Monday, July 31, 2006
The religious abortion-rights movement, like the antiabortion movement, grounds its understanding of abortion in the Bible. Abortion-rights religious groups point to what they see as a telling silence in Scripture. ``Jesus never mentioned abortion," notes Paul Simmons, a Baptist minister and author of the forthcoming ``Faith and Health: Religion, Science and Public Policy." ``The apostle Paul wrote all these lengthy letters to the Greco-Roman world, where abortion was widely practiced, with lists of virtues and vices. If anyone was a common-sense moralist, Paul was." But the subject doesn't come up in his counsel, or anywhere else in the Old or New Testament.
In the antiabortion view, life begins at conception. Abortion opponents cite passages such as Jeremiah 1:5: ``Before you came forth out of the womb, I sanctified you." Yet the other side contends that the Bible distinguishes between a person and a fetus. Exodus 21:22-25, for instance, stipulates the punishment for accidental harm done to a pregnant woman. If she miscarries as a result, a fine is owed to her husband. If she herself suffers injury or death, however, ``the penalty shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth."
The religious abortion-rights movement stresses that it presents these biblical readings not to promote abortion, but to endorse it as an option. The movement works toward what it calls true ``reproductive choice," envisioning a society in which education and contraception prevent unintended pregnancies, and widely available healthcare and child care foster conditions supportive of childbearing. The religious right, they charge, has largely neglected these goals in favor of pressing the fight against abortion.