Foundations: How the Pro-Woman Pro-Life Approach is rooted in Scripture and Church History
Part 1: Old Testament
Christian pro-life advocates are famous for basing “pro-baby” conclusions in Scripture, such as in Psalm 139. Oftentimes, pro-life advocates are accused of being “pro-baby” at the expense of the pregnant woman’s wellbeing. We know this isn’t true, as many churches and Christian ministries seek to meet the holistic needs of women facing unplanned pregnancies.
So when our approach to issues surrounding abortion are challenged, it’s important for us to remember why we do what we do. Indeed, our “pro-woman” values have biblical roots as well.
God’s actions toward women in the Bible serve as our example to value every woman facing a pregnancy decision. Through His Word, God teaches us to recognize her as a unique individual who is precious in His sight. Throughout Scripture, God notices and cares for women in difficult situations. He does so in life-affirming ways. This post highlights lessons learned from the Old Testament.
In the midst of her forced pregnancy, Hagar flees to the wilderness. Scripture states that the angel of the Lord finds her there. He speaks with her about her current situation. He encourages her through the promise of multiplying her offspring. Finally, the angel foretells the future of her pre-born son. In response, Hagar proclaims: “‘You are the God of seeing…Truly here I have seen him who looks after me'” (Gen. 16:13 English Standard Version). God sees Hagar, He hears her, and He meets her in her moment of need.
God’s care for Hagar does not stop when her baby is born.
Later, when she and sixteen-year-old Ishmael are in desperate need, God protects them. In Genesis 21, Ishmael ridicules Isaac, resulting in Abraham sending Hagar and Ishmael into the wilderness. When their water supply runs dry, God hears Ishmael’s voice and sends an angel to speak to Hagar once again. Despite Ishmael’s faults, God reiterates the promise made to his mother: that God will make him into a great nation. Not only that, but God provides for their present physical needs by supplying a well of water. We serve a God who sees, a God meets physical needs, and a God who inspires hope from conception through natural death.
The Widow of Zarephath
1 Kings 17 contains the story of a widow: a woman in a precarious socio-economic condition that has been worsened by famine. Elijah meets her while she is preparing for her and her son to die of starvation. Elijah tells her of God’s promise to miraculously supply flour and oil until the Lord brings rain. In faith, she obeys God by agreeing to give Elijah her last morsel of bread.
God rewards her obedience by providing the food needed for her, her son, her household, and Elijah.
As in the story of Hagar and Ishmael, God continues to provide for this woman and her child beyond their initial time of need. In addition to miraculously providing food, God raises the widow’s son to life when he dies from an illness later on. Thus, Elijah serves God’s human instrument for provision in the lives of a woman and her child.
These historical Old Testament stories are glimpses of our biblical foundation for life-affirming care for women and children facing hardship. The next post will explore New Testament support of the pro-woman pro-life ethos.