Sanctity of Human Life Weekend at Grace Chapel: Is Abortion a Christian Issue? January 22-24, 1986

Beginning in the spring of 1985, I was contacted by Grace Chapel to sponsor a pro-life educational event, which came to pass the subsequent January. Grace Chapel is a very large church (by New England standards), founded in the Boston suburbs by Park Street Church. I showed the Silent Scream Friday night the 22nd and taught the Sanctity Human Life Seminar on Saturday morning.

It was organized by the Abortion Awareness Committee at the church, headed by Mary Ann Mitchner, with a well researched and thorough presentation of pertinent information for the church members and other attendees. Other groups that joined in with presentations for the weekend included Daybreak Crisis Pregnancy Center in Harvard Square, Women Exploited by Abortion WEBA, from Cape Cod), Massachusetts Citizens for Life (MCFL, in Newton), the Pro-Lie Action Network, and “a physician.”

Mary Ann posed me a number of questions ahead of time, and here is my reply accordingly:


July 3, 1985

Miss Mary Ann Mitchner, Grace Chapel, Worthen Road, Lexington, MA 02171

Dear Mary Ann:

Enclosed is an outline for my presentation on Psalm 139, and the outline for the Sanctity of Human Life Seminars. Page 11 of this outline contains a bibliography, with asterisks beside the most helpful volumes …

In terms of your questions, I will handle them in the order you listed them. For pregnancies due to rape, it is about one for every 1,371 pregnancies..

1. In 1982, there were a reported 77,760 forcible rapes in the U.S. (1984 World Almanac, p. 917, U.S. Crime Reports, FBI). Assuming a 1 1/2% pregnancy rate (studies show the rate is between 1/2% and 2%; i.e., Hilger, Horan, Mall, New Perspectives, cited in the bibliography, p. 188; and Basile J. Uddo, “On Rape, Incest, and the Right to Life,” Human Life Review, Vol. X-3:58-59, Summer, 1984), there would be 1.167 pregnancies a year. With the birth rate hovering around 3 million a year, plus a minimum certifiable 1.6 million abortions a year, you would have 1,167/1,600,000 or .00072935 (one per every 1,371 pregnancies).

If it is assumed that half of such pregnancies end in abortion (a gratuitous assumption: I cannot locate the study I once read, but it documented the abortion rate for rape induced pregnancies as close to the normal abortion rate — about 1/3 of all pregnancies), then that would mean that 584 out of 1.6 million abortions are due to rape, or a percentage of .000365 (one per every 2,742 pregnancies).

2. For pregnancies due to incest, it is about

In 1982, there were a reported 48,000 cases of incest where sexual intercourse occurred (Elizabeth Stark, “The Unspeakable Family Secret,” Psychology Today, May, 1984, p. 42, citing the American Humane Association). Since incest involves repeated sexual encounters, where rape does not, it would seem that the pregnancy rate would be higher — however this has not been borne out in recent studies. In fact, Basile J. Uddo, in the article cited above, computes a 1% pregnancy rape for female victims of incest. Since much incest involves pre-pubescent girls, this may account for the lower figures than might be expected. And yet other studies indicate higher rates (up to 18-20%, but these seem dependent¬† on tendentious research and older statistics which were less accurate). Thus, if we assume a gratuitous 3% pregnancy rate, we arrive at 1,440 incestuous pregnancies a year. at 1,440/1,600,000, we would have a percentage of .0009 (one per every 1,111).

Assuming, once again, that half of these pregnancies end in abortion, then it would mean 720 out of 1.6 million abortions are due to incest (one per every 2,222 pregnancies).

3. Deformity of the child is certainly less than 1%, including mild cases where the handicap is minimal. Serious deformity and handicap is only a fraction of 1%. I have seen such statistics in many places, but don’t have any on hand just now. In terms of endangering the life of the mother, that is near zero. Dr. C. Everett Koop said that in his 35 years of pediatric medicine, he did not once come across a case where the mother had to abort in order to live herself. Medicine has progressed so far, that the only reason a mother would have to abort in order to preserve her life, is if she were not at access to available medical care. And this possibility is near zero too. If, in such a rare case where either mother and child would both die, or the mother could be saved by abortion, then the mother should be saved. But then, it is no longer abortion, the purposeful destruction of the abortion. Rather it would surgically induced premature birth, where every effort would be given to save the child on the one hand, which such premature delivery has saved the mother’s life on the other. In fact, very often today, such premature deliveries occur in the seventh and eighth months for precisely the concern for the mother’s health.

4. In terms of current legislation …

5. I have enclosed a photocopy of a report on the relationship between child abuse and abortion. Dr. Bernard Nathanson documents in his book, Aborting America, that the theory that abortion would lower child abuse was a known lie at the time, and the statistics since then show a rise in child abuse since 1973, in every definitional category. Studies have also shown that the rate for child abuse among wanted pregnancies is higher than for unwanted! One study show that a disproportionately high number of children abused actually bore their father’s name (e.g., John Q. Smith, Jr.). It is also known medical facts that, with hormonal shifts that come with early pregnancy, the 6-8 week period (where most decisions for abortion are made) is the time when the mother feels the least like wanting to be a mother. But that changes soon, as the nurturing aspects of motherhood are favored with further hormonal shifts.

