Posted by: Andries Louw | 26 October 2008

Abortion and Responsibility

This, my first post on this blog, was triggered by a few other bloggers who posted on abortion: Janet Woodlock, Matt Stone and Cobus van Wyngaard to name a few.

There seems to be agreement that the issue is more complex than a simple choice between pro-choice and pro-life. The pro-choice vs pro-life debate tends to obscure the real issue which i.m.o. is responsibility. We should all take responsibility for our actions and for our communities.

The traditional pro-life argument seems to focus almost exclusively on the responsibility that mothers should take for their sexual behaviour. Case closed. Some remember to also hold the fathers responsible!

I dream with Cobus of a church “that can create an environment where it is possible for anyone and everyone to make the choice for life!” But I think that dream will not materialise until we as Christian communities regard it as our responsibility to do that. Part of that responsibility is also to help mothers and fathers who have aborted their foetuses deal with the emotional and other issues related to abortion. The more we take up our responsibility to care, the more we enable vulnerable parents to take up their responsibilities.

The same principle applies to a range of other issues, many of which are incidentally related to sex. Take prostitution as an example. Why is the debate so often about whether to legalise prostitution or not? Shouldn’t we rather pour our energy into helping women caught up in prostitution to acquire other skills so they can find alternative employment? People who actually do that are in a far better position to have an informed opinion on the legalisation issue.

We often focus on the wrong issues because fundamentally we think legalistically in terms of right and wrong, instead of holistically in terms of the realisation of God’s kingdom. Kingdom implies an environment where justice is done, where there is enough food, shelter and other resources to sustain life, a place of healing and safety, a space where creativity can flourish and so the list grows…

Our approach to ethical questions exposes our picture of God more than we often realise. Is He a judge or a healer? Or both? Or much more? Of course He is infinitely more than we could imagine. But so often we think of God simply as a judge. And then we talk about Jesus being the one who gave His life to save us from God’s judgement. That usually leads us to say something like “Abortion is murder. If we allow it, God’s judgement will come over our country. By the grace of God I have been saved from His judgement because I believe in Jesus.” That sounds frighteningly similar to the prayer of the Pharisee who thanked God for not being like this tax collector. Janet makes a convincing case for abortion not always being murder, depending on the context.

David Bosch often used the term creative tension. There seems to be a profound creative tension between God’s righteousness and His grace. I don’t think God ever wants abortions to happen. I believe that abortion is against His will. He demands that justice be done to foetuses. But His justice is not limited to the life of the unborn. It is also unjust to allow babies to be born, simply to let them starve to death. So whether abortion is legalised or not, someone needs to take responsibility. If the parents don’t do it the church must step in. That’s how grace keeps justice in creative tension. And that grace also applies to the parents who aborted.

Now for the uncomfortable part, the question of what I am doing to help prevent and heal the wounds of abortion and prostitution and HIV etc? Personally I cannot think of much. If we call ourselves followers of Christ we know that grace doesn’t come cheap although it is free. It calls for sacrifice, suffering, pain and even death…

…and that leads me to the next question, the question of how to simplify my life and change my priorities so I can contribute more to changing lives and changing society. But that is a question for another post.



  1. […] up for this guy’s feed. He has quite some knowledge on David Bosch, which is visible in his opening post. Not only in how he quotes Bosch, but in the way which he seem to approach the alternative […]

  2. One small (but sometimes emotionally significant) thing that happens in our church once a quarter is a pregnancy loss service. This is for anyone who has lost a child through miscarriage, abortion, or stillbirth.

    This is something churches are actually rather good at… developing rituals of remembrance that can assist the grieving process and help lead toward closure. We know how to do this stuff in relation to funerals… developing simple and creative rituals to mourn and remember a lost pregancy should be within our skill set.

    Of course… it’s only one thing, and creating a safe place for single mothers and their children is a far broader challenge than this.

    But there is a whole lot of complexity surrounding the decision to abort (or not), and it requires some complex responses if we really want to make a difference.

  3. Taking responsibility for sexual behaviour is not surely the central pro-life question, and is only indirectly related to abortion. The real pro-life question is as set out here:
    Notes from underground: Brian Cloughley: Kid Killers are Barbarians

  4. I am very excited to see this blog!

  5. Janet, I like that! Rituals are powerful not only for grieving & getting closure but also for creating empathy and a sense of solidarity with those who are grieving. Could you perhaps share some stories (without disclosing identities) of assisting people in making decisions re abortion?

    Steve, thank you for pointing that out. I should probably have formulated that sentence differently. What I actually meant was that if we look at the issue of responsibility in relation to abortion, the pro-life argument typically stops at the responsibility of the mother/parents. What do you think of Janet’s case for not always regarding abortion as murder, depending on the context, although it is always bad as she puts it? Also, what are your views about the church’s responsibility in abortion related issues?

    Hey Tom, nice to “see” you again brother! Looking forward to interacting with you again in the near future 🙂

  6. You might find this group (in our area with some connections to our church) of interest:

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