Question: “What does the Bible say about abortion?”
Answer: In anticipation of the likely explosion of interest in the topic of abortion, we have recorded four podcast episodes recently of the GotQuestions.org staff discussing the issues:
The Bible never specifically addresses the issue of abortion. However, there are numerous teachings in Scripture that make it abundantly clear what God’s view of abortion is.
Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that God knows us before He forms us in the womb. Psalm 139:13–16 speaks of God’s active role in our creation and formation in the womb. Exodus 21:22–25 prescribes the same penalty—death—for someone who causes the death of a baby in the womb as for someone who commits murder. This law and its punishment clearly indicate that God considers a baby in the womb to be just as much a human being as a full-grown adult. For the Christian, abortion is not a matter of a woman’s right to choose to have a baby. The baby is already present and living. Abortion is a matter of the life or death of a human being made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26–27; 9:6).
What does the Bible say about abortion? Simply put, abortion is murder. It is the killing of a human being created in the image of God.
A common argument against the Christian stance on abortion is “What about cases of rape and/or incest?” As difficult as it would be to become pregnant as a result of rape or incest, is the murder of a baby the solution? Two wrongs do not make a right. Intentionally killing the unborn child is not the answer. Also, keep in mind that having an abortion is a traumatic experience. It seems nonsensical to add an additional trauma to the woman. Too, abortion can be a means of rapists covering up their crimes. For example, if a minor is molested and becomes pregnant and then is taken to have an abortion, the molestation could continue without penalty. Abortion will never erase the pain of rape or incest, but it very well may add to it.
A child who is conceived through rape or incest is as much made in the image of God as any other human. That child’s life should be protected just as much as the life of any other human being. The circumstances of conception never determine the worth of a person or that person’s future. The baby in this situation is completely innocent and should not be punished for the evil act of his or her father. Depending on the situation, the mother might choose to raise the child. If she does not already have a community of support, there are many organizations and local churches ready to walk alongside her. Or she might place the child for adoption. There are many families, some unable to have children on their own, who stand ready to receive and love a child from any background.
It’s also important to keep in mind that abortions due to rape or incest account for a very small percentage of total abortions: only 1 percent of abortions can be traced to cases of rape or incest (Torres and Forrest, cited by Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health and the Alan Guttmacher Institute in An Overview of Abortion in the United States, October 2001- www.abortionfacts.com/facts/8#cite-1, accessed 9/9/21).
Another argument often used against the Christian stance on abortion is “What about when the life of the mother is at risk?” Honestly, this is the most difficult question to answer on the issue of abortion. First, let’s remember that such a situation is exceedingly rare. Dr. Landrum Shettles, a pioneer in the field of in vitro fertilization, wrote, “Less than 1 percent of all abortions are performed to save the mother’s life” (Landrum Shettles and David Rorvik, Rites of Life, Zondervan Publishing House, 1983, p. 129). Dr. Irving Cushner, Professor of Obstetrics at the UCLA School of Medicine, when testifying before the U. S. Senate, was asked how often abortions are necessary to save the life of the mother or to preserve her physical health. His response: “In this country, about 1 percent” (testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution of the United States on October 14, 1981, quoted in The Village Voice, July 16, 1985).
Other medical professionals go further, stating that abortion is never necessary to save the mother’s life. Over 1,000 OB-GYNs and maternal healthcare experts signed a statement in 2012, saying, in part, “As experienced practitioners and researchers in obstetrics and gynaecology, we affirm that direct abortion—the purposeful destruction of the unborn child—is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman” (Dublin Declaration on Maternal Health, www.dublindeclaration.com, accessed 9/9/21). Further, in 2019, “medical leaders representing more than 30,000 doctors said intentionally killing a late-term unborn baby in an abortion is never necessary to save a mother’s life”
Second, let’s remember that God is a God of miracles. He can preserve the life of a mother and her child despite all the medical odds being against it. Third, even in the small percentage of abortions performed to save the life of the mother, most of those abortions can be prevented by an early induced delivery of the baby or a C-section. It is extremely rare that a baby must be actively aborted in order to save the life of the mother. Ultimately, if the life of the mother is genuinely at risk, the course of action can only be decided by the woman, her doctor, oftentimes the father of the child, and God. Any woman facing this extremely difficult situation should pray to the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5) as to what He would have her do.
The overwhelming majority of abortions performed today involve women who simply do not want to have the baby. As indicated above, just 2 percent of abortions are for the reason of rape, incest, or the mother’s life being at risk. Even in these more difficult 2 percent of instances, abortion should never be the first option. The life of a human being in the womb is worth every effort to preserve.
For those who have had an abortion, remember that the sin of abortion is no less forgivable than any other sin. Through faith in Christ, all sins can be forgiven (John 3:16; Romans 8:1; Colossians 1:14). A woman who has had an abortion, a man who has encouraged an abortion, and a doctor who has performed an abortion—all can be forgiven by faith in Jesus Christ.