One of the more contentious subjects in modern America is the issue of abortion. Ever since Roe v. Wade in 1973, abortion has been legal in the United States. (However, consider this.) With that said, what is legal and what is moral are often very different things. In Rome in the 1st through 3rd centuries, it was legal to throw Christians to the lions. It was not moral.
As Christians, we are called to base our beliefs and moral positions on the Bible. That begs the question of what the Bible has to say about abortion, if anything. The short answer will be, “Not much.” After all, abortion wasn’t a common practice at the time. I’m not saying it didn’t happen, just that it wasn’t common. We know from Psalm 127:3-5 that children were viewed as a blessing, not a curse:
3 Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court.
But let’s look at the verses that deal with the killing of children and the unborn to see what we can find.
Killing children runs afoul of Exodus 20:13: “You shall not murder.” Under normal circumstances, that would seem to end the topic, but there are a couple more things in the Old Testament law on this issue.
“‘Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.
Here, we have a clear statement that, unlike the surrounding nations, child sacrifice is not pleasing to God. It lines up perfectly with “You shall not murder.” Just because murder is in the name of religion doesn’t change its nature. Of course, sacrificing children to Molek would also run afoul of worshiping a god other than God.
Additionally, we have:
“Say to the Israelites: ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing in Israel who sacrifices any of his children to Molek is to be put to death. The members of the community are to stone him. I myself will set my face against him and will cut him off from his people; for by sacrificing his children to Molek, he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name.
The commentary above applies in this case as well. We are dealing with murder and worship of idols, and both are intolerable.
The only issue, then is that many people in America will protest that abortion is not murder because the fetus is not a “person”. At this point it is possible to get into a philosophical discussion of when life begins, when that life becomes “human”, etc. However, as Christians, we’re to go to the Bible.
I’m only aware of one passage in the Old Testament law that addresses the unborn:
Exodus 21:22-25 (NIV)
22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
My first reaction, on reading this, is that injury to the unborn child is equivalent to injury to a child of five. However, an argument can be made that verses 23-25 are talking about injury to the mother, not the unborn child. Let’s look at a different translation to see if it offers clarity:
Exodus 21:22-25 (Amplified)
22 “If men fight with each other and injure a pregnant woman so that she gives birth prematurely [and the baby lives], yet there is no further injury, the one who hurt her must be punished with a fine [paid] to the woman’s husband, as much as the judges decide. 23 But if there is any further injury, then you shall require [as a penalty] life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
This suggests that the focus is on the child, not the mother. Further, there would be no need to address injury to the mother in this context, as there are already laws to address accidental and intentional injury to a person. Based on this, I can only conclude that abortion, which has no possible claim of being the accidental termination of a pregnancy, is murder.
But What About the Case of…?
When dealing with this discussion, it is common for people to raise issues such as, “What about a child conceived in rape?” or “What about a child conceived as a result of incest?” or “What about to protect the life of the mother?”
First of all, these situations account for less than 8% of all abortions. However, since we’ve established that the Biblical position on abortion is that it is murder, why not reframe the question that way?
- Is the murder of an unborn baby moral when a woman was raped?
- Is the murder of an unborn baby moral when a woman was involved in incest?
- Is the murder of an unborn baby the appropriate solution to a medical issue?
In the first two cases, the unborn baby didn’t commit a crime deserving the death penalty. In the last case, it becomes a question of options. Can the baby be born prematurely (as was the case when my wife was born)? If so, abortion isn’t the only option. Is the medical issue life-threatening to the mother? If not (as was the case with my own mother, who was on bed rest for months while pregnant with me), abortion isn’t the only option.
If it’s a question of losing both lives, or only the baby’s, then it’s a medical decision for a doctor and the parents. Understand, however, that it is extremely rare that the baby’s life is forfeit, no matter what. As medical technology advances, this will become increasingly rare. Further, this was a common exception prior to Roe v. Wade.
Finally, many people advocate for making abortion, “safe, rare, and legal.” I will argue that if you want it to be rare, then it should only be legal in the most exceptional of circumstances. If it is legal under any circumstance, then it will not be rare, as we see now. Regardless, no abortion is safe for the unborn child.