Does the Bible Teach that Abortion Is Wrong?

Abortion is the intentional taking of the life of a child who is still living in the womb of her mother. Does the Bible have anything to say about this procedure? Even though abortion is not explicitly mentioned, there are basic principles taught in the Bible that lead us to conclude that abortion is immoral.

Here is the simplest form of the pro-life argument:

Premise 1: Intentionally killing an innocent human being is always morally wrong.

Premise 2: Abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent human being (except when the child’s death is not desired but results from saving the mother’s life).

Conclusion: Therefore, abortion is morally wrong (except as noted above).

Biblical support of premise 1 is found in Exodus 20:13: “You shall not murder.” This is a blanket ban on the killing of all innocent human life. But why does God consider the killing of innocent human life to be wrong at all? Why are humans special?

Genesis 9:6 explains: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God He made man.” Only human beings are made in the image of God. Images of gods in the ancient world were supposed to symbolize and represent, in a very real way, the presence of the deity. Therefore, to kill an image-bearer was to kill that god’s representative, which was symbolic of killing the god himself. Whenever we kill an innocent human being, we are, in a symbolic sense, killing God.

The abortion proponent may argue, though, that the unborn human embryo or fetus is not a human being, and can therefore be killed. Biologically, we know this is false because once the sperm fertilizes the egg at conception, human life begins. There is simply no dispute about this among scientists.

The biblical writers seem to also have the same understanding, even though they did not comprehend the biological details that we do today. For example, Psalm 139:13-16 affirms that God is intimately involved in the development of the human embryo and fetus in the mother’s womb. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” There is no hint in the Bible that human life begins only at birth, which is what the abortion proponent would need to prove his case.

Since the two premises of the argument above are true, the conclusion of the argument, that abortion is morally wrong, necessarily follows.

  • Andrew_EC

    Exodus 21:22-25 seems to teach otherwise. If an attacker strikes a pregnant woman and causes her to miscarry but inflicts no further harm, he is only fined. If, however, the woman dies, then the attacker shall give “life for life.” That seems a pretty clear indication that — in Exodus, anyway — the fetus was not considered a human life.

  • Your interpretation of those verses is incorrect. The Hebrew word which was translated to “miscarry” only means “to come forth.” There is no indication from the text that the child is dead, only that the child was born prematurely.

    Here is an article with more details:

  • Andrew_EC

    I get that there are apologetics to try and cover up this very embarrassing passage. They’re not convincing, and your argument is with essentially every Bible translation, not me.

    Plus, let’s think about this logically for a second: how exactly is an attacker going to “induce a premature birth” by beating up a woman? Has that ever happened in the history of ever?

  • Nice job attacking me, and not the arguments made in the article I linked to.

    According to the Mayo Clinic, physical violence can cause premature birth.

    Read about it here:

  • Andrew_EC

    Bill, I sincerely apologize if you feel attacked. I don’t think I did that, and it certainly wasn’t my intent. (I *did* dismiss Greg Koukl, who is an apologist and not a scholar.)

    Anyway, as I said, your argument appears to be with Bible translators:

    The NRSV translates the word as “miscarry” in the text.

    The KJV translates it as “so that her fruit depart from her,” i.e., miscarry.

    The NIV has a note (e) to the main text that says “or has a miscarriage.”

    The RSV translates it as “miscarriage.”

    I could go on. I think the only Bible that doesn’t recognize the word “miscarriage” as a faithful translation of the passage is the NASB (which, of course, is the only one Koukl cites).

    As for the Mayo clinic link: yes, that describes what happens today, with modern medicine to aid the woman victim. Do you honestly think that survival rates were the same 30 centuries ago? Do you really believe that there were roving gangs of premature-birth-inducing bandits during the Bronze Age, who were busy attacking pregnant women without causing harm to their fetuses? And do you think this situation was so commonplace that it needed to be addressed in the Law of Moses??

  • We just don’t know how common premature birth was. Here are some things to consider, though. Women in the ancient world were trying to get pregnant as often as possible. The goal was to have as many children as possible for economic reasons. It was nothing like modern-day developed nations, where birth rates have fallen to 2 births per married couple. There was also not any truly effective birth control. I can imagine that there were a lot of pregnant women running around.

    The ancient world was also much more violent, so it is entirely possible that pregnant women being physically abused and birthing babies prematurely was far more common than we might think.

    Premature births are not necessarily a death sentence. Depending on how premature the birth is, some babies could have easily survived.