THE DECISION OF LIFE
By: Dr. James Dobson and Gary Bergel
When You Were Formed in Secret
By: Gary Bergel
Men and women have always wanted to know about life before birth. Countless myths, theories and superstitions surrounded the mysterious first nine months of existence, which every human being spends in the shadowy, warm, watery world of the mother’s womb.
Four centuries ago, all that man knew about developing babies could have been printed on one or two pages. Today, science and medicine have provided us with incredible insights into this formative process, and we now know more about human life before birth than ever before in history. Today, you can know in exquisite detail what you were like when you were so marvelously and majestically formed in the secret of your mother’s womb. This is an account about you and your life before birth.
Day 1: You began when the sperm cell from your father met and united with the ovum (egg) cell from your mother. During this act of conception, or fertilization, the two cells became a single living cell. You began. A unique individual, you never existed before in the history of the world, and you are not entirely like either of your parents nor are you entirely like any of your ancestors. When conceived, you were so tiny that you could not be seen with the naked eye. You were but the size of a pin prick, smaller than a grain of sand, smaller even than a period typed at the end of a sentence.
Week 1: You continued to grow at a rapid rate and began looking like a cluster of cells. You actually looked a bit like a variety of berry, so at this stage of your growth you were termed a “morula,” which is Latin for mulberry. Your mother had no idea you had “nested” into her womb, and she had not yet missed a menstrual period.
Week 2: Having now firmly situated yourself in the supplying goodness of your mother’s womb, at about 10 days you begin to send her signals that you are there. Through placental chemicals and hormones you begin to influence virtually all of your mother’s organs and tissues. She will soon miss a menstrual period, experience some “morning sickness” or tenderness in her breasts, and she might suspect that you have been conceived. Even though you exert this absolute influence, you and the balloon-like sac of waters which surrounds and protects you are still smaller than the seed of an apple.
Weeks 3 and 4: As you completed the first month of your life you were now about the size of an apple seed or one-sixth to one-fourth of an inch in length. Your heart began beating at three weeks and has set the “rhythm of life” for all your days. Your brain began to form, and soon you would send out impulses throughout your body. On your 24th day you had no arms or legs. Then suddenly, two days later, tiny buds for your arms appeared and then your legs budded in only two more days! In a mere four weeks you looked every bit like a tiny baby and even began to react and respond like one.
Month 2: During this period you were able to move with delightful grace in your buoyant world. By the end of the month you could swim. Unborn children your age have been recorded doing flips in less than two seconds! With your head “resting on your chest,” the tip of your nose showed up on your 37th day, and you could pull away if it was tickled. As your inner ear formed, you began to hear the rushing sounds of your watery world. By the end of the month your mother had missed two menstrual periods and probably had confirmed you were there. When she checked in with her doctor he probably pointed out that at this stage you were “a splendidly functioning baby.”
Month 3: In your third month of life you grew to be more than two inches in length and you now weighed one ounce, just a little less than this booklet. Your movements became more energetic, less mechanical and more graceful and fluid, very much like an astronaut floating and enjoying his gravity-free space capsule. Your arms grew to be as long as printed exclamation marks and your fingers and toes quickly formed, complete with fingerprints which gave you a separate legal identity that would never change, except for size.
As your eyelids closed – as thin as butterfly wings – and as translucent skin covered you looking like a frosted glass jacket slipped on you assumed an ethereal, transcendent beauty. Special grace seemed to envelop and permeate you as you moved into your second trimester of life.
Month 4: Your face took on facial features similar to, yet distinct from, those of your parents and grandparents. Fine hair began to grow on your head, and eyebrows and eyelashes appeared to enhance your unique beauty. As you squirmed and fluttered about, it is possible that your hand found your mouth and that you sucked your thumb for the first time. You grew and grew until you became half as tall as you would be at birth.
Months 5 and 6: Sometime before the end of this second trimester you had a very wonderful experience – you heard and recognized your mother’s voice. Perhaps this is why you had such peace upon your countenance during this period. One observer said you looked as if you might be awaiting eternity. Your eyes once again opened, and this time you could perceive the shadowy outlines and dimly lighted forms in your environment.
