The recent headline-making news about abortion laws has a lot of us wondering, “what does the Bible say about abortion?” It's a great question.
God's word is relevant not only to today's headlines – but to today's hearts. An unplanned pregnancy is a difficult situation that brings up lots of strong emotions. If you're facing this crossroads, first of all, I wish I could give you a huge hug. But even more importantly, the Bible can help you through it.
If you listen to one source about what you should do, it's the Bible. There's no mystery in the advice that many others will give you. The world will tell you to get an abortion.
BE SURE TO PIN ME FOR LATER!
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Most women who go to an abortion clinic will go through with it (I read the amount is 99%). This is especially due to the counseling that happens there, where your pain and problems are often magnified in order to keep your business and secure the abortion. Not every clinic is the same, but you can expect that abortion clinic staff and doctors will encourage you to get an abortion and make it seem like the necessary choice for you.
There are other pressures that a woman can face as well. Christian author Sarah Mae went through an abortion at age 16. This was her experience, too.
The three months I was pregnant when I was 16 were probably the three hardest months of my life. I was very sick, I felt very alone, and I was being torn in directions I wasn’t prepared for. Everyone had a solution to my “problem,” but no one wanted to hear mine. I wanted to keep the baby…at first. I figured I could get married and start a family. After talking with others and them telling me how I would miss such important things if I had a baby, like prom, I thought it would be better if I gave the baby to someone who couldn’t have children. Nope, people didn’t like that idea either.”
I'm so thankful that the Bible offers us guidance on this topic and forgiveness for those who have gone through having an abortion. God does not discriminate. His love is for absolutely everyone. It's for the pre-born baby, the struggling young mom, the woman who has been pressured to have an abortion, the one who did have an abortion, and the woman who is pregnant with that precious child.
Did the Early Church Have an Opinion on Abortion?
Abortion has existed for a long time, including during biblical times. The Hippocratic oath that doctors take got its start with a physician in the 5th century B.C., Hippocrates. Part of this oath, which subscribes to Greek mythology, includes swearing not to perform abortions.
Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course. Similarly I will not give to a woman a pessary to cause abortion.” – Hippocratic Oath, Translation by W.H.S. Jones
There is a document written by first-century Jewish Christians called the Didache. This manuscript includes lots of biblical text, like the Lord's prayer, the golden rule, and parts of Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount. It discusses different sins and forbids abortion as well as infanticide. While this text wasn't accepted into the Holy Bible, it definitely confirms that abortion was viewed as sinful at the time.
Thou shalt do no murder; thou shalt not commit adultery”; thou shalt not commit sodomy; thou shalt not commit fornication; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not use magic; thou shalt not use philtres; thou shalt not procure abortion, nor commit infanticide; “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods” – The Didache 2:2
I've drawn the conclusion from these sources and a few others that abortion was unethical across different religions and cultures, particularly for the early Christians. In both of these texts, abortion is directly linked with poison and murder.
The Bible itself doesn't specifically forbid abortion. But it does mention it in several roundabout ways.
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What Does the Bible Say About Abortion?
God's word discusses infertility, miscarriage, pregnancy, when life begins, and the sanctity of life quite a bit. The Bible gives us a lot of firm answers when it comes to questions like, “Does God plan pregnancy?” or “Is there a ‘life begins at conception‘ Bible verse?”
But let's start with how God's word addresses abortion.
Exodus 21:22 and Injury that Causes Miscarriage
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. Exodus 21:22 NIV
This verse is misused by pro-choice advocates. Some claim the verse is referring to the end of a pre-born baby's life as being “no serious injury.” Sadly, there is a translation of the Bible (RSV) that has caused a lot of confusion on this point.
The opposite is true. This verse says that if no serious harm is done to the mother OR the pre-born baby, the offender must still pay a fine.
I took a quick look at my go-to commentary to confirm this, and here's what I found.
I. The particular care which the law took of women with child, that no hurt should be done them which might occasion their mis-carrying. The law of nature obliges us to be very tender in that case, lest the tree and fruit be destroyed together. Women with child, who are thus taken under the special protection of the law of God, if they live in his fear, may still believe themselves under the special protection of the providence of God, and hope that they shall be saved in child-bearing. – Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete), Exodus 21:22
You can learn more about the misuse of Exodus 21:22 at Desiring God right here.
A miscarriage would never be considered no harm done in Hebrew culture. Keep reading to learn what the Bible says about the sanctity of life.
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Numbers 5:11-31 and the Unfaithful Wife
This passage is a bit lengthy and complex. Here's my quick summary of it.
