Abortion According to the Bible

The controversial issue of abortion, and more specifically a woman’s right to have an abortion, is one that should be prominent in the Christian’s mind.  Abortion is an issue that cannot be ignored or downplayed.  Approximately 125,000 abortions are performed around the world every day[1], Roughly 1.12 billion preborn babies were aborted around the world between the years 1980 and 2009.[2]   According to the National Abortion Federation, almost half of all pregnancies among American women are unintended and about half of these end in abortion.[3]  At this rate, about 35% of woman of reproductive age in America today will have an abortion by the time they are 45.  Should we simply consider this reproductive health or is it manslaughter?  This is the question I seek to answer in this relatively lenghty article. I will examine the differing views on abortion, give an exposition on what the scriptures say, and end by applying the truth of the scriptures to our life.  Because 35% of woman of reproductive age in America today will have an abortion before they are 45, I fully expect some who are reading this article to have had an abortion.  This is what the Bible has to say to you: “If you confess your sins, God is faithful and just to forgive you of your sins and cleanse you of all your unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  You do not have to carry this guilt and shame around with you your entire life.  Turn to Jesus and he will forgive you.  Also, find help from a christian you can trust.  You do not have to carry this on your own.  Find a church with people who will love you no matter what and share your story in confedence with someone in that church who will not gossip about this.

If you are not interested in reading the entire article here is my recommendation: If you are fully pro-life you would benefit from reading the whole thing, but if you must, skip down to the last section: Application of Truth for Life. If you are relatively pro-life or unsure and identify as a Christian, skip down to the section: What does the Bible Say?  If you are pro-choice, read the whole article.  The burden of proof falls on you if you claim that the unborn are not living and say that it is ok to “terminate” them.  If you are wrong about abortion and say it is ok, then blood is on your hands.  If you are right about abortion and I am wrong, then no one has blood on their hands.  Therefore, the burden of proof falls on you.

If you are not a Christian, there are many strong arguments that do not interact with the Bible such as this one here, but in this article I will mostly focused on what the Bible says.  The reason for this simple: The Bible is God’s Word, fully true and trustworthy on all matters (2 Tim. 3:16).  Though we fall into error, God never does. If this reality seems silly to you, it is because you have not yet repented of your sins and turned to Jesus for your salvation.  The Bible says that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) and “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).  That is the bad news.  The good news is quite simple yet truly life changing:  God, in his mercy, sent his son, Jesus Christ to live the perfect life we could not live, die a sinners death in our place, and raise from the dead in victory.  He did this so that all who repent of their sins and place their faith and trust in Him, can have eternal life!  This article will make much more sense to you if you truly repent of your sins and place you faith in Jesus Christ because if you do, that means you have been born again and God has made you a new person with a new heart so that can understand and accept the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14)

Evaluation of Different Views

There are two main views of abortion with some people who are in the middle.  Those who are fully on the pro-abortion side argue that abortion is ethically acceptable for any reason.  The general focus of this view is on the rights of the mother and the negative results of forcing women to have an unwanted child.  The anti-abortion view says that abortion is unethical because it is destroying a human life.  The main focus of this view is on the nature of human life and the baby who is the innocent party.  If life begins upon conception as is argued, then it is unethical to destroy that life unless it will save the life of the mother.  Those who are in the middle generally see abortion as morally acceptable in cases of rape, incest, genetic disorders, or in cases of extreme financial difficulty.  This view will be examined more indirectly through the other views because if the unborn child is a human life, then taking that life is murder; and if a fetus is not a human being until after it is born, then it does not make logical sense to restrict abortion.  Some who take the middle position have argued that there is a certain point where the fetus becomes a child during the pregnancy.  This idea has slowly faded in popularity, though, due to a better understanding of the unborn as well as a realization of how ambiguous deciding when a fetus can be considered a human life would be.

The abortion debate is also one that has been affected by the post-modern spirit of the age.  Many say they are pro-life themselves but would never force their “beliefs” on other people.  These people can be considered in the middle position for if they were truly pro-life, they would seek to see babies saved just as they would seek to save their friends and family. They themselves would never have an abortion but they do not want to interfere with other peoples’ “rights” and beliefs.  Historically, the main differences of opinion on abortion have hinged upon one’s view of when life begins and whose rights are more important, those of the child or the mother.   The way one answers these two questions generally determines one’s position on abortion; though in recent times the issue of when a human life becomes a “person” has also risen to the forefront of this ethical debate.


