Even the devil can quote scripture: “biblical” arguments for abortion

Most arguments for abortion rely on conjuring up some secular reason for devaluing the unborn, be it embryology denial, divorcing personhood from humanity, or a radical conception of bodily autonomy. Whenever pro-aborts touch on religion, it’s usually to either disqualify it on bogus church-state grounds or dismiss the concept of the soul.

But sometimes, in trying to cover all their bases, they deploy what might be the most perverse defense of abortion possible: that the Bible condones it.

Their first piece of evidence is that the Bible doesn’t directly mention or expressly forbid the practice, so it must be permissible. But the Bible doesn’t mention drive-by shootings, hand grenades, nuclear missiles, or anthrax, either. The key is recognizing that abortion isn’t an act as much as it is a method. The Bible doesn’t concern itself with the morally insignificant technical details of how particular murders are performed; its proclamations that human life is sacred and murder is evil suffice to establish that murdering a fetus by vacuum aspiration is no more acceptable than murdering an adult by bludgeoning.

Second, they claim that various Bible passages imply the unborn are less valuable than the born:

Genesis 2:7 – “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

This supposedly reveals that Adam wasn’t truly alive until he started breathing, and therefore neither are the unborn. Putting aside the fact this argument still leaves unborn babies who do breathe on the table, its logic simply doesn’t make sense. If we take Genesis’s language literally, it describes a process by which no human being after Adam came into existence, and therefore can’t reveal the inner workings of our own development. And if we take the passage metaphorically, it’s even less relevant to abortion – perhaps, for instance, it refers not to the ensoulment of individuals, but the human race’s transition from mindless beast to rational being.

Genesis 38:24 – “And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.”

Upon discovering the pregnancy of Tamar, his widowed daughter-in-law, Judah orders that she be executed – a punishment he cancels upon discovering that he is the father (he slept with her, mistaking her for a prostitute when she was disguised). Pro-choicers note that the sentence would also have killed Tamar’s unborn twins; therefore, the unborn must have less moral worth than a person. But this theory fails immediately: considering that Judah has “married outside the faith, raised [at least] two wicked sons, wrongfully accused his daughter-in-law of his sons’ deaths, lied to his daughter-in-law, refused to keep the law of levirate marriage and, of course, had sex with a prostitute”; he’s not exactly a moral compass! It simply won’t do to cherry-pick one of his many sins and recast it as a virtue.

Exodus 21:22 – “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.”

This is the closest they come to showing the Bible tolerates abortion, and it still comes up short. As Scott Klusendorf explains, the pro-abortion interpretation fails on three levels. First, even if there was a lesser punishment for unintentionally killing the baby while intentionally attacking the mother, it no more negates the second victim’s worth than do different punishments for premeditated murder and manslaughter. Second, it’s still a punishment, making it the exact opposite of evidence for something’s permissibility. Third, and most importantly, it ignores the very next lines:

And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Klusendorf elaborates:

Furthermore, we should not presume that the miscarriage of Exodus 21 produces a dead child, as does elective abortion. Millard Erickson citing the work of Jack Cotrell writes that the Hebrew word for “miscarriage” in this context is ‘yasa’—which often refers to the emergence of a living thing. (See, for example, Gen. 1:24; 8:17; 15:4; 25:26; 1 Kings 8:19; 2 Kings 20:18.) In this case, the passage can be reasonably translated “the child comes forth” and if it’s not injured, the penalty is merely a fine. But if it is harmed, the penalty is life for life, tooth for tooth, etc. (Note also the text calls the expelled fetus a “child”—a fact abortion advocates cannot easily get around.)

It’s said that even the devil can quote Scripture, and nowhere is that more evident than it is here. Reading the Bible with a rational mind and a desire for truth cannot help but affirm the sanctity of all human life, and condemn the evil of shedding innocent blood for our own desires.

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