What the Bible Actually Says About When Life Begins and Abortion
In June of 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States of America overturned Roe vs. Wade, the law that gave constitutional rights to all citizens at the Federal level to make decisions related to their own reproductive health in relation to having an abortion. This eliminated 50 years of progress in women’s reproductive rights and sent a shock wave of anger, terror and despair across not just the United States, but the rest of the developed world. Here in Canada, Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister called the overturning of this human rights law “horrific” and vowed to allow women from the United States who need an abortion to cross the border to get one here.
The political right has considered this a victory to preserve “the sanctity of life” based on Christian values that have clearly superseded the constitutional separation of church and state as written by those who founded the nation. Using the Bible as justification, they have insisted that the rights of the women who become pregnant, regardless of circumstance, will be forced to carry the fetus to term because the pregnancy is always “God’s will”. However, the Abrahamic religions of which Christianity is one of three, (Islam and Judaism being the other two), has very different perspectives from the actual scriptures. It is time that perhaps we check what the Bible itself has to say.
In the book of Genesis 2:7, it clearly states that God breathed the breath of life into Adam who then BECAME a living being/soul. Therefore, since a fetus does not breathe until after it is born, is it logical to ascribe to it the same status as a breathing infant? Apparently even the Catholic Church did not think so. In fact, from the website catholic.com, it clearly states that “as regards children who have died without baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them”. This meant that if a baby was born in distress and there was no one to baptize it prior to it dying, they can only be buried in an unconsecrated section of the cemetery. Up until recently, the concept of “limbo” existed as the place where the souls of unbaptized children who died went. The bodies of these children could not be buried in consecrated ground. The logical line of reasoning from this is that if they were seen as a full life prior to dying, would they not be entitled to the treatment afforded to all lives? Catholic dogma then changed to overturn the concept of limbo. If the doctrine is supposed to be eternal, then why was it changed? If a doctrine can be changed then why can’t the position around contraception and abortion also change?
In Numbers 5:11-31, the test for a pregnant, unfaithful wife was the attempt by a priest to abort the fetus if it was not her husband’s. Verses 21-22 clearly state “may the Lord cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.” So apparently, if priests can administer “bitter water” to induce an abortion of a fetus that is not her husband’s, then obviously life is not as sacred as Christians would have us believe or, circumstances dictate far more than believers are willing to admit.
Indeed, the same God is not above smiting people for disobedience and has stated “the fruit of your womb shall be cursed” in Deuteronomy 28: 18-24. This is followed by a long list of horrible punishments for turning one’s back on an all-powerful, omnipresent, omniscient deity. If life truly is sacred, then why would a deity that supposedly is benevolent and loving curse future generations?
How could a deity that holds life sacred at all costs order his followers in in 2 Kings 8:12 to, “set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women?” The concept of ripping open pregnant women is also referenced in 2 Kings 15:16 where it is stated “at that time Menahem, starting out from Tirzah, attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates. He sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women”. Isaiah 13:18 says “Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eyes shall not spare children”. Hosea 13:16 again presents the ripping of fetuses from their mothers’ uteruses, “they will be killed by an invading army, their little ones dashed to death against the ground, their pregnant women ripped open by swords” and yet, all life is supposedly sacred.
Hosea 9:10-16 makes two references to killing fetuses. The first is in verse 14 which states, “Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts”. The second is verse 16 and says “were they to bear children, I would kill the darlings of their womb.”
The United States of America claims it is not a theocracy because there is constitutional separation of church and state. If this is true, how then can laws that govern all citizens, Christian or not, be based on one cherry-picked Biblical reference in Jeremiah 1:5, “before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations”? Why does this one reference to the fetus supersede the nine others referenced here alone? The overturning of Roe vs. Wade gives absolutely no consideration for the physical, mental or emotional health of the person carrying the fetus on the grounds of the Bible but, conveniently neglects what the Bible actually says several times about the supposed “sanctity” of life.
Having your own system of faith to guide your life is a right that I will protect and defend. Some people derive great comfort from their faith and others need the community of their faith groups to give them purpose and meaning. However, if you live in what is supposed to be a secular country with all faiths present and no faiths exhalted, it is arrogant, selfish, misguided and wrong to force others to live by YOUR faith.
In exactly the same manner that you would be appalled if another faith group seized power and forced you to abandon your beliefs to live by theirs, you cannot want for them what you do not want for yourself. Jesus the anti-establishmentarian made this clear in Mark 12:31 which states “love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these”. If you truly believe that the Bible is THE authority on how to live, it simply cannot be that you are willing to not love your neighbour. In fact, the person to whom you are praying has commanded you to do so. Loving your neighbour does not mean you get to force onto the person YOUR ways of living. It simply means learning to mind your own business and allow others to do the same. You cannot have it both ways.