The Expository Files.


The Bible and Abortion

Modern Controversies #1

In 1973, the United States Supreme Court legalized the killing of unborn babies. Since then, more than 25 million have been legally killed in this country. The fact an act is legal according to civil law, however, does not make it morally right. Nazi law and Communist law allowed the killing of millions of adults. Was this morally right? We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).

The purpose of this study is to consider exactly what the Bible teaches about abortion.


The fundamental question to be answered is whether or not the life that has been conceived in the mother's womb is a human person, separate and distinct as an individual from the mother.

God created only three basic classes of life, each of which reproduces after its own kind: plants, animals, and people (Gen. 1:11,12,20-25,26-30; 5:1-4). In which of these three categories should a living, unborn baby be classed? It cannot be considered plant or animal because plants and animals reproduce after their own kind. It is the result of human reproduction, and humans are distinct from the plants and animals. Therefore the life in the womb of a human mother must necessarily be human!

We next ask: is the life in the womb just a part of the mother's body (like an appendix, so removing it is not murder), or is it a separate and distinct individual from
the mother so that killing it is murder?

The Bible (King James and most other versions) nowhere uses the phrases "human" or "human being" to refer to anyone, so we cannot determine whether the unborn is a human individual simply by searching for the terms "human being." Instead, the Bible identifies a human person by calling it simply a "man," "woman," "child," "son," "daughter," "baby," "infant," etc. What we need to know, then, is whether or not the Bible refers to the unborn baby by terms that imply humanity, just as it does for other humans.

A. God's Terms for the Unborn

Gen. 25:21,22

In Genesis 25:21,22, Rebekah conceived twins, and "the children struggled together within her." That which was conceived was called a "child" between the conception and the birth.

The Hebrew word used here (BEN) is the most common Old Testament word for a child or son. When used for the physical offspring of humans, it consistently refers to distinct human individuals (see Gen. 25:1-4; 3:16; etc.).

Job 3:3

On the very night of Job's conception it could have been said, "There is a man-child conceived." The word for "man-child" (Heb. GEBER) elsewhere means "man," i.e., a human individual (see Job 3:23; 4:17; 10:5; Psalms 127:5; 128:4; etc.).

Job 3:16

Babies that die before birth are called "infants" that never saw light. This is exactly like babies that are aborted. This word (Heb. OLEL) always and without  exception refers to human individuals (cf. Hosea 13:16; Psalm 8:2; Joel 2:16).

Numbers 12:12; Luke 1:43

In Numbers 12:12, Moses describes "one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother's womb." If a baby dies before it is born -- as in an abortion -- the woman who conceived it is still a "mother."

In Luke 1:43, Elizabeth addressed Mary as "the mother of my Lord" before Jesus was born.

The word "mother" (Heb. EM; Greek METER), in contexts referring to physical human reproduction, always refers to one who has procreated or formed another human individual, a separate and distinct individual from the mother herself (see Num. 6:7; Gen. 3:20; Luke 1:60). A woman who has conceived, even if the child is not yet born and even if it dies before birth, is a "mother."

Luke 1:41,44

Elizabeth conceived (v. 24), and the life "in her womb" is called a "babe" or "baby" (Greek BREPHOS). This is the second-most-common New Testament word for a baby. It is always used for that which is a human individual separate and distinct from its mother (see Luke 2:12,16; Acts

Luke 1:36

Again, the life conceived in Elizabeth's womb, before it was born, is called "a son." The word "son" (Greek HUIOS), in contexts that refer to the physical offspring of humans, always refers to that which is a human individual separate and distinct as an individual from its parents. It is the most common New Testament word for a "son" (see Matt. 1:21,23,25; Luke 1:13,31; 2:7; etc.)

B. Observations on the Verses

That which has been conceived and lives in the mother's womb from conception on is referred to by God as a "child," a "son," an "infant," a "baby," a "man-child,"
etc. The woman in whose womb it lives is a "mother." God makes no distinction between born and unborn life. He uses exactly the same terms for both, therefore we should view them as having the same nature.

Remember that we established from the beginning that the life in the mother's womb is human life. The only question to be settled was whether it is a distinct individual from its mother or just part of the mother's body. Consider the force of the evidence we have now examined:

Does the Bible refer to parts of the mother's body as "child," "son," "baby," etc.? Clearly not. Nor is a woman ever called a "mother" just because she has these body parts. Why is this so? Because the terms "child," "son," "baby," etc., are terms that imply a separate human individual, not just a part of the mother's body.

Consider the parallel to the Godhead. We can prove that Jesus is a separate individual from God the Father by referring to the many passages that mention Jesus as the Son of God the Father. A person cannot be his own father or his own son. A father and his son make two separate individuals (cf. John 8:16-18).

