Ethics: Abortion and Stem Cell Research

According Gallup’s 2017 ethics poll, about 43% of Americans believe abortion to be morally acceptable. This number has not changed significantly in several years, which is surprising because the voice in favor of abortion is significantly louder than it has been in the past. According to the same poll, about 61% of Americans believe that embryonic stem cell research is morally acceptable, which is up from 52% in 2002. Embryonic stem cell research differs from other forms of stem cell research in the type of stem cell that is used. Embryonic stem cells are the most programmable sort of stem cells and hold great regenerative promises (though we haven’t really seen the fruit of the research).

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We will look at these together because they are related issued in the field of ethics. Differences in opinion regard differences in thought about when life actually begins in the birth cycle. If life begins at conception, then all abortion is equivalent to murder. Similarly, if life begins at conception, then the human embryos that are destroyed for the purpose of embryonic stem cell research are individuals who have been murdered for the sake of science and medical advancement. These questions are worth our consideration.

Psalm 139:13-16 HCSB

For it was You who created my inward parts;

You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I will praise You

because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.

Your works are wonderful,

and I know this very well.

My bones were not hidden from You

when I was made in secret,

when I was formed in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw me when I was formless;

all my days were written in Your book and planned

before a single one of them began.

How God sees the person

Here, I really just desire that we marinate in the words of the psalmist, David. He made a very important recognition. The king of Israel here acknowledges the sovereignty of God, and it is beautiful. If God is sovereign, then no person is ever conceived without His allowing it. God, who is Creator, still works in creation by knitting each person together. As I write this, God is knitting together a child in my wife’s womb. Indeed, we have all been remarkably and wonderfully made and God’s works are wonderful. David does not stop here. He admits that even while he was being formed, his bones were not hidden from God. In fact, he praises God because God saw him even when he was formless. All of David’s days were written in God’s book before a single one of them began. Not only did God see David before David was formed, but He had a very specific plan for David before a single day of David’s life had begun.

This is wonderful and I can’t help but smile as I think about it. God sees the substance of each individual before those individuals are formed. God saw my substance before I was formed. God saw your substance before you were formed. God sees my child’s substance as he or she is being formed. consequently, life must begin, according to God’s design, when the creative process begins. In our own perception, the creative process seems to begin when the child begins to be formed: when the zygote appears at the very moment of conception. If we do not believe this, then we do not believe that God is king or that He has all knowledge. If we do not believe this, then we do not believe that God has a part in the creative process.

Abortion

We will take this concept and apply it to these moral issues, which are both prevalent in our day. Abortion, considering the very nature of God, is always wrong because we are destroying God’s prized creation (His very image), whom He sees before conception.

I understand that there are many who will read this who have been impacted in some way by the act of abortion. Either you have had an abortion or know someone who has. Please understand that in no way are you being condemned, here. God’s grace is such that He offered forgiveness while we all lived in rebellion against Him. He desires to restore sinners, and we are all sinners.

This being said, there are a couple of questions that we need to ask because they are being asked in the world today. If a pregnancy is life-threatening to the mother, is it acceptable for the mother to get an abortion to preserve her own life? This question is a good one to ask and there truly is a dilemma (though it is not a moral dilemma). We all desire to preserve our own lives and are willing to do whatever it takes in order to preserve our own lives. When considering this question, I look to John 15:13, which states that there is no greater love that anyone could have than that he lay down his life for a friend. Jesus, of course, was referring to the fact that He was going to lay down His own life for our sake (that we might be forgiven and gain a relationship with God). This principle applies, and I am afraid that we have been raised in a society where we don’t really know what it is to love like this. If we have a child, whether that child is still in the womb or is crying in his mother’s arms, it seems that love (both love for the child and love for God) would lead us to lay down our lives for the sake of the child. Sometimes what is morally right places the individual in harm’s way. In this case, the morally right thing to do is life threatening. This fact, alone, does not make love less morally right.

What about in cases of rape? First of all, the child has not done anything deserving of death. Second, God is the one knitting that child together. Pregnancy is always beautiful, even if the circumstances that brought about conception were entirely sinful. If one beautiful creation could come out of a world of hurt, it seems to me that we would want to see that beautiful baby.

Embryonic stem cell research

Embryonic stem cell research is the act of destroying a preimplantation embryo in order to harvest and replicate programmable stem-cells to help with diseases like macular degeneration, stroke damage, cancer, and even dementia. Using these programmable cells to help with these things is still being researched and not much fruit has come from the research for a variety of reasons. What I am not willing to say is that this research is wrong, provided that life is not destroyed in order to obtain these embryonic stem cells. If life does, indeed, begin at conception, it is wrong to destroy a living human embryo for the same reasons that abortion is wrong.

People are a beautiful creation. In this, all people are equal in their worth. God desires that all people, regardless of ethnicity, color, language, age, gender, length of hair, or religion to come to Him through Jesus Christ, who died to forgive all sin and rose from the grave to restore all who would believe in Him!

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