The basis of the pro-life argument is rooted in the humanity of the unborn.  The anti-abortion position stands or falls on the nature of the child in the womb.  If the child is a potential life, then abortion is no more unethical than a simple medical procedure to remove a cancerous tumor.  On the other hand, if life begins at conception, then a worldwide holocaust is going on that has passed the number of Jews killed in the holocaust more than 236 times and is going up at a rapid rate around the world.

Those who are against abortion (like myself) generally argue that human life and personhood begins at conception and continues until death.  John and Paul Feinberg argue it this way: “It is hard to imagine that an embryo made from sperm of a human male and an egg from a human female would not qualify as human.  If there is any doubt, the DNA strands of the embryo can be tested at conception, they are species-specific.”[4]  Since the Supreme Court discussion (Roe v. Wade) in 1973 declaring almost all state restrictions on abortion unconstitutional, scientific advancements have furthered the anti-abortion argument that life begins upon conception.  In 1973, no one imagined coming technology such as the ultrasound showing inside the mother’s womb, but because of advancements in technology, we can now see the stages of pregnancy with much clarity.  We now know that within twenty days of pregnancy the embryo’s brain is starting to form.[5]  Within the first ten weeks, the face is noticeable with eyes, ears, mouth and teeth buds.  The embryo’s arms and legs begin to move around and brain waves are detectable. [6]  The most shocking reality is that preborn child’s heart beat is detectable between eighteen and twenty-five days.[7]


Support of abortion on demand sprung up largely out of the feminist movement.  Women for thousands of years have had to suffer the “consequences” of sex while men were able to be unaffected by childbirth, allowing only men to continue career advancement and self promotion.  Birth control and then abortion were seen as the answers to oppression on women.  A woman’s right to abortion would “liberate” her from the bondage of motherhood and free her to be equal with men in marriage and in the workplace.  For the feminist, gender equality is reliant upon a woman’s ability to be liberated from unplanned, undesired motherhood.   In a speech to the UN, Hillary Clinton puts it this way, “You cannot make progress on gender equality or broader human development without safeguarding women’s reproductive health and rights.”[8]  This position is generally defended by secularists but has been advocated by professing Christians as well.  One survey showed that 18% of U.S. abortions are performed on women who self identify as “Born-again Evangelical Christians.”[9] This should come to no surprise for those who have eyes to see the decline of true gospel christianity and the rise of nominal, powerless christianity.

From the self-proclaimed “christian” pro-abortion camp, the most common argument used in supporting abortion is the Bible’s use of breath as an indicator of life.  Genesis 2:7 says that the Lord “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Job 34:14 and Isaiah 57:16 are used in a similar way to argue that the unborn child is not alive until after he is born because he does not breathe apart from his mother until then.  Another passage used in favor of abortion is Matthew 26:24 “woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” It is argued that, if life begins on conception, the text would read, “it would be better for that man if he had not been conceived.”

Much of the pro-abortion argument springs up from Consequentialism and Character Ethics.   From this perspective, abortion is argued to cause the most amount of good for the greatest amount of people (Consequentialist Ethics) and is generally done not out of hatred or malice, but out of concern for human flourishing and the future of the child (Character Ethics).  “What would this world do with all the extra babies?” they argue.  They say that 125,000 extra unwanted babies born every day around the world may cause serious problems.  Moreover, why are we going to force children to come into the world with no father and a mother who is unable to support him or her?  Abortion advocates argue that getting rid of unwanted pregnancies is a morally good service to society. These are arguments that most Christians do not have an answer to.   This is a serious issue in need of examination through the lenses of God’s word.

What the Bible Says

As a Christian, the answer to the abortion question could be examined in light of science, philosophy, human opinion, or ethical theories, but it should be fundamentally decided in light of God’s revelation.  Newer scientific facts surely have come to affirm what the scriptures say about the personhood of the unborn.  At the same time though, this issue is a theological one, not simply a scientific one that can be decided from natural law alone, even though the unethical nature of abortion can be clearly seen by all people apart from special revelation (see Rom. 1:18-32, Rom. 2:15).  John Frame is helpful at this point:

Even people who have never read the Bible understand that it is wrong to do this.  And in their hearts, I think most people know that you cannot exempt the unborn from the category of innocent persons.  But this conclusion is an intuition based on God’s natural revelation, not a demonstration from scientific premises alone.  If one desires an argument from this conclusion, one really needs to bring in biblical premises.  Roman Catholics and some others typically say that his issue is scientific, not religious.  They are sensitive to the criticism that pro-life Christians are trying to force their religion on others.  So they want to insist that the issue is something other than religious. But in my judgment the religious dimension cannot be escaped.  Scripture alone (sola Scriptura) gives us an adequate argument against the sin of abortion.

