["Pharmakeia"] was originally used of medicines in general but came to be used primarily of mood-altering drugs.... Many ancient religious ceremonies involved occultic practices in which drugs were used to induce supposed communication with deities, and pharmakeia thereby came to be closely related to witchcraft and magic. Aristotle and other Greek writers used the word as a synonym for witchcraft and black magic, because drugs were so commonly used in their practice.9
Additionally, in his commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther considers witchcraft to be a form of idolatry.10 And, when these verses are read in context, they are at least as closely associated with idolatry as with sexual immorality and murder, even if any credit is given to the claim that sometimes listing "pharmakeia" near murder and sexual immorality means it is intimately related to these two things (and, absurdly, therefore must refer to abortion).
 Of course, simply mentioning this traditional interpretation of reference to sorcery/idolatry does not demonstrate its superiority over Di Mauro’s interpretation of reference to abortifacients or, indeed, demonstrate that the biblical writer could not have had several meanings in mind. It does show, however, that there are other entirely plausible interpretations that must be addressed and historical context examined before the proposed interpretation is accepted as even being plausible. In his all too brief discussion of the claim (he spends only five pages on all of the biblical evidence), Di Mauro relies far more on assertion than on argument. This is also true of his third bit of evidence, which are the several verses that refer to God’s forming a person in the womb, or calling him or her before birth (Isaiah 44:2, 49:1 and 5, Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13-16, etc.). But, as with the Exodus verses and the "pharmakeia" claims, Di Mauro is content to simply point out these verses and claim they are indirect references to abortion without addressing the many questions that such a claim raises. In either case, there is not sufficient argument or explanation provided to consider these claims anything more than the author’s eisegesis and not the smoking gun he supposes them to be.
 The second part of Di Mauro’s argument is to show that the Christian church has been a pro-life institution through history. To accomplish this, he cites numerous church documents and fathers on the impermissibility of abortion, including the Didache, Tertullian, various popes, Augustine, John Calvin, John Wesley, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and others. And it is difficult to argue against the claim that church leaders have historically been pro-life. But simply offering a series of quotes from prominent Christians through history does not settle the question of God’s will regarding abortion. Yes, many church leaders have traditionally found abortion impermissible. However, given the lack of biblical evidence in support of these views, the question has to be asked: what are their reasons for taking this position? After all, if this position is based not on the Bible but on the societal norms of the time, then it is not clear that such a position would apply today or even made sense at the time. Many of those same writers supported ideas and institutions that are no longer considered morally acceptable. To cite two common examples, church leaders (such as Augustine and Aquinas, among many others) supported slavery and argued the inferiority of women. Simply showing that certain church leaders through history have been pro-life without addressing the theological basis for this position does nothing for the argument that Christians should be pro-life.
 Di Mauro does offer some arguments against the positions of several writers and groups whose positions are opposed to his. However, though some of these arguments are promising, Di Mauro unfortunately resorts to assertions and unsubstantiated claims to "clinch" his arguments. For example, when discussing Maguire’s work on pro-choice traditions within the church, he states that Maguire does not discuss the history of Christian traditions, "nor does he discuss the development of a child in the womb or whether or not he has a right to be born;" Maguire "largely ignor[es] these important issues."11 Di Mauro does outline the history of (pro-life) traditions within the church but nowhere does he himself address the "important issues" of a child’s rights and he only briefly mentions fetal development. However, he ignores the central issues in Maguire’s work, which include pointing out that, contrary to Di Mauro’s history, not all writers have been so vehemently pro-life and that the pro-life position could stem not from a theological argument or God’s will but from societal norms of the time.
 Di Mauro starts off with a more promising argument against Dombrowski and Deltete’s "ontological" reason for Augustine and Aquinas’s belief in the sinfulness of abortion. However, he resorts to simply asserting his own beliefs to refute the "perversity" reason: "Indeed, how could anyone, even in today’s society, deny that abortion adulterates the true spirit of marriage?" Given that the "true spirit of marriage" is quite a contentious issue in today’s society and the fact that numerous people within today’s society do disagree with this statement, it is a problematic counterargument. This is especially so since Di Mauro does not support this claim in any way and treats it as self-evident. But this is an approach that Di Mauro uses frequently when discussing the positions of pro-choice groups. His approach to these positions is to simply state them, using deprecating terms and accusations. He concludes that he has demonstrated these opposing views "to be inconsistent with the traditions of the Christian church. One can only conclude that these adherents of pro-choice Christianity have created new and unfounded biblical interpretations in order to create a theology of abortion which, quite simply, does not exist."12 This is certainly a possibility, but all that Di Mauro does is object to their interpretations because they disagree with his own.
