Disability Does Not Justify Abortion

The Zika Virus Is No Excuse

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Guest Contributor

I don’t expect non-Christians to understand why Christians see unborn children as intrinsically valuable creations of the living God. But I would like abortion advocates to answer why they think aborting children is an appropriate response to a public health crisis.

Abortion advocates are taking advantage of the Zika virus outbreak to encourage liberalizing abortion laws in Brazil. It is shamefully prejudicial against unborn children with disabilities and does not address real public health issues.

According to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), the Zika virus has infected as many as 1.5 million Brazilians in the past year. At the same time, a distressing number of children were being born there with microcephaly, or an unusually small head, that can lead to developmental and other disabilities. On February 1 Dr. Margaret Chan, The World Health Organization Director-General, declared:

The recent cluster of microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders reported in Brazil, following a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014, constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Abortion proponents are now using the Zika outbreak to advocate for more abortions in Brazil and elsewhere in Central and South America. A February 3rd New York Times article reported that,

The surging medical reports of babies being born with unusually small heads during the Zika epidemic in Brazil are igniting a fierce debate over the country’s abortion laws, which make the procedure illegal under most circumstances.

The essence of this “fierce debate” is that it is preferable that children with disabilities related to microcephaly be aborted rather than be born.

Better If They Were Never Born?

Everyone, even those in favor of unrestricted abortion at any stage of pregnancy, grants that the decision to abort is serious. And most people believe that it should be an informed decision. Thus, we would assume that more information about microcephaly would be offered, including how it impacts those living with it and their families. What is noteworthy by its absence in the New York Times article, no people living with microcephaly or their families are interviewed and no case studies are presented. The writer ignores how people with disabilities are responding to such efforts to destroy unborn people like them.

It is simply assumed that a diagnosis of microcephaly is sufficient reason to destroy the child in the womb.

Since I live with a young man who doesn’t have microcephaly but does have severe developmental disabilities, I can confirm that many days are difficult and it is expensive (and we also laugh a lot in our family!). Even harder, though, is living in a world where many people believe and behave according to those beliefs that people like my son shouldn’t have been born at all.

It can be frightening to live in such a world. But I have a greater hope: God. And God made him. As Pastor John noted in a sermon on John 1:

Wherever you turn on this planet and see a living person, you are seeing an image of absolute reality, ultimate reality, original reality — the Word, who was with God and was God, and was Life. You have never met an ordinary human being. There are none. They are all extraordinary. They are all amazing.

We are all image bearers. Notice that Pastor John does not modify his statement with “except if they have a disability.” He would have been blasphemously wrong if he had. God kindly and specifically informs us in his word that disability is also under his sovereign authority (Exodus 4:11; John 9:1–3).

Again, I do not expect non-Christians to understand our hope. But I do encourage Christians to cling in faith to God’s word and behave accordingly:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)

As Christians, we do not address suffering by destroying the person who is suffering. We attack viruses to prevent outbreaks and eliminate mosquitos and develop vaccines and send medical professionals and go ourselves — we don’t kill little human beings. We trust that his promises of supply (Philippians 4:19) are true and his predestined plans (Acts 4:28) are perfect. We can respond in proactive, loving ways to families experiencing microcephaly, and every other disability, because our hope is in God and not ourselves.

Don’t Believe the Lie

If you claim Christ as Savior and are generally pro-life yet feel abortion in these circumstances is reasonable, you’re believing a lie. I beg you to read the entirety of Scripture and see how God presents the purposes of suffering and hardship of every kind. Or read, watch, or listen to these resources on suffering at desiringGod.org.

The extent the Zika virus is causing microcephaly is not yet fully understood, but clearly something is happening in Brazil. Let us pray for God to provide answers and relief and to show how the church can be involved. Some of the affected children are being handed over by their parents to the Brazilian government; maybe one of those children is meant for your family!

And let us attack the satanic argument that it might be “better” for the child with microcephaly and for his family if he was aborted. We should pity those who think that way because they are unable to see God’s extraordinary power and are headed for an eternal reality that is worse than any of us can imagine. Rather, let us pray and evangelize and engage with those who support abortion, for the sake of their own joy and for the very lives of vulnerable little ones and their families.


More from Desiring God

  • Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist | God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Look here for more on the possibility and essentiality of joy in the Christian life — even and especially in the midst of great suffering. (book)

  • Joy Is Not Optional | It is good news that joy is not optional in the Christian life, because the final weight falls not on our weak backs, but on the almighty shoulders of God himself. (article)

  • How Do I Pursue Joy in Christ? | Theologian Michael Reeves answers the question, How do we pursue our happiness in Jesus? (interview)

(@johnpknight)

John Knight is Director of Donor Partnerships at Desiring God. He is married to Dianne, and together they parent their four children: Paul, Hannah, Daniel, and Johnny. Paul lives with multiple disabilities including blindness, autism, cognitive impairments, and a seizure disorder. John writes on issues of disability, the Bible, and the church at The Works of God.