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Does the Bible Condone Abortion?

March 6, AD2013 57 Comments

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.

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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 six terrific kids here on earth, four saints in heaven praying for her, and a wonderful husband who supports her in all things. She enjoys defending the Catholic faith online (in between her duties as chief cook and bottle washer for La Casa Wahlund, and her role as Senior Editor of Catholic Stand). She blogs at www.catholicworkingmother.com and more sporadically at http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com.

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