Abortion and stem cell research

All human life is utterly precious.  It has sanctity.  That is the setting in which Christians discuss the point at which the tiny group of cells from which life develops begins to be a human.  The attitude that they take to stem cell research and abortion depends on this.

The Bible is absolutely clear that vulnerable people are not expendable.  Special provision must be made for them to be protected at times when they are helpless.  Those who have a more conservative response to the words of the Bible argue that a human life begins to exist at the moment it is conceived.  This means that unborn children are among those vulnerable people.  To abort such a life seems effectively to be murder to those who hold that view.  The same would be true of destroying cells in which there is the potential for life as part of a scientific experiment.

Roman Catholic Christians go even further, suggesting that to use contraception to prevent life developing raises similar issues.

Some Christians are persuaded that a foetus is not recognisable as a life when it is very tiny.  They suggest that this group of cells is part of a woman’s body, and that she has an absolute right to decide what should happen to them.

Most Christians stress that children, even unborn children, are precious to God and are not disposable.  Many campaign for stricter laws concerning abortion.  Campaigning has increased in recent years because medical advances allow babies born very early in a pregnancy to thrive.

Almost everyone recognises exceptional and tragic circumstances which mean that dogmatic opposition to abortion would be cruel and wrong.  For instance, a mother herself may be the one who is vulnerable and in need of protection because she has been raped or is in danger of death.

Equally, some Christians focus on the potential of medical research using human embryos to end chronic diseases that currently have no cure.  They consider that embryos that are by-products of infertility treatment which would otherwise be destroyed could bring great good to future generations.  They find it possible to regard their use as included in the bountiful generosity of God in the way he has created life.

What the Bible says about it

An extract from the Bible:

You created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!

Where to find it:

Psalm 139:13-17

About these words:

This is part of a song written about a thousand years before Jesus.  The thoughts it expresses are typical of the regard in which human life is held in the Bible.

And they said…

Mathetes, author of a letter to Diognetus in about 200:

Christians are no different from the rest of mankind.  They do not live in cities of their own or have a different language or way of life … but the way they live confounds all expectations …  They give birth to children, but they don’t try to dispose of them.  They eat with all their neighbours, but they don’t sleep with all their neighbours.  They obey the existing laws, but in their own lives they surpass the laws.  They love all people, even though they are persecuted by all people …  They are poor, but they enrich other people’s lives …  Their existence is on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.

Brian Astbury, father of Chloe and Nicole, conjoined twins who had short lives in 1995:

Termination was mentioned, but for us it was never an option.  Our babies will be born out of love into love.