It is my understanding that some Christians claim that abortion should be moral based on the Bible. I have not yet responded to this and indeed it has been a while since I have spoken out against the evils of abortion, so I might as well do so now. I set out to defend orthodox Christianity and that means to defend the rights of the unborn.
“Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7) The general reason why people bring this up is that due to the fact that Adam received breath and therefore became a living being, anyone who cannot breathe by himself (i.e. a fetus) is not a real person. First, many babies do not breathe immediately after birth and some can take up to a minute to breathe on their own outside the womb. My cousin had quite some trouble breathing because she was born early. Are we to say that infanticide is moral? Of course, some people say infanticide is moral nowadays, but most do not. However, the unborn do breath, but through an umbilical cord rather than through their mouths. Before they develop the umbilical cord, they absorb oxygen through the lining of their cells in a process called respiration. Besides, some humans who are born must breathe through a tube in their throat. Shall we assume that these are not humans because they do not breathe “the breath of life” through their nostrils as Adam did?
Numbers 5:11-31 is the next verse that is often brought up. The Law commands that a wife suspected of adultery must drink water mixed with dust from the tabernacle floor. Some say that this will cause a miscarriage if she has been unfaithful. First of all, this only proves that it is up to God whether the child is to live or die. God caused the firstborn in Egypt to die and also the firstborn of David and Bathsheba. Are we to conclude that they were not human? We must remember that not everything in the Old Covenant were perfect. Divorce, for instance, was allowed on account of the Israelites’ “hardness of heart”. (Matthew 19:8) However, such a concoction (dusty water) cannot generally abort a fetus. The only way a bad reaction would occur, aside from Divine intervention, would be because of psychological reaction due to a guilty conscience. However, what the exact text says is: “And when he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and has acted unfaithfully against her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her body shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away, and the woman shall become an execration among her people. But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children.” (Numbers 5:27-28) So it sounds like this sterilizes the woman rather than killing the child. Some translations say that she will miscarry, but most say something along the lines of her womb shrinking.
Finally there is Exodus 21:22-23: “When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is a 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.” I see why one would suppose this, as if someone would kill an old person, the punishment would probably be more severe. However, how does it follow that because someone is fined for accidentally killing an unborn child God would approve the intentional killing of an unborn child through abortion? Evidently the child has some value. Right before this the Scripture says: “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be punished; for the slave is his money.” (Exodus 21:20-21) Notice that this text refers to an accidental miscarriage. There is no biblical directive for how to punish an intentional abortion. Besides, the text describes the woman as “with child”. If there is no child, then why does it say this?
Some would argue that since allegedly fifty percent of embryos die in the womb, they cannot be people, for God would not allow for such a high mortality rate. However, just because embryos may die of natural causes, does that mean that we can kill them? After all, one-hundred-year-old men frequently die of natural causes. Are we to conclude from that that they are not people? Furthermore, there have been times when infant mortality rates have been very high. Are we to conclude from that that infants are not people?
“For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well; my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth,” states Psalm 139:13-15. In other words, God knitted him together when he was still inside of the womb.
More importantly, Luke 1:41-43 tells us: “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” Why is John described as a “babe” if he is not yet a person? Why was he able to leap in the presence of the Mother of God? Furthermore, consider Elizabeth’s words: “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” If the life of Jesus Christ had not yet begun at this time, Mary was not yet the Theotokos, the Mother of God. I should probably note that by calling her the “Mother of God”, I do not mean that she generated His Divine Essence, but simply that she conceived and gave birth to God made Man. And as we know from science that the life of a human person begins at conception and from God that it is wrong to kill an innocent human being, how can it be right to kill the unborn?
The ancient Christian text, the Didache, states: “Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion nor kill them when born.” (Didache 2:2) This was probably written at some point in the first or early second century. The Didache puts abortion and infanticide side-by-side. The Epistle of Barnabas, written between A.D. 70 and 132, states: “You shall not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shall you destroy it after it is born.” (Epistle of Barnabas 19) Again, the two deeds are equivocated. “And there came forth from them sparks of fire and smote the women in the eyes: and these were the accursed who conceived and caused abortion,” states Apocalypse of Peter 25. (c. A.D. 130) The Apocalypse of Peter, by the way, although it is not inspired, was contained a couple ancient canonical lists. Athenagoras argues: “And when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder?” (A Plea for the Christians 35) So abortion is murder, according to Athenagoras. “Now we allow that life begins with conception,” says Tertullian in A.D. 210, “because we contend that the soul also begins from conception; life taking its commencement at the same moment and place that the soul does.” (The Soul 27) In other words, once a conception occurs, the ending of a life is murder. The Council of Ancyra in A.D. 314 states: “Concerning women who commit fornication, and destroy that which they have conceived, or who are employed in making drugs for abortion, a former decree excluded them until the hour of death, and to this some have assented. Nevertheless, being desirous to use somewhat greater lenity, we have ordained that they fulfil ten years [of penance], according to the prescribed degrees.” (Ancyra, can. 21) In other words, it is lenient for women who have abortions to have only ten years of penance proscribed to them. Some would point out that various Church Fathers held that ensoulment did not occur until six months after conception. This came from Aristotle’s erroneous theory (or wild guess) that the unborn went through vegetable and animal stages of life before being animated with a rational soul. That theory, is, of course, false. More importantly, the Fathers still never said abortion was moral. We must remember that contraception is also a mortal sin.
Bonum Certamen Certemus
I am the Catholic of Honor
All Scripture references are from the Revised Standard Version