Most Christians generally agree that abortion is a sin.  But what about abortion to save the life of the mother or abortion because of rape?  I am stuck on determining these answers. 

In the first case, to save the life of the mother, I can see that it might not be a sin, yet this is not exactly a case of self-defense because the unborn baby is not guilty of threatening the mother’s life.  That is, we cannot compare this to a case where someone else is deliberately and knowingly threatening her life.  Yet I can see this as a sin because a good mother would care more about the life of her child than her own life and would be willing to give up her life to save her innocent child’s life. 

In the case of rape, the problem I have of condoning this is that the child is not unclean and is not willfully burdening the mother with having to take care of a child when she is unable to.  And if the mother cannot take care of the child after he/she is born, then the mother can always give up the baby for adoption.  That is, the child is still innocent in this case. 

What are your thoughts on this?  The problem is that the Bible does not address this issue, at least not directly.


This is a difficult question.  You are right that the Bible does not directly address this situation.  There is an unlimited number of moral choices which the Bible does not specifically address.  If it did, then the Bible would have to be very long.  This is why we have biblical principles which we can apply, using wisdom, to real situations.  I wish that all questions were straightforward and had clear cut black and white answers, but not all do.   I am extremely skeptical of what is sometimes known as "situational ethics," which is ethical standards which are applied differently in different situations.  However, the reality is that there are real human situations in which, on the face if it, it appears that one must choose between "the lesser of two evils."  It is not hard to imagine scenarios of this sort.  A terrorist asks a question.  If you tell the truth, an innocent person dies.  If you lie, it is a sin but the person dies.   This is obviously an extreme case–so extreme and so rare that we can answer it in the abstract.  Most of us agree that in this situation, it would be justifiable to lie to the terrorist..

The first scenario you mention is of this sort, and, unlike the example used above, it is one which someone we know may actually face.  Christian morality tells us that it is wrong to purposefully take the life on an unborn child.  It also appears to be wrong to let a mother die who could otherwise be saved.   In such a case, the individual Christian is forced to choose between two "bad" alternatives.  Which is the correct decision?  I think I know what I would say if I were in this situation, but in this first case we probably should not pre-judge and leave it to the conscience of the individual Christian.  Until we are actually in such a horrendous situation, it is easy to judge, but when we are face with such a horrible choice, perhaps we will see it differently.  In this case I choose not to state a "Christian" position.

The second scenario you describe seems different to me.  Obviously, for a man to rape a woman is sin.  It is evil.  But once the deed is done, if a pregnancy results, then the question is what to do about that.  It is wrong to needlessly take the life of an unborn child.  The difference in the second scenario is that we do not have competing "bad" choices.  Situational ethics are not in play in this case.   We do not have a moral quandry.  The one who was impregnated by a rapist can choose to either keep the child or to give the child to a couple who would love to raise it.  In this case, there are two "good" choices and one "bad" one, which is to abort the child.  In this case, I am confident that the "Christian" position is to not abort the unborn child.  Which of the "good" choices to take?  That is where wisdom and getting advice comes in.

Let us hope and pray that we will not be put in the terrible situation of having to choose between two bad alternatives.  However, the reality is that is small ways, this is a part of normal life.   A person is really sick.  Should he/she go to church?  It is "bad" to miss church and it is "bad" to spread one’s illness around.  Should he or she go or stay home?  The answer is that a person must use wisdom and experience to make a choice.  James tells us that if we lack wisdom we should pray and God will give us wisdom (James 1:5).  I think we should take God up on his offer.

John Oakes

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