer doesn't buy into the meaning. For example, I could write the sentence: Women achieved “equality” when they were granted the right to vote in 1920. This would indicate that although women getting the right to vote was heralded as equality at the time, I don't think it was enough of a gain to merit the word equality. More often though, scare quotes (which are also sometimes called sneer quotes) are used to impart a sense of irony or disdain."

See the "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks for a humorous take on this common error.

When I talk with our side walk counselors, it is obvious that all those who come for an abortion to the clinic consider there case to be "a hard case".

Some hardships are emotional, some financial, some want a girl some only want a boy. But I thank God that during 2010 at least 30 of those so called hard cases turned around, kept their babies and now are happy mothers. Vander Weit writes that it is easy to discuss this in the abstract. Yes, that is true. So why not join us at the prayer room next to the abortion clinic. Talk with our side walk counselors. Or at least read the book "Wednesday Mourning. By Mary Verwys Perhaps you could join her on a Wednesday morning counseling those young mothers to be who are struggling with unwanted pregnancies. And , yes, we do have to help them, some mothers to be do have problems. last year we had a dresser ministry for one young mother and this month we have another dresser ministry for another young mother to be. Thank God there are many people who are willing to help. How I wish our denomination would show more willingness to fight the destruction of the many unborn babies.

Bert Vandentop

I noticed the title is about your humble opinion, not the Bible's, but yours. I believe as the Creator of life God sees all life as valuable. Yes, we fall and fail as humans, but thankfully we serve a big God! I think as Christians, and as the church, we should approach all women with compassion and love or "pastoral sensitivity," understanding that there are many circumstances that make continuing a pregnancy difficult - whether rape, resources, or the health of the baby. But who are we to counsel that taking a life at any stage is defensible? How insensitive is that to our Creator?

It is also interesting to note that the majority of abortions are done for convenience rather than "hard cases." According to the Guttmacher Institute only .5% of abortions are from rape, 3% for posssible problems effecting the health of the fetus and 4% out of concern for the mother's health. So while you may find these instances defensible others may see many other matters of personal convenience as defensible - for what reason does God say a baby should not be born?

For those who do choose abortion, whatever the situation, again we should wrap our arms around them and show them they are loved, cherished and forgiven, but never pretend it does not break the heart of our God.

I am disgusted that a retired pastor of the CRC would take such a heinous position against children. An abortion committed is a murder committed. Does the abortion erase the sin of rape or incest? Does it erase the memory of the rape or incest? What good does the abortion do in light of rape or incest that will justify killing the most innocent of all parties? As for babies who die during birth or within days/weeks/months of birth, does their death at our hands make it easier? How many women have been counselled to abort their child, and chose life, only to find out that the child IS able to live and thrive and contribute to society. Do a search, there are countless testimonials to that very situation! I think George can take the "Rev." off of his title. He is not reverent of life, nor of the Creator of life.

Anyone Ever Hear of Justifyable Homicide???

Well... I Would Have To Think about Who is Actually The Victim Here and Who has Hardship to Deal With??? I Say Deal With It... Nothing Justifys Murder!!! I Believe Murder on a Concionce Won't Make the Hardship Easier To Deal With!!!

This Don't Even Fall Under... An Eye For An Eye!!! This is an Eye For a Human Life!!! Gotta See it For What it Is...

Not Just the Way You Want to See It!!!

PenelopePitbull: Thanks for the encouragement to consider the use of quotation marks. As I understand it, the experts on such things advise that scare quotes not be used at all because the reader can't tell if something is a scare quote or a regular quote. You are correct when you say that the quotation marks are not scare quotes used to express disbelief, irony or disdain. They are used to indicate that the designation “hard cases” has been used in our discussion of this matter.

In 1993 one of our regional groupings (a classis) sent a document (an overture) to our national assembly (synod). In its document it mentioned rape, incest, early teen pregnancy, severe neurological deformity, the absence of a brain, and the existence of extra or defective chromosomes and referred to them as hard cases and difficult cases (Agenda for Synod 1993, p. 284). I quoted “hard cases” from this overture although I didn’t indicate the source of the quote.

