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A Study on the Mention of Abortion in the Bible

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Abortion in the Bible

I am for abortion in most cases. It is my personal belief that an unborn fetus is not a living being. At the time of birth, when the fetus is out of the mother’s womb and breathing on it’s own, then it is to be considered a living being in my opinion.

Let me touch on the religious aspect of abortion since the original author has elected to mention it. I did some research on the biblical aspects and was surprised to find some interesting interpretations on the subject.

The Bible doesn’t seem to tackle the topic of abortion directly. Roy Bowen Ward quotes two anti-abortion books in his essay on the personhood of the fetus:

John T. Noonan (1970) said: “The Old Testament has nothing to say on abortion.”

John Connery (1977) said: “If anyone expects to find an explicit condemnation of abortion in the New Testament, he will be disappointed. The silence of the New Testament regarding abortion surpasses even that of the Old Testament.”

Ward found this silence difficult to understand, because abortion was widely practiced during New Testament era in the Middle East. The Assyrians had a law concerning self-induced abortions as far back as the 12th century BC.

On the other hand, there are some Biblical passages that might be interpreted as referring to the worth of a fetus. But even these suggest that a fetus carried less value than human life. Here are samples of passages that I have found that possibly address this subject:

Genesis 2:7 God made Adam’s body out of the dust of the earth. Later, the “man became a living soul” only after God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” This would imply that Adam’s personhood started when he took his first breath. Following this reasoning, a newborn becomes human after it starts breathing; a fetus is only potentially human; an abortion would not terminate a human life. The most important word in the Hebrew Scriptures that was used to describe a person was “nephesh;” it appears 755 times in the Old Testament. It is translated as “living soul” in the above passage. One scholar, H.W. Wolff , believes that the word’s root means “to breath.” He argues that during Old Testament times, “Living creatures are in this way exactly defined in Hebrew as creatures that breathe.”

Leviticus 27:6 And if it be from a month old even unto five years old, then Thy estimation shall be of the male five shekels of silver and for the female ten shekels. A child was only given a value after the age of one month; boys were worth five shekels; girls three; below that age, (and presumably before birth) they were assigned no monetary value.

Numbers 3:15 Take a census…including every male a month or more old. Only male babies over one month of age were considered persons for the purposes of enumeration. A baby under one month of age and a fetus were apparently not worthy of being counted as a human.

Ecclesiastes 6:3-5 If a man begats 100 children…and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say that an untimely birth [a miscarriage] is better than he. The passage implies that a person can have many children and a long life; but if he is not motivated by love and goodness, and if he is not properly buried, then it would have been better if he had been born dead. The suggestion here is that a terminated pregnancy (one that does not produce a live birth) is better than a pregnancy that produced a life that is empty and miserable.

In closing, I would also remind the original author that the United States Supreme Court ruled on abortion in the Roe v. Wade case of 1973. This law left the decision to abort a pregnancy, during the first trimester, up to the woman involved and her physician. That decision marked an important turning point in public health policy. It made it possible for women to get safe, legal abortions from well-trained medical practitioners and therefore led to dramatic decreases in pregnancy-related injury and death.

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