Sunday, February 12, 2012

Does God Favor Abortion

Is God in favor of abortion? Maybe so. An article in The Tennessean newspaper told the story of a fifteen-year-old unmarried girl pregnant with triplets. The pregnancy was not going well and the girl’s life was in imminent danger. The doctors counseled abortion to save the life of the mother. The girl’s parents and their pastor argued against it. The hospital chaplain was called in, and it was he who wrote the story.

The chaplain’s role isn’t to side with either party, but to bring some comfort to the young girl facing the death of her babies at the hands of her doctors, or her own death with the blessing of her parents. The chaplain encouraged the girl and her family to place the situation in the hands of God, and not let the doctors intervene. He prayed for her, and asked God to do what was right.

God answered his prayers and aborted the lives of these three babies by causing the mother to miscarry. While abortion at the hands of medical professionals was ungodly, abortion at the hands of God was perfectly fine. What does this mean?

At the very least it means that when it comes to abortion the death of the unborn isn’t really the problem. We are talking about an all-powerful God who could have saved the babies and their mother, but chose not to. So the problem isn’t the death of the unborn but the agent of their death. If a doctor does it, it is evil; if God does it, it is good. But why can’t the doctor be an agent of God? Why can’t abortion at the hands of medical professionals be the way God saves mothers whose lives are threatened by the birth of their babies?

Is the best religion has to offer is a passive “turning matters over to God” and a simple acceptance of whatever happens as God’s will?

As a Jew and a humanist I tend to side with saving the life of the mother (though there are exceptions), but this story isn’t about that. It’s about a chaplain trusting God to do what’s right, and yet not having the courage to then argue that abortion isn’t always wrong.

Chaplains often witness such situations. Why is it these acts of God never influence their ideas about God? If they did I suspect the argument over abortion would be far more nuanced and civil.


Karen said...

I agree with you, Why can't the doctor be an agent of God? Why is America so concerned about the rights of the unborn, but not the rights of women to have access to birth control? Why is a teen age girl pregnant and why would her parents sanction her death like this? To me, it puts religion in the realm of medieval superstition.

Claire said...

Is not the issue, in religious terms, when the soul permanently joins with the body? I have been unable to find scriptural support for the idea that the joining takes place at conception. There is some scriptural support for the idea that there is a relationship between breath and soul. I think you could make the argument that this joining could only take place when the body is capable to take a breath. First trimester fetus does not qualify. Ergo, abortion in the first trimester is not murder.

Seems simple to me.

Lyn Baker said...

Rabbi, before I can give you an answer your opening question, I ask this, who, exactly, is an agent of God? Seems it is always a title claimed in private and not given in full sight. It seems, being designated an 'agent of God' is more subjective to a desired outcome by those claiming to be God's agent than actually representing God legitimately. The Bible is full of examples of these types of 'agents of God' who commit countless atrocities against other people for their personal or group's benefit. Using God as justification to get what you want is a wonderful thing! So, don't be surprised when someone claiming to be an agent of God benefits considerably from the 'calling' given them.

Second, why is God's will even considered in the abortion question posed here? Are we not capable of making the decision without invoking the confusion of religion into the situation; religion and its agents usually only make matters worse and is/are ultimately self-serving. Which course of action is best? Save the children and mother if at all possible, but save the mother if it comes down to that. The mother can possibly have more children. The mother has a family that loves her here and now and a life that is connected to others in many, many ways. Why would we desire to rob her family and friends of someone they love and that actually exists in the flesh, here and now? Better yet, why don't we ask the expectant mother what she would like and then actually respect her decision. Is it not her life in the balance, physically, mentally and spiritually rather than the parents, doctors or clergy?

Third, who really knows if God is in favor of abortion or not? It's a question that can't be answered with certainty. However, as God's agents have demonstrated in the past and as told in the Bible, the genocide of men, women (some probably pregnant), sheep, goats, camels and children would lead a reasonable person think God's answer to be....?

And by the way, that's what God told me to say.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for an excellent commentary on the issue.

Unknown said...

Rabbi, thank you for your engaging post. I'm still ultimately undecided on this issue. The only trouble I have with your post is that it assumes that the miscarriage was the sovereign will of God. And maybe it was. But in your opinion and theological understanding, could God's will have been to preserve both the lives of the mom and the triplets? Could the miscarriage be the result of a tainted and evil world? I don't know enough about Judaism to know if this is a viable viewpoint within the Jewish theological framework. I'd love if you shed some light on the subject.