 Having dealt with critics, Di Mauro turns to his attempt to show that Christianity is currently a pro-life religion. His long section outlining the positions of mainline Christian denominations has some serious promise of being a particularly interesting recent history of the abortion debate within Christianity. However, Di Mauro’s own bias comes through even more clearly in this section, which is so one-sided that it is better characterized as a recent history of the pro-life movement in mainline Christian denominations. When a denomination is officially "pro-choice," Di Mauro writes a few lines about this and then turns, almost in a tone of hero-worship, to cataloging pro-life efforts and figures within that denomination. If the denomination is officially "pro-life," Di Mauro focuses almost solely on the pro-life figures from that denomination with very few sentences about any pro-choice efforts within that denomination. It can hardly be considered a balanced look at the controversy.
 Finally, Di Mauro offers some statistics that he believes will offset any belief that the Christian faithful are truly split on the issue of abortion. He adds up the number of adherents to each denomination and counts them as pro-life or pro-choice according to the official stance of the denomination. He thus figures that 72.20% of all Christians, worldwide, are pro-life. He readily admits that this is an inexact science, yet stands by the conclusion that close to three-quarters of all Christians are pro-life because he has skewed the data in favor of the pro-choice camp by counting all "unknowns" as pro-choice. He also acknowledges that not all members of a denomination adhere to the official position, but that the number of defectors would probably roughly offset. But this calculation is extremely problematic. Even supposing that the numbers of Christians have been counted up properly, Di Mauro’s argument is akin to arguing that, because Obama won 67.8% of the electoral votes in the 2008 presidential election, a little better than two-thirds of the voters cast their votes for him. In reality, only about 53%, or a little better than half, of voters voted for Obama.
 But while it likely is true that most Christians worldwide are pro-life and likely even by a wide margin, this tells a Christian absolutely nothing about what position he or she should take on abortion. To argue that the majority of Christians are pro-life and therefore all Christians should be pro-life is to commit a very obvious naturalistic fallacy. That something is the case does not imply that it should be the case. In order to determine if a Christian should be pro-life, one would have to look at the biblical evidence and theological argument, none of which has been plausibly provided by Di Mauro.
 Thus, this third part of Di Mauro’s argument in favor of a Christian pro-life position falls prey to a similar problem that plagues the second part: even in showing that Christianity has been historically been a pro-life religion, Di Mauro has entirely neglected to engage the historical social context and reasoning behind that position. And, since the biblical evidence he treats as a smoking gun is actually unsubstantiated and poorly argued, there is nothing to fall back on. Thus, his conclusion that the only Christian answer to the abortion question is a pro-life answer is left entirely unsupported. When challenging Dombrowski and Deltete, Di Mauro asserts that their book "appears to be a vehicle for advancing the authors’ own agendas rather than an unbiased search for God’s will on the abortion issue."13 His own book fits this description and this is unfortunate, since there are many better Christian arguments in favor of the pro-life position.
Rebecca Bartley Yarrison teaches medical ethics at the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Baylor College of Medicine, and has dealt with the ethics of abortion since her undergraduate days.
1. Di Mauro D. A love for life: Christianity’s consistent protection of the unborn. Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR: 2008. p. xii.
2. Ibid., p. xiii
4. Ibid., p. 2.
5. A helpful website for Biblical translation comparison is www.biblegateway.com.
6. Di Mauro, op cit. p. 7.
7. Ibid., p. 2.
8. Luther M, tr. Die Bibel. http://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/luther/. Accessed July 13, 2009.
9. MacArthur J. The MacArthur New Testament commentary: Galatians. Moody Press, Chicago: 1987. pp. 161-162.
10. Graebner T, tr. Commentary on the epistle to the Galatians (1535) by Martin Luther. Project Wittenberg. http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/luther/gal/web/gal5-14.html. Accessed July 13, 2009.
11. Di Mauro, op cit. p. 36.
12. Ibid., p. 45.
13. Ibid., p. 40.
© May 2010
Journal of Lutheran Ethics
Volume 10, Issue 5