Editorial: Scripture’s Ultrasound

A recent leaked draft of a US Supreme Court decision potentially overturning Roe v. Wade is bringing the abortion topic back into the spotlight. In some ways, the attention is welcome as it may lead some to discover the practice for what it really is. In other ways, such attention brings tremendous grief to reflect upon the over 63 million unborn babies aborted in the US since the explosive case in 1973.

Expectant parents who have considered abortion may tell themselves that it is not a human baby that will die if the abortion is performed. But once they see an actual ultrasound, their thinking changes. Scripture allows us to see inside the womb to draw some powerful conclusions. Interestingly, it is a doctor whose “ultrasound” is most revealing. Luke refers to John the Baptist in the womb of Elizabeth as a “baby” (1:41,44). In the next chapter he refers to the recently born Jesus in the manger as a “baby” (2:12,16). The same Greek word (brephos) is used. Some may attempt to quell their consciences by referring to the embryo or fetal tissue in the womb, but Scripture makes no distinction. Whether in the womb or out, it’s a baby, a human life. And at the moment of conception this new life begins, possessing 46 chromosomes, distinct from both the father and mother.

Luke records Elizabeth saying that the baby “leaped for joy” (1:44)[1] in her womb upon hearing Mary’s greeting. If we question her reasoning (how could she know the baby had joy?), please note that she said this while “filled with the Holy Spirit” (v41). Although difficult to understand, John felt and expressed joy while in his mother’s womb.

Note also that Zacharias was told John would be “filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth” (v15). In Scripture, being filled with the Spirit is something that only occurs in people.[2] Thus, Luke, and the Holy Spirit who moved him to write, describe John as a human being while still unborn.

David’s ultrasound is also helpful in Psalm 139. He records the Lord as weaving him together in his mother’s womb (v13). He uses a Hebrew word translated “sewed together” in verse 15, which is only used elsewhere for the embroidery work associated with the tabernacle. David portrays the Lord as weaving and intricately embroidering a human being inside the womb. This doesn’t make the baby less than human before God’s work is done. But an abortion puts a dreadful end to the Lord’s beautiful work, taking innocent life.

Some may read this who have had an abortion in the past. Remember that David, who knew something about shedding innocent blood (think Uriah here), found cleansing and forgiveness when he repented and confessed his sin to the Lord (Psa 32;51). The NT promises us forgiveness and cleansing from all sin through the blood of Jesus Christ (1Jn 1:9).

Ultrasounds can be a bit blurry, but Scripture’s ultrasound is clear. God considers all human life precious, whether in the womb or out. And morality is not determined by a majority of nine human justices but by the Judge of all the earth (Gen 18:25). And His decisions will never be overturned.

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the NET.

[2] John Piper made this point in a sermon. Although I disagree with his reformed views, he has spoken powerfully against abortion.