I want to say up front that I am not going to take a stance on abortion in this post. That would be beside the point. What I’m interested in here is what the Bible says about abortion.
It’s strange how Christians and the pro life movement have become inextricably linked. It’s not like you have to be a Christian to be pro life (the outspoken atheist, Christopher Hitchens, was pro life). And it’s not like you can’t be a Christian if you’re pro choice (although fundamentalists would probably disagree). It’s all very amusing to me because if you’re going to follow the Bible literally, you should be pro choice.
The one verse that all pro life Christians love to cite is Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee.” The only problem is, this verse doesn’t actually say anything about abortion. If God knows the future, then of course he knew Jeremiah before he was conceived. It also says God sanctified him while he was in the womb, but it doesn’t say when (the first trimester or the third?). And are all fetuses are sanctified, or just prophets?
Another popular verse is Psalm 139:13. Most people prefer the NIV, so I’ll quote that: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Again, it mentions that humans are grown inside the wombs of their mothers, but it doesn’t say whether it’s permissible for a pregnancy to be terminated.
There are several other verses that pro life Christians cite such as Genesis 25:23, Psalms 127:3, Isaiah 49:1, Luke 1:15, Luke 1:41, and Galatians 1:15. Again, all of these mention wombs, but none of them forbid abortion. Why couldn’t God have included a verse that says something like, “Thou shalt not slay an unborn child”? That would have helped. Is it too much to ask that God be a little more specific? Well, he is more specific, but not in the way you might expect.
Numbers 31 is about the time Moses’ army slaughtered the Midianites. When Moses realizes his soldiers haven’t killed all the women and children, he gets angry and in verse 17 he says, “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.” There’s a good chance some of these women were pregnant, but that doesn’t seem to matter to Moses or God. So much for the sanctity of life.
An even more glaring example is in the book Hosea. Chapter 13 describes God’s anger with the Samaritans for worshiping another god, and in verse 16 he says, “Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.”
Even if it could be argued that the pregnant women deserved to die, what about the innocent children in their wombs? Some Christians say they went to Heaven, but here’s the problem with that argument: If unborn children automatically go to Heaven, shouldn’t we abort all of them? Seriously. Because if that’s how it works, then allowing a child to be born means allowing a child to grow up, turn from God, and end up burning in Hell forever. Wouldn’t it be kinder to deprive them of that opportunity?
There are many other verses that show God’s callousness toward pregnant women and children, but there is one passage in particular that specifically endorses abortion: Numbers 5:11-31. I encourage you to read it for yourself, in context, but here’s a quick summary:
Let’s say you suspect your wife of cheating on you. Even worse, she’s pregnant and you’re not even sure it’s your child. You don’t have any proof she cheated, but you are very jealous and you want to know the truth.
Well, there’s a simple solution. Just take your wife and a few pounds of barley flour to your local priest. Tell him about your problem, and he will perform a creepy ritual that involves incantations, writing in a scroll, and burning grain on an altar. At the end he will have your wife drink cursed water. If she’s innocent, nothing will happen. But if she’s guilty, she will have a miscarriage.
So apparently God himself will cause a miscarriage (i.e. perform an abortion) if the woman cheated on her husband. It seems clear that God doesn’t consider a fetus to be a person. So if you’re going to take the Bible literally, you should be pro choice.