Does the Bible Condone Abortion?

| 03-06-AD2013 | [27]

JoAnna Wahlund - Abortion and Protestants

A few weeks ago, I was participating in a discussion on Abby Johnson’s Facebook page. I can’t remember the exact topic, but I believe Abby had made a comment among the lines of how more Christian churches needed to stand up for the unborn. One of the commenters (apparently there for the purpose of supporting abortion) posted an article from “The Christian Left Blog” titled “The Bible Tells Us When A Fetus Becomes A Living Being.” The gist of the article is that the Bible clearly states that human beings aren’t alive until they take their first breath; ergo, abortion is okay with God.

Addressing all of the author’s fallacies and baseless assumptions would make this post entirely too long, so I’ll stick with refuting four of his arguments (or lack thereof).

1. In Exodus 21:22 it states that if a man causes a woman to have a miscarriage, he shall be fined; however, if the woman dies then he will be put to death. It should be apparent from this that the aborted fetus is not considered a living human being since the resulting punishment for the abortion is nothing more than a fine;it is not classified by the bible as a capital offense.

False. The translation which was linked (The Amplified Bible, produced by the same translators of the New American Standard Bible, the Lockman Foundation) is the only one I can find that uses the word “miscarriage” in this context. (The Amplified Bible was the first version of the Bible produced by the Lockman Foundation, and a later translation, the NASB, does not contain the same translation.)

All other translations I’ve found use the term “premature birth” instead of “miscarriage.” This is no doubt because the standard Hebrew word for miscarriage, used in other Old Testament verses such as Exodus 23:26, is not used in Exodus 21:22. Rather, the word used is one that means “to bring forth life.”

The blog author also makes the assumption that the verse says if only the woman dies, the offender shall be put to death. However, neither the Amplified Bible translation nor any other translation specifically say that it is only if the woman dies, capital punishment is incurred. The verses actually say “if no further harm occurs,” without specifying to whom the harm is directed; i.e., if neither the baby nor the woman die, the offender is let off with a fine, but the offender is put to death if either the child or the woman dies as a result of the attack.

It’s clear that God places an equal value on the life of the mother and the life of the child, and the unborn child is indeed considered “a living human being” since the penalty for causing its death is death for the attacker.

2. Numbers 5 describes “the Lord” ordering an abortion. Many argue that this is a misinterpretation. It is clearly stated in verse 22, “May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”

The blog author has a funny definition of “clearly stated,” because, once again, no other translation of this verse matches their version. The post links to another post at the same blog which provides a few verses from Numbers 5, but gives no indication of what translation is being used. Perhaps it’s one that was made up by the author, because seventeen other translations do not contain the word “miscarries” but rather say something similar to, “May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells and your thigh wastes away” (NIV). There is no evidence in the preceding or following verses to indicate that it in any way refers to spontaneous or induced abortion, nor does the original Hebrew carry that connotation.

3. The Visitation. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this article is what is not included. The blog author makes no mention at all of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-57). The absence is notable because the blog author’s logic, that a child is not a living human being until he or she takes his/her first breath, means that neither Jesus Christ nor John the Baptist were alive at the time of the Visitation. Does the blog author believe that John the Baptist was not alive when he leaped for joy, or that Elizabeth referred to Mary as the “Mother of my potential Lord” or said “Blessed is the non-living fruit of thy womb”? Or is his belief that the Word became a blob of cells and oppressed Mary?

Also absent in the article is any explanation of what an unborn human child actually is, if not a living human being. If a child is not alive, then is he or she dead? Does he believe women are pregnant with dead babies until they give birth, at which time the child becomes magically alive? How many other beings that are not alive have heartbeats, brain waves, and memories? If the unborn child is not a human being, then what species is it? Is the blog author aware that it is biologically and genetically impossible for two human beings to reproduce non-human offspring?

I realize that the blog author is looking at the issue from a purely Biblical perspective, but surely he doesn’t expect Christians to be ignorant of current scientific evidence and data pertaining to human reproduction and embryonic development.

4. Argument from Silence. The last argument offered is one that has been refuted countless times by Protestant and Catholic apologists, yet still persists among those who seek to justify evil.

In the end, if abortion was such a grievous sin Jesus would have mentioned it. He said nothing.”

By the author’s logic, the following are also morally acceptable, given that Jesus “said nothing” about them as well.

  • Pedophilia
  • Drunk driving
  • Elder abuse
  • Cyberstalking

I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume he is generally against everything on this list – but that would go against his own logic, given that Jesus must have approved of all of them given that He didn’t “mention” them, specifically by name, in the Bible.

