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What the Bible says about abortion


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Neither the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) nor the Christian Scriptures appear to address abortion directly. However, writings in the early Christian movement by the end of the 1st century or the beginning of the 2nd century CE do condemn abortion.

bullet Hebrew Scriptures: Exodus 21:22 is a key passage. As translated in the New International Version, this verse implies that the fetus is a human person. However, the most common interpretation of this same verse, as seen in other translations, implies that the fetus is not a human being. Other passages in the Hebrew Scriptures tend to devalue the fetus.
bullet Christian Scriptures:  Luke 1:41 might be interpreted to condemn abortions after fetal viability.

The Hebrew and Christian Scriptures (Old and New Testament) use the same word to refer to an unborn fetus, newborn or older child. This is a limitation of the Hebrew and Greek languages. It might be interpreted as implying that:

bullet Both ancient Hebrews and Pagan Greeks considered that the fetus is fully human, equivalent to a newborn child...or
bullet They simply called both children and potential children by the same term, much as modern-day parents-to-be refer to a fetus as a baby.

A case can be made that the 99% of all abortions (those which are performed prior to viability of the fetus) do not appear to be prohibited by Bible passages, as translated by most versions of the Bible.

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  1. What Does the Bible Say about Abortion?," at:
  2. Roy Bowen Ward, "Is the Fetus a person?" at: This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 
  3. John T. Noonan, "An Almost Absolute Value in History," in John T. Noonan, ed., "The Morality of Abortion: Legal and Historical Perspectives," Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, (1970), Page. 6
  4. John Connery, S.J. "Abortion: The Development of the Roman Catholic Perspective," Loyola University Press, Chicago IL, (1977), Page. 34.
  5. Paul D. Simmons, "Personhood, the Bible, and the Abortion Debate," at: This is another PDF file.

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Copyright 1997 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2007-
Author: B.A. Robinson

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