For clarity’s sake, I could have done what the book Christian Faith, Health and Medical Practice (Eerdmans, 1989) does when it says, The abortions we would cooperate with or even recommend are what are often called the “hard cases” (p. 226). It uses the quotes but explains them with the words “often called.”

Kelley captures the sentiments of others who have posted when she questions: “But who are we to counsel that taking a life at any stage is defensible?”

The Christian Reformed Church counsels that taking a life is defensible in a number of situations---when a person with a weapon threatens the life of others, when we face enemy combatants in a just war, etc.

In terms of abortion the Christian Reformed Church counsels that taking a life is defensible “when the life of the prospective mother is genuinely threatened by the continuation of the pregnancy."

Some of us, who believe that the majority of abortions are done for personal convenience and are not defensible, believe there is also a small group of other situations (Kelly posted some statistics) in which an abortion is defensible.

To quote the 6th commandment to prohibit an abortion in such situations makes as much sense as quoting the 6th commandment to prohibit self-defense, just wars and the termination of a pregnancy that threatens the life of the mother. Thankfully, our denomination hasn’t done the latter. It shouldn’t do the former, either.

So now, according to Rev. Vander Weit, the official stand of the Christian Reformed Church should be that God makes mistakes and we need to correct them. No wonder I've been so disappointed in the CRC involvement in the Right to Life movement. Kudos to the Catholics. Maybe we can take some lessons from them.

Linda P says: “So now, according to Rev. Vander Weit, the official stand of the Christian Reformed Church should be that God makes mistakes and we need to correct them.”

Wow, does Linda really believe that God is responsible for rape, incest, fetal disorders, etc? Some of us believe that such things are not God’s work and certainly not “God’s mistakes.” Rather they are evidences that we live in a broken and fallen world

As I had posted earlier, if you had a two year old that was the product of rape or incest, according to Rev. Vander Weit's humble opinion, it is permissible to end his life, simply because he is a product of rape or incest. If it it permissible in the womb, then why not outside the womb?

I think Linda P.'s intention was not to cite God as the author of the evil of rape and incest, but that by performing abortions in those cases we fix God's mistake of allowing fertilisation and implantation to happen. I mean, if God wanted us to be spared pain an difficulty, then he is certainly able to prevent conception in those cases.

Do we really equate the abortion of a 16 week fetus with the murder of a 2 year old? Would you prosecute the mother to the same degree? Would you charge the friend who brought her to the clinic as an accessory? Do we have young women in our churches who should be serving life sentences? If we answer no to any of these then we give a different moral value to life at different stages. I don't have good answers for any of this.

In their wisdom back in 1972 Synod understood that the 'hard cases' arguement is in fact a morally tenable position we should be taking. If, as Rev. Vander Weit (retired...which council is he responsible to? But that's anohter issue.) is correct is saying the real position in the CRC today is the 'hard case' arguement, this is a sad state of affairs.
Speaking of hard cases. Recently I picked up a few books by Nancy Guthrie on suffering and hope. She and her husband had two babies born with a genetic disorder, only to live 6 months. Below is a link to an interview with her. It starts slow, but it's a great interview, that ties directly to this discussion.

One final question: Why is the Banner giving space for 'humble opinions' like the one we're talking about here?

http://www.crossway.org/blog/2010/03/justin-taylor-interviews-nancy-guth...

Oops...my comments below have a typo. In the first sentence I say, "...that the 'hard cases' arguement is in fact a morally tenable position we should be taking." My mind said "should NOT" be taking, but by fingers didn't type it. It is NOT a position we should be taking.

...rookie mistake. First comment ever on here.

Please tell me, George, why God permits hard cases to exist if they are not in His plan. Tell me that death is a better solution to sin than life.

Would you discredit the Lord's justice? Would you condemn Him to justify yourself? Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his? Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor, and clothe yourself in honor and majesty. Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at all who are proud and bring them low, look at all who are proud and humble them, crush the wicked where they stand. Bury them all in the dust together; shroud their faces in the grave. Then God Himself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you.

I find myself in sympathy with our most esteemed Reverend Vander Weit.

