Abortion is not condemned as murder in the Bible
I’d like to offer my sincerest condolences to Christians that have been duped into crusading against abortion based on the flamboyant preaching of charismatic men of faith. There’s absolutely nothing in the Bible that prohibits an abortion of any kind or classifies abortion as murder.
You’ve heard it preached that the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 1:5, condemns abortion by saying (here in the King James version), “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” The conclusion often jumped to by Christians upon a reading of this passage from Jeremiah is that God, “knew,” Jeremiah in the womb therefore a fetus in the womb is a living person and abortion is murder. This supposition is severely flawed in a number of ways.
First, God saying he, “knew,” Jeremiah doesn’t imply Jeremiah was alive when God, “knew,” him. God knows the angels and the heavenly host. The apostle Paul writes in the New Testament book of Ephesians, in Ephesians 1:4 (KJV), “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world…” If God chose us before the foundation of the world does that mean we were alive before the foundation of the world? Does that mean a man is alive before becoming a zygote, an ovum, a sperm or a glint in his father’s eye? Does God saying he, “knew,” Jeremiah before he entered the womb mean God knew him personally or that he simply knew of him or had a plan for Jeremiah’s future or that he knew what sort of man he’d become? There’s nothing in this passage from Jeremiah that defines life for us or tells us when life begins or when life becomes valuable.
Second, in this same verse from Jeremiah, it says, “Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee,” thus God, “knew,” Jeremiah, “before,” he formed his physical body (in the belly or the womb of his mother). How long before? I’ve heard it argued that God is speaking of Jeremiah’s time in the fallopian tube but that’s absurd conjecture we must confront with the words of King David from The Old Testament book of Psalms.
In Psalm 139:15 (KJV) it says, “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” Here we see King David saying God could see him while his parts were still being formed, “in the lowest parts of the earth.” Apparently, God knew David before he entered his mother at all while he was still being formed, “in the lowest parts of the earth.” Was David alive (long before he entered the womb) while he was being formed in this way? Was he alive before the foundation of the world? Was he therefore alive as an ovum and/or a sperm? Is every sperm sacred (as the Monty Python song goes)? Was David therefore alive while he was the protein in an orange that would, upon consumption, fuel the production of the ovum or the sperm? Is it therefore murder to squash an orange or spit out the seeds that could potentially become orange trees that may or may not bear more such fruit and therefore fuel the production of more human beings?
In the Old Testament book of Exodus, in Exodus 21:22 (KJV), it is written, “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.” Basically, if a man hurts a woman so as to provoke an involuntary miscarriage he is fined according to what judges determine. The unwanted termination of an embryo or a fetus is punishable mainly by a monetary fine (and potentially a beating from the woman’s husband) according to this passage from the Old Testament. This doesn’t refer to a voluntary abortion but an involuntary miscarriage forced upon a woman by someone else. There is no precedent in this passage from the Bible for calling a voluntary abortion murder or saying it should warrant the same penalty as a coerced miscarriage.
In the New Testament book of Luke, in Luke 1:44 (KJV), John the Baptist’s mother says, “For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.” This is in reference to the fetus of John the Baptist recognizing the proximity of the fetus of Jesus Christ. It’s portrayed as a miracle. Outside of this supernatural occurrence, we can be fairly certain a fetus is unaware the outside world exists. A fetus doesn’t dream about the blue sky or horses or bunnies. It hasn’t had any experiences. It doesn’t have any memories. It doesn’t know its mother is a human. But, according to the Bible, this single fetus somehow knew Jesus was nearby just like that single donkey in the twenty-second chapter of the Old Testament book of Numbers verbally spoke to Balaam. Not all donkeys talk. This is portrayed as a miracle and not the norm. The verse in the book of Luke is not evidence that every fetus is aware of the outside world while it exists in the womb. It is not evidence that terminating a fetus is paramount to murder.
While we are mentioning the Old Testament book of Numbers, take a look at the fifteenth chapter of Numbers and you will find the ritual of bitter water. Here we see a ritual performed by Old Testament priests to cause an abortion and a physical curse on pregnant women who have conceived through adultery.
That’s pretty much all the Bible has to say about abortion. Anything else a Christian believes about abortion is pure speculation put forth by preachers for the purpose of personally influencing behavior and personally influencing politics. Your faith is in those preachers if you believe anything else they say about abortion. Your faith is not in the Bible. Your faith is not in God. You are believing unsubstantiated claims by fallible mortal men.
Some Christians will argue that scientists claim life begins at conception when fertilization occurs and the cell divides. These same Christians will dismiss scientists on topics like evolution, sex and gender, mental health, climate change, etc. But, let’s say we all agree on the scientific parameters for life’s inception (cell division), scientists still can’t tell us what life means or when we should believe a life becomes valuable. Neither do scientists make laws or decide what constitutes murder.
Some Christians will argue that we should err on the side of caution. Even if we are unsure whether or not abortion is murder, they will argue, it’s better to inconvenience the mother than to (potentially) murder her, “unborn child.” This dismisses the potential suffering of the mother. Forced breeding is just as heinous as rape or murder. A young woman being deprived of a simple and effective medical procedure that would solve a massive problem for her in order to satisfy the superstitions of some religious strangers doesn’t seem like caution. Not when the young woman is forced to endure nine months of pregnancy, the intense pain and physical damage involved in childbirth and either eighteen years of parenting or emotional adoption proceedings against her will.
It’s the most effective smear campaign imaginable to label your enemy a, “baby killer.” The insult was hurled at soldiers returning from the Vietnam war. Nazi Germany used the Blood Libel myth to vilify and dehumanize Jews. Conspiracy theorists from the Satanic Panic of the eighties to the QAnon conspiracies of today have accused their targets of pedophilia and baby murder. Nonsense tales of lizard people from the Illuminati harvesting adrenochrome from the spines of trafficked children fill the dark corners of online forums and social media. The language is inflammatory. Calling someone a, “baby killer,” is inflammatory. It’s a tactic people use to vilify their enemies and their political rivals. It’s no basis for legislation.
There’s absolutely no evidence that anyone is committing any type of murder by having an abortion. It’s a matter of personal belief. Many Americans, the vast majority of Americans, would rather have matters of personal belief remain the responsibility of the individual. It’s up to the individual to decide whether or not the life of a zygote or an embryo or a fetus is as valuable as the life of a born child or an adult human being.
Regardless of one’s claimed future or potential, a fetus is very much physically dependent on the womb for its existence. Any decision as to its fate is left to its mother (as the womb exists within her body) under our current federal laws. The vast majority of Americans favor that decision (a decision made after careful deliberation) by our Supreme Court. The vast majority of Americans favor Roe Vs. Wade.
Your dissent from the majority of Americans and from the laws of the land here in America is worth noting and you are free to disagree with our legal system but your dissent is not based on the Bible, based on God, based on science, based on evidence or based on anything but your own personal beliefs. You believe abortion is murder but abortion will not become widely considered murder simply because of your personal belief.