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What Does the Bible Actually Say About Abortion?

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Does the Bible really not give any hint as to the nature of God’s heart toward the unborn? Let’s take a look.


from our partner

written by

Will Maule

In a recent column at the Idaho Statesman, former professor at Idaho State University, Diana Hooley, made some bold assertions about the Bible’s instruction with regards to abortion.

Writing in light of the recent legislative changes on the issue, Hooley appeared to argue that the holy text provides zero insight on the subject, nor issues any wisdom with regards to how Christians should approach the destruction of young lives.

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“The Bible doesn’t directly address abortion, but it does say in Matthew 23:33 to beware “vipers” like the Pharisees, the legalistic religious authorities of Jesus’ time, whom Christ saw as hypocritical,” Hooley wrote, noting that women “do not need the added burden of Pharisees legislating their behavior and threatening punishment if they don’t act in ways they deem morally responsible.”

But is that a fair assessment? Does the Bible really not give any hint as to the nature of God’s heart toward the unborn?

Let’s take a look.

There are several instances where the scriptures overtly testify to the preciousness of newly-formed human life. Take Psalm 139, for example:

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.

According to scripture, God made each and every one of us—He is both the author and sustainer of life from the very beginning. As such, Christians should surely be compelled to, in light of scripture, view little unborn babies as precious in the eyes of the Lord.

This, in turn, should arguably provoke us to protect them as we ensure that their God-given right to life is upheld.

What about Isaiah 44:24:

This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself.

Again, the scriptures testify to God “forming us in the womb”—a clear-cut sign that He sees the unborn as of intrinsic value and worth, and not to be destroyed at the hands of man. We are “the work of Thy hand,” as Isaiah 64:8 declares and must know the value God has placed upon our lives by forming us by his mighty power.

Not only this, but the Lord rejoices over new life in a profound and wonderful way—He has formed the unborn for a purpose and a future, and this must be held sacred.

Think of the scripture in Luke 1, when Elizabeth’s miracle child “leaped for joy” inside her womb upon being greeted by Mary, the mother of Jesus himself:

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit…[saying] ‘As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.’

Isn’t that extraordinary? That God would not only ordain such miraculous occurrence to take place to illustrate that the baby itself has a personality, a unique calling and a life to be lived for the glory of the Lord.

As pastor John Piper pointed out, the Christian church “has seen in this [passage] that what the persons Jesus and John were outside the womb they were already inside the womb.”

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Indeed, this joy-filled leap is made even more significant if you glance at the text a few verses earlier. In Luke 1:14-15, the angel of the Lord told Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, that “you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.”

“So that leap is not only a leap of joy but a leap of Holy-Spirit-inspired joy,” Piper declared.

The pre-born are valuable members of the human community

By the standard set by scripture, we can unequivocally confirm that unborn humans are exactly that—humans. What, then, gives us the right to take their lives? While on many issues the Bible is somewhat vague, when it comes to the taking of innocent life—the words of scripture are abundantly clear:

  • “Thou shalt not kill.” —Exodus 20:13
  • “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’” —Matthew 5:21-26.

Indeed, in Early Church thinking outside of today’s canonized scripture, the pro-life position was also made absolutely crystal clear. In the early Christian treatise, the “Didache,” and the “Epistle of Barnabus,” taking the life of an unborn human was defined as outright murder:

You shall do no murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not corrupt boys, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not deal in magic, you shall do no sorcery, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill them when born. —Didache 2:2; cf. Epistle of Barnabas 19:5

While this is just a brief summary, it gives a good idea of the wide-range of scriptural declarations that point to the Lord’s cherishing of the unborn. And, as Christians, we must be sure to align our affections with that which the Lord loves.