Bible verses that concern the modern debate about abortion are far more varied than one side of the argument would like you to believe. But before we get to enumerating Bible verses about abortion, let’s make one thing perfectly clear. Abortion is a tragedy.  Whether you came here firm in your belief that abortion is murder or you were looking for arguments in support of letting women make their own decisions about their bodies, I think most of us can agree that, by and large, women who have abortions are tortured by their decision, even when they know in their hearts that it is the right one (for them) to make. Preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place will be the subject for another post at a later date, but know that my heart breaks for any woman who has to even consider abortion as an option. I will save my own feelings for the unborn child until the end of this piece, but they have no real Biblical basis.

Bible Verses That Support the Pro-Life Argument

  • Deuteronomy [5:17], Exodus [20:13] | You shall not murder.
  • Ecclesiastes 11:5 | As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
  • Job [31:15] | Did not He who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?
  • Psalms 1[39:13]-16 | 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.
  • Jeremiah 1:5 | 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.

The passage that can be found in both Deuteronomy and Exodus is one of the Ten Commandments. I think we can all agree that murder is wrong. [The sticking point, which we will get to, is whether or not abortion is murder.] The passages from Ecclesiastes and Job, as well as from Psalms, all touch on the miracle of pregnancy and birth, herein attributed to God. It shall be noted that God is also attributed with making plants, animals, and everything else that we know. The Bible verse from Jeremiah is the most often used (after the commandment against murder) to argue that abortion is wrong because God tells Jeremiah he knew him in the womb. I would like the point out the specific language of the verse, however, that it pertains only to Jeremiah himself, appointed as a prophet – and cannot be generalized to speak for every unborn child. Even the Psalms passage pertains only to the author of the passage, David. But let us look further now.

Bible Verses That Do Not Support the Pro-Life Argument

A bit of a warning, for many of these are rather  unpleasant.

  • Hosea [13:16] | Samaria shall bear her guilt, because she has rebelled against her God; they shall fall by the sword; their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open.
  • Psalms 137:8-9 | O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us! Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!
  • Exodus [21:22]-25 | When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is miscarriage, and yet no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined according as the woman’s husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
  • Hosea [9:11]-14 | Ephraim’s glory shall fly away like a bird—no birth, no pregnancy, no conception! Even if they bring up children, I will bereave them till none is left. Woe to them when I depart from them! Ephraim’s sons, as I have seen, are destined for a prey; Ephraim must lead forth his sons to slaughter. Give them, O Lord—what wilt thou give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.

The passage from Hosea 13 and the one from Psalms both describe horrific events in which God decrees for His enemies that their pregnant women shall be ripped open and their babies shall be dashed against rocks. The same God who has commanded us not to murder has also ordered some of His people to commit murder in His name, even innocent women and children. That is a contradiction that cannot be ignored if we are to look to the Bible for any sort of ultimate truth. Furthermore, let’s look at the passage from Exodus. An unborn child is not given the same status as its mother. If a man attacks a pregnant woman and she miscarries, he only has to pay a fine to the woman’s husband. If the pregnant woman herself dies, though, the man shall be killed – a life for a life. The unborn child is not counted as a life. God’s law, as outlined in Exodus here, clearly states that an unborn child is not yet a person, not yet a life that could be taken. As Joyce Arthur wrote elsewhere, ” To put it another way, the man who causes a woman to miscarry is guilty not of murder, but a misdemeanor.” And the passage from Hosea 9 curses Ephraim; God will make women infertile, and if they do conceive, He promises to make them miscarry – divine abortion – and if they give birth, He will kill the children, if not by making the mother unable to breastfeed, then by some other means.

What Does the Bible Say About Abortion

The Christian Humanist Interpretation of What the Bible Says About Abortion

It is my belief that the Bible does not support the anti-abortion position. God Himself is said to have caused abortions in His enemies’ pregnant women, and also ordered to have the pregnant women and children among His enemies killed. This does not support the conservative Christian argument that all life is absolutely sacred, that every fertilized egg should result in birth. I would not like to generalize the horrific implications that any “enemy of God,” however defined, deserves suffering and death. Instead, I would like to use these barbaric examples as a depiction of how we cannot cherry pick individual Bible verses to support our narrow version of the “truth” in any argument.

I, myself, am pro-choice. I do not need the Bible to justify my beliefs, as many people feel they do, but I do believe the Bible has my back on this one. I am a mother, and I am so grateful for my son every day. My husband and I had just started infertility testing when I found out I was pregnant, and not being able to conceive the child we so desperately wanted was heart-wrenching for us. Furthermore, I am exceptionally grateful to my husband’s birth mother. He doesn’t know who she is, but when she was faced with the difficult decision of an unwanted pregnancy, she chose to give birth to him and let him be raised by another family. She made the right choice for her at the time, and I hope she was able to make peace with her decision.

Because it was her decision. As humanists, we believe in the dignity of a person to make his or her own choices. As Christians, we believe that God will help us make the decisions that are the right ones. The right decision for me may not be the right decision for you, and it is not my place to presume what is right for anyone else. For the more religious among us, who are we to say that God’s plan for a woman must include motherhood? Perhaps He has other plans for her, and perhaps those plans dictate that she should terminate a pregnancy so she is open to other things. There are certainly times when choosing not to bring a child into this world is the most responsible decision a person can make.

And what of the unborn children? I told you I would get back to that, and I will do that now.

The March of Dimes states that as many as 40% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, many of these before a woman even knows she is pregnant. This is a statistic that holds true today, with all of the advances we’ve seen in modern health and medicine in the last century. Before that, I would guess that the figure could have easily been twice as high – I’ve seen estimates as high as 80% – and historical infant mortality rates have been estimated at 30-40%. If we believe in God, are we to believe that He would waste so many human souls? If every fertilized egg is sacred, it isn’t hard to see the inherent problem with the idea that half of all human conception in the history of the world has ended before a child’s first birthday.

Having seen the heartbreak my mother suffered at having four miscarriages, I don’t believe that God would have taken four beautiful souls away from her. My mother is a good woman. No, I believe that my youngest brother just took a little longer to be born than my mother would have liked. I don’t believe God would throw away souls with such disregard, and I do truly believe that any soul that does not get a chance to be born will get another chance – if not with the same mother, then with another. Do I have Scripture to back this up? No, but I have to believe that, if we are all created in God’s image, that He would not let us be discarded so easily.

The Bible does show us that human life has value, but the harsh reality is that it also shows us that Scripture allows for shades of value on that life, and of the potential life of an unborn child. Though I believe in a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body when she discovers she is pregnant, I do not believe that abortion should ever been a decision that is made lightly. I do not believe that abortion is murder, nor does the Bible make that argument, and I believe that any religious leader who tells his congregation that it is, is twisting his religion to suit his own personal biases. We should be focusing our energies on supporting women to make responsible choices, hopefully preventing in the first place any need to have to make a decision about an unwanted pregnancy. If you believe a woman to be deserving of prayer to help guide her decisions in this matter, then by all means, pray quietly for her. But do not presume to judge her, and do not make a public, hateful, and very unchristian-like spectacle of your own personal prejudices.

The author of this piece, Christina Gleason, blogs regularly at WELL, in THIS House. This post originally appeared on a now-defunct blog about Christian Humanism.