It is indeed a great crisis if members of our church do not feel comfortable bringing this illustrious denomination’s position to our federal governments. It is obvious that none of us would have any problems with a more understanding and generous position. As Reverend Vander Weit himself states, the killing of infants conceived at an importune time, or under undesirable circumstances, is an attitude that would allow “all of us… [to] have no difficulty bringing our official position to the attention of our governments.” Some might think our support unnecessary, as the governments already hold such a position, but encouragement is always beneficial.

I believe that such a stance would encourage the CRC to continue in this path to tolerance, and eventually lead the church to a full understanding of God’s grace. The end of a person’s life is only the beginning of their eternal life in the presence of God, and we should have no fear of it. This goes beyond infants, of course. Consider persons forced to live on in a coma, as a vegetable, or severely disabled (whether mentally or physically). If every second of every day is a battle against pain and humiliation, would it not be kinder to speed such a person towards a time of new life – towards Heaven? Life on this poisoned earth is a thing only the sturdiest of us should have to suffer through.

In the words of Reverend Vander Weit, “it’s past time for us to demonstrate pastoral sensitivity to fellow members who wrestle with the hard cases.”

ecceuniversavanitas.blogspot.com

Pastoral Sensitivity...

the new politically correct and sensitive euphemism for solving a problem by slaughtering it.

Jerald Katt, we must equate the murder of a 16 week human fetus with the murder of a 2 year old human toddler. Abortion ends human life, stage of development is irrelevant. A human being is a human being from conception on. At no point does it become more or less human, it is fully human. Check out the resources on www.str.org for some excellent clear thinking on this issue. One of the articles is titled, "Only One Question."

Some have said that since the Lord allows conception, it’s not permissible to end a pregnancy. Instead, we must allow nature to take its course.

Fortunately, the Christian Reformed denomination has not taken that stance. It has said:
1. When a fetus genuinely threatens the life of the mother, it is permissible to terminate the pregnancy. We need not let nature take its course. (Acts of Synod 1972, p. 64).
2. “Recognizing the horrific nature of rape and the complex circumstances facing a rape victim, she is not necessarily morally culpable if she takes a morning-after pill. The focus of ministry in such circumstances should be on the compassionate care of the woman” (Acts of Synod 2003, p. 644). Again, we need not let nature take its course.

Notice that in both these decisions synod does not require anyone to do anything. It simply says that certain actions are morally permissible.

Because God allows conception some would assert that we may not terminate a fetus who has no brain or a Trisomy 13 or 18 trisomy (extra chromosome) fetus who will die before or shortly after birth. Instead, we must allow nature to take its course. They would also assert that when a fourteen-year old girl is pregnant because her father had sexual relations with her we must let nature take its course because God allowed conception.

Though I would not require the termination of such pregnancies, I believe that such terminations are morally permissible. I also believe the church should not label the people who terminate such pregnancies as murderers. (Hopefully, we don’t label as murderers a couple who terminates a pregnancy because the pregnancy genuinely threatens the life of the mother.) As the Banner article states, I also believe this is the “real” position of the CRC and that our “official” position should be changed to reflect this reality.

A study of the actions of Synods 1993, 1996 and 1997 (and the decision of Synod 2003 cited above) should make it apparent that our denomination believes that abortion in the hard cases is permissible, though not required.

In 1993 an overture cited the hard cases and asked Synod 1993 “to restudy the issue of abortion for the purpose of formulating a current statement in light of new medical research…” and to “publish guidelines concerning … abortion in hard cases…” (Agenda for Synod 1993, pp. 283-5). Synod declined to appoint a study committee and said, “There is sufficient material in the Reformed community to give guidance to our members on the issues surrounding abortion” (Acts of Synod 1993, p. 515)” One piece of that material is the book Christian Faith, Health and Medical Practice, written by “the fellows of the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship.” This book contends that abortion in the hard cases is permissible.

Synods 1996 & 1997 were asked to declare that the position taken in this book is contrary to the official position of our denomination. Both synods declined to do that.

Then,Mr.Van Stralen, you would prosecute a women who has an early pregnancy abortion to the same extant as a women who kills her 2 year old?

