Sex-Selective Abortions

[This post is a Beagle’s Bark.]

President Obama recently stated his opposition to a House bill that would have jailed doctors who knowingly perform abortions for sex-selection.

Predictably, the president has been roundly criticized by the Religious Right. Even his defenders acknowledge, “Banning abortions based on sex-selection is something everyone can sign on to in principle.”

I confess that I am uneasy about abortion. Even the most ardently pro-choice people are at some point (surely at 8-1/2 months!). I also think that the reasons the president’s deputy press secretary gave for the president’s position are dubious. So, I am not writing to defend the president’s decision on a bill that I have not even read.

Instead, I would like to challenge those who criticize the president based on their biblical convictions to take the plank out of their own eye before they attempt to take the speck of sawdust out of the president’s.

If sex-selective abortion is bad, surely sex-selective infanticide is much worse. I humbly ask my Bible-believing friends to grapple with the fact that the Bible claims God ordered exactly that.

I am thinking the book of Numbers, chapter 31. God has commanded Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites. In verses 17 and 18, Moses commands:

…kill all the boys, … but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

Lest we think that this was just Moses’ idea, remember that the chapter makes it clear throughout (verses 7, 31, 41 and 47) that Moses was doing as the Lord commanded.

So, according to the Bible, we have God selecting which children will live and which will die based solely on their sex. Isn’t that exactly what we object to in the case of sex-selective abortions? (The excuse is that this was an act of divine judgment, but see my post here for a response to that idea.)

Next, consider Psalm 139:13:

…you [God] knit me together in my mother’s womb.

The Bible says that God fashions the developing child in the womb. How does that square with the fact that up to half of all pregnancies terminate with spontaneous abortion? Are these “acts of God”? It may be argued that miscarriages are the result of The Fall, but the Bible says that God is still active in “opening and closing the womb.” One of the prophets even implores God to cause miscarriages. The Bible does not depict God as standing idly by while the consequences of The Fall work themselves out.

I will continue to grapple with the abortion issue. In return, will my religious friends wrestle honestly with these troubling Bible passages?

6 responses to “Sex-Selective Abortions

  1. You bring up some good points, except Obama or any other man isn’t God. God gives life and man cannot, is it not his prerogative to take it? This, of course, doesn’t sit well with our World View. God knows everything about a person, man spends his whole life trying to figure out himself. The event in Num 31 was a one-time occurrence; it does not give us license to do the same at our discretion. Whether the event was the result of judgement or not is besides the point. We, in the western world, assume, based upon our moral upbringing, that children have a level of innocence to some extent. Yet it can be argued that this is not the case.

    The Bible doesn’t say that God is active in opening and closing the womb. It says that he opened Rachel’s womb which is a historical record of a specific event that happened to a specific person. This doesn’t mean God takes charge of the womb for all women.

    Ps 139 is referring specifically to David but can be used generically to some extent. The translation you used, in this case, has very poorly, to the point of mistranslated, this verse. Sakak, which was translated as ‘knit me together’ literally means ‘support in the palm of both hands’. This word is used elsewhere in scripture to mean ‘surround’, ‘cover’, or ‘wall in’. Positively it means for hiding or protection. Negatively it means for destruction. In any case, David is saying that God protected him while he was in his mother’s womb, not fashioned or knit him together.

    Miscarriages can be said to be both an act of God, in that he created everything and our physical world operates withing a specific set of parameters, and also a result of the fall, in that the corruption that resulted violates those specific set of parameters. Hosea doesn’t ask God to cause miscarriages for ships and giggles. He states in the previous verse that the children being born were murderers. Or, if we want to be more specific, Hosea only makes this request of children who will be born murderers which is something only God is able to know. He also states in previous verses that Israel had deeply corrupted themselves (9) which is reference back to Deut 28-30. In other words, physically speaking, they had physically violated the specific set of parameters and as a physical result were in a state of bad health which results(ed), among other things, in miscarriages.

    In any case, America is not Israel, we are not a Christian nation or God’s people. Morals are defined by people, not religion. Religion may influences morals but has no business governing a people. Obama’s choice is simply a reflection of the moral state of our nation. Christian’s may not like what is going on, but Christian religious reasoning doesn’t hold water in a secular world ruled by Science and reason.

    • Thank you as always for your insights, Joshua.

      >> The event in Num 31 was a one-time occurrence; it does not give us license to do the same at our discretion.

      True. Deuteronomy 20:13-14 gives God’s command for how war is to be prosecuted generally. Children of *both* sexes are to be taken as plunder. The sex-selection starts with the adults: the men are to be killed and the women, including the widows, are to be enslaved or forced into so-called marriages which their Hebrew husbands may terminate when they are no longer “pleased” (Deuteronomy 21:14). I blogged about this in my series on slavery.

      >> David is saying that God protected him while he was in his mother’s womb, not fashioned or knit him together.

      Thanks for the clarification. I always enjoy your insights into the Hebrew language.

      Your translation makes my point even stronger. If God is supposedly protecting the developing baby, not just knitting him or her together, that lays spontaneous abortions even more squarely at God’s feet.

      >> Hosea only makes this request of children who will be born murderers…

      I don’t see that in the text. It seems that Hosea is pronouncing judgment on Israel/Ephraim. (Ephraim, the name of one of the tribes, is sort of a poetic stand-in for Israel generally, right?) To be sure, this is not for “giggles,” as you point out. Israel had sinned against God. But where does it say that only murderers-to-be are to be miscarried? Hosea’s invective seems broader than that.

      >> Morals are defined by people, not religion. … Christian religious reasoning doesn’t hold water in a secular world ruled by Science and reason.

      Are you saying what I think you’re saying?? Many Christians I know assert that religion (theirs in particular) is the only valid source of morality.

    • Yes, I’ve read your blog on slavery and I am researching it further before I form an opinion and respond.

      Ephraim is a prophetic name for Israel (northern 10 tribes). I won’t go into great detail, but it is used to reference the blessing on Ephraim that he would fill up the nations and all the prophesy entwined in that (Gen 48:19).

      You are right about Hosea; I misread v 13 associating ‘murderer’ with ‘children’.

      Yes, I’m saying what you probably think I’m saying. Church history shows what Christian morals do to people. Christians who assert that their religion is the only source or morality don’t know the definition or etymology of morality. Basically, morality is a set of behaviors deemed acceptable or unacceptable as agreed upon by the leader(s) of a tribe of people. They also don’t realize that there is no such thing as morals (or more properly moral law), by definition, in the Bible. God’s word isn’t subject to change at the whims of men yet, according to both Christianity and Judaism, they are. That’s an oxymoron, really, because while saying they serve God, they set themselves above God. This is a major issue Jesus had with the religious leaders of his day (Mark 7:7-8). Given your perspective, I’m sure you can see how Christianity does this same thing today.

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  3. Never question the word of GOD!

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