Abortion and the Bible, Part One

I’ve been trying to show that even though there are good ideas in the Bible, some Scriptural commandments attributed to God definitely do not reflect divine guidance. But now let’s take another tack. Let’s assume that every word of this book was inspired by God, and consider the implications. The passage I want to consider pertains to abortion and the Bible, Exodus 21:22-23.

22: 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. 23: If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life . . . (Revised Standard Version)

These verses have important implications for the pro-life vs. pro-choice controversy. Some have argued that “if any harm follows” must refer to the mother, because we already know the child has died. If people accidentally kill an unborn child, but the mother is not harmed, those who cause the child’s death are to be fined. But if the mother dies, those who killed her accidentally are to be executed.

That is a dramatic difference! On this interpretation, the unborn child does not have the same value, the same moral status, as one who has been born. So what does this say about abortion and the Bible? Perhaps it says that abortion is not murder. That doesn’t mean abortion is OK, or not OK. It just means it isn’t homicide.

Importantly, a great many people who believe that abortion is murder also view the Bible as a word-for-word expression of divine guidance. So they are faced with a difficult dilemma. Either every verse of the Bible was inspired by God, and abortion is not murder, or if abortion IS murder, at least one of Scripture’s commandments was not divinely dictated, and Biblical “inerrancy” goes out the window.

There are plenty of arguments about abortion and the Bible, and this particular passage. I’ll discuss some thoughtful Christian responses the next time I post. But for now, what do you think? What, if anything, does Exodus 21 show us about pro-choice vs. pro-life?

Roger Christan Schriner

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