Abortion is by far one of the most controversial topics in our society. Needless to say, there are people on both ends of the spectrum and all in between when it comes to the question of whether or not abortion constitutes murder. Since the discussion centers on such an important issue (the issue of murder), it is incredibly important to give careful thought and consideration to this all-important question.
First, it is necessary to define the term taking innocent human life. What can make this issue difficult and confusing is that society accepts various definitions of the word murder. Mirriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines murder as “The unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought.” In addition, most legal definitions of the word are similar in nature with varying degrees which are subdivided into first and second degree murder. This is where some confusion arises.
It should be noted that under a legal definition of murder, legal abortion would not fit the requirements. In other words, under the law of man instituted by civil government, abortion is not unlawful and would not be defined as murder. However, it should also be noted that the death of an unborn child can be legally counted as murder if there is premeditation, malice involved and done without legal authority (see the Unborn Victims Child Act of 2004- 18 U.S. Code § 1841 - Protection of unborn children).
It is clear that legal definitions change with current law enactments. In 1973, abortion became legal (with some regulating factors) in all of the U.S. with the passing of the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade (and its companion case of Doe v. Bolton). Before this time, abortion (with some limited circumstances) was legally considered a crime in many states. Also, many states even considered abortion illegal under common law rules. Because of this, a strict legal definition is not universal, timeless, or absolute. A problem arises when these legal definitions change the undeniable and accepted principles of “morality.” For example, at one time, slavery was legal in the U.S. That does not mean that it was morally okay, or that it should have been legal. However, at one time in the U.S., black people were considered by many to just be property, and without the same rights as non-blacks. But does this mean that the very nature of slaves actually changed depending on the legal determination? Of course not!
It should be clear, then, that there is a far greater and more accurate definition of murder. This definition transcends the law of man, and is determined by the law of nature, nature’s true God, and His Word. Throughout all history, virtually every civilization understood that there was a universal moral law that all reasonable people intuitively understood. Acts such as lying, stealing, and murder are written on the hearts of men. They are irrefutable, universal, and absolute evils. But how do we know these things are wrong? If there is an undeniable moral law, there must be a moral law giver, one who must set the standard. Who could this be, if not God?
Not surprisingly, the Holy Bible declares this very same truth. Romans 2:12-15 explains how all human beings have this moral compass imbedded in their conscious minds. It is the Almighty God of the universe that has placed it there.
Before humans ever wrote down civil law, God determined what defines murder. Based on Scripture, a proper definition would be the willful unjustified killing of an innocent human being. From the very beginning, God called it murder when Jesus described Satan as a “murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). Later, God instructed Moses to write down this law of the heart very plainly when He commanded, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). In light of this, it is clear that from God’s perspective murder has existed from the beginning of creation and is a universal moral wrong that applies to all people, in all cultures, and in every age in human history.
It could be argued that the term murder is still a legal term in a biblical sense and perhaps in some sense, it is. In other words, God as the supreme law-giver has said, from the beginning that murder was a violation of His law even before it was written down in the Law of Moses.
Of course, it must be noted that not all killing is murder. This is true both in human civil law, and the law of God. In the Bible, God both commanded and allowed killing in areas such as war (Genesis 10-12; Deuteronomy 2:33-34), and the death penalty in civil and moral law (Genesis 9:5-6). Killing is a broader term than murder.
Now that we have a clear definition of murder, it is equally important to define the term abortion. Once again, confusion arises because there are various acceptable definitions. A simple dictionary definition (Mirriam-Webster) would be “a medical procedure used to end the pregnancy and cause the death of the fetus.” However, other nuances of the term would include both induced and spontaneous expulsion (miscarriage) of the fetus. However, it is very obvious that a miscarriage and an abortion are two very separate and opposite terms. Though in both cases, a fetus dies, one is voluntary and the other is not. This makes all the difference in the world. If a woman has a miscarriage, neither she, nor anyone else has done anything intentionally to end the life of her child. On the other hand, the medical procedure of abortion to end the life of a child is deliberate (on purpose).
Is the fetus a human being? This is also an important part of the discussion, since the fetus would have to be human if killing it were to be considered murder. Biologically, it is clear that it is. If the unborn is growing, it must be alive. From conception, when sperm and egg unite, the embryo grows through cellular reproduction. If the unborn has human parents, it must be human. Human beings reproduce after their own kind. The fetus is not part of a human, but is, in fact, a complete human organism, different than the mother and father. In addition, God has clearly called the unborn human beings, and has stated that life begins at conception. Psalm 139:13-16 states that the unborn are created by Him in the womb and Psalm 51:5 describes the unborn having a sin nature, and being alive at the moment of conception.
So, is abortion murder? The answer is certainly yes. Abortion is the willful and unjustified killing of an unborn child. Regardless if abortion is legal by human government, it is a violation of the universal moral law of God, which supersedes man’s law. It should go without saying, in any regard, abortion is morally wrong, and a sin according to Almighty God.
--- ONLINE RESOURCES ---
Southern Baptist Seminary Blog – The Witness of Scripture: Abortion is Murder. (http://www.sbts.edu/blogs/2016/01/22/the-witness-of-scripture-abortion-is-murder/)
Got Questions – Is Abortion Murder? (http://www.gotquestions.org/is-abortion-murder.html)
CARM – Is Abortion Wrong? (https://carm.org/abortion-wrong)
--- PRINT RESOURCES ---
Francis Beckwith – Defending Life (http://amzn.com/0521691354)
J. Budziszewski – Written On the Heart (http://amzn.com/B002R0JXJU)
Scott Klusendorf – The Case For Life (http://amzn.com/B00294YEJI)