Abortion – A New View
George Byron Koch
Watch a Video of this.
For those who don’t know me who might see this in the future: What you’ll find here is probably NOT what you anticipate or fear or hope for. But if you gift me with your time, I believe you will find it was well spent, and that a new and valuable perspective or insight was gained. I recognize that such a suggestion could be condescending or seem like it; that surely is not my intent. In fact, I enter on this presentation with a lot of trepidation. I suspect everyone hearing this will find something in it that upsets them. If so, then what? Immediately cast it away and leave? Or lean in? Let’s resolve to lean in.
Misdirection turns our focus from the main thing to a side thing – and often the side thing gets us so riled up that we never get back to focus on the main thing. Sometimes this misdirection is intentional – to get others NOT to focus on the main thing. And sometimes it is just us and our tendency to be lured away by things that are bright or loud or offensive or insistent or fear-making. All of us can be subject to such distraction, so I hope for all of us to stay focused for the next little while. It won’t take long.
Full disclosure: I’m a Christian now and a science lover – but with these nuances: I’ve loved science since I was a little kid. My brother and I started a tiny electronics business when I was 13 and he was 10. I have a degree in physics. I love physics, especially cosmogenesis and particle physics. I stopped being a Christian in college after my involvement in the civil rights movement split the church I attended. I was so disappointed in the behavior of people who called themselves Christians that I simply walked away from the faith. More on this in a bit.
I believe it is important for each of us to be aware of how we think, and how that affects what we see, and what we believe. And we need to remind ourselves of this often if we are truly to understand the world, other people, and social and political movements. Some of you might be thinking, “Well, obviously,” but I would suggest we all come up short on this. We need to understand how we think, and reexamine our views, and beliefs, and openness to things we might have previously ignored or dismissed. This will be valuable today and forever. Let me give some illustrations.
If you are familiar with rhetoric or logic you’ll recall this formula for syllogisms: major premise, minor premise, conclusion. There are many ways to apply this that lead to false conclusions, like this: All birds drink water. I drink water. Therefore I am a bird. A more properly structured argument goes: All persons will die. I am a person. Therefore I will die.
Well, what does this have to do with abortion? Just this: it is possible to construct a completely valid argument, or syllogism, and still have the conclusion be false. That is, the structure is correct, but the result is wrong. Sadly, this is a common denominator of much political and social debate, and we are often oblivious to it. Let’s resolve to see it, whether it pleases us or not.
Here’s how: the person who defines the premise determines the conclusion. In effect, the conclusion is smuggled into the premise as a “given,” an unspoken assumption – whether itself true or not – and that produces a desired result which claims to be valid but often is not. And these arguments are usually more casually structured but present themselves as rigorous and true:
A woman’s body is hers alone. Abortion is about what a woman does with her body. Therefore abortion is a decision that is hers alone.
There is no God. It’s a superstition. Christians believe in God. Therefore Christians are superstitious and unreliable in their decision-making. And they shouldn’t be allowed to impose their false beliefs on the rest of us.
In the current debates the terminology defines positions that lead “logically” to predetermined conclusions. If I say, “This is about reproductive rights of women. Therefore, men and lawmakers have no right to tell us what to do,” my conclusion is already in my premise. If I say, “This is a child, a separate and distinct human being with its own rights to life, though temporarily residing in the woman who co-created it. Therefore no one has the right to kill it,” again the terminology defines positions that lead “logically” to predetermined conclusions.
Both sides do this. We ALL do this in our thinking, and my plea here is to suspend for the moment our well defended positions, and let what follows unfold.
With all this as foundation, I’m going to tell two true stories. I was there. I saw it. You can dismiss me as a liar or superstitious or hallucinating, or misdirect your thought to some side detail, but before doing any of that too quickly, please just consider this as a potential new understanding of our world, and each other. It was for me.
November 30, 1980
On November 30, 1980, my wife and I lived in San Francisco. Our oldest son was conceived that night. I was not a Christian. Not a Protestant. Not a Catholic. Not any type of Christian. I thought there was a God, but that was ill-defined. I’d studied many religions, figured there had to be “something” to it all, but I didn’t belong to any of them.
Then, as now, abortion was a topic of public debate. The Pope had said that human life begins at conception, and therefore abortion was wrong. Others said it began when a baby had a heartbeat, or was viable outside the womb, and that abortion before that was justified if needed. Still others said it was permissible up to and including birth, and that the other considerations of viability were irrelevant and no one else’s business anyway. The Supreme Court in the US had ruled abortion was constitutional in Roe vs Wade in 1973, and that was the law of the land.
I was aware of the arguments and the debate, but honestly it was not something I spent any time thinking about, nor did I have an opinion. Nor had I wondered what God might think about it. It just wasn’t an issue for me.
