You often hear Christians claiming that abortion is against their biblical beliefs, but what does the bible really say about abortion? What the bible really says actually places it in the camp of not just Pro-Choice, but Pro-Abortion and Pro-Violence toward children.
People/Children are Property in the Bible
Some Christians claim Exodus 21:22-25 proves that fetuses are protected under the Law of Moses. Is this true? No. Exodus 21 is largely a chapter discussing the laws of property. The practices and beliefs of ancient Near East cultures is well established by historians, archaeologists, and scholars – women and children were often viewed as property.
This can be briefly shown by a cursory examination of the other laws in Exodus 21. Verse 7 plainly allows fathers can sell their daughters as slaves: “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do.” Life was cheap. The lives of human property (slaves) were not held in high esteem as verses 20-21 states “when a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.” Men could sell their daughters into slavery; meanwhile slaves, male or female, could be freely beaten with rods – so long as you didn’t immediately kill them.
The New Testament does not break from the brutal practice of slavery. Paul, instead of recommending Philemon free his slave Onesimus, returns the slave and tells them to be good slaves and masters. Other passages command Christian slaves to be obedient to their masters (pagan or otherwise).
The Value of the Lives of Children in the Bible
What of the value placed on a child’s life? Deuteronomy 20:10-18 commands that innocent Canaanite babies and infants, be slaughtered alongside their parents, grandparents, and even livestock. This obviously includes pregnant women and their unborn fetuses.
After wars with non-Canaanite nations, cattle, women, and children are to be taken as “spoils of war.” Non-Canaanite children were taken as slaves. They were slaves their entire lives since non-Jewish slaves were not subject to the laws demanding their release on Jubilee years – “When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing” (Exodus 21:2).
How could 3 month old Canaanites be the threat verse 18 claims they will be? The answer is, they are no threat – this is genocide plain and simple. This is clear because other “wicked” and pagan children, were not considered a threat. Assyrians, Babylonians, or any others, except for Canaanites, could be kept as child-slaves.
The most disgusting example of the Bible’s value of the lives of children can be seen in the taking of young, little, Midianite, virgin girls in Numbers 31. After their families, including their male siblings, were slaughtered, god commanded the little virgin girls be divided as “spoils of war.” In this myth, they were treated no better than livestock “Now the plunder remaining of the spoil that the army took was 675,000 sheep, 72,000 cattle, 61,000 donkeys, and 32,000 persons in all, women who had not known man by lying with him.” (Numbers 31:32-35). Here the bible justifies the sex-slavery of under-aged little girls.
Parental Infanticide in the Bible
Back to Exodus 21. Verse 17 clearly states “whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.” If you’ve ever gotten into a fight with your parents and cursed them, the bible says you should be executed. If your child has ADD or is otherwise “rebellious” or troubled, Deuteronomy 21:19 says “his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives” and as verse 21 says “all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” The bible tells parents to kill their own children. Late term abortions? How about post-third trimester abortions?!
The apologist will say “this is only if the child is evil and rebellious, it is a special circumstance.” Most pro-choice advocates do not want abortions as a primary form of birth control, rather they feel abortion is necessary in special circumstances, such as the health of the mother being at risk or the fetus being seriously and medically abnormal.
The Bible Contains an Abortion Ritual
In any case, the apologist defense is rendered false by their own bible. Numbers 5:11-31 contains an abortion ritual. The reason for terminating the pregnancy? Infidelity. If a paranoid husband thinks his wife cheated, but lacks the legal proof (the witness of two men, which is flawed justice in its own right, subject to abuse), he is to take his wife to the high priest. The priest whips up a magical concoction with water and the dust and ashes from around the altar and makes her drink it. If she is innocent, nothing happens. If she cheated on her husband though, she becomes ill and the child of infidelity is aborted.
Women and Children are the Property of Men
Let’s return to the Christian’s defense at Exodus 21:22-25. “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” Who is the victim here? The husband, for “the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him.” The victim is not the fetus, it is the husband whose property, i.e. his wife and/or a potential child, was nearly damaged. Forget about the fact that this “eye for an eye” crap was stolen by the Israelites from the older Code of Hammurabi… historical, archaeological, and even biblical evidence supports the fact that children were viewed as property and were abused, genocided (Canaanites), raped (Midianites), and treated as livestock.
Personhood in the Womb, Life Quality After Birth.
Many Christians reply with a variety of poetic Psalms where the author claims god knew him personally in the womb (as a brain-less zygote? As a person-less blastocyst?), or that god himself formed the psalmist in the womb, etc. One example often used is Psalm 22:10 “from my mother’s womb you have been my God.”
Biblical poetry also offers an opposing view though. The prophet character Jeremiah poetically mused “Cursed be the day on which I was born! [...] because he did not kill me in the womb, so my mother would have been my grave! […] Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?” (Jeremiah 20:14, 17, 18).
Born into poverty? Born to parents dying of disease? Born only to starve to death within a year or two? Pious old Jeremiah would have been Pro-Choice simply for these type of quality-of-life reasons.
The bible is clearly Pro-Choice… so, like Numbers 5:11-31 says, if you get knocked up, have a drink (or twelve) and get rid of that little rug-rat.
The word often used for “thigh” in Numbers 5 is “yarek” in the original Hebrew. It can mean thigh, loins, or represent offspring. For instance “yarek” is used in Genesis 46:26 to say all of Jacob’s children “which sprang from his loins (yarek).”
Most modern translations simply translate yarek as “thigh” in Numbers 5, so it may be hard to read the explicit abortion in this kind of artificial subtext caused by later English translations – it is much more explicit in the original Hebrew. It is not her “thigh that rots or falls away” – it is her loins, womb, or FETUS