Months 7-9: During the last three months before your birth, your mother, with her womb stretched to its limits, probably felt like she had been pregnant forever. As you tripled in weight to more than seven pounds and grew to 20 inches during these same months, you began to find your quarters becoming very cramped. As you settled into waiting, you found your favorite positions when possible, or sometimes you just pulled your knees up to your nose… and waited.
Birth Day: As you quietly waited, “locked” in position for birth, a time came when you heard a loving whisper from afar saying, “It is time.” And with all the strength of your being you responded with a resounding “Yes!” And then the sounds around you began to change as you felt the first squeezes from the uterine muscles which you triggered into action.
Within hours, the noble labor of birth transported you from your warm, watery world out into an environment which was a chilly 20 degrees colder. Not having the buoyancy of water around you, it was harder for you to hold your head upright and five times as hard for you to breathe. You experienced pangs of hunger as you adjusted from a constant flow of nourishment to some six meals a day. Though you nursed clumsily at first, you soon caught on. After a good meal you would snuggle, drawing up your arms and legs as you had in the womb.
You soon began communicating your discomforts and needs to your mom and you again found solace in her shared warmth. If she held your head to her beating heart you heard it and fell asleep.
As your mother looked down upon you, she spotted your fingernails which needed trimming, and as she continued to study you in your sleep, her heart would often fill with joy, realizing that you would now know grace in the light of life. Her hope had become a certain, living love.
A Moral Crisis
By: Dr. James Dobson
It is interesting to note that the woman who plans to terminate her pregnancy usually refers to the life within her as the “fetus.” But if she intends to deliver and love and care for the little child, she
affectionately calls him “my baby.” The need for this distinction is obvious: If we are going to kill a human being without experiencing guilt, we must first strip it of worth and dignity. We must give it a clinical name that denies its personhood. That has been so effectively accomplished in our society that an unborn child during his first six months in gestation can now be sacrificed with no sense of loss on anyone’s part. There would be a far greater public outcry if we were destroying puppies or kittens than there is for the million abortions that occur in America each year. Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz reflects the casualness with which we have accepted these deaths by writing, “[Abortions] should be available in the same way as, say, an operation for beautification of the nose.”
I agree with Francis Schaeffer that the changing legal attitudes toward abortions carry major implications for human life at all levels. If the rights of the unborn child can be sacrificed by reinterpretation by the Supreme Court, why could not other unnecessary people be legislated out of existence? For example, the expense and inconvenience of caring for the severely retarded could easily lead to the same social justification that has encouraged us to kill the unborn (i.e., they will be an expensive nuisance if permitted to live). And how about getting rid of the very old
members of our population who contribute nothing to society? And why should we allow deformed infants to live, etc.? Perhaps the reader feels those chilling possibilities would never materialize, but I’m not so sure. We already live in a society where some parents will kill an unborn child if they determine through amniocentesis that its sex is not the one they desired.
There are many other aspects of the abortion issue that underscore its inherent evil, but the most important evidence for me comes from the Scriptures. Of course, the Bible does not address itself directly to the practice of abortions. However, I was amazed to observe how many references are made in both the Old and New Testaments to God’s personal acquaintance with children prior to birth. Not only is He aware of their gestations but He is specifically knowledgeable of them as unique individuals and personalities.
Consider the following examples:
1. The angel Gabriel said to John the Baptist, “and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15).
2. The prophet Jeremiah wrote about himself, “The Lord said to me, ‘I knew you before you were formed within your mother’s womb; before you were born I sanctified you and appointed you as my spokesman to the world'” (Jeremiah 1:4,5 TLB).
These two individuals were hardly inhuman embryos before their birth. They were already known to the Creator, who had assigned their life’s work by divine decree.
3. In the book of Genesis we are told that Isaac “pleaded with Jehovah to give Rebekah a child, for even after many years of marriage she had no children. Then at last she became pregnant. And it seemed as though children were fighting each other inside her.
“‘I can’t endure this,’ she exclaimed. So she asked the Lord about it.
“And He told her, ‘The sons in your womb shall become two rival nations. One will be stronger than the other; and the older shall be the servant of the younger!'” (Genesis 25:21-23, TLB).
