I’m not quite sure why some people think abortion is so different from killing babies. The claim is that a baby, to be recognized as human, must be “viable,” meaning that it can live outside the womb. But “live” by what means? A newborn is still helpless. He can’t feed himself. She can’t tell anyone what she wants. She can’t acquire covering or run from danger. He is as helpless and dependent as a newly formed life in his mother’s womb. And science has left no doubt that the fertilized egg is a life.
For hundreds of years, perhaps thousands, killing babies was the culturally accepted way of dealing with unwanted children. Take China for instance. [China has] “a history of female infanticide spanning 2000 years.”
During the 19th century the practice was widespread, readings from Qing texts show a prevalence of the term ni nü (to drown girls), and drowning was the most common method used to kill female children. Other methods used were suffocation and starvation. Leaving a child exposed to the elements was another method of killing an infant, the child would be placed in a basket which was then placed in a tree. Buddhist nunneries created “baby towers” for people to leave a child. In 1845 in the province of Jiangxi, a missionary wrote that these children survived for up to two days while exposed to the elements, and that those passing by, would ignore the screaming child. Missionary David Abeel reported in 1844 that between one third and one fourth of all female children were killed at birth or soon after. (this and the previous quote from “Female Infanticide In China”)
With the one child per family rule instituted in 1980, infanticide is once again on the rise in China, though many babies—girls or ones with birth defects—are also aborted.
So what does the Bible have to say about abortion? Some professing Christians have taken a stand that the Bible is silent on the subject. But that’s not true. The Bible actually says a great deal about life in the womb. For instance, God speaking to the prophet Jeremiah, said
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
And before you were born, I consecrated you. (Jer. 1:5)
So God not only made Jeremiah, He also set him apart to be a prophet “to the nations” before he was viable.
Other Bible writers call attention to the fact that God creates life in the mother’s womb: Job (31:15), David (Psalm 22:10), Isaiah (45:24; 49:5).
Others also mention God’s call on their life before they were born. Isaiah, speaking prophetically said this, likely about the Messiah:
The LORD called Me from the womb;
From the body of My mother He named Me. (Is. 49:1b)
The writer of Judges recounted Samson’s prophesied birth. The angel who met with his mother before his conception, told her to follow certain guidelines because “the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb.” The Nazrite was someone set apart and dedicated to God, but usually this was to fulfill a vow and was for a short period of time. Samson was different. He was to be a Nazirite from the womb throughout his life.
The Apostle Paul was similarly aware of God’s call on his life before he was ever born:
But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles . . . (Galatians 1:15-16a)
Perhaps the most dramatic example of life and spiritual activity in the womb is John the Baptist who was filled by “the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). Not only did he have the Spirit in his little life, but his spirit responded to the presence of the life of the Messiah in Mary’s womb, and as a result the baby “leaped for joy” in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:44).
Just as compelling, for me is the statement David made, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in Psalm 58. This is one of those imprecatory psalms, “those psalms that contain curses or prayers for the punishment of the psalmist’s enemies” (from Theopedia). They can be hard to read for those of us used to an emphasis on God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness. But the significance here is that God identifies the spiritual life of individuals before they are born:
The wicked are estranged from the womb;
These who speak lies go astray from birth.
They have venom like the venom of a serpent;
Like a deaf cobra that stops up its ear,
So that it does not hear the voice of charmers,
Or a skillful caster of spells. (vv 3-5)
The point seems clear: not just certain special individuals are alive and fully formed spiritually as they grow physically, but even the wicked have their spiritual direction set in the womb.
Of course, man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7)—and apparently He does so from the womb on, throughout a person’s life.
What does all this mean for abortion?
Throughout Scripture, God informs us of the value of human life. In particular He came down hard on people groups, including Israel, which incorporated child sacrifice as part of their worship of false gods.
[Jerusalem] should be removed from before My face, because of all the evil of the sons of Israel and the sons of Judah which they have done to provoke Me to anger—they, their kings, their leaders, their priests, their prophets, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They have turned their back to Me and not their face; though I taught them, teaching again and again, they would not listen and receive instruction. But they put their detestable things in the house which is called by My name, to defile it. They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.
Abortion is today’s version of child sacrifice. We don’t offer children on an altar; we don’t make it a ritual incorporated into worship, but we certainly take the lives of helpless humans for the benefit of the mature adult making the decision. Those we should protect, we destroy for our own purposes.
What’s more, we violate God’s first command: Be fruitful and multiply.
Ah, some will say, it’s the multiplying that is the problem. We need to curb human reproduction because the planet can’t sustain us all.
But now we come to the real issue: humans think we know better than God. We don’t know how He could possibly have dealt with overpopulation if we didn’t step in, violate His command to be fruitful and multiply, and solve the problem ourselves.
That’s been the issue from the beginning. Man doesn’t think God is capable of dealing with the problems. God, in His infinite wisdom, says, OK, we’ll try it your way for a while, and when you’re ready, you can come back to me and we’ll get things straightened out.
I don’t see the problems of our times reversing themselves, but who knows? We can only walk in the light of the knowledge we have, and that knowledge points to babies, alive both physically and spiritually in the womb, and God who wants us to protect the vulnerable and to preserve life. To me that’s a pretty clear case against abortion.