[Special thanks to Rhett Burns for his input under headings 1 and 6 of this article.]
The recent release of several undercover videos filmed at Planned Parenthood locations and with PP executives have led to a proliferation of articles on the issue of abortion. Faithful Christians have been at the fore, loudly voicing their concern for life and justice for the unborn. I have not seen many articles, however, that offer much in the way of a survey of biblical texts pertinent to abortion, and because I believed most Christians were confident of the Bible’s firm stance on valuing and defending all life, I did not really miss these articles. I suppose in my naivete, I assumed anyone who called himself a Christian would understand that although the Bible nowhere names abortion outright as a sin (in other words, the term “abortion” is nowhere in Scripture), it has much to say on God’s care of and love for the unborn and our responsibility to defend the innocent and defenseless. I was wrong. A few weeks ago I read an article titled “Why I’m a Christian Who (Still) Supports Planned Parenthood” by Dan Wilkinson. Wilkinson is hardly a bastion of conservatism, or of what most consider orthodox Christianity, but I was astounded to see a self-proclaimed Christian not only defend Planned Parenthood (and link to their donation page!), but also claim that “God doesn’t seem to have said anything that’s directly relevant to this topic.” He moves right past “the Bible does not mention ‘abortion'” and goes so far as to suggest it has nothing relevant to say about abortion. One might wonder if he quite understands the meaning of the word.
I also recently had a friend express her frustration that, although she is anti-abortion, she struggles with the fact that Scripture does not directly address the practice. It would be convenient to be able to point to the “do not abort your unborn child” verse in Scripture, but there is enough in Scripture that is directly applicable to the issue of abortion that I do not believe we need it in order to understand abortion is wrong. So because this type of overview is somewhat scarce, I have listed some broad themes that arise throughout Scripture and that I believe demonstrate God’s hatred for abortion and our responsibility to speak out against it and fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. I will quote the Scriptures at length (from the ESV). The list is not exhaustive, so I welcome any additions that may come to mind as you read.
God Is the Creator of Life
We know from Scripture that God creates life in the womb and that He has intimate knowledge of us before we are born.
“[T]hen the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Genesis 2.7
“And the Lord said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.’” Genesis 25.23
“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.” Psalm 139.13–15
“Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it.” Isaiah 42.5
“Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen.” Isaiah 44.2
“Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’” Jeremiah 1.4, 5
“[He] set me apart before I was born, and . . . called me by his grace . . .” Galatians 1.15
Scripture is clear that God is the Author of life and that all life comes from Him; therefore, we are not autonomous. The belief that a woman (and her doctor?) has the right to decide to end the life of her child is completely unbiblical. She did not create the life in her (anymore than her partner did), so she does not have the right to end the life in her. Any authority she has as a mother is hers for the purpose of self-sacrifically loving and serving her child, not stopping its heartbeat.
God Creates in His Own Image
Each person, inside or outside the womb, carries inherent value because each person is created in God’s image.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1.27
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet.” Psalm 8.3–6
“Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10.31
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3.16
“With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.” James 3.9
It is important to realize that an abortion is not just “gently emptying your uterus” of tissue: it is the destruction of image bearers. And it is the destruction of those who might one day worship God. Scripture gives instruction to “a people yet to be created [who] may praise the Lord” (Psalm 102.18). When we choose abortion, we kill future worshipers.1
God Cares Deeply about Children
We see in Scripture that God creates and cares about life, and we also see that He has a special concern for children. They are a gift from Him and are to be treated as such.
“And when Esau lifted up his eyes and saw the women and children, he said, ‘Who are these with you?’ Jacob said, ‘The children whom God has graciously given your servant.’” Genesis 33.5
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” Psalm 127.3–5
“So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish . . . It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” Matthew 18.14, 16
“But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.'” Luke 18.16
As believers, should we care less about children than our God who made them? Children are a gift from God, but we do not treat them as a gift when we discard them because we view them as an inconvenience (or a line item on a budget) rather than a blessing.
God Hates When Parents Kill Their Own Children
While killing one’s child via abortion is not specifically mentioned in Scripture, there are several instances in the Bible where parents offer their children up as sacrifices to other gods, and God states that this practice is utterly detestable.