The Christian Reformed Church believes that an abortion is morally permissible if the life of the mother is genuinely threatened. To say that ending such a pregnancy is comparable to killing two-year olds, people living in New Hampshire, grocers, people with a certain hair color, Jews or lawyers only demonstrates that those who make such statements are incapable or unwilling to engage the issues involved in these tragic cases. Such comments are striking illustrations of pastoral insensitivity to people who must make these difficult decisions.

You are confusing "not morally culpable" with "morally permissible."

The assertion in the case of rape or incest is that the victim is not morally culpable if choosing to avoid/terminate pregnancy under certain rather narrowly defined circumstances (such as a "morning after" pill, a DNC once the evidence is collected). It is not an assertion that there is no moral culpability. Neither is it an assertion that such a choice is the moral ideal.

In the case of rape or incest, due sensitivity to the trauma of the victim and the effect that has on thoughts and reasoning is appropriate, though as pastors we ought encourage the ideal, however much we and those in our care might fail to live up to it. Perhaps I am mistaken, but it seems you are encouraging people to NOT pursue the ideal, which is to fail in your pastoral obligation.

Rape and incest, however, are different from a child who seems to have a genetic or other birth defect but who does not otherwise threaten the health of the mother. The mother is not a victim in such a case and terminating the pregnancy on one's own initiative is, morally, on the same level as killing off an invalid because caring for him/her would be traumatic and difficult. That is hard, I'll grant you, and I understand the desire to find an end to the pain, but killing someone else is not a morally acceptable response to trauma.

Mr. Katt,
The question is not about me, and what I would or would not do to a person who has chosen a specific course of action.
I'm merely pointing out that if incest and rape are justified reasons for ending a life in a mother's womb, then they are justified reasons for ending a life outside the mother's womb. My contention is that no one is justified in ending a life in the womb for rape and incest, just as no one would try to justify ending the life of a two year old who is the product of rape or incest.

Romans 12:21 (New International Version 1984, ©1984)

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Applying this verse to the so called hard cases, it seems to me does not mean we should add abortion to the problem.
Some who have replied have said ;"That those who consider abortion murder are saying that the mother to be should be punished. None of those I know who are side walk counselors or prayer warriors have ever said anything even close to that. When ever the side walk counselors have the opportunity they will give them post-abortion material and direct them to ministries who are ready to help. The myth that Right to Lifers only care for the baby is a lie pro-choice people love to spred around.

Unlike some who have posted PNR at least demonstrates some sensitivity to women who have been raped or impregnated by their father or uncle. He says: “In the case of rape or incest, due sensitivity to the trauma of the victim and the effect that has on thoughts and reasoning is appropriate…” Finally, there is a realization that we must not only talk about the physical life of a fetus but must also talk about the quality of life of the person carrying that fetus.

The sensitivity, however, doesn’t last long because the sentence ends with …though as pastors we ought encourage the ideal, however much we and those in our care might fail to live up to it.

The so-called ideal declared by PNR is this: the fourteen-year old who is raped or who is impregnated by a relative ought to allow nature to run its course and carry the fetus to term.

PNR goes on to say that “Rape and incest, however, are different from a child who seems to have a genetic or other birth defect but who does not otherwise threaten the health of the mother. The mother is not a victim in such a case…”

How is this different? It’s not because of a threat to the mother’s (physical) health. The physical health of a mother carrying a fetus with a chromosome disorder is not threatened by the pregnancy. The physical health of a girl who has been raped or impregnated by a relative is not threatened either. In cases of rape or incest we’re concerned about the mother’s quality of life not primarily about her physical health.

PNR’s argument, then, seems to hinge on the word victim. The girl who experiences rape or incest is a victim; the woman who is pregnant with a fetus who will die before birth or shortly after birth is not a victim. Nor is the fetus who will die before birth or who will experience a few days or a week of excruciating pain after birth. That’s a pretty narrow definition of the word victim.

What’s also interesting is that the small measure of sensitivity afforded to the rape or incest victim is not afforded to mother and fetus, both victims of a chromosome disorder. There is no apparent concern about the quality of life of the mother or the quality of life of the fetus. We are back to a consideration only of physical life, and in the case of the fetus at least, little or no concern about physical health. Thus, the so-called ideal is that the mother must continue the pregnancy even though the baby will die in her womb or live a very short, pain-filled life.

