For the one in fifty-five

I am the one in ten a number on a list,
I am the one in ten even though I don't exist
Nobody knows me but I'm always there
Statistical reminder of a world that doesn't care.
~ UB40 - One in Ten

40,000 - Reported death-toll for the Chinese earthquake (source BBC News)
78,000 - Official death-toll for the Burma Cyclone (source Boston Globe)
193,700 - Number of abortions in the UK in 2006 - 1 in every 55 pregnancies. (Source Department of Health)

Here in the UK, the emotive subject of abortion has been back in the news as MPs voted not to lower the abortion limit from 24 weeks to 22 weeks.

Now, I don't claim to be an expert on the subject of abortion. I do believe in the sanctity and intrinsic value of every human life that is beyond price. I do believe and understand that in some exceptional and tragic circumstances a termination of pregnancy can be necessary. Most of all, I would say, I understand statistics... and as I have looked at the figures, I have to say, I think the battle that was lost in the Commons was the wrong battle in the first place...

The number of abortions in the UK that occur at over 20 weeks is around 1.5% and it is likely that most of these late abortions will be for medical reasons that are not bound by the time limit anyway. So even if the time limit had been dropped from 24 to 22 weeks it would have barely made a dent in the UK's shamefully high abortion rates. Now, I'm not saying these lives are not worth fighting for, every life is worth fighting for, it's just I think the most obvious problem lies elsewhere.

Of the seven legal grounds for an abortion in the UK, the one that covers serious illness or handicap in the unborn child only accounts for 1%. This means 99% of all abortions in the UK are of healthy children! The ground that is the most common is ground C - "The continuance of the pregnancy would involve greater risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman". When you unpack what this means in practice, it is considered that the mental stress caused by carrying an unwanted child falls into this category! So these are basically (with doubtless a few exceptions) the numbers of pregnancies aborted simply because the child is unwanted - these account for 97%! Of these the highest section, by far, is among teenage girls, with the peak at age 19.

I would seem to me, that if we want to make a real difference for the voiceless one in fifty-five, the real issues are a tightening up of the wording of ground C to bring it back in line with its original intention and prevent it being used merely for unwanted pregnancies, and a tackling of the thorny issue of teenage pregnancy.


A word of warning

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. (1Co 10:11 NIV)

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)

The Bible is full of instruction for us. It is all relevant for us today as the New Covenant people of God. Even the Old Testament (especially the Old Testament!), if understood correctly, is full of accounts that are not just there for the sake of our historical curiosity; they are recorded as examples and warnings... for us!

Of course, given a choice, we will always prefer an example to a warning! I know personally, I always prefer to preach from passages that are examples of victory, deliverance, and overcoming faith. But the warnings are there for a reason too, both example and warning are recorded for us. We ignore the warnings at our peril!

The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. (Pr 27:12)

I was thinking about this as I was reading the book of Jude. Here was a man who, as one of the Lord's brothers, had grown up with Jesus. Just think of the insight and the revelation he could have brought and shared about the great salvation we have in Christ - something he was eager to do... Yet when he gets his chance to write to the churches, a letter that would (eventually!) become part of the canon of Scripture and be recognised as part of God's eternal, infallible, sufficient word to this world... he felt constrained by the Holy Spirit to go down another route.

We all love to hear the examples, but sometimes we need to heed the warnings. The Spirit constrained Jude to leave warnings, not just for the New Testament churches of his time, but for us. They are not written down to scare us, or bring us condemnation, but for our benefit. Warnings do us good because they help us to avoid the things that would harm us. They help us to recognise the fist signs that we are on the wrong path, and to turn around quickly!

Jude must have had particular insight into figures who by their mistakes are forever associated with warnings - he had to change his name because of one of them! (Mt 13:55) He mentions three in particular that are powerful warnings we do well to take note off....

The Way of Cain,
The Error of Balaam,
The Rebellion of Korah

I will look at each in detail in further posts.