6. Abortions have leveled off. Officially it was 1.578 million in 1982, and 1.573 million in 1983. Official statistics cannot take into account abortions done in hospitals that are classified under D & C (a common practice), or abortions done in physicians’ offices. Accordingly, the real number may well be over 2 million, and I have seen abortionists publicly say the number is closer to 3 million. The first year of legalized abortion, 1873, saw about 600,000 abortions and it has climbed from there. The leveling off reflects a peaking of the baby-boom generation in its child-bearing years, and a (supposed) saturation point.

7. Dr. Irvin Cushner (Irvin Cushner, M.D., M.P.H., U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Constitutional Amendments Relating to Abortion, S.J. Res. 17, 18, 19, & 110, 97th Congress, First Session, 1983, Vol. 1, p. 158), who is a supporter of abortion, states that 98 percent of all abortions are done because the woman undergoing the abortions “do not wish to be pregnant at this particular time.” In other words, there are no medical reasons, or even socio-economic reasons involved, per se, in 98% of all abortions — they are for convenience (however, I feel it is important to note that with 81.1% of all abortions due to out of wedlock pregnancies [note, technically, to unmarried women, not including those that happen due to adultery], that many woman feel emotionally distressed at the prospect if singe parenthood).

8. In terms of your 1978 statistics sheet, I have that same one but not a more recent one. As I just mentined, I recently read a report [Alan Guttmacher Institute, research arm of Planned Parenthood] itemizing 81.1% of abortions from among unmarried women (as compared to the 1978 statistic of 72.2%). One problem I have with my records is that I have not organized my research into an accessible file system. But the material is there. If you ever need verify certain statistics and facts, you may wish to call Dr. Joseph Stanton at the Value of Life Committee, 787-4400. Or you can call the office of the Massachusetts Citizens for Life at 964-7220, or Dr. Jack Davis at Gordon-Conwell, 486-7111. They have each maintained better files and for loner timespans. Dr. Stanton is a national expert. Most of my efforts have been in defining and teaching the theological concerns involved.

9. In terms of trimesters, once again it is buried somewhere in my files. I know that first trimester abortions constitute the vast majority, around 90%. Second trimester would account for up to 8%, and third trimester would be less than 2% (p.s. I just found some statistics from the Centers for Disease Control for the year 1980 [published in 1983]. 76.7 were unmarried; 90.1+% were in the first trimester [51.7% in 8 weeks or less; 26.2% in 9-10 weeks; 12.2% in 11-12 weeks; 5.2% in 13-15 weeks]/ It is 9% maximum under 21 but over 12 weeks [roughly in the second trimester]; 0.9% over 21 weeks [many still in second trimester, if not most]).

10. Abortion is legal, absolutely, during the first two trimesters. In the first trimester, according to Roe v. Wade, the state cannot interfere at all. In the second trimester, the state can regulate where and by whom abortions may be performed (e.g., by doctors at hospitals or licensed clinics), but it may not proscribe this absolute right to abortion. In the third trimester, the state is said to have compelling interest to protect the unborn, except where “the life or health of the mother is threatened.” The legal definition of health includes mental, social and/or economic health. Thus, if an M.D. (psychiatrist) signs a statement that a woman’s health is accordingly in danger, abortion is legal at any time prior to birth. And thus many are done each year in the U.S. under this provision.

11. About 1/4 of all abortions are for women who have had them before. Your 1978 stastictics cite 22.9%. I know it is higher than that now.

12. In terms of death due to pregnancy, it is very rare. Here you can again refer to Dr. C. Everett Koop.

Yours in Christ Jesus,



Summary Outline, Psalm 139:1-24.

Sermon Title: The Presence of God.

1. Yahweh knows me: vv. 1-6.

2. We cannot flee from his presence: vv. 7-12.

3. His presence at our origins: vv. 13-16.

4. Knowing Yahweh: vv. 17-18.

5. Away from the presence of the wicked: vv. 9-22.

6. Yahweh: Know me: vv. 23-24.

In this sermon, the purpose is to provide the exegetical basis of Psalm 139 as explicit reference to God’s creative purposes and presence in the womb. The above outline is followed as the psalm unfolds, and then the focus returns to section three, vv. 13-16. The poetic structure of the psalm displays Yahweh’s knowledge of us and his presence in our lives. David sets this forth, and in vv. 7-12, uses ascending parallel structure to show how a member of Yahweh’s covenant cannot flee his presence. Then David focuses on the womb as a remote place, and proclaims God’s presence there, which seals the case. Vv. 17-24 then constitute a response to this wonderful knowledge. This response involves two factors; positive seeking of God’s presence, and the negative act of fleeing the presence of the wicked.

Thus, vv. 13-16 are seen in their context, a context that strengthens our understanding of why David addresses life in the womb, and explicitly professes God’s presence there, whether the body is formed or unformed, and indeed, that we were present in his mind in a real sense before we were conceived physically.