“Zikabortion”? A New Angle on an Old Argument

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Zika fever (caused by the Zika virus) is the latest in a series of infections that is suspected (or known) to cause birth defects in preborn children. As with previous outbreaks of such infections (like rubella in the U.S. in 1958), “therapeutic abortion” is being proposed as a response to concerns over possible (or confirmed) birth defects.

Would you abort your preborn child if you were told that she would be born with a speech delay? What about impaired motor functionality? Cleft palate? Club foot? Microcephaly? Heart disease? Spina bifida? Learning disability? Cerebral palsy? Hyperactivity?

Each of these conditions is a congenital disability known (or suspected) to be caused by infection of the mother during her pregnancy. Many of these conditions, among others, have been cited as justification for abortion of the disabled child.

Setting aside debate over whether a pregnant woman should have the legal “choice” to make such a decision, answers to all of these questions have at their heart a presumption about perceived “quality of life.” This can be seen most clearly in responses to confirmed diagnoses of fetal anomalies, such as Down Syndrome: most women who receive a definitive diagnosis (via amniocentesis) of the disorder will choose to abort their children.

Whatever the justification for abortion due to fetal anomalies (“He will suffer,” “I can’t afford her care,” “I’m not equipped for raising a special-needs child”), each of these mothers has taken upon her the authority to make life-and-death decisions on behalf of another human being. This is the primary worldview issue at the heart of the discussion about Zika-related abortion.

While topical perspectives are often distributed broadly over a diverse continuum of beliefs, worldviews related to preborn life often are (or at least appear to be) binary: one is either “pro-life” or “pro-choice.” For those who believe that humans should not be the givers and takers of life, abortion in any form is abhorrent. For those who believe that a woman should possess the authority to make life-and-death decisions about the differentiated (though dependent) human being within her womb, they must allow for such a decision to be made under any circumstances (even the ones that they are, perhaps, personally uncomfortable with). These opposing viewpoints make a centrist view untenable.

LIFE International holds to the traditional biblical worldview that all human life—regardless of its origin, pedigree, or quality—is of eternal and immense value. The child of a king and the child of a servant are both children of an eternal Heavenly Father. The microcephalic child is of no less value than a physiologically flawless child, even if the disabled child lives a brief life of suffering (for himself and his loved ones).

For as long as humanity exists in a world tainted by the presence of sin, every human being will suffer from a diminished quality of life. But our goal should not be to rid the world of those whose suffering crosses an arbitrary line, or to rid the world of those whose existence increases our own suffering or discomfort.

There can be no denying the parallels of such practices to those of Nazi Germany, a regime that perpetrated grave crimes against humanity through its elimination of the disabled, elderly, and infirm (not even including its “Final Solution” to eradicate an entire people group). Whether through the systematic extermination of the mentally and physically disabled or through therapeutic abortion, whether for the “good” of the child or of society, whether for selfish or ostensibly selfless reasons, the unwarranted taking of any human life is a violation of that person’s inherent dignity, and an affront to God, who granted that person life, breath, and a unique human soul.

Our goal must be to celebrate and protect life at every stage, in any condition. This includes the acceptance of any child—preborn or born—with any known or unknown disability or limitation. By no means, however, should such a goal include a cavalier response to the very real challenges created by the birth of a disabled child. Our response therefore must include an equally dignified offer of support to the parents, siblings, and families of any child (disabled or otherwise) who require assistance.

It is the Church of Jesus Christ who must lead the way in speaking out in support of all human life, and against its devaluation through abortion for whatever reason, including Zika-related disabilities. More important even than speaking out is living out this worldview: treating others with compassion and dignity, demonstrating by our actions that all life matters. In this way we testify to the sovereignty of the Giver of life, and we do unto others as we would do unto God Himself.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’ (Matthew 31:34–40).