It is now time to turn to what the scriptures say because we know that “all scripture is breathed out by God” (1 Tim 3:16) and is “sufficient for all things pertaining to life and Godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

A View inside the Womb

There is a small handful of accessions in the Bible where we are given a description of something happening in the womb.   Psalm 139, which will be examined in detail in the next section, tells us that the mystery of childhood development is the work of God, who wonderfully knits together the child in his mother’s womb, creating a new life in the image of God.  Two other relevant passages give us a look at life inside the womb. First, Genesis 25:22 says Jacob and Esau :struggled together” within their mother Rebeckah.  The word for child here is the plural form of the Hebrew word בֵּן (ben, meaning: son, sons), which always refers to a son or a small child, and the text says “the children (ben, meaning: son, sons) struggled together within Rebekah.  What is ironic about this passage is that these children are doing the exact same thing in their mother’s womb that they do outside of it: struggling and fighting together.  That is the point that Moses is trying to make.  These children have been fighting since conception! The action of their struggling together inside their mother is also used to communicate that their struggle for supremacy goes all the way back to their time as children in the womb.[10]

A second passage that is similar in its portal of the unborn as a living child is found in Luke 1:41-44.

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:41–44).

As with Genesis 25, the “fetus” in the mother’s womb is called a child, in Greek βρέφος (brephos, meaning: baby), and is ascribed an action that a non-living human being is unable to do: leap with joy.  A non-living creature can not “struggle” as Jacob and Esau did (Genesis 25:22). A dead person does not leap at all let alone leap for joy as John the Baptist does in Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1:44).  According to the Bible, a child in the womb is not only a living human being, but also is able to feel and express emotion (Luke 1:44).

Life begins at conception

The Bible does not directly address the issue of when life begins per-se, but by looking at texts dealing with pregnancy and conception and being careful to understand the context, we can discover that life begins at conception.   The argument that Genesis 6:17, Job 34:14-15 and others connect one’s breath to life, leading to the conclusion that the unborn are not living human beings, does not make sense in light of simple reasoning and the examination of the rest of scripture.  Genesis 9:4 says that one’s life is in the blood but we clearly do not see being a blood donor as literally having their life sucked out of them (unless you are a Jehovah’s Witness).  Moreover, applying these passages concerning breath in a literalistic way that the original authors did not intend makes the killing of a an individual who is temporarily unable to breath a morally acceptable thing.  How crazy would it be to kill a man who was choking on something and could not breath.  That would be just as much murder as if he were still breathing normally. It is clear that the writer of these Old Testament texts were not making literal scientific assertions about when life begins.   As a side note as well, the Hebrew word for breath, ר֫וּחַ (ruach, meaning: breath, wind, or spirit), has a range of meaning, only one of which is breath.

Now that we understand what the scriptures do not say about when life begins, We now turn to what it does say.  In Luke 1:35 an angel says to the Virgin Mary:

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy- the Son of God.”

It is clear that the Son of God came into the world through the “power of the Most High”.  It was at the time of Mary’s conception that the power of the Most High overshadowed her bringing the Son of God into the world.  The “fetus” within Mary’s womb was fully the son of God upon conception.

Psalm 139:13-16 is a very common passage of scripture used when examining the life of the unborn.  David says:

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me. When as yet there were none of them.

Here we can see that he refers to himself existing in his mother womb.  David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, does not see himself as subhuman, but actually fearfully and wonderfully made.  This passage does not necessarily prove the existence of life upon conception, but when placed next to the large number of scriptures where the authors consider themselves human life before birth (see Gen. 25:23-26; Job 31:15-18; Ps. 22:9; Hos. 12:3), it is nearly impossible to argue to the contrary.

Furthermore, David’s confession of Sin to God in Psalm 51:5 shines light on the issue of when life begins.  David says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”Derek Kidner says this about David’s experience, “The new perspective on his sin, as self-assertion against God, opens up a new self knowledge,  This crime, David now sees, was no freak event: it was in character; an extreme expression of the warped creature he had always been.”[11]  David is recognizing, with the help of the Holy Spirit, that his sinfulness was present since conception.  Romans 5:12 states “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”  Men suffer from the consequences of inheriting sin from Adam.  Cats, dogs, angels, demons, and nonliving humans are not affected by original sin. Only living human beings descended from Adam can be said to be in iniquity, yet David make clear that he had sin at the time of his conception.