It’s very easy to refute this argument from a Catholic perspective, given that we believe Jesus established the Church as His teaching authority (the same Church that has unilaterally condemned abortion for over 2,000 years). Even from a more generic Protestant perspective, however, his argument is flawed. Jesus did speak out strongly against hurting children (Matthew 18:2-6), as well as the precarious spiritual position of those who perpetrated harm against them. He also instructed His followers to follow the Commandments (Matthew 19:17), among which is “Thou shall not kill.” Therefore, Jesus did speak out against both unjust killing and harming children, and abortion is the unjust killing of a child.

It’s evident from this article that the “Christian case for abortion” is built on sand, easily blown over by the winds of Logic and the rain of Reason (cf. Matthew 7:27), not to mention the hurricane of scientific fact.

© 2013. JoAnna Wahlund. All Rights Reserved.

About the Author:

JoAnna was baptized, raised, and married in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America but converted to Catholicism in May 2003, on G.K. Chesterton's birthday. She has five terrific kids here on earth, two saints in heaven praying for her, and a wonderful husband of 12 years who supports her in all things. By day, she is a content editor for a global information company; by night, she enjoys defending the Catholic faith online (in between her duties as chief cook and bottle washer for La Casa Wahlund). She blogs at
Science, LIfe Filed in: Life, Science
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  • Jonathan

    Dear JoAnna,

    To say nothing of the versus such as:

    1. Matthew 18: 1-6 – At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them,and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.4“Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

    2. Matthew 25: 44 – 46 – “Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ “Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    And the statements from early Christians:

    A. The Letter to Diognetus (2nd – 3rd Cent.) – “They live in their own countries, but only as aliens; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign. They marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not expose their offspring. They share their food but not their wives. They are `in the flesh,’ but do not live `according to the flesh.’ They live on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws; indeed in their private lives they transcend the laws.”

    B. The Epistle of Barnabas @ 19:5 (80 – 120 AD) – Thou shalt not doubt whether a thing shall be or not be. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain. Thou shalt love thy neighbor more than thine own soul. Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion, nor again shalt thou kill it when it is born. Thou shalt not withhold thy hand from thy son or daughter, but from their youth thou shalt teach them the fear of God.

    C. The Didache @ Chapter 2 (50 – 120 AD) – And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born.

    The early Christians certainly seemed to think that the life of a Christian excluded abortion and exposing the born child. This was quite a change from the earlier pagan beliefs and actions.

  • Collin Wahlund

    More to the point, it’s like the “Christian” left actually cares about what the Bible says about homosexuality, the right of anyone to the profit of their labors, or anything else that they have a special interest in? It only becomes “Biblical” when they want to try to fool the faithful into accepting evil.

    • JoAnna Wahlund

      Not to mention the fact that they pretty clearly ignore Jesus’ clear and pointed teachings against divorce.

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  • Joanne S.

    Sounds like the leftist “Christian” went to the same school of theology as Nancy Pelosi and some others who frequently distort the bible and Catholic teaching. Pelosi made the incredible and public claim that it was only recent Catholic teaching that abortion was wrong, going even further to misquote St. Thomas Aquinas. Her bishop and others had to correct her that abortion has been condemned even in the Didache, the earliest known church teaching.

    “When I formed you in the womb, I knew you,” God told Jeremiah. In the Psalms God talks about how He knit us together and that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” God commands us to respect the dignity of each person He has made, born and unborn. That’s His revealed truth–and it’s in the bible!

  • christopher Fish

    Nice article. Good reasearch.
    I may have to go read more of your blog :)

  • lroy

    It says very clearly in the Ten Commandments “Thou Shalt Not Kill” (period). Not “…unless a b c d or e”.

    • Just a thought

      Please see the Hebrew word for kill in the sixth commandment is “rasach” which more accurately means “murder” or illegal killing judged harmful by the community. You argue that abortion is murder but Jewish law apparently did not as fetuses were not considered persons. You do realize that the world population would currently be over 9 billion if there were no abortions (assuming that the world could actually support that number currently). I guess you are advocating for more childhood suffering from world overpopulation or do you have some plan to take care of 2 billion more people. If so please let us know as it would be useful since we cannot take care of the over 7 billion we already have.

  • Susan

    Here’s a thought…if you’re against abortion, DON’T GET ONE! And quit trying to force your personal religious beliefs on the rest of us!

    • JoAnna

      Hi Susan,

      I’m afraid I don’t see the logic in your argument. For example, I could also say,

      “Don’t like adultery? Don’t cheat on your spouse!”
      “Don’t like gun ownership? Don’t own a gun!”
      “Don’t like child abuse? Don’t abuse a child!”
      “Don’t like rape? Don’t rape!”

      And so on.

      Also, abortion is a human rights issue, not solely a religious issue. You don’t have to be religious to believe that all human beings have human rights and should be treated accordingly. Please see, for example.

