Abortion is Not Healthcare

The Historical and Biblical Understanding of a Doctor’s Obligation

Katelyn Walls Shelton

My OBGYN, Dr. John Bruchalski, used to be an abortionist. When he was conducting his residency in Virginia, an attempted late-term abortion he was performing turned into an unexpected delivery. Under Virginia law, he was required to send that living, breathing baby, even at just 1 pound, 1 ounce, to the neonatology unit for care. With his training as an abortionist, he saw this botched abortion as a problem. The neonatologist saw things differently. 

When Dr. Bruchalski called her, she scolded him for treating the baby like a “cancerous tumor,” instead of the living human being that the baby was.1Dr. John Bruchalski: From Abortionist to Pro-Life Doctor, https://divinemercycare.org/abortionist-to-pro-life-doctor/.

How could two doctors’ approaches to healthcare be so different—no, not only different, but inherently antithetical? How does the abortionist’s “care,” which prematurely ends the life inside the womb, cohere with that of the neonatologist’s, which seeks to nurture the prematurely born to health?

Indeed, does it even make sense to call what both of these doctors do “healthcare”? Is healthcare anything a doctor does for a living? Or is the location important—is it anything done in a hospital or clinic? Is healthcare anything we call it, anything we want it to be? 

Our relativistic, secular culture may say so, but a theologically orthodox account of healthcare is morally important to uphold. Embedded in the words “health” and “healthcare” is the word “heal,” a word that has deep historical and biblical significance. 

A biblical understanding of healthcare

The Hippocratic Oath, which physicians have been guided by for more than 2,000 years, begins with a vow to the healer (ἰητρὸν) deity, along with a promise to “benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgment.”2Greek text: Hippocrates Collected Works I. Hippocrates. W. H. S. Jones. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1868; English text: Hippocratic Oath. Hippocrates. Michael North. National Library of Medicine. 2002; both are accessible via http://data.perseus.org/texts/urn:cts:greekLit:tlg0627.tlg013.perseus-eng3 Certain practices and disciplines are off-limits to health professionals: physicians vow to “do no harm or injustice” to their patients, and they vow not to “give a lethal drug to anyone [even] when asked,” nor provide an abortion (οὐδὲ γυναικὶ πεσσὸν φθόριον δώσω).3Ibid. From the beginning of the profession, there was a distinction drawn from practices intended to heal and those, like euthanasia and elective abortion, which were not.

Likewise, in the Bible, “healer” is one of the most common identifiers for Jesus, as well as the Father, Jehova Rapha, “the Lord Who Heals.” Biblical healing is always about restoration: sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and strength to the weak and crippled. In fact, the whole biblical story is about healing: of a fall that took place in our bodies, cursed our bodies, and ultimately of a healer who will restore us to our bodies in glory. Restoration is an affirmation of the goodness of God’s original creation and a sign of our ultimate destiny as human beings with God in eternity. When Jesus heals, he restores nature to its intended state of being (Rom. 8:19-21). 

This is what healthcare is: the practice of healing, the restoration of the body’s integrity and wholeness, a recognition of and reprieve from the curse of sin, which separates our bodies from our sense of self, and ourselves from God. Healing is a gift. 

However, there are many things, some even seemingly mundane, that our modern secular culture considers “healthcare” that do not qualify as such under this traditional historical and biblical definition. In most of these cases, healthcare providers’ innate compassion for the sufferer compels them to try to solve their problems through the use of surgery or medicine. But if the “healing” is not restorative of the body’s integrity and wholeness, we’ve made a mistake: we’ve assumed that our suffering can be solved by medicine, technology, and yes, so-called “healthcare.” But in reality our suffering is rooted in a deeper problem: our alienation from God, which has resulted in our alienation from our own bodies. 

As Christians, we are called to suffer and to suffer well. This is countercultural, especially in today’s world. By all means, we should make use of the gift of healthcare that God, in his mercy, has granted to us through the brilliant minds of the doctors and researchers and scientists that He has created. But when that so-called healthcare reaches beyond the bounds of healing, we must abstain, even if it means our suffering could be greater for it.

Abortion is not healthcare

Perhaps one of the most insidious and lethal tactics used by abortion proponents is the equation of abortion with healthcare. Elective abortion is not and never can be healthcare, because elective abortion is the willful destruction of a body—the unborn body.4I am distinguishing here between elective abortion (abortion performed not for medical reasons but simply upon the request of the woman) and other types of medical practices that are often called “abortion” or coded as such in medical settings. Miscarriage is also called “spontaneous abortion,” and sometimes requires the use of medical tools used in abortions to evacuate the uterus. This is not abortion. Similarly, ectopic pregnancy care is medically and morally distinct from elective abortion, as ectopic pregnancies are lethal for the baby and the mother. For more on the difference between these legitimate medical practices and elective abortion, see the following: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2022/may/christian-ob-gyn-abortion-law-miscarriage-ectopic-pregnancy.html.  Nothing with the explicit purpose of destroying the body can be considered healthcare. Indeed, the destruction of the body is antithetical to the true nature of reality: the biblical story of creation, fall, salvation, and glorification. The destruction of the body is satanic, in the most literal sense of the word: “the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy”—this is what elective abortion is, no matter what our culture deigns to call it.5John 10:10

Regardless of one’s position or worldview, pregnant women, and especially pregnant women who do not wish to be pregnant, are deserving of compassion; as Dr. Bruchalski himself once told me, pregnancy and childbearing are affected by the curse of the Fall. As beautiful and miraculous as pregnancy is, it also comes with much pain and suffering, physically, mentally, and emotionally. But our compassion should not compel us to “solve” the pregnant woman’s suffering by killing the life inside of her womb. They are symbiotically connected, but they are separate human beings. They are two different patients deserving and in need of care. 

Not long after Dr. Bruchalski’s botched abortion attempt, a series of miraculous encounters transformed his life—and the lives of his future patients, born and preborn. He told his hospital he could no longer perform abortions, and eventually began what would become the largest pro-life obstetric and gynecological practice in the nation, Tepeyac OB/GYN. Dr. Bruchalski began practicing true healthcare: healthcare which recognized that there were two patients in the exam room upon which he was called to have compassion and care.6Dr. Bruchlski’s new book, Two Patients, details his conversion story and was released on October 11, 2022 via Ignatius Press: https://ignatius.com/two-patients-tpp/.

There are powerful historical, biblical, and moral arguments for insisting that abortion is not healthcare. But even more importantly, God has written his law into the hearts of every human being, “their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them.”7Romans 12:15 While we can take confidence in knowing the truth that abortion is not healthcare, ultimately we should be praying for those with whom we disagree: that God would trouble their hearts and reveal himself and the truth to them in a saving encounter, just as he did for Dr. Bruchalski.

Katelyn Walls Shelton is the senior policy adviser at the Institute for Women’s Health.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24