Opening Our Eyes to Life in order to Open Our Mouths for It
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. (Ps. 139:13)
If the womb had a window, what would we see? Would it affect us? Would our appreciation for life change? If we could see the moment of conception, when two cells gracefully become one, or the moment when the tiny human embryo silently nestles into his mother’s protective uterus, would we stand in awe? If we could see when, at 18 days, baby’s tiny heart begins to beat, or, at four weeks, when his eyes, ears, and respiratory system begin to form, or if, at nine weeks, we were able to see when he first begins to suck his thumb, would our eyes be opened to the marvelous work of God and the inestimable value of life? And if our eyes were opened to see it, would our mouths open to defend it? Would we lobby politicians to protect the unborn? Would we oppose procedures and medications that target and terminate these young lives? Would we encourage men and women to see sex differently?
Through the advances of science and technology, we are now able to install a virtual window to the womb.(1) We are able to “see” a baby from his moment of conception through birth. Over the next months, therefore, we’re going to peer through this window and see the handiwork of God. At every stage, though, we will encounter people and procedures bent on destroying God’s handiwork along with men and women deeply wounded by the lies they were told. Once our eyes see the truth, we will be compelled to open our mouths to speak it.
Window to Week 1
The instant a sperm penetrates the wall of an egg, the egg changes its membrane so as to make it impossible for any more sperm to enter. Once inside the egg, the sperm’s nucleus is attracted to the egg’s. Gradually and gracefully, in a kind of courtship dance, a microscopic wedding ritual, the two become one. This is the moment of conception. At this moment, a new person comes into existence with his very own unique set of DNA that never existed before and will never be repeated. You were you from this moment – your curly hair, stubby pinky toe, pointy chin, hazel eyes, and knobby ankles, even much of your personality – it was all set here. From this moment you needed only nourishment and a safe environment to grow. Everything that makes you who you are, however, was present.
Shortly after fertilization, the tiny baby cell begins making his way along the fallopian tube toward his mother’s uterus. On day one the tiny human cell divides for the first time. By day four or five, the tiny baby is called a blastocyst and has grown to around 100 cells. Now it begins to divide into inner and outer cell rings. The outer will become the placenta, the baby’s life support system, while the inner will form the baby. After seven days the tiny embryo reaches his mother’s uterus. This will be his sanctuary until he is cradled safely in his mother’s arms. During the next few weeks, all the features of the baby’s body – limbs, nerves, organs, muscles, etc. – will begin to take shape.
Intruder Alert! Incognito Assassins
As you stand watching this marvel through our window, you detect an intruder. It’s labeled “IUD” – an “inter uterine device.” It’s stopping the tiny human embryo from implanting in the uterus. If the embryo can’t implant, the tiny baby will be denied his sanctuary and die.
Another intruder appears. It’s marked “Morning-after pill.” It’s basically the oral contraceptive pill on steroids. It tried to keep the sperm from the egg, but failed. Now it’s trying to keep the tiny embryo from implanting. It doesn’t want the very young baby to survive. If baby can’t nestle into mom, he’ll die. And that’s exactly what Mr. Morning-After wants.(2)
His cousins Depo-Provera and Norplant show up. They try to prevent the sperm from reaching the egg. Sometimes they’re successful; sometimes not. If they fail at preventing conception; they turn their attention to preventing implantation. The result is the same. If the newly conceived baby can’t claim his mother’s uterus as his home, he’ll die.
Next the oral contraceptive pill comes into view. It tries mightily to prevent conception, but sometimes it fails. When this happens, it, like the above intruders, tries to keep the tiny human embryo from claiming the uterus as his home. Sometimes it fails and the tiny baby safely makes his mother’s uterus his home. Sometimes, however, it succeeds and the baby dies.
Of course, no one expects this of these devices and medications because they travel incognito. Years ago the medical community defined pregnancy at the point of fertilization. If a sperm reached an egg and conceived new life, a woman was pregnant. That definition, however, exposed the above medications as dangerous intruders. So, the definition of pregnancy was changed. Now, pregnancy is defined not by fertilization, but by implantation. Even though the above medications can keep a tiny human embryo from implanting in his mother’s womb, they can be labeled as “contraceptives” that prevent pregnancy. With a disturbing twisting of words, we are left with medication and devices that can terminate a human life without terminating a pregnancy.
Bold Faced Killers
Making no attempt at disguise, the abortion pill RU-486 storms onto the scene with its sights set on the newly implanted embryo. Its mission is to break into the baby’s sanctuary and rip the tiny baby from his mother’s uterus. In plain language: RU-486 wants the baby dead. In the U.S. doctors can give this baby-killing drug up to 49 days’ gestation.(3)
Coming into view is a spear headed straight for the heart of the tiny human embryo. It wants its inner cells, the cells that will form the baby. This is embryonic stem cell research. Scientists say these inner cells hold great promise for adults suffering from various diseases. They say they want to “harvest” these cells, but this is no different than suggesting that we should set aside certain children for medical research, to harvest their hearts, their livers, or their lungs. Humans, however, aren’t crops to be harvested; they are persons with inherent dignity and worth from the moment of conception.
