It sometimes seems as though there are only two camps in the abortion debate – pro-life and pro-choice.

And very often there seems to be no real meeting of minds or genuine attempts to understand the other side. But I believe that when we try to enter this battleground, our first Christian task is to listen and to try to understand, to empathise with the pain that so many people experience. Because, above all, abortion is the source of huge personal pain, anxiety, loss, guilt and shame.

Only when we are prepared first, to recognise and empathise with the pain are we able to speak with integrity, with authenticity and with compassion. I believe passionately that this is an issue that we should talk about with tears in our eyes, rather than with harsh rhetoric and judgement in our voices.


Abortion is a topic which touches all of us. The statistics indicate that one in three women in the UK will have an abortion in their lifetime. And for every woman there is a man who is father of the child, although he may not even know that he was a parent. Many people reading these words will have been affected by abortion, although even their closest friends may not know. Many people in Christian churches have been personally affected by abortion, but they cannot talk about it to their closest friends or to their pastor. It is striking that although abortion is so common, it remains a topic that most of us cannot talk about. It is like a deep wound that cannot be discussed or even acknowledged.

And the problem is that when well-meaning people talk about abortion with harsh rhetoric and judgement, they are twisting a knife of guilt and shame within other hearts. This doesn’t mean that we should try to soft-pedal or sanitise the truth about abortion. But we should try to find the wonderful combination of grace and truth which Jesus revealed in the Gospels. “The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Truth without grace can be destructive and damaging. Grace without truth can be soft and gentle but ultimately powerless. But when we engage with both grace and truth intermingled, then we have a powerful and Christ-like combination. This epitomises the approach of Christian pregnancy centres which reach out with compassion and authenticity to women and their partners who are in distress because of an unwanted pregnancy.

In order to understand the deeper issues behind the current abortion debate, I have found it very helpful to understand a little about the historical background. The truth is that abortion has been carried out since the dawn of time, and it was very common and well-recognised at the time of the New Testament. So how did the early Christians respond to the challenges of abortion and infanticide which were so common in their communities?

Essay: Abortion and infanticide in the ancient world.

Abortion was legalised in the UK in 1967. Since then it has become one of the commonest procedures carried out by or funded by the National Health Service. This essay provides more details on the complex reality of abortion today and the widespread effects it continues to have on women and health professionals.

Essay: Abortion in the modern world – the current realities.

Abortion has become a common topic of debate and discussion for philosophers and ethicists. This essay looks at the arguments put forward in favour of abortion by two prominent philosophers, Ronald Dworkin and Peter Singer.

Essay: Contemporary secular philosophers on abortion and infanticide.

I’m often asked the question When does human life begin? But I usually try to push back gently and suggest that that is not really the correct question. We all agree that whatever is in the womb is human and it is clearly alive. So the really important moral question is not When does human life begin? But When is there a person that we have a duty to protect?

And when you put the question like that, you realise that it is not primarily a biological or scientific question; it is a theological or philosophical question about personhood. This essay looks at the question When is a person? from a biblical Christian perspective.

Essay: When is a person? Christian perspectives on the beginning of life.

Our Christian responses to the ethical challenge of abortion must involve more than theological reasoning. We are called to respond practically, with compassion and sensitivity, finding realistic alternatives to abortion. This essay looks at the human intuitions and painful emotions that abortion causes, the so-called hard cases of abortion for rape, fetal abnormality or risks to the mother’s life, and the practical compassionate alternatives to abortion that Christian pregnancy centres are able to offer.

Essay: Ethical dilemmas and compassionate responses to abortion.

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We did not create abortion on request, we created a state of law where there is a balance between the right of the fetus to develop to full life and the right of the women to have what I would call in the biblical phrase ‘abundant life’. And that is a balance which only the medical profession can make.
David Steel
Architect of the Abortion Act 1967

Go Deeper

What perspective can we gain on today’s abortion debates from delving into ancient history?
To delve into this topic we need to understand what is actually going on – statistically, legally, and also emotionally
Examining two very different non-Christian thinkers and their views on abortion
What might our ordinary human intuitions have to teach us about this difficult subject?
What can Scripture teach us about an authentically Christian view of abortion?

Jesus has been with us in the darkness of the womb as he will be with us in the darkness of the tomb.
Gilbert Meileander

Further Resources

Immortal cell lines, global justice, ‘co-operation with evil’ and abortion
The relationship between a pregnant mother considering a termination and the doctor should be an expert-expert one
Can Christians take a vaccine they consider to be ‘morally tainted’?
The doctor who refuses to fit in with the agreed protocol because they have a conscientious objection is seen as problematic
Making the value of the unborn human depend on how wanted they are is a novel postmodern twist
Untangling the Biblical, ethical and theological arguments
Last updated May 2021, to include new questions on the risk of blood clots and pregnant women
Discovering your unborn child has a serious medical condition is one of the worst fears for any parent
Human dilemmas in the light of the Christian faith
A constructive Christian response, heads versus hearts, paternalistic gynaecologists, and ambiguity in the ultrasound clinic
What does the revolution in care for premature babies mean for the debate over abortion?
We must break through the social taboo and speak compassionately, practically and faithfully about abortion