When Mary went to visit her relative Elizabeth, we read, “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). Notice that the word “baby” is used to describe the unborn child in Elizabeth’s womb. That is the same word (brephos) used in the next chapter to describe a child after birth (Luke 2:12). Hence, God views those in the womb and those out of the womb the same — both are babies!
When Rebekah was pregnant with twins, we read, “The children struggled together within her, and she said, ‘If it is thus, why is this happening to me?’ So she went to inquire of the Lord” (Genesis 25:22-23). Notice that the word “children” is used to describe the unborn twins. That is the same word (ben) used to describe a child after birth (Genesis 21:7). Hence, God views those in the womb and those out of the womb the same — both are children!
Some argue that abortion is not murder because the fetus has not yet received the “breath of life” spoken of in Genesis 2:7. However, that passage speaks specifically about Adam, one who sprang into existence fully grown having been formed from the dust of the ground. That was a unique situation. The rest of us receive the “breath of life” long before we begin to breath independently of our mothers. We breath (i.e., receive oxygen) through our mothers from the moment of conception!
The Old Law
In Exodus 21:22-25, the law addressed a situation in which a pregnant woman was accidentally struck during a fight. We read, “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.” In that text, we have a situation in which a pregnant bystander is struck while two men are fighting and gives birth prematurely. If neither the woman nor the child was harmed, a fine was levied against the man who struck her. However, if the woman or child died, the man was to be executed — life for life! This passage clearly considers the unborn child to be a human being.
It is interesting to note that in the above passage, the law was addressing a situation in which injury or death occurred accidentally. Abortion is a deliberate termination of the child’s life. If God dealt that severely with the accidental death of an unborn child, how do you suppose He feels about the deliberate murder of an unborn child?
God’s Relationship with the Unborn
From the first chapter of Jeremiah, we see that God has a very special relationship with the unborn. The Bible says, “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). Notice that God knew, consecrated, and appointed Jeremiah to be a prophet before birth. Similar statements are made in Isaiah 49:1 and Galatians 1:15.
The writings of the Psalmist also demonstrate God’s special relationship with the unborn. He wrote, “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 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 was none of them” (Psalm 139:13-16). Again we see that a pre-birth relationship exists with God. The Psalmist stated that every detail of his formation and development in the womb was brought about by the hand of his Creator.
In Job 10, Job was querying God about why so much had gone wrong in his life. He said, “Your hands fashioned and made me, and now you have destroyed me altogether. Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to the dust? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit” (vv. 8-12). Once again we see that a pre-birth relationship exists with God. Job recognized how intimately involved God was in his unfolding within the womb. Also see Job 31:15.
Personhood was never measured by age or stage of development in scripture. From the moment of conception in the depths of the womb one was recognized as a human being created in the image of God. That is why to be pregnant was to be “with child” (Matthew 1:18) and the angel Gabriel told Mary that her relative Elizabeth conceived “a son” (Luke 1:36).
In Romans 1, Paul lists several sins of the Gentiles. Included in the list are those “without natural affection” (v. 31, KJV). That phrase comes from the Greek word astorgous, and refers to one who lacks even minimal concern for his own. Certainly mothers who would allow their unborn children to be torn from their womb and discarded would fall into that category.
Jews have historically opposed abortion. That is because they view children as a precious gift from God. Psalm 127:3 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” A man with many children and a fertile wife was considered blessed (Psalm 127:4-5; 128:1-4), while a barren woman was looked down upon. Furthermore, the Jews considered an unborn child to be a person created in the image of God and therefore protected by the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). For these reasons, it would be unthinkable for a Jew to abort a child.
It is interesting to note that the Hebrew midwives Shiphrah and Puah were praised for preserving life. Because they refused to participate in infanticide, God blessed them with families of their own (Exodus 1:15-21).
Early Christian Sources
The Didache, a treatise of early church teachings, says, “You shall not murder a child by abortion” (2:2). The Epistle of Barnabas says, “You shall not murder a child by abortion” (19:5). In his defense of Christianity before Marcus Aurelius in about 177 A. D., Athenagoras argued, “We say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion. So on what basis could we commit murder? For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very fetus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care, and when it is passed into life, to kill it” (35:6). Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Jerome, Augustine, Origen and a host of other early writers all condemn the practice of abortion.
Other Relevant Passages
- Genesis 4:10 — “And the Lord said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.’” God hears the cry of innocent blood.
- Psalm 82:3-4 — “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.” God has special concern for the helpless and weak.
- Proverbs 6:16-19 — “These 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.” God hates hands that shed innocent blood.
- Proverbs 14:34 — “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” God will not bless the nation that condones wickedness.
- Proverbs 24:10-12 — “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. 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?” God expects us to be active in delivering the innocent from death.
- Matthew 7:12 — “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” God expects us to treat one another with respect and compassion.
We should also note that any form of birth control that would cause an abortion, even in the earliest stages, must be rejected as sinful. Preventing conception is one thing, destroying life after conception is another.
We must understand that no conception ever occurs that is not the result of God’s creative purpose (Genesis 17:16; 21:2; Ruth 4:13). Therefore, we must not tamper with what God has done. His Word teaches that life begins at conception long before the body is formed. God has a special relationship with the unborn and those who shed their innocent blood will be punished. Abortion robs God of His glory and the child of his life!