Again, God was aware of the developing personalities in these unborn twins and foretold their future conflicts. The mutual hatred of their descendants is still evident in the Middle East today.
4. Jesus Himself was conceived by the Holy Spirit, which fixes God’s involvement with Christ from the time He was a single cell inside Mary’s uterus (Matthew 1:18).
5. The most dramatic example, however, is found in the 139th Psalm. King David describes his own prenatal relationship with God, which is stunning in its impact.
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous – and how well I know it. You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion! You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to
breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!”(Psalm 139:13-16, TLB).
That passage is thrilling to me, because it implies that God not only scheduled each day of David’s life, but He did the same for me. He was there when I was being formed in utter seclusion, and He personally made all the delicate inner parts of my body. Imagine that! The Great Creator of the universe lovingly supervised my development during those pre-conscious days in utero, as He did for every human being on earth. Surely, anyone who can grasp that concept without sensing exhilaration is stone-cold dead!
From my point of view, these scriptural references absolutely refute the notion that unborn children do not have a soul or personhood until they are born at full term. I can’t believe it! No rationalization can justify detaching a healthy little human being from his place of safety and leaving him to suffocate on a porcelain table.
No social or financial considerations can counterbalance our collective guilt for destroying those lives which were being fashioned in the image of God Himself. Throughout the gospels, Jesus revealed a tenderness toward boys and girls (“Suffer the little children to come unto Me”), and some of the most frightening warnings were addressed to those who would hurt them. It is my deepest conviction that He will not hold us blameless for our wanton infanticide. As He said to Cain, who had killed Abel, “Your brother’s blood calls to me from the ground!”
Surely, other Christians have drawn the same conclusion. I must ask, where are those moral leaders who agree with me? Why have pastors and ministers been so timid and mute on this vital matter? It is time that the Christian church found its tongue and spoke in defense of the unborn children who are unable to plead for their own lives.
Dialogue on Abortion
By: Dr. James Dobson
A gynecologist recently wrote to me, inquiring about my views on abortion. Here is the letter and my reply.
Dear Dr. Dobson: I have always admired your ability to speak in a very logical, practical and positive way about most issues. But your position on the abortion issue is an abuse of women in general and a misuse of your God-given talent to inspire and persuade.
As an obstetrician/gynecologist, I would ask you to limit yourself to subjects on which you are an authority. You repeatedly make the point that human life begins at conception, and that abortion involves the murder of an innocent human being. But only God can decide that issue. I believe that first-term abortions are permissible because in its early stages of development, the fetus is merely a symbol of human life, and does not possess full humanness.
Furthermore, to condemn the woman who chooses abortion is to deny her the right to protect her physical, mental and emotional health and therefore to jeopardize her own humanness.
As a Christian, I believe that Exodus 21:22-25 gives biblical evidence that the mother’s life takes precedence over the potential life in her womb. This portion of Mosaic law states that if a pregnant woman is struck unintentionally and miscarries, the penalty is a fine. But if she dies as a result of the incident, the one who struck her is to be put to death.
Clearly, the mother’s life is more valuable than that of the fetus.
And finally, as a United States citizen, I remind you that we live in a pluralistic society where no one has the right to impose his religious beliefs on another person. We must not deny a woman the right to choose abortion if she sincerely believes it to be the most responsible and moral decision for her situation.
I look forward to your response.
Reply: I appreciate your letter regarding my pro-life comments, although I find myself in sharp disagreement with you. The killing of unborn children is an evil which I will oppose as long as I have breath within my body.
I was especially struck by your suggestion that I should limit myself to subjects on which I am an “authority.” I guess that means only obstetricians are qualified to speak on behalf of the unborn child. Following that logic, your foray into biblical exegesis took you unabashedly into the domain of the theologian. No, I do not believe this issue can be yielded exclusively to those who earn a portion of their living from the administration of abortions.
You raised several points to which I would like to respond. First, your assessment of when life begins (with which I disagree) fails to address the reality of late-term abortions in every state in the nation. Here in California, more than 2,000 infants are aborted every year at greater than five months’ gestation, some just days before full-term delivery. No rationalization can justify this wretched practice. When you identify personally with the pro-choice position without issuing any disclaimers or qualifications, you are endorsing every dimension of the movement, which in
my view includes the murder of the viable infant.
