What does the Bible say about abortion?

The answer is: the Bible doesn’t mention the word abortion. That doesn’t mean it is silent on the matter though, because it has a great deal to say about when life begins.

The Bible is clear that the unborn child is a valuable life. King David illustrates this most beautifully in Psalm 139.

13 For You created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in Your book
before one of them came to be.

Without the benefit of modern science (ultrasounds, dating methods, OBGYNs, et al), David was able to put into words what the human heart instinctively knows: the unborn child is a human life.

And he’s not alone. Job agrees, “Your hands shaped me and made me. Will You now turn and destroy me? Remember that You molded me like clay…You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in Your providence watched over my spirit” (10:8-12). The prophet Jeremiah writes, “He did not kill me in the womb; so my mother would have been my grave”(20:17). In Ecclesiastes, the writer says, “As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything (11:5, ESV).  In these and other verses, the Bible affirms the life and value of unborn children.

The Bible goes even further to explain that the unborn life is valuable because he or she has been uniquely created by God. Paul declares, “He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25).  Remember how David is even more specific, “You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).

Admittedly, none of the biblical writers presumed to speak for science. They had never heard a baby’s heartbeat or had the privilege of seeing an ultrasound. Instead, they speak from common theological sense. According to the Bible, conception, pregnancy and birth aren’t distinct stages of life that can be separated to serve our purposes. Instead, they are all part of a continuum of life beginning at the moment of conception. That’s why we read about conception (Ps.51:5), the womb (Ps.139:13), and birth (Lk.1:31; 2:6-7) in terms of actual life rather than mere potential. Neither size nor distance from the birth canal determines life. God does when he begins the work of creating life.

Not only does God create human life, but He’s intimately involved in His work. This is affirmed when the Bible speaks of God knowing specific people in the womb. For example,

  • Jacob and Esau: “The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. The Lord said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.’ When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb” (Gen.25:22-24).
  • Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jer.1:5).
  • David: “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).
  • Paul: “God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace,” (Galatians 1:15).
  • John the Baptist: “he will be great in the sight of the Lord… and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born” Luke 1:15).
  • Jesus: “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).

While none of us can claim to be Jeremiah or Paul, we can still be confident of God’s purpose for our lives. As Paul puts it, “From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him” (Acts 17:26-27).

But the Bible won’t allow us to stop here. It presses the matter further by asserting a final truth: not only does God create and value life, He also protects and defends it. In fact, this is a major theme that runs throughout the pages of Scripture. He thunders from the top of Mount Sinai, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:3).

The wise understand, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood (Proverbs 6:16-19). As we turn through the pages of Scripture, we learn about a God who consistently stands ready to come to the aid of those who are in need. He is on the side of the weak and powerless. Israel sang songs declaring God to be “a father to the fatherless” and “a defender of widows” (Psalm 68:5).  A person who has no voice is defenseless. A person who cannot protest is powerless. The unborn child has neither.

And God desires His people to follow His lead: “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:3-4). “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter” (Prov.24:11).

In fact, Jesus calls this the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).  While many in society attempt to justify themselves by asking, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29), God desires the church to deal in mercy rather than semantics. We are called to love everyone whom He has created in His own image, from the beginning of life to the end.