Moreover, we can see in Jeremiah 1:5 that the prophet was set apart, also translated made holy or consecrated, while he was still in his mother’s womb.

Taking Human Life

Exodus 21:22-25 is extremely relevant for the topic of Abortion and requires much examination because of the differences of opinion surrounding its interpretation.

“When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Ex. 21:22-25).

The text gives us two possible situations.  In both situations, a man accidentally hits a pregnant woman.  In the first situation, the mother’s child or children (יֶ֫לֶד yelled “used for what issues from the womb… never used elsewhere for a child who lacks recognizable human form or cannot exist outside the womb.”[12]) “comes out” which comes from the Hebrew word יָצָא  (yatsa, meaning: “to go out, come out, be brought out, descend, or produce.”)[13]  It is clear that the text is not talking about a miscarriage, because it says that “there is no harm”.  In this circumstance, the child is still alive and the offender simply has to pay a fine.

The second situation consists of harm.  If the there is harm or death to either the mother or the child, (the Hebrew phrase is indefinite-not specifying who is harmed, indicating that both the child and the mother is in view[14]), the law of retribution takes over.  An implication of this text is that preborn life, morally speaking, is equal in value to the life of a fully grown adult.  If the life of the child or mother is lost, the life of the offender is taken.  As Wayne Grudem puts it, what is significant here is that in this law “God established for Israel a law code that placed a higher value on protecting the life of a pregnant woman and her preborn child than the life of anyone else in Israelite society… If accidental killing of a preborn child is so serious in God’s eyes, then surely intentional killing of a preborn child must be an even worse crime.”[15]



Some may ask, what about the health of the mother, or what if the child has down syndrome or the mother is pregnant from rape?  These questions must be answered in light of what the scriptures have already said about the life of the unborn.  Because the child in the womb is just as much a living human being as one who is born, the decision to abort a child should always be taken with the same amount of reverence and fear as the decision to take the life of a child who is born.  It would not make sense to kill your one-year-old son because he was conceived in rape or has a mental disability (See Deut. 24:16).  Clearly, if both the child and the mother will die if the abortion does not take place (such as an ectopic pregnancy), the mother considering abortion is not in the wrong.  In light of God’s command for Israel to put to death those who cause accidental abortions because they are not careful, life should always take precedence over convenience and personal preference.

Newer Pro-Abortion Perspectives

It must also be mentioned that several influential ethicists such as Peter Singer from Princeton University, have argued that taking human life is no more morally wrong than taking an animal’s life for food because, biologically speaking, the human is no different than a cow or a chicken.  Others also argue that abortion can be considered killing but is still a moral good because it does the most amount of good for the most amount of people. These kinds of views must be rejected in light of what the scriptures say about humans being different from any other creature that God created.  Humans are different because they are made in the image of God.

The seriousness of taking this life is magnified in light of the unborn child’s status of being in the image of God.  Genesis 9:6 says, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”  The taking of human life is not a minor moral wrong, but is rather a major affront to the purpose of God’s creation. Man was made to worship God and spread his glory as image bearers.  By performing an abortion, mothers are taking God’s image bearers and sacrificing them on the altar of convenience.  Abortion kills that which glorifies God.  Humans are God’s worshipers; God does not take killing his image-bearing worshipers lightly. When looking at abortion from a teleological perspective through the lens of divine revelation, it is evident that abortion is the exact opposite of the moral right.

Application of Truth to Life


Since the scriptures have bore witness that abortion (with the rare exception of saving the life of the mother) is a direct attack on God’s glory because it is the killing of God’s image-bearing children, it is our job to see what needs to be done.   The truths that are laid out in this article are to be applied to three areas of our lives in this order: concern, prayer, and action.



As Christians, we should never see ourselves as greater than or morally superior to those going to get an abortion.  It is clear that we deserve condemnation just as the abortion doctors do.   We should have the same attitude as Paul who says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Timothy 1:15)  Many of the women who go to have abortions are doing it because they are being pressured or forced by their boyfriend or husband.  Many are even victims of abuse, have no money, and feel trapped without any other option.  Even after having an abortion, most women feel pain, guilt, and remorse because they know what they did was wrong.   God calls us to have compassion and to care for those who are in difficult situations (Matt 25:31-46), even if they are thinking about, going to, or have had an abortion, keeping in mind that compassion is never disconnected from truth (Eph. 4:15).


