He died on February 25, 2013, at the age of 96. As the Surgeon General, the top medical officer of the United States, he served form 1982 to 1989 under President Ronald Reagan. Surgeon Generals are known for two things, they are quickly confirmed and forgotten just as quickly. Yet the Associated Press said he “was the only Surgeon General to become a household name.” His name was C. Everett Koop.
He took a strong stand against the tobacco industry and the health problems caused by smoking. His policies to address the burgeoning AIDS epidemic raised Republican eyebrows. And though he was a staunch conservative Presbyterian, he opposed abortion on demand not merely for religious reasons, but on strict medical grounds and his allegiance to the Hippocratic Oath.
Koop saw a subtle shift in the abortion issue few recognized. There is a significant difference in aborting a pregnancy and aborting a baby. He said, “In my thirty-six years in pediatric surgery I have never known of one instance where the child had to be aborted to save the mother’s life.” When “toward the end of the pregnancy complications arise that threaten the mother’s health” the doctor “will take the child by inducing labor or performing a Caesarian section” in an effort to save both. Koop emphatically stated, “The baby is never willfully destroyed because the mother’s life is in danger.”
This is the testimony of a seasoned surgeon. The mother is literally the life-support system for her child; if the pregnancy is a threat to her it is also a threat to the child. Abortions were performed to save the life of the mother and the child when there was a troubled pregnancy, because the lives of both were threatened.
God told Jeremiah the prophet, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” Jeremiah 1:5. King David wrote, “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them,” Psalm 139:16. From God’s perspective there is no such thing as an unplanned pregnancy or unwanted child.
The tide is turning; abortions are on the decline. Not because of the sage advice of surgeons like Koop, or sermons preached, but because of sonograms. When an expectant mother sees the infant in her womb, its small but very human silhouette, and its tiny beating heart, few decide to end their child’s life.
Our church counts it a privilege to stand with other local churches in supporting the life saving work of the Pregnancy Care Center here in Lake City and Live Oak that offer free ultrasounds and counseling services to expectant mothers. Join us in promoting a culture of life and health.