Ever since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, abortion has been a perennial political issue in American life. But recently, with the new makeup of the Court and with several states proposing and sometimes passing new laws (both liberal and conservative) there is renewed attention on the topic.
As Christians, our first reaction to this issue should not be to ask what our political parties or politicians think but to ask what the Bible says. So what does the Bible say about abortion? Here are three really important applications of Scripture to this topic:
The Bible says every human being has intrinsic value, not because of his or her utility, but because every human being was created in the image of God.
This is a foundational Christian doctrine that is evident from the opening pages of Scripture. In Genesis 1 and 2, Moses uses great detail to describe the way God formed life, sculpting bodies from the dust of the ground, breathing into humans the breath of life and stamping on humans the image of God.
Humans have value because they were created by God. They are not assigned value based on what society thinks or based on the desires of the parents who conceived them. One of the arguments for abortion is that the baby presents an inconvenient situation for the mother and that allowing the child to live will consign him or her to a difficult life. It may be true that many babies are into hardship, or make the lives of mothers more challenging, but this doesn’t negate their value as human beings, created in God’s image. Humans, even at their most vulnerable state, are valuable and have worth because God says they do.
The Bible repeatedly affirms the humanity of the unborn at the earliest stages.
Perhaps the most detailed affirmation of unborn human life comes from Psalm 139 and King David, who imagines in great detail the way God knit him together in his mother’s womb, describing the artistry of a creator who weaves together every life from conception. Consider the language the psalmist uses:
- “…you formed my inward parts and knit me together in my mother’s womb” (v 13)
- “My frame was not hid from you when I was being made in secret” (v 15)
- “Your eyes saw my unformed substance” (v 16)
It’s pretty clear that God assigns personhood to the unborn from conception. Notice the pronouns “my” and “me” that treat an “unformed substance” as human. And these are not the only times where the Bible affirms the personhood of the unborn. Consider these other examples:
- Isaiah is told by God that he was “formed from the womb” by the Creator (Isaiah 44:24)
- Jeremiah is told by God, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”
- Paul says God “set him apart before he was born.” (Galatians 1:15)
- John the Baptist is said to have “leapt in the womb” of his mother Elisabeth when Mary visited and told her cousin about the coming birth of Jesus (Luke 1:41).
The Bible says it is a sin to kill innocent life.
The very first instance of a human’s death—the murder of Abel by Cain—elicited a strong response from God. He told Cain that the blood of his brother “cried up to him from the ground” (Genesis 4:10). This is an indication of how much God dislikes murder. Here are just a few other examples:
- God told Noah that the taking of innocent human life was a serious offense in Genesis 9:6.
- In the Ten Commandments, this is repeated with the simple refrain: “Thou shalt not kill.” (Exodus 20:13)
- The writer of Proverbs says “hands that shed innocent blood” are one of the seven things God hates.
To strike out at innocent image-bearers in violence is to strike out against God himself, who made humans in his image. Jesus said that it is Satan who is a “murderer” from the start and all who love violence are his children (John 8:44). Paul said that death is the final foe (1 Corinthians 15:56). Jesus wept and was visibly angry when seeing the still corpse of his beloved friend Lazarus (John 11:33).
In summary, we can conclude that the Bible is against abortion. The Bible recognizes and names unborn humans and assigns them God-given value. The Bible also condemns the shedding of innocent blood. So Christians should be against abortion. This should motivate us in three ways: first, we should seek justice for the unborn in society via laws. Second, we should try to persuade those who disagree with us. And third, we should, by our love and care, seek to create conditions that make abortion, for mothers in crisis, less appealing. The truth is that many who seek abortions are conflicted, alone, and in need of a community to help walk them through this season in their lives.