Christians and others share the common perception that environmental ethics exist for how human beings should relate to the land, the free market perceptive and the environmental perceptive.
Fletcher opts for the third alternative: "Humans without some minimum of intelligence or mental capacity are not persons, no matter how many of their organs are active, no matter how spontaneous their living processes are." In Fletcher's view, a score of, say, 20 on the Binet scale of I.Q. would be a minimum criterion of personhood. "Obviously," he notes, "a fetus cannot meet this test, no matter what its stage of growth." The most sensible position, he believes, is to hold that the unborn become persons at birth, when the umbilical cord is cut and the lungs begin to function. Since on this basis the woman is understood to have full personal status and the developing child none, abortion at any stage of pregnancy becomes justifiable whenever the cost-benefit calculation indicates that it would be in the woman's own interests.
Abortion and the Christian is presently held by more than 260 libraries including the University of California at Santa Cruz and Harvard University.
Hilgers, Thomas W., Horan, Dennis J., and Mall, David, eds. New Perspectives on Human Abortion. Frederick, Md.: University Publications of America, 1981. 504 pp. A valuable collection of essays on the medical, legal, social, and philosophical dimensions of the issue.
Davis, John Jefferson Abortion and the Christian: What Every Believer Should Know. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1984. 125 pp.
During the late 1960s pregnancy due to rape was often cited as cause for liberalizing the then-restrictive abortion laws. Does rape constitute legitimate ethical grounds for an abortion? An answer to this question must take into account a number of important facts.
Other questions surface at the level of public policy. Would a return to restrictive abortion laws mean an increase in illegal abortions and maternal deaths? In a pluralistic society, should Christians seek laws that reflect their moral convictions? These and other difficult questions arise when Christians try to apply biblical convictions to public life. This chapter will first examine decisions regarding personal ethics and then consider questions of public policy.
Having examined the important biblical and medical facts, we are now in a better position to face the practical questions of decision making on abortion. When, if ever, would abortion be ethically justified for the Christian? What about cases of rape? Are anticipated birth defects grounds for abortion? What about unwanted pregnancies?
It is perhapsworth noting here that even if this conclusion is rejected by the morerecalcitrant of the right-wing pseudo-Christians, it does not help them, sincethey fail even on the individual charity standard, as discussed in this essay.
As Professor Paul Ramsey has pointed out, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to find moral arguments that justify excluding the unborn from personhood and yet do not apply with equal force to the child newly born. Definitions of personhood based on mental functions or viability, which justify abortion, appear just as well to support infanticide for the defective newborn. As Grisez and Boyle have argued, such definitions of personhood are discriminatory and violate the basic principle of equal protection of the law for all human beings. "Since the only thing common to all already recognized by law as natural persons is membership in the human species, and since the unborn of human genesis are members of the species, no nondiscriminatory basis exists for excluding the unborn from legal personhood." These moral and legal considerations give further weight to the biblical indications for treating the unborn as persons -- and not as merely "potential" persons -- at every stage of biological development.
Our society's official position on abortion obviously conflicts with the principles of Scripture. Human life is sacred, being created in the image and likeness of God. God's concern, love, and protection for the unborn is a reality at every stage of biological development. There is no biblical evidence that, at any stage of prenatal development, God places a lesser value on the life of the unborn child. The Scriptures do not limit the image of God to manifestations of such psychological attributes as consciousness and memory. Given the fundamental principle of the sanctity of human life created in the image of God, and the indisputable scientific fact of the biological continuity between prenatal and postnatal life, there is a clear scriptural warrant for affirming the sacredness of all human life at every stage of biological development. While Scripture does not appear to provide strict proof for the personhood of the unborn from the time of conception, neither does it rule that out. In fact, the biblical teaching weighs heavily in that direction. If there is a clear possibility that personhood is present from conception, then the more ethically responsible approach is to act on that assumption and treat developing human life as personal at every stage of prenatal development.
But what of those rare occurrences when pregnancy does result from rape? Is it fair to expect a woman to suffer the inconvenience and hardship of carrying a child to term when the conception was without her consent? Such cases are obviously both emotionally and ethically difficult. A Christian answer will involve the more basic question of the personal status of the unborn child: Is the unborn a potential or an actual human being? It is not difficult to imagine how the hardship to the woman might outweigh the value of a merely potential life and therefore justify abortion. But if the newly conceived life is an actual human being, that would take precedence over the possible hardship and inconvenience to the woman, and abortion would not be an option.