A Biblical Basis
When talking with people who have a different view about abortion, there are two questions that come up. One is reasoning from the Bible, and the other is reasoning from just the facts of the universe around us and the facts of how human life develops inside the mother’s womb.
It would depend on the situation as to whether someone is open to hearing what the Bible says about unborn children, about John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb leaping for joy at six months of pregnancy when Mary, the Mother of Jesus, came to visit. Leaping for joy is an act of a person.
Or, in Psalm 51, when David says that he’s a sinner from the moment of conception and he’s so filled with remorse for his sin with Bathsheba. He calls out to God for forgiveness and says, Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity. That is to mean brought forth from his mother’s womb—which is an expression in the Bible referring to the point of birth. I was born in iniquity; I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me. From the context, he’s not talking about his mother and saying she was sinful. He’s talking about his own nature—as a person from the moment of conception. He looks back on his life and recognizes there was a sinful nature from the beginning. He said that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
So, if someone is willing to listen to, consider a way, or evaluate what the Bible says about unborn children, then I would look at verses like that. There’s another verse in Exodus 21 where two men are struggling together and they accidentally collide with or strike a woman who is pregnant, and the Hebrew text says that the child or children come out. Either meaning there indicates a premature birth or a miscarriage resulting in the death of the child. The penalty in Exodus 21 is to give an eye for eye, tooth for a tooth, hand for hand, life for life. So the penalty for accidentally causing the death of an unborn child or its mother is capital punishment.
That’s the only place in all of the laws given by God through Moses that capital punishment is a punishment for accidentally causing the loss of a human life. If you go into the woods and you’re chopping with an axe and the axe head flies off and hits somebody in the head and the person dies—that’s what we would call manslaughter in our legal system today. It’s accidentally causing a person’s death. But, there wasn’t capital punishment in the Old Testament for that situation.
God placed a higher premium on protecting the life of the unborn child and the pregnant mother than protecting the life of anybody else in Israelite society.
You really had a situation of house arrest for a period of time because the person who, through carelessness, caused the death of someone else had to flee to the city of refuge and stay within that city until the death of the high priest. You didn’t know how long that was going to be. So there was a penalty for carelessness, but it wasn’t capital punishment. But if you accidentally caused the death of an unborn child or its mother, then capital punishment was issued. That just says to me that God placed a higher premium on protecting the life of the unborn child and the pregnant mother than protecting the life of anybody else in Israelite society. If accidentally causing the death of an unborn child is taken so seriously by God, certainly intentionally causing the death would be.
So that’s if someone is willing to listen to what the Bible says and consider it. If you don’t think that the person is willing to consider what the Bible says about these things, then there’s always the ultrasound. It looks like a human being, is moving like a human being, and can feel pain. I think it would be important, in that situation, to quietly pray for God’s guidance in knowing what arguments to bring up and what evidence to bring forth.
Wayne Grudem is the author of What the Bible Says about Abortion, Euthanasia, and End-of-Life Medical Decisions.