What Does the Bible Say About Abortion?

The Beginning of Life, the Taking of Life, and the Protection of the Unborn

What Does the Bible Say About Abortion?
A developing human in the womb at week 15. Science Picture Co / Getty Images

The Bible has a lot to say about the beginning of life, the taking of life, and the protection of the unborn. So, what do Christians believe about abortion? And how should a Christ-follower respond to a non-believer about the issue of abortion? 

While we don’t find the specific question of abortion answered in the Bible, Scripture clearly expresses the sanctity of human life. In Exodus 20:13, when God gave his people the absolutes of spiritual and moral living, he commanded, “You shall not murder.” (ESV)

God the Father is the author of life, and the giving and taking of life belong in his hands:

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21, ESV)

The Bible Says Life Begins in the Womb

One sticking point between pro-choice and pro-life groups is the beginning of life. When does it begin? While most Christians believe life starts at the moment of conception, some question this position. Some believe life starts when a baby's heart begins to beat or when a baby takes its first breath. 

Psalm 51:5 says that we are sinful at the time of our conception, giving credence to the idea that life begins at conception: "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." (NIV)

Scripture further reveals that God knows individuals before they are born. He formed, consecrated, and appointed Jeremiah while he was still inside his mother's womb:

“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 1:5, ESV)

God called people and named them while they were still in their mother’s womb. Isaiah 49:1 says:

“Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.” (NLT)

Moreover, Psalm 139:13-16 plainly states that God is the one who created us. He knew the full span of our lives while we were still in the womb:

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 very 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. (ESV)

The Cry of God’s Heart Is ‘Choose Life’

Pro-choice supporters stress that abortion represents a woman's right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy. They believe a woman ought to have the final say over what happens to her own body. They say this is a fundamental human right and reproductive freedom protected by the United States Constitution. But pro-life supporters would ask this question in response: If a person believes an unborn child is a human being as the Bible supports, shouldn’t the unborn child be granted the same fundamental right to choose life?

In Deuteronomy 30:9-20, you can hear the cry of God’s heart to choose life:

"Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life..." (NLT)

The Bible fully supports the idea that abortion involves taking the life of a human being who was made in the image of God:

“If anyone takes a human life, that person’s life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human being in his own image.” (Genesis 9:6, NLT, see also Genesis 1:26-27)

Christians believe (and the Bible teaches) that God has the ultimate say over our bodies, which are made to be the Lord's temple:

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? ​ ​If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, NIV)

Mosaic Law Protected the Unborn

The Law of Moses viewed unborn babies as human beings, worthy of the same rights and protections as adults. God required the same punishment for killing a child in the womb as he did for killing a grown man. The penalty for murder was death, even if the life taken was not yet born:

“If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life,” (Exodus 21:22-23, NKJV)

The passage demonstrates that God sees a child in the womb as real and as valuable as a full-grown adult.

What About Cases of Rape and Incest?

Like most topics that generate heated debate, the issue of abortion comes with some challenging questions. Those in favor of abortion often point to cases of rape and incest. However, only a tiny percentage of abortion cases involve a child conceived through rape or incest. And some studies suggest that 75 to 85 percent of these victims choose not to have an abortion. David C. Reardon, Ph.D. of Elliot Institute writes:

Several reasons are given for not aborting. First, approximately 70 percent of all women believe abortion is immoral, even though many also feel it should be a legal choice for others. Approximately the same percentage of pregnant rape victims believe abortion would be just another act of violence perpetrated against their bodies and their children. ​Read more …

What If the Mother’s Life Is at Risk?

This may seem like the most difficult argument in the abortion debate, but with today’s advancements in medicine, abortion to save a mother’s life is quite rare. In fact, this article explains that an actual abortion procedure is never necessary when a mother’s life is at risk. Instead, there are treatments that may cause the unintentional death of an unborn child when trying to save the mother, but this is not the same thing as an abortion procedure.

God Is for Adoption

The majority of women having abortions today do so because they don’t want to have a baby. Some women feel they are too young or don’t have the financial means to raise a child. At the heart of the gospel is a life-giving option for these women: adoption (Romans 8:14-17).

God Forgives Abortion

Whether or not you believe it is a sin, abortion has consequences. Many women who have had an abortion, men who have supported abortion, doctors who have performed abortions, and clinic workers, experience post-abortion trauma involving deep emotional, spiritual, and psychological scars.

Forgiveness is a big part of the healing process — forgiving yourself and receiving God’s forgiveness.

In Proverbs 6:16-19, the writer names six things God hates, including “hands that shed innocent blood.” Yes, God hates abortion. Abortion is a sin, but God treats it like every other sin. When we repent and confess, our loving Father forgives our sins:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9, NIV)
"Come now, let us settle the matter," says the Lord. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." (Isaiah 1:18, NIV)