Just before midnight our bedroom suddenly filled with electricity. I don’t know how else to describe it. It was like the room was charged and vibrating with power. I was startled but searched my brain and looked around my room for an explanation. My physics led me to suspect ball lightning, an especially weird kind of plasma caused by an electrical storm. These look like soccer balls made of electricity, and can roll through a field and even into a building or home. I couldn’t think of anything else that it might be. You can look it up.
I got out of bed to look further. I walked around finding nothing, and then stood at the end of the bed looking at my wife. I was perplexed to say the least.
And then, from my left, two presences came into the room, a bringer, and one being brought. In that moment I met my son George. I knew his name, his interests, his talents. I don’t know how, but I did. The bringer left and George remained with us. I looked at the clock. It was 12:01 am, December 1st, 1980. George was born August 26th, 1981.
This was all utterly beyond my experience. I don’t know who the bringer was. I have no theories. I didn’t become a Christian on the spot. I do remember thinking, “Huh. The Pope was right.”
During 1981 I did become a Christian during an event equally weird and miraculous, but I won’t describe it here. Let’s just say I discovered God is real. You may have made, or will make, a similar discovery. It was not from argument or sermon or evangelistic crusade, however useful those might be. I discovered it. Or I got discovered.
I have one more story, equally unsettling. Before I go there, I would ask that you simply tuck away my first story for now. Later you can remember it, and wonder about it, and maybe ask God to reveal his thoughts on this to you. At least be willing to be willing.
Several years later I had become friends with some nuns (no, I didn’t become Catholic) and some Protestants who were opposed to abortion, but who believed it was not helpful nor holy to insist that others follow a rule you support, when following it costs them but not you. That is, they believed that if a woman was under duress – whatever the source: financial, familial, social, work – to terminate a pregnancy, that telling her it was wrong without providing support to carry the child to term and then either raise it or give it up for adoption, was self-righteous, easy and cheap. So they had committed to provide whatever a woman needed, financial or otherwise, to carry the child to term.
This wasn’t my idea, but when I learned this was what they were doing, I was supportive. It seemed exactly right to me, and I let them use the meeting room at my office for their planning. Eventually they set up a free pregnancy center, elsewhere, where they counseled pregnant women who were under duress, in untenable circumstances, and considering an abortion. Whatever the need was to carry the child to term, they would work to provide it: housing, medical, financial. It struck me then as now as a very genuine way to live out their faith and beliefs.
But this was in San Francisco, where what they were doing was not simply politically incorrect, it was an affront to abortion proponents, and took some of the wind out of their arguments. And so they were charged by the city with fraud, because they would not provide or refer for abortions. They had never pretended that they did.
As an aside I might note that people in power here, across the world, across millennia, use the law to further their own ends, even if that requires charging your opponent with an unrelated and uncommitted crime. I experienced just that myself when (in the late 1960’s) I opposed the Vietnam War and found myself arrested by the FBI and charged with possession, manufacture, and sale of narcotic drugs. None of it was true at all, but of course people thought, “Well… where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” and I had to spend literally years fighting the charges and their consequences, thus distracting my energies from opposing the war.
And that’s the game: you can’t arrest someone for opposing abortion, or a war. We have free speech in this country. So: make something up and arrest them for that. It is an ancient maneuver used by people in power of every stripe.
This story of the free pregnancy center is an interesting by itself, but it is actually only the set-up, the context, for the more unusual, weirder story in the middle of this one.
During the trial, which I attended and watched from the back row, the defense called Dr Bernard Nathanson as a witness. He had been the director of the largest abortion clinic in the world, but after using ultrasound to see a baby being aborted, changed his mind and changed sides. He produced the chilling video “The Silent Scream,” and traveled the country trying to undo what had become commonplace.
He was an atheist, and Jewish, though he was non-religious. He said that his opposition to abortion was a conclusion reached as a humanist, because he came to believe passionately that unborn babies were fully human. He much later actually became a Christian, in part because of the love and selflessness he experienced from the Christians that supported him and his cause. You can read about that in his book, “The Hand of God.”
During the trial, the prosecuting attorney asked him rather sarcastically about his opposition to abortion: wasn’t it simply because he was a Christian and his “religious belief’ led him to this? Nathanson affirmed that he was an atheist, and he had reached his conclusion based on science, and facts, and evidence. Not religion.
Now here’s the weird part: I knew he was going to testify. I hadn’t met him but I knew who he was. I knew he was an atheist. He was sitting in the gallery not far from me before being called.
When he was called, and stood, and began to walk down to the witness stand, I saw (not kidding here!) a cloud of power and the presence of God surround him, go with him, and remain with him as he testified.
I was dumbstruck. First of all, I don’t often see things like this (who does!?) And I knew he was an atheist, so it flew in the face of any theology I had about God and who He favors. I remember thinking, “This is the Holy Spirit! All around and over and through him!”