Likewise, when a woman has conceived, the life in her womb is her "son" (or "daughter"), and she is its "mother." If God the Father is a separate individual from Jesus Christ His Son, then in the very same way and for the very same reasons a mother must be a separate individual from the son or daughter in her womb.


The unborn life in the mother's womb is a human individual from conception on. How should we treat this unborn life? May we deliberately kill it? Surely we must be guided by exactly the same rules or principles we should follow in our treatment of any other "child" or "baby." What are these rules?

A. Stewardship: Train, and Protect a Child

Abortion's defenders often argue that, if the mother does not "want" to have the child, she may abort it. But does a mother have the right to not want her child?

Psalm 127:3-5; 128:3-5 -- Children are a blessing, a source of happiness and joy to their parents. Yet unborn babies are children, so parents ought to appreciate them as a blessing from God. People who have Scriptural attitudes will never kill unborn babies because they will never want to. Abortion is the grossest form of
ingratitude for God's blessing.

Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4 -- God has made us stewards of our children. A steward is a person who has been entrusted with something that belongs to someone else. He is responsible to care for it and use it to accomplish the purpose of the one to whom it belongs. He will be condemned and punished by the owner or master if he abuses or misuses that which has been entrusted to him (Luke 12:42-46; Matt. 25:14-30; I Cor. 4:2).

An unborn child is a particular blessing that has been given into our care just as surely as is a child that has been born. We have the same God-given duty toward an
unborn child as we do toward one that has been born. If we kill them, we defeat God's purpose for their lives. How can we "train up" and "bring up" those whom we have killed?!

Abortion is the grossest form of child abuse and the most extreme perversion of parental responsibility. God will not fail to hold us accountable.

B. God Says to Love Our Children.

Titus 2:4 -- Young women should be taught to love their children. But an unborn baby is a "child," and a woman who has conceived is a mother even before the baby is born. The Bible tells us how we should act toward those we love (I Cor. 13:4-7), and this teaching definitely does not allow us to kill them (Rom. 13:8-10).

We have clearly established that abortion is wrong without even (thus far) examining passages specifically dealing with murder. Abortion does fit the Bible definition of murder. But even if it did not, it would still be sinful because it is unloving, a lack of appreciation for God's blessings, and a gross abuse of our stewardship to raise our children as God directs.

C. Respect for Life: Do Not Kill an Innocent Child.

Many passages teach us not to deliberately kill innocent human beings. Please read Exodus 23:7; Proverbs 6:16,17; Revelation 21:8; 22:15; Matthew 15:19,20; and Romans 13:8-10. In addition, please consider these specific passages.

Psa. 106:37,38 -- Israel was polluted with blood because the people shed the innocent blood of their "sons and daughters." But unborn babies are "sons and daughters." What then is the condition of our land when over 25 million "sons and daughters" have been legally killed?

Matthew 2:16 -- Herod is considered wicked because he slew the male children in Bethlehem. Luke 2:12,16 calls such children "babes." But Luke 1:41,44 also calls unborn children "babes," so how can it be acceptable to kill them?

Hosea 13:16; 2 Kings 8:12 -- When children or infants are dashed to pieces, it is a great tragedy to any nation. Yet unborn babies are children or infants, and in our nation they are dashed to pieces by the millions!

Acts 7:19; Ex. 1:16-18 -- Pharaoh commanded that Israelite "sons" or "men children" be killed as soon as they were born. But these same terms are used for unborn babies. Would it have been acceptable for Pharaoh to have had abortions performed to kill the babies? Is it any less wicked if people today do it?

Deuteronomy 27:25 -- "Cursed be he that taketh a bribe to slay an innocent person." What clearer description could be given for people who operate abortion clinics?


Abortion is wrong, therefore, because it is a failure to love, appreciate, and care for a human baby. It is also wrong because it constitutes the deliberate killing of an
innocent human being.

When people defend abortion, their arguments should always be evaluated in light of the fact that the unborn baby is a human being, a separate individual from its mother. Therefore, deliberately killing it would be just as wrong as killing any other innocent human being.

What should a woman do if she has aborted a baby and now realizes she did wrong? She does not need to spend the rest of her life with the burden of unforgiven guilt. The Bible says abortion is wrong, but it also offers a source of true forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ. God will forgive if we will come to Him according to His conditions. Read and obey these passages: Rom. 1:16; 6:3,4; 10:9,10; Mark 16:16; Acts 17:30; 2:38; 22:16.I

By David E. Pratte 
 From Expository Files 3.1; January 1996