In Numbers 5:11-31 we find instructions on how the community and specifically a priest was to handle a woman who's pregnant and suspected of adultery. The husband brought her to the priest along with any witnesses who could corroborate his suspicions for a trial. The woman would be encouraged to confess and given every chance to admit her sin if she was unfaithful. If she admits her sin here, she would be divorced and lose her dowry. She would not be put to death.
If she says she's innocent, hubby provides an offering to God, and the priest prepares a drink for the woman of holy water and tabernacle dust. The woman stands with her head uncovered before the Lord and in view of the community and says “Amen” to the prayer of a curse that the priest declares. The curse is written on a scroll and rubbed off in the prepared water. She drinks the water.
If the woman is truly innocent, she'll be cleared of all guilt, her sin is blotted out, and she'll be able to have children. If she's guilty and denies it to the bitter end, the curse enters her through the drink and she will suffer bitterly and miscarry.
If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse. If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children. Numbers 5:27-28, NIV
So, what does this mean? I'm no commentator (don't worry, I'll quote from a real scholar) but I interpret this to mean four things.
- God values the covenant of marriage.
- God wants an honest relationship with us and encourages our confessions.
- Losing a baby in the womb is a bitter thing to suffer. It's not what God desires.
- Even in the Old Testament God provides a way for an unfaithful wife to be forgiven and have her baby.
When I looked to my favorite commentary again, this stood out to me. Here, we're looking at the moment when the woman is to say “Amen” and agree to the curse the priest declares in Numbers 5:22.
No woman, if she were guilty, could say Amen to this adjuration, and drink the water upon it, unless she disbelieved the truth of God or defied his justice, and had come to such a pitch of impudence and hard-heartedness in sin as to challenge God Almighty to do his worst, and choose rather to venture upon his curse than to give him glory by making confession; thus has whoredom taken away the heart. – Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete), Numbers 5:22
Whether the woman wants to keep her heart hard and risk her baby's life is her choice. She has the chance to confess and choose life. This passage does not in any way condone abortion. It might be a complex passage that's a bit odd sounding, but it's really clear to me that it is not God's will even for an unfaithful woman to lose her baby.
What Does the Bible Say About Abortion?
I hope you've been impacted as you've read through what the Bible says about abortion. While it doesn't specifically mention “abortion”, we've seen that God is passionate about human life (that's kind of an understatement) and that His design for us begins before we are conceived.
If you're wondering what happened to Sarah Mae, she was able to get Christian counseling and work through the trauma she went through to accept God's forgiveness. Her message is an important one.
“I can fully embrace my own children, knowing that it’s okay to enjoy them, God isn’t going to punish me for my sin of abortion – Jesus Christ already took that punishment for me on the cross. I am free. You know what else? I can tell my story. I am covered in grace and protection…I am loved and forgiven. The shame I once carried lies at the foot of the cross; Satan has no power over me. God is the only one who has the authority to tell me who I am…and I am His.”
God's word is for all of us, and I'm so glad you're reading this. It means you value the Bible and want to understand God's guidance for your life. Dive deep into these Bible verses about abortion and let them speak to you. Hold on to the words God's whispering and His love for you, and remember that you're never alone.
Be sure to also read:
- Exhausted and Weary – Encouragement and Tips for New Moms
- Parenting by Faith: Releasing Your Child to God
- New Mom Anxiety: Three Truths to Find Hope and Peace
Resources for Unplanned Pregnancy
If you're facing an unplanned pregnancy, I'm sure you have questions like these.
- “Is God angry and disappointed?”
- “What do I do now? What about my plans for my future?”
- “Is adoption something I should consider?”
- “Who can I turn to for help?”
Please reach out to these organizations. You are not alone!
impregnant.org • 800.238.4269
Bethany is an international social service agency based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that cares deeply about expectant parents, families and children. We provide free, confidential support for women and men facing an unplanned pregnancy, in addition to many other services at more than 100 locations across the United States and around the world.
www.birthright.org • 800.550.4900
Birthright helps any girl or woman regardless of age, race, creed, marital or economic status, who feels distressed by an unplanned pregnancy.
Care Net's Pregnancy Decision Line
pregnancydecisionline.org • 855.904.9884
Pregnancy Decision Line provides caring, confidential support if you or someone you know is facing an unplanned pregnancy. We’re available to talk and will offer reliable information you can trust. You can ask us anything; we are here for you.
Heartbeat International's Option Line
optionline.org • 800.712.4357
Established in 2003, Option Line is the only fully staffed, bilingual pro-life contact center in the U.S. Since we first answered the call, we’ve reached with over 3.4 million women and men, many who are desperate for answers in an unexpected pregnancy.