Friday, May 27, 2016

Abortion is Morally Wrong According to Polling Data

She's Only 13

Meet Alicia.* She's a 13-year old girl referred for counseling. She'd had an abortion after learning she was pregnant--her father raped her. Now she's in a foster home. She's severely depressed. She doesn't want to live. She misses her family. She's angry about being ripped away from her sister and the mother that didn't protect her. When you meet real people with real needs, morality become personal- relational.

Abortion is in the News

Most Americans believe abortion is morally wrong. That’s the consistent finding from the Marist Poll of Americans. In 2013 the rate of agreement was 62%. And all but 2% considered abortion a moral issue. In 2016, six in 10 Americans agree, “abortion is morally wrong.” (Washington Times)

Pew Research in 2017 reported public support for legal abortion at 57% in all or most cases and 40% opine abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

Pew clarifies the data in terms of "absolute" positions. So, 25% say abortion should be legal in ALL cases and 16% say it should be illegal in ALL cases. Thus, most Americans consider exceptions.

When Does Life Begin?

Beliefs about when life begins might depend on the wording of the question. Marist results indicated 53% believed life begins at conception.

Pew researchers ask the question a little differently. They asked if abortion should be illegal. The opinion depends on the category of the faithful. Six-in-ten white Evangelical Protestants and Mormons believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. In contrast, about 63% of mainline Protestants believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Polls rarely get at the depth of beliefs about abortion. Why do people believe abortion is right or wrong? Is the life in the womb a child? If so, why have no jurisdictions declared the fetus is a person with human rights—especially since so many people believe abortion is morally wrong.

In fact, why are people using the word abortion? After all, if people are killing a child then the act is murder. Of course, many people are unwilling to recognize the early division of cells as constituting a living human being.

Moral Facts

Scientific advances have presented information about the developing lives within a mother in incredible detail. With knowledge comes increased responsibility. Although many Christians turn to the Bible for guidance on morality, they obviously come away with different perspectives. The general view is that human life is sacred.

In the case of abortion, science has provided relevant moral facts about what features of a human being develop at what week of pregnancy. We know when there’s a heartbeat and we see videos of a developing person with recognizable body parts. When complications develop, medical personnel are able to save the lives of premature babies at earlier stages than ever before.

Moral Reasoning

So what’s your view on the morality of abortion? And why do you believe what you believe?

People reason differently about the morality of so many issues—abortion is no exception. As in previous posts and elaborated upon in A House Divided, most reasons fall into one of six categories.

1. Who suffers harm?
At some point, there is good evidence the unborn baby suffers pain during an abortion.

Mothers are in a bind. Depending on how you measure harm (medical, economic, emotional, spiritual) mothers are at risk to experience harm during pregnancy and as a result of abortion. Not all mothers experience significant harm. It is impossible to form a judgment for an individual mother based on group data.

Fathers and families also experience harm when the life of an expected child is taken in an abortion or the mother experiences distress during her pregnancy.

2. What is fair?

Justice as fairness is a common moral concern, famously articulated by Rawls. Mothers ought to be treated fairly by society. But children also deserve to be treated fairly. Again, we are back to the value of the life of the unborn child. Fairness also implies a concern for rights. Here we ought to be concerned about the rights of the father and other family members. Indeed, we may also be concerned about a just society for all persons and the implications for arguments about the value placed on other lives.

3. Isn’t Killing Babies Disgusting?

Perhaps the most damning moral argument is really one derived from the psychology of disgust. The prolife movement has found that the portrayal of unborn children in the womb draws on our natural desire to protect our young. And concomitantly, we are averse to scenes—pictured or described—revealing the destruction or dismemberment of unborn children.

Christian Views

Christians quote Bible passages recognizing the sacredness of life—especially children (e.g., Jeremiah 1:4-5; Psalms 22:9-10; Luke 1:41,44; Galatians 1:15). But some are troubled by other stories or passages in which God appears to support the ending of a child’s life (e.g., Jeremiah 19:9; Psalm 137:8-9; Hosea 13:16; 2 Kings 15:16).

Most Christians, like other people, are prolife. Some support a woman’s choice—especially in cases of incest and rape. Integrity requires Christians to be honest about the difficult biblical texts. To ignore those verses that do not affirm the value of life for all people in favor of supportive texts is dishonest and can only lead intelligent people to reject Christian views.

Moral Arguments Include Emotions

The arguments about abortion go on at some length but most emphasize some aspect of concern for harm to mother and child and human rights.

Although people seem to think they must have logical reasons for being prolife or prochoice, I find the best reason for being prolife is the natural desire in most of us to protect our young and react with disgust toward the killing of our young.

Abortion is indeed a moral issue.

And a just society must demonstrate deep concern for women who have become pregnant as a result of incest and other forms of rape.

It is natural to want simple answers to life concerns. Unfortunately, simple answers only come at the expense of ignoring evidence whether they evidence comes from science or contradictory reasons.

