Does the Bible Condemn Abortion?

By Robin Schumacher

This post previously published on

A number of news agencies [1] recently reported the releasing of a "Pastoral Letter to Patients" by Planned Parenthood, part of which contained the following claim: "The truth is that abortion is not even mentioned in the Scriptures — Jewish or Christian — and there are clergy and people of faith from all denominations who support women making this complex decision."

If Planned Parenthood means that the word "abortion" is never used in the Bible, they are correct. However, if they mean the Word of God is silent from a moral condemnation standpoint on the taking of a baby's life inside the womb, they are quite wrong, and prompt us to ask them the same question Jesus did others on one occasion: "Aren't you deceived for this reason, because you don't know the scriptures or the power of God?" (Mark 12:24).

From the Top

Let's begin by documenting something that few, if any, disagree with: the Bible condemns the murder of innocent human beings:

"You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13).

"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, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers" (Proverbs 6:16-19, emphasis added).

In addition to condemning the murder of the innocent, the Bible also hands down the death penalty to a murderer, in keeping with the idea of the punishment fitting the crime:

"Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man" (Genesis 9:6).

"But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing" (Romans 13:4).

So the Bible is clear that the murder of human beings is immoral and evil, with the ultimate punishment being reserved for it. Now the next questions are, does the Bible refer to unborn children as human beings and does it ever link together the taking of an unborn child's life and the death penalty that Scripture hands down to murderers?

One and the Same

A quick survey of Scripture finds that a baby is defined as a human being both inside the womb as well as outside. As one example, Luke uses the same Greek term — brephos — to refer to the unborn John the Baptist and the born child, Jesus of Nazareth:

Unborn Child Born Child
"When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit."
(Luke 1:41)
"This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
(Luke 2:12)
"For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy."
(Luke 1:44)
"So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger."
(Luke 2:16)

The fact that a born and unborn child are viewed by God as one and the same, and that both are human beings whose lives are valued by God and protected under His Law, is showcased in this Old Testament passage: "If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life" (Exodus 21:22-23).

The Bible clearly states in this passage that if a pregnant woman is injured in a way that causes death to her unborn baby, the death penalty is handed down to the one who caused the death of the child. The same penalty is applied to the loss of life for the unborn as it is to those who have already been born.

God's View of the Unborn

That God views unborn children as the same as those outside the womb is no surprise when these and other Scriptures are read and understood:

"Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward" (Psalm 127:3).

"Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves" (Psalm 100:3).

"Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, 'I, the Lord, am the maker of all things'" (Isaiah 44:24).

"Your hands fashioned and made me" (Job 10:8).

"Did not He who made me in the womb make him, and the same one fashion us in the womb?" (Job 31:15).

"You send forth Your Spirit, they are created" (Psalm 104:30).

"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." (Psalm 139:13-16).

That God has plans for unborn children are clearly seen from these and other passages:

"Listen to Me, O islands, and pay attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called Me from the womb; from the body of My mother He named Me" (Isaiah 49:1).

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5).

"For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb" (Luke 1:15).

"But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb..." (Galatians 1:15).

No doubt remains that God views babies the same whether they are born or unborn.

Outside the Bible

Lastly, it's helpful to understand what some early Christian church fathers, Jewish believers in God, and noted theologians believed about what Scripture taught concerning abortion. A few examples include:

"The law [the Old Testament], moreover enjoins us to bring up all our offspring, and forbids women to cause abortion of what is begotten, or to destroy it afterward; and if any woman appears to have so done, she will be a murderer of her child, by destroying a living creature, and diminishing humankind" — Josephus.

"Thou shalt not kill a child by abortion, neither shalt thou slay it when born" — The Didache, 2:2.

"We may not destroy even the foetus in the womb. Nor does it matter whether you take away the life that is born or destroy one that is coming to birth." — Tertullian

"The unborn child...though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being...and should not be robbed of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy" — John Calvin.

So, in the end, a quick survey of the Bible and Church history shows that, while Planned Parenthood may and profit and benefit from misleading its prospective patients into believing the Bible says nothing about abortion, the truth is that the murder of unborn children is indeed condemned in Scripture with it affirming that unborn children are human beings who are protected under the Law of God. [2]

1. You can view the full letter from Planned Parenthood in this news report.
2. For a PowerPoint presentation that includes this material and much more, see here.

Published 6-10-14