There are strong opinions both for and against abortion. Is the Bible silent on this subject, or does God’s Word give us the needed answer?
In a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, abortion was legalized in 1973. Since then, some 60 million abortions have taken place in the United States alone. Around the world, 40 to 50 million babies are aborted each year—about three abortions every two seconds.
The subject of abortion remains polarizing, with little middle ground. People seem to strongly support it or vehemently oppose it. Those in favor of abortion (pro-choice) base their opinion on two ideas: first, that an embryo is not a human being until it becomes a fetus several months old in the womb (or others would say until the baby can live outside the womb), and second, that a woman should not be forced to carry an embryo to term if she believes it would be bad for her or the baby.
Many of those against abortion (pro-life) say that from the moment of conception an embryo is a person, and therefore abortion is murder.
So, what does God—the Creator of life—say about the subject?
When does life begin?
The Bible plainly states that God is the source of life (John 1:1-4; 1 Timothy 6:13). As the Giver of life, only He has the right to decide when a human life should end.
Still, the question is, when does life begin? Does the Bible give us indicators of life? Yes:
“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11).
Both oxygen (the “breath of life”) and blood are required for life. And soon after conception these two things can clearly be identified.
Within just a few days after conception, the fertilized egg attaches itself to the mother’s uterine wall and begins receiving oxygen through the mother’s blood. Within a month, there is a circulatory system (containing oxygenated blood); and within six weeks, a distinct heartbeat can be heard.
By the time a woman realizes she is pregnant, the circulatory system has already developed, and a distinct life has begun.
How does God view unborn babies?
The Bible also shows that God sees the unborn as distinct individuals equal to those who have already been born.
God told Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you” (Jeremiah 1:5, emphasis added throughout).
King David also understood that God recognizes and knows individuals when they are yet in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16).
God also told the mothers of Samson and John the Baptist that He had special plans for the children that they would soon conceive (Judges 13:3-7, 24; Luke 1:13-15). Samson’s mother was told by God to abstain from certain foods during her entire pregnancy, because of the special purpose He had for her son.
And when Elizabeth (the mother of John) was six months pregnant, an incredible thing happened. When her relative Mary (the mother of Jesus) came to visit:
“And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb. … ‘For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy’” (Luke 1:41, 44).
Note that the original Greek word used for “babe” (brephos) is the same word used to identify Jesus Christ as a “babe” lying in a manger (Luke 2:16). So God refers to both an unborn child and an infant child using the same word—babe.
Another striking example is the unborn children of Rebekah. Unsure about the unusual movement in her womb, Rebekah looked to God for the answer. And His answer to her was that there weren’t just twins inside of her, but two different nations (Genesis 25:22-24).
God had decided that the two boys inside her were to be the fathers of millions of descendants.
What’s important about these examples is that God didn’t say these things after the babies were born, but before.
The simple truth is that we do not have the right to define when human life begins or ends. That right belongs solely to God. And God says that even before we are aware of a pregnancy, that very tiny embryo is alive. An unborn child is to be treated as a person.
To whom do the unborn belong?
It may come as a surprise to many, but the Bible tells us that even we don’t belong to ourselves; we belong to God (Romans 14:7-8). That means the children conceived by us belong to God as well.
When the male sperm unites with the female egg, that union is smaller than the head of a pin. And in just nine months that union grows into a fully developed baby.
King David declared, “You [God] formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14). Yes, the Creator of life is “the LORD who made you and formed you from the womb” (Isaiah 44:2).
By God’s design, the union of the sperm and egg creates a unique and distinct person unlike anyone else. Although the traits of the father and mother are passed on to this tiny embryo, it is neither the father nor the mother that causes this tiny life to grow; it is God (Job 31:15). The process of a tiny speck becoming a living being is the miraculous work of God (Ecclesiastes 11:5).
Therefore, the unborn child ultimately belongs to God. And the mother does not have the right to abort an unborn child, regardless of what the Supreme Court has ruled.
