A New Jersey Christian teacher against abortion made a few controversial statements regarding the practice; one of which was that in the case of a mother facing death during pregnancy, only the fetus should survive.
Daniel Frederiks, a teacher at the Hawthorne Christian Academy in Hawthorne New Jersey teaches history, government, science and bible apologetics. A veteran in the classroom, he's been teaching for 22 years. His views on abortion are of the traditional Christian mainline, however, within the Christian faith, some of his points are highly debatable.
"I would say that I am pro-choice in that I believe people do have choices" said Frederiks. "To choose to kill the unborn child is the wrong choice. So I would say I am pro-life...of the woman, pro-life of the child." Frederiks believes that labels such as pro-life and pro-choice are just philosophical and avoids real discussions concerning abortion.
One of the issues that strengthened his conviction was the case of Roe versus Wade. Frederiks wrote,
We are suffering from Moral Schizophrenia [sic]. We know that killing the unborn is murder and we say so in many state statutes such as California's now over 40 year old post Roe v Wade murder statute making killing a fetus a MURDER [sic] when not agreed to by the mother."
However, Frederiks disagrees with the mother choosing to agree with an abortion,
How strange that we KNOW [sic] that murder of an unborn child is murder but then we qualify this by saying that it is Murder UNLESS [sic] the unborn's mother says it is not a murder...Does your mother determine whether a young girl in the womb is a child or not? Does a mother determine whether her unborn daughter is intrinsically valuable or not?"
Frederiks seemed to have a definitive answer to this question when he learned of a nine year old Brazilian girl who was raped by her stepfather and became impregnated with twins. The doctors performed an abortion because the girl's life was in danger due to her only weighing 80 pounds and being unable to push a fetus through her uterus.
The Catholic church excommunicated the doctors who performed the abortion placing the fetus' above that of the dying young girl carrying them. Frederiks also had similar sediments to that of the Catholic church in this same situation.
"I don't want to be sensational here but...if a teenager attacks his mother, if a five year old attacks his mother, that's self defense. But if someone is not attacking you...it doesn't follow, it's not self defense" said Frederiks. In his view, even if the fetus can cause death to the woman before birth, she should not abort because the fetus didn't intentionally attack her.
Much of his reasoning comes from the word fetus which was used in the ancient Greco-Roman world. Frederiks agrees that the meaning of the word referred both to born and unborn children. Frederiks also bases much of his view of abortion on his personal biblical interpretations.
"Is the bible against killing an unborn child" asks Frederiks. He then gives interpretations of biblical examples of what he feels upholds the pro-life stance. "The bible refers to the unborn as children...We even translate in English, the word to be pregnant as to be with child." He then quotes a passage,
For example, in Genesis 16:11 it says, 'The angel of the Lord said to the woman, Behold you are with child and will bare a son and will call his name Ishmael because the Lord has heard your affliction.' So here God gives a name to the unborn because He already knows what the child's name is going to be."
He quotes and interprets another passage saying,
Exodus 21:22 'If men strive and hurt a woman with child, and her fruit (fetus) depart from her and yet no mischief follow, he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine...' But the verse goes on to say...if the baby isn't born alive, then the bible says a life for a life."
However, a closer examination of both ancient history and the bible concerning the issue of abortion, may put in question the institutional church's understanding of the issue as a whole. Abortion is seen as a modern dilemma to most Christians when in fact, the practice has a very long history.
According to a medical journal on abortion and its history by Carole Joffe PhD, it is contended that the earliest record of abortion is attributed to an ancient Chinese emperor as early as 2737 BCE. The discovery of the Ebers Egyptian scroll also gives mention of abortive practices that date back to 1500 BCE.
Joffe also points out that the very Greco-Roman societies mentioned by Frederiks also practiced abortion, in this case, before it exited the womb. The most interesting piece of information in this medical journal is that in the 19th century, the Catholic church also allowed abortions as long as it was early enough to be performed.
At a later point in time, the Catholic church changed their view and decided that life began at conception instead. This was due mainly because the answer to when life actually began evaded them of an answer, so starting at conception was the safest.
The Protestant church also adopted this Catholic teaching, which is why it is so familiarized in the words of Mr. Frederiks. Concerning the bible, for anti-abortionist Christians, the situation gets even more murky. The scriptures never point to the practice of abortion as being sinful or murderous in counter to what most religious affiliations believe.
The biblical versus quoted above by Frederiks were a combination of mistranslations and misinterpretations. The Genesis 16:11 passage never says the woman is 'with child.' The Hebrew word is 'Harah' which simply means pregnant unlike the King James version that was translated. In fact, God says she will name it Ishmael, considering that it is born first.
The Exodus 21:22 passage also faced interpretation issues. A more Hebraic translation renders, "And if men, they will fight and they strike a pregnant woman and her children go out but no hurt exists, a fine he will be fined as which the woman's husband makes for him, and the judges will give." This passage only calls them children since they came out of the womb.
The passage also never gives a period of the woman's pregnancy which could have been weeks or within the very first month of pregnancy to which, the children could never have survived if outside of the womb. Yet, it states, "but no hurt exists." The life for life passage that follows later referred to if there was hurt to the woman, not the fetus.
The Jewish Talmud also interpreted this passage as referring to the woman being of higher value than the fetus. The Talmud also agreed that in order to save the woman's life by way of a dangerous pregnancy, it was acceptable to go in and cut up the fetus to preserve the life of the woman.
How is it then that these religious figures saw more value in the born life than the unborn, verses the Catholic/Protestant vice versa view? In rabbinical literature, life does not begin until birth. There seems to be biblical evidence of this, as well as abortions being viewed differently in the bible than in modern religious times.
A passage that alludes to life beginning at birth is found in the Hebrew psalms, 51:7 (51:5 in English translations). The verse reads, "Behold, in iniquity I was brought forth. And in sin my mother conceived me." The passage says that David wasn't a sinner until birth, and that his mother was also a sinner at his conception.
Compare that to the New International Version (NIV) translation which changes the verse in order to match their pro-life agenda, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." This translation twists the Hebrew to make it appear as if David was sinful even in the womb. There are various mistranslations regarding this topic in the NIV.
Concerning how actual men saw abortion in the bible is evident in certain portions as well. In Genesis 38:24, the biblical patriarch Judah finds that his daughter-in-law is pregnant. Believing that she has played the 'whore' he intends to have her burned even though he knows she is pregnant. Again, the life born value took precedence over the fetus in this case. His daughter's honor came before the pregnancy.
In the book of Jeremiah, the prophet in chapter 20 is facing despair from those he is in opposition with. In his dismay he says, "Why did I ever come from the womb?" He even curses his father saying, "Because he did not kill me before birth so that my mother may be my grave..."
The first chapter does refer to God choosing Jeremiah before and during the womb to go forth and be a prophet, but how does that expand to women who are raped or are impregnated with a small chance to live as the nine year old Brazilian?
"That's probably the most heinous crime I can think of is rape...and you cry for everyone involved" said Frederiks. He admits that the rapist should be held responsible but however, he says, "Although I can understand it as a father I can't say the child (fetus) is a culprit and has to be killed." He alludes to the nine year old girl being given the opportunity to sacrifice her life instead to save the fetus.
"Do I kill you (the fetus) if it means I get a better chance to live? I think the choice is horrendous and we have all put her in that position...If my wife was dying I would be in a pile of tears on the floor...however, but you need to keep asking the question is the unborn person at fault?"
Perhaps the passage in the book of Ecclesiastes needs to be better understood by Christians across the board that says, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven... A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up..."