Nearly 300 years ago, Jonathan Swift, an English pastor, wrote a satirical piece attacking the utilitarianism of his culture.(4) In his A Modest Proposal he exposed the logical end of such thinking. To shock his culture out of their false thinking, Swift satirized about selling English babies for food and harvesting their skin to bolster a new textile industry. There would not only be fewer mouths to feed, but more food and work for all. His writing revealed the bankruptcy of his culture’s thinking and they pulled back in revulsion from their utilitarianism.
Our culture, when encountered with our modest proposal in embryonic stem cell research, isn’t pulling back, but, sadly, is pushing forward. Numerous politicians, even our president, strongly support “harvesting” these baby-forming cells. Harvesting baby-forming cells, however, is little different than harvesting babies for food and business. They both are utilitarian.
A simple moral principle can be stated this way: No matter what good may result, the ends don’t justify the means. A stronger economy doesn’t justify slavery. A greater national unity doesn’t justify the Nazi holocaust. More food and business don’t justify harvesting babies and potential cures for diseases don’t justify the sacrificing of very young babies.
War on the Womb
Without mincing words, our culture (and sadly much of the church) has declared war on the womb. Much of it, however, is deceptively couched in the rhetoric of “choice,” “comprehensive health care,” “women’s issues,” and so on. When the smoke and mirrors are cleared, however, the unborn isn’t a choice; he’s a child. He isn’t a woman’s issue; he’s a life. He isn’t politics; he’s a person. And surely we must see that “comprehensive health care” is anything but “comprehensive” if it includes the murder of unborn children.
Consider this stark fact: from 1990 through 2011 our military suffered 29,213 active duty deaths. Without counting the lives lost at the hands of the above mentioned intruders, from 1990 – 2011 our country has aborted between 25 to 29 million babies. In one month we lost more lives than in 21 years of active combat! It’s a sad reality, but the front line of war is now a safer place than a mother’s womb.
War death is a tragedy that we rightly lament. Our soldiers deserve honor and our country is right to grieve their death. Why are we not weeping over our unborn children? Every day over 3,200 are killed. Every hour over 136 are destroyed. By the time you finish this article, nearly 20 children will be dead. How can we be silent? Many today question why much of the church remained silent in Nazi Germany while millions of Jews were murdered. What will future generations say about us?(5)
Speaking with Compassionate Conviction
Sometimes we’re silenced because we don’t want to hurt women who’ve had abortions. And, due to the fact that 22% of all pregnancies end in abortion, there’s a good chance we will encounter women who have aborted their babies. Many of them grieve deeply over their sinful decision and speaking up for the unborn may trigger difficult memories. Silence, however, is not an option. To those who have aborted, we offer the compassion of Christ. Yes, abortion is sin, but it’s a sin Jesus died to forgive. Repentant women (and men) need that forgiveness. Further, our silence often forces these women (and men) to suffer in silence, fearful of acknowledging their sin.
Our compassion must also move us to support pregnant and postpartum women. Those who need support should receive it. Those who do not believe they can raise a child should be offered the loving option of adoption – and we must be ready to help these babies find families. Lutheran Family Services, Lutherans for Life, and Care Net, are all great places to start.
Our compassion, however, must be undergirded with conviction. Abortion should not be. Policies and politicians who refuse to defend the unborn, must not receive a Christian’s support. Potentially abortive medication should be labeled as such. The government rightly warns women against the potentially deleterious effects of alcohol on the unborn; they should warn women that their “contraceptives” could end their newly conceived baby’s life. The womb should be hallowed and protected by a bevy of impenetrable laws that declare, “The life contained herein cannot be violated.”
Through the advances in medical technology, the window to the womb is open. God’s handiwork is plainly visible. Next month we’ll peer through the window again as we marvel at the first weeks of a baby’s life and appreciate again the magnificent handiwork of God. As our eyes are opened to the growing child within, will our mouths open to defend them?
(1) National Geographic has a tremendous video available on Youtube. Search for “National Geographic in the womb.” See also: www.babycenter.com/fetal-development- week-by- week
(2) The morning-after pill is available over the counter to minors as young as 15.
(3) This drug is also used to prepare a woman’s body for an abortion by aspiration. That’s the medical term for killing a baby by literally sucking him from his mother’s womb. This method is primarily used before week 13. After week 13, RU-486 is used in combination with another drug to kill the baby. The abortionist then removes him piece by piece.
(4) “Utilitarianism” teaches that right and wrong is determined by whatever provides the greatest good for the most people.
(5) The comparison of Germany’s holocaust to our modern abortion holocaust is employed not to suggest women who abort are similar to Hitler and the Third Reich. Having said that, there are certain parallels between the governmental policies that dehumanized Jews and that continue to dehumanize unborn babies.