Let’s apply this so-called ideal to the official position of the Christian Reformed denomination: an abortion is morally permissible when the life of the mother is genuinely threatened by the pregnancy. This, of course, is less than the so-called ideal proclaimed by PNR and others who have posted. The so-called ideal they declare is this: God allowed this pregnancy, and all things are in God’s plan. Thus, you must not end this pregnancy by taking the life of the fetus. Instead, you must let nature take its course. This may result in the death of the mother but this, too, is in God’s plan. There are probably grandparents who will take care of other children in the family, and the husband may marry again in due time so those children will have a mother again. Thus, have faith in God and demonstrate your commitment to the so-called ideal.

If that’s the ideal, PNR is correct. I would not encourage people to pursue it.

Should pastoral sensitivity to the mother supersede the pastoral sensitivity to the child in the womb? No one is denying the need for pastoral, congregational, familial, community support for a woman who conceives as a result of rape or incest. In fact, much, much more support ought to be given.
The question is this, is it morally permissible to end the child's life because the child was conceived as a result of rape or incest. The logical answer is no. The child is not at fault for the circumstances of his or her conception. Committing evil (murder) as an attempt to alleviate another person's suffering should not be permissible. The myth in all of this is the assumption that performing an abortion makes everything better. Abortion doesn't remove the tragedy of the rape or the violation among two family members, it adds to it. As one of the first comments shared says, abortion makes things worse, who would counsel that?

Is the ideal to permit the life God has created, or kill the child because you don't want to see suffering?

The victimization of the woman who has been raped may, understandably, make it hard for her to discern the ideal - and yes, I do consider life to be ideal. Death, if I recall from my Sunday School classes, is part of the curse and not the ideal God created. Nevertheless, sensitivity in this case, while encouraging the ideal, must require us to practice and claim the grace all of us require when we do not live up to it.

But it is also a fact that children suffer and this is hard on parents, whether it is a 5-year-old with leukemia, a 2-year-old backed over by a car, or an infant in the womb with a birth defect. We do not typically recommend killing the one who suffers simply because it is hard for those who love him or her to look on. Just as in the case of the 5-year-old, so also the infant in the womb, we must expect the parents to lovingly embrace the child even though he may well die rather than take to themselves the divine authority and kill him.

George finds this insensitive and unfeeling.

I find George to be the same.

What most seem to be missing here is the fact that abortion is physically and mentally damaging to the woman! MORE so than bearing the child. Why on Earth would it be considered compassionate to add insult to injury?! My goodness! It is a completely false notion - borne out repeatedly in the research - that having an abortion improves the future for ANY woman - raped or not.

I was shocked and deeply saddened to read this article in The Banner's February issue. I understand that this is the author's opinion. Nevertheless, as this author is a frequent contributor to your magazine and a retired pastor in the CRC, I am deeply disappointed about his viewpoint on abortion and that The Banner would choose to publish such a view in an evangelical magazine.

I totally disagree with the stand of this author that the CRC should be adopting the recommendations of the 1972 study committee that suggested that "an induced abortion is morally defensible in cases of rape, incest, severe genetic disorders, and other "hard cases". The Bible is clear; this one is black and white, in my opinion. The Bible in Psalm 139 clearly states that life begins at conception. Therefore, a life aborted is a life taken and cut short, no matter the stages of pregnancy or the reasoning behind the decision the abort. An unwanted pregnancy is a hard challenge and I cannot imagine the emotional turmoil of becoming pregnant from a rape but the bottom line is the baby is a life, created by God and so valued by Him. Therefore, it should also be valued by us. Heather Gemmen in her book Startling Beauty describes the turmoil of being raped and subsequently becoming pregnant. Not everyone would choose to raise her child brought forth in these circumstances like she did, but giving up a child for adoption could also be another option.

