Q. A church sister’s non-Christian relative is pregnant. The doctor told her the baby has congenital heart disease and will be born blind. Even if the baby survives infancy she will have lots of health problems throughout her life. He advised her to abort the fetus. What is your pastoral advice?
A. This is a very difficult ethical issue, especially when the parents are unbelievers and not expected to accept biblical principles in making decisions. The doctor is looking at the burden on the parents who might be facing a “life sentence” in raising a child with so many problems. There is also the cost to society in paying for medical bills. Abortion seems to offer a convenient way out.
The sister knows the sanctity of life. Even though the child is going to be problem-prone, she is still made in the image of God. We know abortion is wrong when the considerations are the parents’ lifestyle and pocket-book, but what about the child’s health problems? How does quality of life factor in? And why would God allow something like this to happen? What good can possibly come out of it?
Since prenatal diagnosis are only possible with medical advances made within the last few decades, there are simply no biblical precedents as to what to do when we know the fetus is going to encounter problems. All we have to go on are biblical principles and contemporary examples of life having fantastic value despite suffering severe handicaps from birth.
I can think of Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms and legs, but became an evangelist sharing his message of hope to over 6 million people in 57 countries:
Or Patrick Henry Hughes, who was born without eyes and unable to fully straighten his arms and legs, making him unable to walk. But with his father’s help he overcame incredible odds and became a multi-instrumental musician and public speaker:
Had their parents chosen abortion, the world would have been robbed of tremendous motivation which we all need.
The counter-argument is that most people are not like them, who many consider to be rare examples out-of-reach of ordinary folks. I agree they are our models in the minority, but there are many other less well-known folks who are fighting valiantly despite overwhelming odds against them. I recall cases of babies born without brains:
In this case the heroes are the parents, whose faith sustained them.
What if the baby dies soon after birth? What’s the point in that heartbreak? Even then a super-brave mom sees the silver lining in donating the healthy organs to save other young lives:
Of course I’m not the parents staring at a potentially bleak future, and unbelievers do not see the situation with a Christian worldview. But since I was asked I offer my humble opinion from a pastor’s perspective. Leave the life choice to God. He gives life in whatever form He chooses, only He has the right to take it. We ask for grace to carry through, as the brave parents have.