A Biblical Perspective on Abortion

Posted at CRTA - Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics:

Abortion is perhaps the most highly debated social issue of our time. With more than 27 million abortions that have occurred in the period from 1973 to 1991, almost everyone has an opinion on the issue. The abortion issue has been used as a symbol of independence in the feminist movement, and has been clouded by many other issues such as rape and incest. However, in order to obtain a Biblical view of abortion, one must rake away the muck which obscures the main questions about abortion, and concentrate on the issue's essence.

The primary point of conflict in the entire abortion debate is the question of when life begins. If indeed life begins in the womb, then no one could disagree that the fetus (latin for `little one') is a human being, and is subject to the rights (God's laws concerning humanity) which befit a human being. First, the Bible establishes that God recognizes a person even before he or she is born. "Before I was born the Lord called me" (Isaiah 49:1). Exodus 21:22-23 describes a situation in which a man hits a pregnant woman and causes her to give birth prematurely. If there is "no serious injury," the man is required to pay a fine, but if there is "serious injury," either to the mother or the child, then the man is guilty of murder and subject to the penalty of death. This command, in itself, legitimizes the humanity of the unborn child, and places the child on a level equal that of the adult male who caused the miscarriage. Scriptural support abounds for the humanity of the unborn child. "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 eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (Ps 139: 13-16). The Bible, in fact, uses the same Greek word to describe the unborn John the Baptist (Luke 1:41,44), the newborn baby Jesus (Luke 2:12,16), and the young children who were brought to Jesus for his blessing (Luke 18:15).

Perhaps the most stark Biblical revelation of the humanity of the unborn comes in Jeremiah 20, during Jeremiah's cry of woe in which he laments that he wishes he had never been born, "Cursed be the man who brought my father the news, who made him very glad, saying 'A child is born to you - a son!' . . . For he did not kill me in the womb with my mother as my grave" (Jeremiah 20:15-17).

In the aforementioned verses, and in countless other verses, the Bible does indeed establish that an unborn child is just as much a human in God's eyes as we ourselves are. This indicates that the command "Thou Shall not Murder" (Exodus 20:13) certainly applies to the unborn as well as the already born. Thus, when we read Genesis 9:6, the full realization of what it means to murder comes in to focus, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man." Murder is an abomination in the sight of God because it is the unauthorized killing of a being made in His own image, and a blurring of the creator/creature distinction (cf. Romans 1).

Though the question of when life begins is important to many, the question more representative of today's view is "what quality of life mandates preservation?" Has the fetus gained a quality of life worthy of preservation? This is a dangerous question, indeed. For who among us, the already-born, can decide such a question? Do we apply this question to every human being? Does a fetus, or even an infant with down syndrome have a quality of life equal to that of a perfectly normal one? These questions lead only to some sort of genetic elitism, and shouldn't even be asked in good conscience. Perhaps the biggest irony encountered when examining those who wish to make abortion a social justice issue is that much of social justice is aimed at giving help and justice to those who are unable to speak and do for themselves-- the meek. Yet, from the same mouth that says we must protect the homeless, the penniless, animals and the environment comes words which speak of killing an unborn human! This contradiction must not be overlooked, lest we fail to see the cruelty, the degrading of humanity, and the violation of God's righteous decrees supported by those who hide behind the auspices of choice-advocacy.

Mother Teresa, perhaps one of the world's most renown champions of the underprivileged said in a recent address in Washington, "If we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill each other? ... Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want." Also, the logical result of the desire for "abortion-on-demand" is infanticide and euthanasia -- killing a newborn if it possesses physical or mental anomalies, and killing those for whom the living find it inconvenient to care. When human life is cheapened to the point that even the womb, a symbol of tranquility and peace, becomes a place of death; even the already-born will begin to respect each others' lives a little less.

Biblical Christianity does not just offer judgement of the issue, and then retract. Certainly there are some tough situations in which women find themselves, and the Christian community offers many outlets for aiding these women who often can't afford a child, or who don't have a very good situation in which to raise a child such as Bethany Christian Services . Adoption of these babies is perhaps the most obvious. Another alternative is for a family to provide room and board for a mother while she has her baby. The Christian view would be that a woman should never have to make the choice between her baby and herself. In fact, there is even a waiting list for people who wish to adopt children afflicted with Down's Syndrome.

Yes, the Word of God gives us a clear and understandable statement of God's consideration of the unborn child to be a human being subject to the protections of his righteous law.


1. Francis A. Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop, Whatever Happened To The Human Race?

2. Peter Barnes, Open Your Mouth For the Dumb, Abortion and the Christian.

3. Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto.

4. Steven A. Carr & Franklin A. Meyer, Celebrate Life, Hope For a Culture Preoccupied With Death.

Last updated 9/7/95

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