There are thousands of women everyday who have an abortion, and they are in need of help.  There are hundreds of abortion doctors that murder countless children every day with hard hearts and blind eyes.  These people need the gospel and they need to repent, but there is nothing that we can do on our own.   Our compassion should lead us to pray for the salvation and repentance of sinners, the saving of human life, and the abolishment of abortion worldwide.  This all starts with prayer.  But prayer is not enough, we also need to act.


The prayers of God’s people should be accompanied by their courageous action.  Hundreds of men and woman have zealously given their lives to the Pro-Life movement.  Around the time of the Roe v. Wade, Catholics were practically fighting against the pro-choice movement on their own.  In recent years, many more protestant churches have been given a zealous concern to pray and take action on this issue as well.  This is not an issue for one group of people.  This is an issue that demands action from every half hearted person, especially the one who claims the name of Christ. One example of this can be seen at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, where a small group responded to a Sermon from their pastor, Ryan Fullerton, on Sanctity of Life Sunday by starting a ministry called Speak for the Unborn.[16]  This pro-life ministry was created to equip individuals and churches to take action by speaking compassion and giving help to women before they go into a local abortion clinic.  Children have been spared from being aborted and mothers have come to faith in Christ through this ministry.


The issue of abortion is one of which every Christian should be well-informed.   Despite the lack of direct imperatives on the exact issue of abortion, the scriptures are clear that the child who is not yet born is a human being made in the image of God.  Through careful exposition of the scriptures, we have seen that abortion is in direct conflict with God’s intent for mankind, to fill the earth with the Glory of God.  According to the bible, life begins at conception and, therefore, abortion breaks God’s clear command not to murder. God is against abortion.  Abortion is also an issue that cannot be ignored or downplayed.  The scriptural truth that abortion is the killing of God’s image-bearing people needs to be applied to life. The Christian cannot ignore the approximately 125,000 abortions that are performed around the world every day. We are called to have compassion, to pray, and to take action.

[1] “Abortion Statistics – Worldometers.” Abortion Statistics – Worldometers. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 June 2014. <http://www.worldometers.info/abortions/&gt;.

[2] Tillman, James . “New Report Suggests Over 1 Billion Abortions Committed: Pro-Life Activists.” . N.p., 16 Oct. 2009. Web. 5 June 2014. <http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/archive//ldn/2009/oct/09101604&gt;.

[3] “National Abortion Federation: Women Who Have Abortions.” National Abortion Federation: Women Who Have Abortions. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 June 2014. <http://www.prochoice.org/about_abortion/facts/women_who.html&gt;.

[4] Feinberg, John S., and Paul D. Feinberg. Ethics for a Brave new world. 2 ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2010), 88.

[5] Simkin, Penny, Janet Whalley, and Ann Keppler. 4th ed. (Minnetonka, MN.: Meadowbrook, 2001), 28.

[6] Ibid, 28.

[7] Davis, John Jefferson. Evangelical Ethics: Issues Facing the Church Today. 3rd ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub., 2004), 144.

[8] “International Women’s Day 2014.” . UN Women, n.d. Web. 5 June 2014. <http://www.unwomen.org/ru/news/in-focus/international-womens-day&gt;.

[9] Feinberg, John S., and Paul D. Feinberg. Ethics for a Brave new world. 2 ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2010), 64.

[10] Waltke, Bruce K., and Cathi J. Fredricks. Genesis: a commentary. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001) 357.

[11] Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72: an introduction and commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms. (London: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), 190.

[12] Feinberg, John S., and Paul D. Feinberg. Ethics for a Brave new world. 2 ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2010), 64.

[13] Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[14] Frame, John M.. The doctrine of the Christian life. (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub., 2008), 719.

[15] Grudem, Wayne A.. Politics according to the Bible: a comprehensive resource for understanding modern political issues in light of Scripture. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2010.

[16] “About Us | Speak for the Unborn.” Speak for the Unborn. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 June 2014. <http://speakfortheunborn.com/about-us/&gt;.

[17] “Abortion Statistics – Worldometers.” Abortion Statistics – Worldometers. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 June 2014. <http://www.worldometers.info/abortions/&gt;.