The way in which spokesmen for some major denominations have joined the general public chorus demanding “abortion reform” is chilling to many evangelicals. They question the seeming haste with which some press the case for abolishing all statutes against the performance of abortion, and for leaving the decision “solely in the hands of the patient and her licensed doctor.” One would suppose, from the wording of policy statements, that the legal and social questions involved must be settled without delay.

It is the more remarkable that one such affirmation declares that “the fetus is not a person, but rather tissue with the potentiality, in most cases, for becoming a person.” Paul Ramsey of Princeton observes (“Feticide/Infanticide Upon Demand,” Religion in Life, Summer, 1970) that for the first time in history, some church leaders have endorsed the “tissue” theory of unborn life. This view suggests that until some point well along in the history of the fetus, the embryo is merely a segment of tissue, comparable to a tonsil, so that its removal from the uterus has no more significance than the excision of an offending gathering of bodily cells.

It is important to try to understand the reasoning behind the zeal of some churchmen to endorse what amounts to abortion on demand. The most friendly judgment is that they are motivated by compassion for those women who for one reason or another feel they must terminate a pregnancy. Certainly there are human situations that ought to move the sympathies of the Christian person, as for example the case of the woman pregnant by forcible rape, of the minor pregnant by an incestuous exposure, or of the prospective mother whose mental integrity, or even her very life, is unmistakably in jeopardy ...

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