      I did not use secular arguments in my piece because I was directly rebutting another article that tried to justify Biblical support for abortion. However, if you visit the site I reference above, you will find a plethora of secular arguments against abortion, none of which invoke religion. Therefore, the assertion that standing up for human rights amounts to “forc[ing] personal religious beliefs” on anyone is false.

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  • CatholicsForChoice

    Yes, it does, but then then Israelites went and slaughtered all those in Jericho. So, maybe not so much

    • dwduck

      So you’re arguing that, not only have the unborn sinned, but, like the Amorites, their sin has reached its full measure, such that God Himself has commanded you to reach out and destroy them?

      Because the two situations are so radically different, I can’t see any other reason to mention one to justify the other.

    • CatholicsForChoice

      Really, the two are different?? All the Amorites, the old men and women to the infants, needed to be killed?
      Well, maybe God is telling women to have an abortion? Just because YOU didn’t get the memo doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

    • dwduck

      Well, clearly, that’s the most logical explanation — God has spoken 30M+ times in the US alone, but hasn’t once bothered to tell a Pope, a bishop, or a priest “psst, hey guys, this is okay”.

      Pro tip: if you’re going to go to the trouble to troll, at least put a little effort into it. (And spend more than five seconds picking your name.) This has been quite a poor showing.

    • CatholicsForChoice
      check us out, we are actually trying to reduce the number of abortions by increasing the use of contraception As studies have proven abortion rates go down when contraception use goes up. Crazy idea huh.

    • dwduck

      Crazy, no. Imaginary, yes. (Look up “risk compensation” sometime; it’ll give you an idea why none of those studies actually exist.)

      And, interestingly enough, the actual “catholycs for choice” website doesn’t even make that claim. So now you’re claiming that fictitious studies support a made-up argument that the group you’re supposedly an integral member of doesn’t even make. Not a good sign.

      As I said, poor showing.

    • CatholicsForChoice
    • dwduck

      Am I safe in assuming you haven’t actually read the Peipert study? Here’s a quick summary: he selected a group significantly more likely to have abortions and pressured them into accepting free IUDs. Unsurprisingly, their abortion rate dropped. (In related news, if you’re hitting yourself in the head with a hammer, and I pay you to stop, your risk of traumatic brain injury goes down dramatically.)

      Unfortunately, nothing in that study can be generalized to the population at large. The only way that would work is if you sterilized the female population, en masse, at government expense…but golly, you’re not giving women much of a “choice”, then, are you? (To say nothing of the health consequences of IUDs, or their total lack of protection from STDs. It sounds anti-choice *and* anti-woman, actually.)

      …and now you’re trotting out that old “life jacket” poster? LOL! Only a pro-abort would equate having a baby with death by drowning. (Or be unable to grasp the difference between swimming and screwing.)

    • CatholicsForChoice

      Wow. you contract yourself in the first paragraph, that is impressive. “their abortion rate dropped”.
      And that study can be generalized to the larger population. If you haven’t noticed lately, we still have poor in every corner of the world. Well, maybe not the bubble you live in.

    • dwduck

      I’ll take that as a “no, I haven’t bothered to read the study, but the headline sounds good, so it must be right”, then.

      I’m glad to hear that poor women are so interchangeable to you. (Almost as if they’re not really people, created in the image and likeness of God…but nah, because if you didn’t believe that, you couldn’t call yourself Catholic.) And that, being interchangeable, the solution to all their problems is to jam a foreign device into them. I’m guessing the women your magical IUDs kill and maim are acceptable losses for your cause, right?

      And all this in the name of “choice”. Got it.

    • CatholicsForChoice

      Yes, I have read the study. The suggestion that you don’t want to apply it to help the poor and needy is sad. It is almost as if you believe telling them, ‘just don’t have sex’ is going work.

    • dwduck

      And here I am this whole time, thinking that your approach of “helping” the poor and needy by dehumanizing and maiming them is sad. Gee, you’ve really opened my eyes!

    • CatholicsForChoice

      Oh yes, we think of ‘dehumanizing’ them as taking away medial procures from them and letting politicians make medial the choices from them.

    • CatholicsForChoice

      Here, let me work just a bit harder, though I know you are never pleased …should ban life jackets & other flotation devices? They only encourage risky behavior, according to your risk compensation theory.
      The only 100% effective way to prevent drowning is total abstinence from going in the water. And if you do, by chance, find yourself struggling with drowning, then no life-saving or otherwise procedure or act should be allowed to be administered. You got yourself into this mess, you have to live with the consequences.

  • John doe

    except for

    2 Chronicles 15:13
    “but that whoever would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman.”