What is the biblical view on abortion?
Updated: Sep 29, 2022
Unless you live in a cave, you have been immersed in angry debates over the reversal of Roe vs. Wade by the Supreme Court. I have seen a lot of different reactions to the decision. I have seen Christians who have varied reactions. One thing I don’t see a lot is people talking about what the Bible actually says about the issue. I realize that we do not live in a Theocracy, so there is no reason to think that most of culture cares about what the Bible says (Roe v Wade was overturned not for religious reasons but because the decision was terribly flawed in the first place). What concerns me is how many Christians who seem to be addressing the issue from their own feelings or thoughts without asking what God says about it. So let’s take a quick look at what we can learn about this issue from the Bible.
What the Bible Says:
Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. NIV
Every child that is conceived is a child that God knows and has a plan for their life.
Psalms 139:13-16 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. NIV
Even while a baby is not fully formed, God has a plan for his or her days.
Job 31:15 Did not he who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same one form us both within our mothers? NIV
In these three passages the authors talk plainly about the fact that God is meticulous in creating human beings from the very first moments of conception. God knew these individuals while they were developing in the womb. How do you know a non-person?
Luke 1:39-41 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. NIV
The first person to recognize the pre-born Savior was another baby. This passage is an example of God’s Spirit working in a baby that is still in the womb.
Proverbs 6:16-17 There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood. NIV
Of course, the ten commandments also condemns murder. Because we are all created in the image of God, murdering an innocent person is wrong. In a sense it is a direct affront to God Himself.
All of these passages together paint a clear picture about how God feels about babies in the womb. They are human. God knows them. He has plans for them. He can work in their lives while they are in the womb. They are innocent lives.
There are several passages that are being used today to make the case that the Bible either does not condemn abortion or even endorses it. One of those passages is the strange instructions given in Numbers 5. The passage describes a situation where a man suspects his wife of adultery, so he is instructed to take her to the priest. The priest has her drink a strange concoction which is supposed to reveal if she has been with another man or not. The problem comes up because the translators of the NIV mistakenly translated a word in verse 21 as “miscarry.” A quick survey of older translations shows that the word has not been understood to mean that up to that point. There are other modern translations that talk about the drink leaving her infertile, but most translations understand it to mean that her abdomen will swell. While this passage is used often to say that God even causes abortions, there is no evidence that any pregnancy is in view in the best translations of the passage.
Another common passage that is referred to by those making “Pro-Choice” arguments is Exodus 21:22-25. The 1977 version of the NASB said, “And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage.” The rest of the passage states that the person who struck the pregnant woman should pay a fine if this happens. Some have taken this as proof that God does not consider a baby in the womb to be a full person, because the penalty would be death for killing the mother, but is only a fine for causing the miscarriage. The problem with that argument is that we again have a bad translation here that pretty much no one, including those who updated the NASB agrees with. Every other translation interprets the verse as “gives birth prematurely.” The Amplified Bible actually inserts “and the baby lives.” The assumption of the passage is that the baby is born alive. Another important factor to look at contextually is that the passage clearly says “there is no injury.” In other words, the baby is ok. But verse 23, without declaring whether it is speaking of the mother or the baby declares, “But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life.” So whether it is the mother’s life or the babies life, the death penalty is warranted. Therefore, this passage actually values the baby’s life the same as the mother’s.
Pulling the Argument Together:
Megan Almon with Summit Ministries takes these biblical principles and boils them down into a clear argument against abortion. She takes the typical arguments for abortion and shows why they are not a right standard for making a decision. People often say the baby is not yet fully formed, so it’s ok to terminate the pregnancy. People will say that the baby cannot live on its own outside the womb yet, so it does not have rights. And people will say that the child will bring a financial burden on the mother so it is ok to abort the baby. She suggests that we ask people to apply those same points to a toddler. The toddler is not fully grown and won’t be for almost two decades. The toddler can not survive without his parents. And the toddler will most certainly be a financial burden on his parents. The only difference between the toddler and a baby in the womb is size and location.
The one other argument that is most often used to support abortion is that it is the woman’s body and therefore she should have the right to say whether she wants to remain pregnant or not. The obvious problem is that we are not just talking about the woman’s body. We know without a doubt, scientifically, that from the moment of conception the baby has its own unique DNA. It is a separate person.
The bottom line, biblically, is that it is clearly wrong to end an innocent human life. Babies in the womb are innocent human lives.
Many will want to debate issues such as rape and the life of the mother. It’s not that those questions do not deserve answers, and I do believe the Bible has those answers. However, these issues are most often brought up in order to justify the millions and millions of abortions that have happened where those issues are not involved.
Many have said that Christians should not address abortion until they have solved all of the other humanitarian issues surrounding foster care and poverty. It doesn’t take much searching to see that Christians have done more in our culture to address those issues than any other group. However, if you understand abortion from a biblical view, it makes no sense at all to say that we will allow babies conceived in the image of God to continue to be destroyed until we fix every other problem. There is no other situation, when lives are at stake, where we take that position. As believers we should be ready to minister to more and more needs in this area as laws change to protect life.
The final biblical principle that seems to be ignored in this debate is that of personal responsibility. In a culture that says that everyone should be able to have sex with whoever, whenever, it is completely unacceptable to say that people should take responsibility for behaving in a way that will not risk pregnancy. This includes men and women. In a post Roe world, men should be required to take responsibility for the children they father.
Christians should continue to love and serve others in need. We need to make sure that everyone knows that we have all sinned, but there is forgiveness and peace in Christ. We aren’t trying to win political victories or seeking dominance. We are passionate about saving lives and sharing the hope of Jesus.