The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk: What Scripture Upholds Your Faith's Teaching on Abortion? part 2

Faith asks, "What is your perspective on abortion, and how do you defend that position based on your sacred scriptures?"

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at More recent columns can be found on by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

This week, we offer responses that are opposed to a right to choose abortion. But the line between pro-choice and anti-abortion is not clear. As the Reverend Linda Knieriemen wrote last week, she is “anti-abortion yet pro-choice.” My tradition, as well, does not align precisely with a pure pro-choice position. And Fred Stella, writing below, presents scriptural and sociological evidence that come to opposite conclusions.

Dear readers, I renew my challenge from last week, asking you to read these two column with a heart open to understanding the sincere religious basis for an opinion with which you may adamantly disagree.

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, responds:

"Reformed Christians uphold the requirement of the sixth commandment (‘Thou shalt not kill,’ Exodus 20:13), ‘that neither in thoughts, nor words, nor gestures, much less in deeds, I dishonor, hate, wound, or kill my neighbor, by myself or another’ (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 105). Believing that human life begins at conception, we must regard unborn children as our neighbors, that is, fellow human beings, deserving of our respect and protection, all the more so in view of their helpless, vulnerable state.

"But we should remember that it is not enough merely to oppose abortion. Abortions occur in a larger context. There are spiritual, moral, social, and economic dimensions that need to be addressed. What can be done to provide alternatives to abortion? What needs to change in our society at large to alleviate social and economic pressures that encourage this practice? The ‘good Samaritan’ described in Luke 10:30-37 did far more than simply register his opposition to highway robbery.

"We must also remember that God has ordained ten commandments, not just one. There are some public figures whose opposition to abortion seems to be only a way to distract attention from sins against the other nine commandments. A true child of God resolves ‘to live, not only according to some, but all the commandments of God’ (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 114)."

Father Michael Nasser, who writes from an Eastern Christian perspective and is Pastor of St. Nicholas Orthodox Christian Church, responds:

"Long before modern science could prove that a newly-conceived fetus is indeed a genetically distinct person, Eastern Christianity from its earliest times until now continued the Jewish prohibition against taking the life of an unborn human being. The Prophet Jeremiah wrote of God knowing him when he was still in his mother's womb, not the body he would occupy or some other non-personal designation (Jeremiah 1:4). When the last prophet of the Old Testament era, John the Baptist, first met his cousin, Jesus, they were both in their mothers' wombs, and John's mother states he ‘leapt for joy’ (Luke 1:41). Seeing the act of abortion as anything other than the killing of an unborn human being goes against the teachings not only of Orthodox Christianity, but of most religions and now scientific fact as well."

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Adjutant Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

"Abortion is a sin because it is a violation of the Fifth Commandment of the Decalogue… ‘thou shall not kill.’ I find many scriptural references to support my position. Specifically, several in the Hebrew Scriptures (also referred by Christians as the Old Testament) that describe how we are created by God… even before mothers knew they were with child. You may wish to begin by looking up these references yourself: 1) Jeremiah 1:5; 2) Job 10:8-12; 3) Psalm 22:10-11; and, 4) Psalm 139:15.

"Despite the gravity of the sin of abortion I wish to remind us… all sin is forgivable. I do not say this to provide an excuse to sin. However, God’s mercy is much greater than any human being may conceive."

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

"As with most, if not all, important moral questions, the Hindu tradition offers deep wisdom that is measured and nuanced. The scriptures are clear that there are spiritual consequences to having an abortion. The Taittreya Upanishad states specifically, "Do not cut the thread of progeny.” There are several more verses that would discourage terminating a pregnancy. However, there is also a deep respect for a woman’s reproductive autonomy. There is little or no organized effort by Hindus to limit legal access to abortion. All this said, due to the corruption of the once noble tradition of the wedding dowry there have been thousands of sex selective abortions that have created a great imbalance of the male/female ratio in certain parts of India. This is not a religious problem as much as it is a social one. The victims of the dowry system are from virtually every religion. The challenge is that providing a dowry for the greedy parents of a prospective groom can bankrupt the bride’s family. Many call it nothing less than extortion.

"Hindu clinics refuse to perform ultrasounds on women who are attempting to determine sex prior to birth. Thankfully, there is a significant movement now reacting to this terrible tradition."


This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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