Many people today consider abortion to be a woman's right to control her body—specifically her reproductive rights. What does the Bible say?
Reflecting this perspective, many countries around the world permit abortion. Yet there is also much dissent over this supposedly enlightened practice.
In the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision sparked a huge controversy. No issue since slavery has so divided the people of the United States. The two opposing views on this issue are generally called "pro-life," meaning those who support the rights of the unborn, and "pro-choice," for those who say a woman should have control over her own body, even if it means terminating the life of the unborn.
Many who favor allowing abortion have argued that abortions should be safe, legal and rare. Yet statistics show they are anything but rare. In the United States alone, some 3,700 babies are aborted every day, amounting to over 1.3 million per year and more than 45 million since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision. Statistics also say that 93 percent of abortions occur not because of serious potential health problems or rape or incest (a primary reason "pro-choice" advocates give for abortion), but because of social factors. The child is either unwanted or inconvenient.
The biggest area of debate in the abortion question hinges on when life begins. Those who favor abortion argue that it doesn't begin until birth or sometime near then, when the child could be viable on his or her own. Others point out that at the moment of conception a unique genetic package comes into existence that contains everything that person will become—from height, size of feet and color of eyes, to intelligence and basic personality.
While the Bible does not mention the word abortion, there are indications that God views the unborn as individuals. He told the prophet Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5). God indicates He knew Jeremiah as a person and designated him for a special job extremely early in the gestation period. This passage certainly implies personhood for the unborn, and God expressly forbids murder in the Sixth Commandment.
Additionally, Job said this about other people: "Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same One fashion us in the womb?" (Job 31:15). Job understood God to be at work in the process of human development in the womb.
God views human life as very valuable and the verses above indicate He views life as beginning at conception. So while He doesn't mention the modern issue of abortion in the Bible by name, these and other passages indicate that God would label abortion as a sin.
If you'd like to read more on the subject, request or download our Good News magazine article reprints "The Abortion Quagmire" and "America's Child Sacrifice".