What Does the Bible Say About Abortion and Life in the Womb?

Michael A. Rydelnik
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Abortion has become so commonly accepted in today’s culture that some followers of Jesus have begun to question the Bible’s position regarding life in the womb.

Some, who believe that life begins in the womb, wonder if it is right to impose a biblical view on secular society. Still others contend that the Bible does not teach that a pre-born baby is truly alive. In addition, many live under guilt and pain for having had an abortion. Since there are many aspects to this important question, let’s take them one at a time.

The Biblical Case for Life in the Womb

Biblically, we can deduce from a number of passages that God considers a baby in the womb to be fully human and fully alive. To begin, Scripture clearly states that God is the designer of life in the womb. Psalm 139:13–16 says, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” These words clearly state that God forms, sees, and ordains the life of even an unborn baby. Not only that, God sets people apart for service to Him from the womb, as He did Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5) and Paul (Gal. 1:15). If they were not living persons while still in the womb, that would not be possible.

“We must use all of our rights as citizens and all legal means to protect the unborn.”

Moreover, it’s possible for God to work spiritually even in an unborn baby’s life. According to Luke’s Gospel, John the Baptist was “filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). Luke goes on to say that the Spirit prompted John to leap while in his mother Elizabeth’s womb when Mary, pregnant with the Messiah Jesus, visited (Luke 1:41). It’s plain from Scripture that an unborn child is considered by God as a fully human living person, made in the image of God and therefore precious to God Himself.

Personal Faith vs. Secular Policy

We need to remember that abortion is not a personal faith issue but a moral one. We can’t very well say that I’m personally opposed to murder or rape because the Bible forbids it, but I don’t want to impose my biblical values on others. That’s because murder and rape are moral issues, not merely a matter of personal faith. And for all who say that abortion is a decision made between a woman and her doctor, we need to bear in mind that there’s also a third person involved, the unborn baby. Who will speak on behalf of the child? Who will protect those who are unable to save themselves?

The Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade has a shifting and shameful basis. The original ruling determined that abortion would be permitted based on medical viability out of the womb. So, if a premature baby could survive outside the womb, then it would be too late to abort that child. However, since 1973, that medical viability has changed. When Roe v. Wade was decided, the viability of a pre-born baby was only considered possible at 28 weeks of gestation. But now, through medical advances, a baby at only 20 weeks of gestation or even less can survive outside the womb. Before too long, a baby will likely be able to survive outside the womb at an even earlier time of gestation. This shifting of medical viability shows how mistaken the Supreme Court was in their original decision.

“There is no sin greater than God’s ability to forgive and restore, even abortion.”

As believers, we need to keep in mind Proverbs 24:11–12, “Rescue those being taken off to death, and save those stumbling toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we didn’t know about this,’ won’t He who weighs hearts consider it? Won’t He who protects your life know? Won’t He repay a person according to his work?” (HCSB). We must never tolerate abortion. Instead, we must use all of our rights as citizens and all legal means to protect the unborn.

Abortion and Exodus 21:22

Some Bible believers maintain that Exodus 21:22 teaches that an unborn baby does not have the same rights as a fully living human person. The basis for this assertion is that the law of Moses seems to treat an unborn child as less than a fully living person. For example, in the 1977 version of the NASB, it says, “And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no further injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide.” Therefore, some argue in favor of abortion by saying that since there is no requirement of the death penalty for an assault and battery that causes a miscarriage, the Bible treats an unborn baby as less than a fully living person.

But this is based on a mistranslation. The Hebrew word translated “miscarriage” literally means “to go out.” So if a man strikes a pregnant woman and the child comes out, in other words, she has a premature birth but the child lives, he still has to pay a penalty. This translation is reflected in virtually all contemporary English versions, including the updated NASB (which reads, “If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely . . .”). This corrected translation shows that God is even concerned for the rights of pre-born children. There is life in the womb.

Guilt and Abortion

Termination of a life, even before birth, is so serious, it makes some people think that this is the unpardonable sin, the one sin that God can’t forgive. Jesus did indeed speak of a sin that was unforgiveable. He said: “People will be forgiven every sin and blasphemy, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (Matt. 12:31 hcsb). Clearly, the Lord was not speaking about abortion but the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. According to the context, the blasphemy of the Spirit is declaring that the miracles of the incarnate Son of God to be works of Satan (Matt. 12:24–28). In essence, this is finally and fully rejecting Jesus as the Messiah and Redeemer of humanity.

Many years ago, a woman came to my congregation, plagued with guilt for an abortion she had undergone about 15 years earlier. She kept telling herself that what she had allowed was okay—it was just removing “unwanted tissue.” But her conscience kept telling her otherwise. When she met with me and my wife, we were so grateful that we could tell her that God still loved her and that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Furthermore, if she would only put her trust in Jesus’ death on her behalf and His resurrection to new life, she would be forgiven forever. Paul wrote, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us” (Eph. 1:7–8) and that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). This dear woman responded with joy and trusted in Jesus immediately upon hearing the good news. Amazingly, she has been free of guilt for all these many years.

Final Thoughts

But what about someone who is already a follower of Jesus and then has an abortion? The Scriptures teach that even that person can be restored to fellowship with God and experience true pardon. The apostle John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). There is no sin greater than God’s ability to forgive and restore, even abortion.

For Further Reading:

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