Abortion – good or bad?
After evolution nothing gets a Christians blood flowing like a good old abortion debate. Well in South Africa woman have a legal right to an abortion and that should be the end of it. But of course Christians think they invented morality and are the biggest opposes of abortions in our country, which is quite weird because the Bible thinks it is okay.
Abortion has been practised almost universally since prehistoric times. The early Churches prohibited it, although there is no scriptural authority for such a prohibition. Indeed the Bible indicates that it is not a serious crime to cause an abortion. For example, if a pregnant woman is struck and suffers a miscarriage the offender should merely be fined, but if the woman herself is killed then the offender should die (1)
Evidently God accorded different values to the lives of the foetus and the mother. But some Christians not apt at following scripture or their God think that aborting a foetus is akin to murder. They believe that a soul is placed by God into the developing foetus forty days after conception, if it is a male and eighty days if it is a female. (Even in soul collection, the weaker sex is late). (2)
Apparently there are souls hanging around in heaven and as soon a conception is discovered with special detection devices used by angels that go from bedroom to bedroom, the next soul on the heavenly production line is reserved for despatch to earth, to take its rightful place in a new person – of course Africa, China and India have more angels than any other nation on earth.
Before it acquired a soul an embryo was regarded as inanimate (foetus inanimatus); it only became a foetus animatus, and thus human, after acquiring a soul. Up until this time the foetus was "unformed". Medieval drawings show the soul entering a foetus, converting it from inanimate and "unformed" to animate and "formed".
The Catholic Church law was very clear that it was not a crime to carry out an abortion if the foetus was still "unformed". Life cannot be deprived of a soul if it does not have one.
However there is a problem, animals don’t get souls, only humans do and the angels could get confused because all mammals follow the same biological process as humans - whales, dolphins, seals, and elephants to chimps, orang-utans, bonobos and humans. Some humans also look like apes (technically we are apes) so these are specially trained angels that are not easy to fool.
All mammals including humans start off as a zygote, and then a blastocyst, and eventually develop into an embryo, and then a foetus. The Church did not regard an embryo which is not yet formed with a soul as a person and therefore it could not be murdered. So in order to be classed as a human being (person) you had to have a soul – and aborting an embryo that has received its soul is considered murder.
In some countries as a consequence of continuing Roman Catholic attitudes to contraception and abortion, vast numbers of women are driven to backstreet abortionists, causing many to die unnecessarily. Conservative Protestant Churches also campaign to have abortion prohibited. Physicians have been murdered by enthusiastic Christians, who claim to be doing God's work. Such murders are justified by traditional Christian arguments. Many fellow Christians hail these murderers as heroes and they believe that aborted foetus’ go directly to heaven.
The pivot point of the debate should be the recognition of the status of the foetus as a human being, (when it has a soul) , which is where many pro-life and pro-choice adherents disagree - at conception, during pregnancy or at birth.
Of course a soul is a religious concept that Christians borrowed from ancient Egyptian religious theology and is also up for debate, as there is no proof whatsoever, of humans having souls in the first place. Why do humans have souls and not animals, which have distinctive personalities and have emotional mood swings just like us?
There is also the moral debate. Can sex only be practised between married couples? Is premarital sex moral or immoral? The issue is also relevant. The fact that the sexual act produced a human life is the linchpin of the discussion. No sex, no unwanted pregnancy, no abortion.
(1) (Exodus 21:22-23).
(2) Pagan Greek philosophers taught a range of ideas, from Pythagoras who held that a foetus was fully human from its conception to Empedocles and later Stoics who held that it became human only at birth.
The idea of acquiring a human soul sometime after conception was based on the teachings of Aristotle. He thought that the soul was acquired after 40 or 90 days for males and females respectively.
Thomas Aquinas picked up and adopted this idea. He (and the Roman Church) taught that it was 40 and 80 days, adopting the periods of ritual uncleanness specified in the Bible (Leviticus 12:1-5).