In fact, you stated that the mother has a right to terminate her pregnancy if the developing fetus jeopardizes the mother’s physical, mental or emotional health – thus threatening her “humanness.” Could you really mean what you wrote? If the mother’s welfare is the primary consideration, then why should we stop with the inconvenience of an unwanted pregnancy? Why not kill a 1-year-old cancer patient if his continued existence is a threat to his mother’s physical, mental or emotional health?
Why is a woman who has to care for a terminally ill or mentally retarded or handicapped child considered less deprived of humanness than the mother who carries an unplanned baby? Honestly! Jeopardize her humanness?! Being required by circumstances to sacrifice and care for a helpless child, you say, deprives one of humanness? That twisted logic leads to its own warped conclusion… that the inconvenienced mother has the moral right to “terminate” the one who causes her discomfort. May God help us! Can infanticide be far behind?
May I ask what practical difference is there between the neonate and the unborn “symbol” (your dehumanizing term) at full term? What magic is there in a brief journey down a birth canal? At what point in the descent does the symbol become one of us? If it occurs when the child becomes viable outside the uterus, then does the mantle of human status arrive earlier as medical science learns new techniques in neonatology? Is God that whimsical in His establishment of an eternal soul? Where would you draw the line? If not at conception, then where?
Are you willing to put yourself in God’s place and indicate a time-frame somewhere during gestation when the symbol has become human? Are you prepared to gamble that you are not killing babies whom the Creator has ordained as human? If you feel that the responsibility of selecting a critical moment is too heavy to bear, then would you permit the killing of the symbol five minutes before a normal delivery?
Don’t you see what a philosophical hole you have dug by denying the dignity of humanness to every unborn child? If you withhold that status at conception, you have an impossible assignment of deciding where to grant it later on. And, of course, to err is to commit murder in the eyes of God.
In another statement you indicated that the United States is a pluralistic society wherein no one has the right to impose his religious beliefs on another person. That is correct. It is also a country where no one is granted the right to deprive the weaker individual of life and liberty. To do so is not the imposition of a religious belief, but the violation of a moral principle that is basic in every culture in the world: Thou shalt not kill! As such, the pro-choice movement poses the greatest assault on human rights in the history of this great land. And someday, someday, the truth of that statement will be as obvious to moral men everywhere as is our hindsight today on the injustice of slavery, or the German perspective on Jewish extermination.
Finally, let me comment on the passage of Scripture in Exodus 21:22-25 and the strained analysis you offered. If you are going to resort to Mosaic law to illuminate this issue, then it is illogical to pick and choose from the passages. Do you as a gynecologist recommend that a menstruous woman must not be touched… that anything she lies on or sits on is defiled… and that a man who has sexual intercourse with her during this time is ceremonially defiled for seven days (Leviticus 15)? Do you agree that if a man beats his slave to death, he is to be considered guilty only if the individual dies instantly? If the slave lives a few days, the owner is considered not guilty (Exodus 21:20-21). Do you believe that we should stone to death rebellious children (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)? Do you really believe we can draw subtle meaning about complex issues from Mosaic law, when even the obvious interpretation makes no sense to us today? We can hardly select what we will and will not apply now. If we accept the verses you cited, we are obligated to deal with every last jot and tittle.
I’ve said more than I intended and may have accomplished nothing. The matter which divides us will never be settled by logic and argumentation. I am as committed to my views as you are to yours; and nothing will dislodge either of us from our deeply held positions. What frustrates me is your assertion that I should not be permitted to make my case… that I should allow you and your medical colleagues to terminate the lives of 55 million unborn children (worldwide) without uttering a word of protest… that only the obstetricians are qualified to deal with this issue. I could never accept a decree of silence. Nor will I. If I am the last voice of protest on the face of this earth and am hated and hounded by the bloody industry which profits from the destruction of human life, I will continue to speak on this evil.
So what is left for us, interpersonally? We must simply agree to disagree and respond to one another with love and compassion. I hereby extend that friendship to you, despite our differences.
Until we are granted His infinite wisdom on the other side, that’s about the best we can do. Thanks again for writing me.
(The above material was published by Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Co.)
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