My life journey includes "hard cases". I prefer to call them my children. I have 7 children, 3 of them are living in heaven and 4 of them are here on earth. My son Mitchell was diagnosed at 22 weeks into the pregnancy with several severe heart malformations. The medical community could not do anything medically to save him. They estimated that he would live 24-48 hours at the most and that there was a good chance that he would not survive the birthing process. The doctors gave us an option to terminate the pregnancy; to have an abortion. My husband and I chose to honor God and so we decided to carry Mitchell to term. Our decision was based on God's value for our unborn child. God as the creator of life knew exactly how many breaths our son would take. As mere mortals, we prayed for healing for our son but also yielded to God's will. As God's creation, our responsibility is not to be "gods" and to decide to cut short a life valued by God. Mitchell lived among us for 11 days and then, he died in my arms at home. He was loved by his parents, his siblings, our church community, our friends and others who were praying for him, but most of all, Mitchell was loved by God. His life, though short in our eyes, had meaning and a purpose. Mitchell influenced others around him (and I have letters given to me that reflect that); his life had an impact. His life wasn't in vain even though, humanly speaking, his hours were counted. Mitchell's severe health deformities doesn't change the fact that he was created by God and beautifully made - yes he was, because he was made in God's image.

Our daughter, 19 months old, is 4 months past a Bone Marrow Transplant. Her whole life has been challenging to say the least. The last few months have been and continue to be very intense. She was born with a rare genetic condition. We are thankful to God for every breath she takes. We are praying for a full healing through doctor's intervention for our daughter. We have seen others going through transplant for various reasons successfully and, unfortunately, some lose their battles with their respective conditions.

I am not pretending to know how each "hard cases" would feel. I cannot even imagine the pains but I do know that in all cases, God is loving his creation as He never stopped loving us. As believers, God never promised us an easy life. Life can be so tough, it hurts and at times, it dramatically ruts. However, in all circumstances, as believers, we need to let God be God and be his instruments to value what He values, the sanctity of life - no matter the circumstances or the number of breaths taken. My sons Travis (stillborn) and Noah (miscarriage) were sent to heaven with a name because even though they only lived in my womb, they are loved by God and cherished by our family and we can't wait to meet them.

I pray that the CRC would stay true to God's view on life and not declare abortion permissible in some cases. I pray that the "pastoral sensitivity" referred to in the article would not be to suit our culture but rather that the pastoral sensitivity would be increased in our churches in showing emotional, physical and spiritual support for women/girls/families finding themselves in challenging times while carrying or caring for God's children. Our churches need to teach God's truths, still showing a spirit of compassion and forgiveness toward those who unfortunately made/are making their decisions apart from God's Word.

For our children's sake,

N.

Amen.

PNR, N, Judy,
Amen.

What great compassion could one show to a victim than to end their suffering? The redoubtable Pastor's argument is clear.

This should be true of anyone suffering a great deal of pain - whether physical or emotional. I do agree that there is no difference morally between concluding the painful experiences or possibility of pain for a fetus or a two year old. I believe it would also make sense to give first responders (EMT, firefighters, police, and the like) the option to kindly terminate the life of anyone who is unlikely to recover full physical or mental capacity. We must consider the homeless, the criminals, and the abused with equal generosity.

Who here is not a victim?

I suppose it's really too late to make another comment on this article or the discussion following.

The lights have been turned off, the television is quiet and everyone is off to bed to a peaceful sleep in the solitude and quiet of their own home.

And here on the virtual pages of the magazine of a church that proclaims to preach the gospel to the needy and seek the will of God in their lives, is a debate about whether or not it's ok to kill defenseless unborn babies. If that were not to unbelievably pathetic it might be funny.

It's a baby.

A baby.

Kevin says, "It's a baby. A baby."

Is an egg a chicken? Is an acorn an oak tree?

@Author - We can chop down an oak tree to build a chair or even to provide fuel for a camp fire with equal moral grounding as could roast an acorn and eat it (o.k., we'll leave eating acorns to squirrels). Same is true with chicken and eggs. God gave us the creation have dominion over it and be excellent stewards of it.

We could not morally do any of the above with a human being - and therefore not a human embryo either. Humanity is essentially different from acorns/oak trees and eggs/chickens. Being in the image of God puts us on a completely different plane. Kevin's absolutely right. "Author" is wrong and her/his anonymity demonstrates the lack of confidence in his/her argument.

