I hear a common refrain from those who favor abortion. It usually goes something like, “The Bible is silent on abortion,” or “the Bible never condemns abortion.” Is this true? Is it true that the Bible does not speak to abortion?
On the surface it appears true that the bible does not condemn abortion. There is no text which says, “Thou shalt not commit
abortion.” However, on those literal terms, there is no text which says, “Thou shalt not initiate a nuclear holocaust.” Yet, we somehow think that would be a bad thing and probably not something God wants us to do. Must we have a verse which explicitly says, “Do not put Jewish people in a gas chamber” in order to know that it’s wrong to do it? It’s a bit simplistic to say the Bible does not condemn abortion. It certainly does.
In the 10 Commandments, we read, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). The word murder (in the original Hebrew) refers not to killing in general, but to the specific, determined effort to end a human life. Often, it is translated “manslayer.” This command does not forbid all human killing. It does not forbid killing in war or conducting executions for the sake of justice. But the question is whether or not it forbids killing a life in the womb. I think it does, and I will share with you the two reasons why.
First, Moses (who wrote Exodus) does speak to the issue of abortion in the very next chapter after writing the “You shall not murder” commandment. In Exodus 21:22-25, Moses writes the famous “eye for an eye” passage (called the Lex Talionis, or the law of retaliation). The point of that passage is not to encourage blood-thirsty people to seek vengeance. Rather, the point is to keep the punishment in proper relation to the crime. If a foot is injured, you cannot gouge out a person’s eyeballs in return.
What is almost always missed when this passage is read or quoted is the fact that it is spoken in the context of a pregnant woman being accidentally struck by men who are in a fight. “If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth… yet there is no further injury… “(Exodus 21:22)–then the result is to pay a fine in accordance with the demands of the woman’s husband. But if there is further injury (to the woman or the child?) then the law of retaliation holds: life for life.
While it is not certain what further injury is in view in this passage, the principle holds either way: Do not fight near a woman who is pregnant because you may do harm, and, if you do, you will bear the full weight of guilt in accordance with the injury you cause. In modern legal jargon, the fitting term here is negligent homicide–a form of murder which took place because you acted recklessly and caused another person to die.
The Exodus 21 passage stringently forbids reckless behavior when men are around an expectant mother in order to prevent injury. This principle is something we still recognize with animals, but we exempt ourselves from its reasonableness when it comes to human life. According to Title 16, Chapter 5A, Subchapter II, Paragraph 668 (a), of the United States Code, if one disturbs an eagle’s nest and, thus, causes an eagle’s egg to crack, then he can be fined $5,000 and sentenced to prison. The reason is clear. An eagle’s nest incubates an eagle’s egg which is the home of an eaglet struggling to be born alive. Along the same reasonable lines of thought, the Bible protects the nest of babies struggling to be born alive. The hypocrisy of our laws is inexcusable.
On the second reason I think the Bible does condemn abortion: God is pro-life in the most exceptional sense of that term. Jesus on two occasions in John’s gospel called himself “Life” (see John 11:25 and John 14:6). Practically every verse in the Bible after Genesis 1:26-27 affirms the value of every human life and, thus, negates abortion–which inherently devalues human life. Genesis 9:6–the passage of Scripture which demands execution for murderers–does so on the premise that human life images forth God and, thus, is the property of God. No person has the right to determine in accordance with his whims or desires that one of God’s image-bearers should be killed.
We must not destroy the image of God. Indeed, Genesis 9:7–the very next verse–reaffirms the God-given command to be fruitful and multiply human beings upon the earth–that is the opposite of the spirit of abortion. So, it appears to me that the Bible is not silent after all on the issue of abortion.
Saying there is no commandment in the Bible against abortion is almost like saying there’s nothing in a grocery store that says you have to eat. While it may be technically true, it is ridiculously off the mark. Everything about a grocery store says, “Food, Eat.” And everything in the Bible says, “Life.”