Abortion is Not a ‘Viable’ Option

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A man holds the belly of his pregnant wife. She holds a photo of a viable ultrasound.
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An abortion is now legal at any point in some states if the baby is not considered viable. But what does "viable‚" mean, and who's in charge of defining the term?

Life is one of God’s greatest miracles.

As a pediatrician, I bear witness to countless miracles. I marvel at the new life brought forth with each delivery – little ones with so much potential.

Yet at this very moment in America, we are in a battle for those precious lives.

My heart grieves to see states like New York not only allow abortions, but to allow the procedure at any time – up the point when a baby reaches full term. (Late-term abortion refers to procedures that occur after 24 weeks gestation.) Abortions can even be performed by health care professionals who aren’t licensed physicians. New York has also removed abortion restrictions from the criminal code altogether and made it a matter of public health only.

An abortion is now legal at any point in New York if the health of mother is threatened (this vague wording even includes emotional health) or if the baby is not considered viable. But what does “viable” mean, and who’s in charge of defining the term?

What Does "Viable" Really Mean?

Since the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, the last 46 years have seen a host of arguments over abortion centering on a single question: When does life begin?

Viability is a term often used in medical circles. A viable pregnancy simply means that delivery would result in a live-born baby. A nonviable pregnancy would not result in a live-born baby. Viability also refers to the survival rate for a child based on gestational age. A pregnancy is typically considered “nonviable” (the baby has little chance of survival) if a baby is delivered before 22 to 24 weeks, if the child has ceased to develop or for reasons like the detection of genetic abnormalities.

How has “viability” become conflated with the point at which life begins? After all, it is a scientific fact that – from the moment of conception – a preborn baby is not simply a bunch of cells and tissue. It is a human being.

Science also tells us that even newly conceived humans are clearly alive, yet somehow viability has become synonymous with the value of that life. For example, those preborn children diagnosed with a disability are often viewed as a life that has no value and should be ended in the womb.

In years past, when a mother’s life was threatened during the last trimester of her pregnancy, delivery was the best solution. Abortion proponents used to insist that late-term abortions would only be performed in the direst of circumstances. But times have changed, and New York is leading the way.

How to Help

Whether women are seeking an abortion in their first or last trimester, pro-life believers need to not only lead the fight against abortion, but be prepared to assist those mothers who believe that abortion is their best (or only) option. Socioeconomic conditions, racial disparities, unplanned pregnancies, financial limitations, broken relationships – the reasons for seeking an abortion are endless, but they certainly don’t outweigh the precious value of a developing life.

This moment in history is a call to all Christians. We have an opportunity to stand in the gap for the defenseless, for both mothers and their babies.

God knows each preborn baby intimately. As Psalm 139:13-15 tells us, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

We are created beings made in the very image of God. A baby is not just a mass of tissue or cells. Every Christian has a part to play in this fight for life. Abortion is not a viable option.

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