“And they burned their sons and their daughters as offerings and used divination and omens and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only.” 2 Kings 17.17, 18
“And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.” Jeremiah 7.31
“They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.” Jeremiah 32.35
**”You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” Deut 14.21** [I put stars next to this verse because it has nothing to do with destroying human life. But it is interesting that God forbids using what was meant to bring life and comfort (milk) to kill the young goat. We can draw a loose parallel here to the womb, the place of nurture and life, that has now become one of the most hostile places a baby can be (see Alveda King’s comments about the danger African-American babies face in the womb). This verse does not provide a perfect analogy, but it shows, at least in this instance, that what God means for life should not be turned into an environment for death.]
Parents are God’s protectors and nurturers of future generations, and are the means by which those generations will know who God is (Deuteronomy 4.9; 6.1–9; Psalm 103.13; Proverbs 22.6; Isaiah 38.19; Joel 1.3; Ephesians 6.4; Colossians 3.21; et al.). Parents abdicate their God-given duty, and sacrifice their God-given gift, when they choose abortion.
God Hates the Shedding of Innocent Blood
God is a God of the defenseless and the innocent.2 God forbids the murder and sacrificing of those who are innocent, and He promises swift and fierce punishment for those who are guilty of doing so.
“You shall not murder.” Exodus 20.13
“Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked.” Exodus 23.7
“They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood.” Psalm 106.37, 38
“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood.” Proverbs 6.16, 17
“For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.” Jeremiah 7.5–7
“Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.” Jeremiah 22.3
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’” Matt 5.21
Who is more unworthy of being murdered than an unborn child? Is there blood on this earth more innocent than that in the womb? By aborting a child, we overlook the responsibility of the ones who conceived it (the mother and the father) and, in effect, punish the child (in the extreme) for his or her parents’ actions.
God Regards Life in the Womb as He Regards Life outside the Womb
This verse is one that I find most appropriate to the discussion of abortion, and is one to which I would love a response from those who are pro-abortion and who also profess Christianity.3
“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.” Exodus 21.22–25
The punishment for harming a child in the womb (i.e., causing a still birth) is death. A few verses earlier (21.12), God prescribes the same punishment for someone who kills a grown man. The punishment for inflicting death inside the womb and outside the womb is the same: death. We can conclude, therefore, that the value of each life is equal. We go against God when we posit the notion that the life of a mother is inherently more valuable than that of her unborn child.
God Calls His People to Defend the Defenseless
As God is characterized by His protection of the innocent and defenseless and His execution of justice on their behalf, so should His people be.
“He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.” Deuteronomy 10.18
“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82.3, 4
“[L]earn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Isaiah 1.17
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6.8
If our aim in life is to be more like our Creator, then we should seek to emulate His character. God’s justice, love, kindness, compassion, and protection of those who are fatherless and defenseless should be evident in the lives of all who claim to follow Him.
Two final verses I believe speak pointedly to the issue of abortion are Proverbs 24:11, 12:
“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?”
What will God say to those who know the atrocity of abortion yet fail to act on behalf of the ones being taken away to death?
While we do not have a specific passage that condemns abortion as it is practiced today, I believe the Bible says much that is relevant to the issue of abortion. Scripture is clear that because God creates, values, and cares for each human life, we should not be in favor of any practice that takes human life, especially not when that life is still in the womb. We believe abortion is wrong for the same reasons we believe looking at pornography or cheating on one’s tax return is wrong, not because there are verses that explicitly forbid us from doing those exact things, but because what God has revealed about His own character and His desires for how we are to live simply do not leave room for those behaviors. If we want to be like God, then we cannot be in favor of abortion, and we cannot support those who make it possible.
If you are reading this and have had an abortion, know there is mercy unending at the foot of the cross. There is no sin that has more power to condemn you than Jesus has to save you. Repent and believe. God is able to bring good out of evil (Romans 8.28), and He is full of hope, love, and grace.
1 I realize the same logic could be used to argue that abortions help rid the world of future criminals, sociopaths, terrorists, etc. Margaret Sanger, the founder of PP and a renowned racist and eugenicist, argued the same thing.
2 We understand the term ‘innocent’ here as describing those who are not guilty of something deserving death. No human being, save Jesus, is truly innocent or righteous before God.
3 One anticipated response to this verse is that the killing was wrong because the woman had no choice in the matter. I find no biblical warrant for the belief that a mother’s consent provides sufficient grounds for taking the life of her child, or that her lack of consent somehow changes the nature of what has taken place. As noted above, she did not create the life inside her and, therefore, does not have the right to end that life.