Is the Bible silent about abortion?

By Cody Guitard, RC Chapter Director

What does the Bible say about abortion? Can you be a Christian and be pro-choice?

Few topics get the blood pumping these days as much as the abortion debate. This is true not only in society at large but in the church in particular. We look at these questions from a Biblical perspective.

What does the Bible say about abortion?

Difference between pro-choice and pro-abortion?

While many professing Christians who are sympathetic to the pro-abortion side would say that there is a difference between being pro-choice and being pro-abortion, the alleged distinction is purely artificial and is easily recognized as such in the context of other moral issues on which there is a generally accepted position. (Imagine, for example, if we were to apply this type of argument to the issue of rape, saying that we are personally against rape but believe the rapist should have the right to choose to rape any women he wants.)

A clear divide

With such a clear divide in our churches between those congregants who identify as pro-life and those who identify as pro-choice, you might wonder if (and perhaps assume that) the disagreement is due to the Bible being silent on the issue of abortion. After all, a Christian’s position on any given issue should be one that both is consistent with and springs from the essence of Christianity, and it is the Bible that reveals the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:6-16). The Word of God is the standard by which we are to discern truth from error (1 John 4:1-6). It is to teach, reprove, correct, and train us for righteousness, equipping us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). But if the Bible provides no insights on a given issue (like abortion), then we are left to formulate our views on other grounds.

So, the question is this: Does the Bible have anything to say about abortion? Does it provide any insights that would inform a distinctly Christian position on such an important issue?

Biblical Silence on Abortion?

It’s true that the Bible nowhere explicitly refers to the practice of abortion, which, of course, begs the question as to why it is apparently silent on the matter. After all, abortion was a common practice in the Greco-Roman world, perfectly legal, and even endorsed and, in some cases, enforced.[1] What is more, abortion was discussed by both Jews and Christians in non-canonical writings. The ancient Jews believed that deliberate abortions for less than life-threatening reasons were, being deliberate acts of bloodshed and disrespect for life, immoral and punishable by death. (There was, however, some debate between the Alexandrian Jews and most Palestinian Jews as to what ought to be the severity of the penalty in cases of accidental or therapeutic abortion.) The early Christians, building on the Jewish views, unanimously believed (at least until Constantine) that abortion in any form was murder and detrimental to the family unit and society as a whole.

But from where did the early Jews and Christians draw their views on abortion? After all, we did not have the scientific knowledge we do now that human life begins at conception, nor did we have any constitutional rights for human persons such as the right to life.[2] As it turns out, while the Bible neither in the Old nor New Testaments explicitly addressed the issue of abortion, it did provide enough insights for God’s people to formulate a biblical position on the matter.

What should a Christian think about abortion?