We cannot fix criteria of humanness and then conclude that, lacking these, the fetus is not human.

In both the United States and the United Kingdom the recent liberalization of abortion laws has become for Christians a major moral issue. In England and Wales, since David Steel’s 1967 Abortion Act, although illegal abortions have not decreased, the annual average of legal abortions has increased from 10 to more than 100,000. For every five babies born alive, one is now aborted. A human fetus is being destroyed every five minutes.

What is the issue? Proabortionists begin with the rights of the mother (especially her right to choose) and see abortion as little more than a retroactive contraceptive. Antiabortionists begin with the rights of the unborn child (especially his or her right to live) and see abortion as little less than prenatal infanticide. The former appeal particularly to compassion, and cite situations in which the mother and/or her family would suffer intolerable strain if the unwanted pregnancy were allowed to come to term. The latter appeal particularly to justice, and stress the need to defend the rights of an unborn child who cannot defend himself. But we must not set compassion and justice in opposition to one another. Compassion needs moral guidelines; without the ingredient of justice it is bound to go astray.

The moral question concerns the nature and status of the human fetus. If “it” were only a lump of jelly or blob of tissue, then of course it could be removed without qualms. But “it” is actually a “he” or “she,” an unborn child. What is the evidence for this assertion?

We begin (as we always must) with the Bible. The author of Psalm 139 looks back to the antenatal stage of his existence. Three words ...

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