*To protect privacy, names and details do not match real people. Examples are constructed to illustrate a point. 
Read more about abortion and related issues in

 A House Divided: Sexuality, Morality, and Christian Cultures

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Abortion Data

In the U.S., 699,202 legal abortion were reported in 2012. The abortion rate was 13.2 abortion per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44. This rate is a decline of 4% from 2011.

Most women who had an abortion were in their 20s.

Most abortions were performed before a gestational age of 13 weeks (91.4%).

Data from the CDC

Friday, May 20, 2016

TEEN PREGNANCY An Opportunity to Care

16 year-old Chelsea discovers she's pregnant. What does she do? Change the age or the name- the fact is, thousands of single girls are pregnant and giving birth each year. Christians often have an opportunity to help or hinder her progress.


U.S. teen pregnancy is on the decline among girls age 15 to 19. Data collected between 1991 to 2014 reveal a drop of 61% among all ethnic groups. That's the good news.

The National Campaign provides data for all 50 U.S. States, which reveal uneven progress. Overall, the 2014 data indicate 24.2 births per 1,000 girls. Despite the progress, many girls are still having children.


Pregnant teens need support. They have physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. They need medical care. Many need housing and financial support.

Kicking them out of homes is not a moral option. In providing support for single mothers, Christians holding diverse beliefs about sexuality and morality can come together to meet the needs of two lives—mothers and the child they carry.

Sometimes, a young family may also need support when fathers remain involved. In such cases, Christians can help young people build a family that otherwise might dissolve under the weight of many stressors.

Although the focus is often on teen mothers, it’s important to note that close to half (45%) of all pregnancies are unplanned. The rate is higher amongst single women in their 20s (69%). Many of these women also need assistance.

It’s no surprise that Christians disagree over many issues regarding sexuality and the social issues surrounding sex. Christian Fundamentalists and many Protestant Evangelicals and Catholics strongly advocate abstinence only sex-education programs. While some young people abstain, many do not.

Obviously, sex without contraception can lead to pregnancy, which in turn leads to stress when young lives are unprepared to care for a new born.

There are many moral issues at stake. The policies of churches and the moral principles of families and individuals are important. Sex education can be vital to mental and physical health when the information helps people make decisions about sex and pregnancy.

The pressing needs of a pregnant single mother pose a critical moral issue that confronts people of faith with a choice to help or not help mother and child build a positive future.


Christian organizations and government agencies offer a range of services to help pregnant teens and their families.

Care Net links people to Pregnancy Centers sharing a Christian perspective.

Here’s a link to government resources.

Read more about sexuality and morality in Christian cultures in A House Divided.

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For related issues on morality and Christian cultures see A House Divided.

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Genital Cutting: Morality, Religion, and Science

Ancient Egyptian Medical Tools Science

Genital Cutting is a Moral Issue

The U S Centers for Disease Control (CDC) weighed in on the benefits of male circumcision. Cutting children’s genitals has a long religious and moral history, which does not always coincide with the most recent scientific evidence. (Link to CDC pdf).

Because genital cutting is a moral issue, I reviewed research when writing A House Divided. The focus is of course on boys in western cultures where the practice is common. Cutting of a girl’s genitals is widely condemned in western cultures but is common in nonwestern cultures.

Cutting boys

Cutting a boy’s foreskin (circumcision) has a long religious history. The Hebrew Bible tells the story of Abraham’s carrying out of the commandment to begin circumcision (Genesis 17), which set apart the Jewish males from those in other cultures.

The first Christians were Jews but when non-Jews converted, the question of circumcision divided the faithful. The matter was resolved metaphorically- for non-Jews, literal circumcision was not necessary- it was a matter of the heart (Romans 2: 29).

Moral arguments commonly focus on three issues

1. Scientific evidence points to benefits outweighing harm therefore male genital cutting is a good and ought to be done.

2. Male genital cutting is a harmful practice. It literally hurts boys. And in some cases, boys get infected and die. (Narvaez, 2011).

3. Male genital cutting is an optional intrusive surgical procedure and is therefore a matter of individual rights. Boys should be allowed to make their own decision. Parents ought not to consent to perform optional surgery on their children without the consent of the child.

Cutting girls

Cutting a girls’ genitals has been called circumcision by some but others call it Female Genital Mutilation or FGM. Some use the term Female Genital Cutting (FGC). The essential reason for the mutilation language and condemnation is the intrusiveness of the cutting and the harm done. Different cultures practice different degrees of cutting.

Religious people include female genital cutting as part of their religious beliefs. According to Human Rights Watch, the religious groups include Christians, Jews, and Muslims; however, female genital cutting or circumcision is not part of the official teaching of these faiths.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the practice has been around for thousands of years. Both general health and mental health problems have been linked to FGM. A lengthy review of the research can be found in a WHO report.

Moral arguments commonly focus on two issues

1. Female genital cutting is harmful and there are no medical benefits that outweigh the harm.

2. Female genital cutting is an intrusive surgical procedure that violates the individual rights of the person forced to undergo the procedure.

To read more about sexuality and morality in Christian cultures, see A House Divided.


Twitter  @GeoffWSutton 

For related issues on morality and Christian cultures see A House Divided.

Also, A House Divided Website

For additional free book reviews and articles