Chad does the same that others did on this subject. They talked about killing two-year olds, people living in New Hampshire, grocers, people with a certain hair color, Jews or lawyers and then said, “There’s no difference between an embryo at any stage of its development and an already born human being. In essence they say, “Yes, an egg is a chicken and an acorn is an oak tree.” Does anyone really believe that reality is accurately described when people say that when they east an acorn they are chopping down an oak tree?

Chad is equally mistaken when he indicates that the anonymity of Author “demonstrates the lack of confidence in his/her argument.” If Chad had followed this discussion from the beginning or if he would have noticed who authored the Banner article, he would not have made this erroneous statement.

@Author/George. My bad - I didn't realize "Author" = George Vander Weit. Sorry about that.

Then I can address George directly - you're not getting the point. By comparing the chicken/egg and acorn/oak tree with embryo/human you are staying they are of the same essence. I'm saying they are not! So therefore, your analogy is inadequate at best.

An embryo is not a fully developed human - no one would say that. But here's the point - our worth, value and yes, right to life, does come from being fully developed (or even partially developed as is the case with 2-year old). Our value comes from the fact that God has knit us together in our mother's womb and knew me from conception.

That same value is not given to eggs/chicken or acorns/oak trees.

Sorry for coming to the discussion late.

Chad says: "By comparing the chicken/egg and acorn/oak tree with embryo/human, you are saying they are of the same essence. I'm saying they are not!"

That's not the point of the illustrations. Everyone knows there's a difference between human life and animal or plant life.

The chicken/egg and acorn/oak tree illustrations are pertinent because many make no distinction between an already born human being and an embryo. That's been abundantly evident in what has been posted here. People argue backwards saying, "It is morally wrong to terminate the life of an already born person.” No one disagrees with that! Then they add, “Therefore, it is morally wrong to terminate developing life." In essence they are saying, “When you eat an acorn you are chopping down an oak tree.” Not surprisingly, some people disagree with that.

Chad also says: “Our value comes from the fact that God has knit us together in our mother's womb…”

When the Psalmist proclaims this, is he giving us technical information on which we may base a judgment about the permissibility of some abortions? If we wish to introduce such texts into the discussion, then we certainly must ask, “What kind of God knits together in a mother’s womb a baby that has no brain or no bladder or a baby that has an extra chromosome that will ensure its death even before or within hours/days of birth. Is this God’s loving care, or is this another example of the evil that frequently mars God’s good creation?

For people who assert that this is God’s work or who say that God is in control of this situation and doesn’t need or expect any human intervention, there’s only one choice: allow this life to develop even though it will be what is called “meaningless life“ in which an infant’s life is “indistinguishable from torture” or “wrongful life,” in which an “infant would experience nothing but suffering” (Christian Faith, Health, and Medical Practice, p. 227). In such cases, of course, there are always those who say that the suffering of such infants shouldn’t concern us because such suffering creates opportunities through which others are blessed.

If, on the other hand, this is the work of the evil one, then it is appropriate to ask, “How do we mitigate the evil that has intruded into God’s good creation and is now affecting this developing child and the child’s family? In the face of evil we frequently ask such questions because we know we are not to stand idly by but are to exercise our responsibility to mitigate the effects of sin in our world.

I am a brand new convert to Christianity and the CRC (and certainly no theologian) so perhaps I'm going out on a limb here, but I am stunned by the tenor of this debate. As both a mother and a survivor of childhood rape, I can empathize with the heart-wrenching nuances of the "abortion debate." I find most of the comments here to be achingly legalistic and lacking in simple human compassion.

It very well may be a sin to terminate a pregancy. It is a sin to lie too; and I confess that I have told more lies than I could ever count. The beauty of our faith is that Jesus has borne the weight of our guilt and redeemed us. It seems to me that it's rather useless to point out how ugly and horrible our sins are - even when that sin is abortion. Sin is sin. We all deserve to be damned by it, and we are saved only by the grace of God.

What attracted me to the CRC is its de-emphasis on what we can do to save ourselves, and its proper emphasis on the saving grace of Jesus Christ. What I glean from Rev. Vander Weit's comments is that harsh legalism shouldn't be the CRC's "official position." I think he's right about that. Jesus calls us to have compassion; to love our neighbors as ourselves. That was the most unattainable commandment we were given, but as an act of faith we ought to do the best we can.

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