Our Lord seems very much interested and active in helping couples conceive a child. Looking to the Scripture and Holy Tradition, we see several couples who were aided by God to conceive a child: Abraham and Sarah, parents of Isaac (see Genesis); Zacharias & Elizabeth, parents of John the Baptist (see Luke); Joachim and Anna (parents of Virgin Mary, see liturgical texts); Mary and Joseph, parents of Jesus (see Matthew and Luke).
Nowhere does God encourage or participate in the destruction of children, inside or outside the womb (except the final plague upon Egypt which killed all the first born).
One of the reasons God favored the Israelites in war against their neighboring peoples, was to counter their pagan, idolatrous beliefs and practices including childand infant sacrifice. God used Israel to help purge such abominable acts.
In light of this rich history of God's favor, how can we allow the womb to become a grave?
The eternal Son and Word of God sanctified life in the womb when He was incarnated in the womb of the Virgin Mary. In other words, He has blessed this stage of life by passing through it. Thus, the Orthodox Christian Church recognizes and celebrates the beginning of life in the womb for three special persons: Jesus' Conception at the Annunciation on March 25th; the Virgin Mary's conception on December 9th and John the Baptist's conception on September 23rd.
Let's ask some questions and seek the answer in the Scripture.
When does life begin?
Who is the author of life?
From when does God recognize us as persons?
It's my body and I'll do with it as I please?
What do the Church Fathers say about abortion?
False Reasons for Abortion
You have probably heard many arguments for abortion. Never accept the assertion that a fetus is just "tissue" or "matter". The unborn baby is not part of the mother. It has its own distinct chromosomal make-up and therefore asserts its own rights as an individual human being.
Neither should you accept the idea that a baby should be aborted if it is not wanted or cannot be given a "good" life. Orthodox theologian Stanley Harakas says it is contradictory and relative to hold that human rights should depend on the will or wishes of another. Either rights exist or they do not exist.
As for high risk pregnancies, if the terrible choice needs to be made, the safety of the mother over the life of the baby is acceptable. Of course, this decision should be made in consultation between parents, and medical and spiritual advisors. In the case of rape or incest legal, medical and spiritual counsel should be sought immediately. We must remember however, only 1-3% of abortions are performed for reasons of rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, or health of the mother and in no way legitimize the other 97-99% of abortions done for convenience sake.
Free-Choice is Not Pro-Choice
Since in the teaching of the Church, abortion is wrong and equivalent to the taking of innocent life, that is, a form of murder, it is a "thing that does damage." The name take by those who encourage and facilitate abortions, to promote their cause is "Pro-Choice." Because few would agree that abortion is a "thing that is good in itself," they do not usually call themselves "Pro-Abortion." By projecting "choice" rather than "abortion" they distract us from the fact that they are encouraging and making easier a behavior that is wrong.
"Pro-Choice" regarding abortion is a propaganda device to divert people's attention from what this movement promotes. It encourages the killing of innocent human beings -- a form of murder. Orthodox Christians should not be deceived by propaganda tricks.
As Orthodox Christians, we must not focus on abortion as a single issue. Abortion is a form of birth control, usually from an unwanted pregnancy outside the context of marriage. Others say this is due to lack of access and education about contraceptives. We say it is fornication. People need to be instilled with a sense of sexual chastity and fidelity as well as responsibility. In other words, the only good, responsible and safe context to have sex is within a committed, healthy and loving marriage.
The insidious exaltation of individualism in American society undermines any objective sense of the sacredness of sex and life, especially the life of the unborn. Our society is full of hedonism. But we are not without hope. Legal means may be used in an attempt to address the problem. However, those contemplating abortion must be provided with reasonable alternatives and compassionate caring and help. Ultimately, real and significant change will only occur when the hearts and minds of the people are converted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Fr. Richard Demetrius Andrews is the pastor of St. George Greek Orthodox Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Fr. Andrews is the past president of Minnesota Eastern Orthodox Christian Clergy Association (MEOCCA), and a volunteer chaplain with the St. Paul Police Department.