Again, the Bible leaves no doubt that children belong to God. The ancient Israelites once sacrificed their babies and small children to pagan gods. Notice what God said about this deplorable practice:
“Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and … you have slain My children” (Ezekiel 16:20-21).
We may call them our children, but in reality, they are God’s children.We may call them our children, but in reality, they are God’s children. He graciously allows us stewardship of them (Psalm 127:3). God became angry at our ancestors who murdered His children. And God is angry today when we murder His children by abortion.
What about birth defects?
In the ongoing debate about abortion, some suggest that there may be occasional or unusual times when abortion is acceptable or even preferable. Perhaps the most obvious of these are babies in the womb with birth defects.
Many claim that it is unfair to the child to allow him or her to be born with potential lifelong problems. Yet the Bible clearly states that those with birth defects are not “rejects,” unworthy of life. In John 9:1-3 the example is given of a person born blind. In that example Jesus Christ says that God had a special purpose for that individual—that his life was very important to God. From our limited human perspective, we are simply unable to know what God may have in mind for that child and his or her family. Therefore we should not take it upon ourselves to decide whether the child should live or die.
Abortion as birth control?
Now that it is becoming more convenient to cause the body to abort a fertilized egg with over-the-counter drugs, is abortion just another form of birth control?
God is not against family planning, as long as it is safe and prevents the sperm from uniting with the egg in the first place. But any birth control method that comes after conception and destroys a fertilized egg is wrong because it is taking a human life. (For a biblical study on this subject, see our article “Is Birth Control Wrong?”)
No matter how careful a man and woman are, unexpected pregnancies can and will happen. This is part of the reason God says it is wrong to have sex outside of marriage. God wants children to be cared for in a loving, committed relationship. (See our articles “Why Sex Is Never Casual” and “Living Together Before Marriage.”)
The sanctity of life
Even considering the idea of abortion should take on a new meaning when we consider the incredible purpose of human life.
The creation account records that God made the animals “after their kind” (Genesis 1:21, 24-25, King James Version). But mankind is different.
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’” (verse 26). Mankind is made after the God kind!
The Bible reveals that God is creating children through mankind! God’s intention is to bring “many sons [and daughters] to glory” (Hebrews 2:10).
God is very concerned with every life, not wanting anyone to perish—to miss being in His eternal family (2 Peter 3:9).
Even the analogy of becoming a child of God is likened to a pregnancy. We are begotten of the Father before we are born into His family (1 Peter 1:3). Even in this begotten state, when we aren’t yet composed of spirit, God calls us His spiritual children (1 John 3:2). God will not abort His begotten children, and neither should we abort our begotten children.
We started this article with the question about abortion, “Does God’s Word give us the needed answer?” Yes, it does. The Scriptures show us that abortion is a sin, breaking the Sixth Commandment, “You shall not murder.”
What if you already had an abortion?
The unfortunate reality is that a large number of women who have had an abortion come to regret it. Even “Jane Roe” (which was not her real name) regretted being part of the famous Roe v. Wade court case because she later changed her mind and took a position against abortion.
What if you are one of those women or one of the fathers who participated in deciding on an abortion? What can you do now? Is there hope for you and the life that you ended prematurely?
The answer to both questions is yes!
God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for all of mankind’s sins so there could be a future for all of mankind, because all have sinned (Romans 3:23). And when one genuinely repents of his or her sins, God is willing to forgive those sins (1 John 1:9).
Upon repentance, we no longer have to have that guilt hanging over our head. With God’s forgiveness, we can move forward, no longer held captive by past mistakes. There is hope in your future.
But what about the unborn child that was aborted?
As we showed earlier, God recognizes the unborn as distinct individuals. And since everyone who has ever lived will have a chance for salvation, doesn’t it make sense that God will give unborn babies a chance for salvation as well?
The Bible is a book about life. God wants to give all people the opportunity to live forever in His eternal family. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).