I don’t know if it was the Holy Spirit. I don’t have any theological arguments to justify what I saw. But I did realize, without a doubt, that God was with this man in power. And this man was there to defend people who had been selflessly providing a means to avoid abortion.
So, what does God think about abortion? His view was there, in the power he gave to that man, who had done thousands upon thousands of abortions, and who then changed his mind.
My son arrived the night he was conceived. I saw it. It was a new view for me, that led to many other unexpected realizations about God and His love.
God surrounded an atheist in power to help him defend those who loved the unborn. It was a new view for me.
Please just sit with this for a time, and maybe invite the One who made you, show you His view. It was a new view for me. Perhaps for you as well.
Some Scripture to meditate upon, and which are shown down below: Genesis 1:1-2:3; Jeremiah 1:1-10; Psalm 139; Luke 1:1-55. Consider in these passages all that is going on in the womb, and even just before and after conception. The world and our lives are far more wonderful (and weird!) than we imagine. Sit with this.
An additional thought on misdirection: In John chapter 9, Jesus heals a man who was blind from birth. He does this on the Sabbath, the day of rest. When the man is later questioned by religious authorities, some of them are thankful for the miracle, and some of them become focused on the fact that it was on the Sabbath. They dwell and fuss and fidget over that true but misdirecting fact, and miss that the presence of God had come and made the blind man see!
May we learn not to dwell and fuss and fidget, but keep our eyes focused on the main thing.
Scriptures noted above:
New King James Version
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness [a]was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. [b]So the evening and the morning were the first day.
6 Then God said, “Let there be a [c]firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
9 Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry landappear”; and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
11 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 So the evening and the morning were the third day.
14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 Then God made two great [d]lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. 17 God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
20 Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living [e]creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the [f]firmament of the heavens.” 21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over [g]all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that [h]moves on the earth.”
29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is [i]life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. 31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
The Garden of Eden
2 Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
- Genesis 1:2Words in italic type have been added for clarity. They are not found in the original Hebrew or Aramaic.
- Genesis 1:5And evening was, and morning was, a day, one.
- Genesis 1:6expanse
- Genesis 1:16luminaries
- Genesis 1:20souls
- Genesis 1:20expanse
- Genesis 1:26all the wild animals of
- Genesis 1:28moves about on
- Genesis 1:30a living soul
New King James Version
Jeremiah Called to Be a Priest
1 The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, 2 to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. 3 It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month.
The Prophet Is Called
4 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying:
6 Then said I:
“Ah, Lord God!
Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.”
7 But the Lord said to me:
“Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’
For you shall go to all to whom I send you,
And whatever I command you, you shall speak.
8 Do not be afraid of their faces,
For I am with you to deliver you,” says the Lord.
9 Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me:
“Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.
10 See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms,
To root out and to pull down,
To destroy and to throw down,
To build and to plant.”
New King James Version
God’s Perfect Knowledge of Man
For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.
139 O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
2 You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
3 You [a]comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
5 You have [b]hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in [c]hell, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall [d]fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness [e]shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You [f]covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for [g]I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15 My [h]frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.
19 Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God!
Depart from me, therefore, you [i]bloodthirsty men.
20 For they speak against You wickedly;
[j]Your enemies take Your name in vain.
21 Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
22 I hate them with [k]perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
24 And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
- Psalm 139:3winnow
- Psalm 139:5enclosed
- Psalm 139:8Or Sheol
- Psalm 139:11, Symmachus cover
- Psalm 139:12is not dark
- Psalm 139:13wove
- Psalm 139:14So with MT, Tg.; LXX, Syr., Vg. You are fearfully wonderful
- Psalm 139:15bones were
- Psalm 139:19men of bloodshed
- Psalm 139:20LXX, Vg. They take Your cities in vain
- Psalm 139:22complete
New King James Version
Dedication to Theophilus
1 Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which [a]have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having [b]had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.
John’s Birth Announced to Zacharias
5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, [c]his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”
19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you [d]these glad tidings. 20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. 22 But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.
23 So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. 24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
Christ’s Birth Announced to Mary
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; [e]blessed are you among women!”
29 But [f]when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I [g]do not know a man?”
35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”
38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 Blessed is she who [h]believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
The Song of Mary
46 And Mary said:
“My soul [i]magnifies the Lord,
47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
54 He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
55 As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”
- Luke 1:1Or are most surely believed
- Luke 1:3accurately followed
- Luke 1:9he was chosen by lot
- Luke 1:19this good news
- Luke 1:28NU omits blessed are you among women
- Luke 1:29NU omits when she saw him
- Luke 1:34Am a virgin
- Luke 1:45Or believed that there
- Luke 1:46Declares the greatness of