Abortion is Not Murder. At Least According to the Bible. It’s Not Even Criminal.

Not that I personally find it compelling (after all, the Old Testament positively sanctions slavery, among other horrors, and I am an atheist), but it might interest those who follow the Abrahamic faith that the husband of a pregnant woman who loses a fetus on account of actions by others is warranted financial compensation, if this is not the outcome he desired. The fetus is his property, after all, since its mother belongs to him.

The Tanakh is the foundation of the Abrahamic faith

In other words, according to the God’s law, abortion is not murder. Don’t believe me? Read the Bible. Exodus 21:22 says: “When men fight, and one of them pushes a pregnant woman and a miscarriage results, but no other damage ensues, the one responsible shall be fined according as the women’s husband may exact from him, the payment to be based on reckoning.” Versus 23-25 instruct the court, that if other damages do ensue, that is, if the woman is killed or injured, to apply lex talionis as warranted.

Are conservatives telling men what to do with their wives’ bodies over against the spirit of the Old Testament?

But, wait, there’s more. In Numbers 5:11-31, we are told that the purity test required of a wife accused of adultery will, if guilty, cause her to abort the fetus. I won’t go into the purity test because it’s a bunch of mumbo-jumbo (it reads like a Monty Python bit), but it is obvious from the text that the faithful believe the woman will miscarry if “in fact” an adulteress, a fact proven by her miscarriage.

There is a disturbing implication in this circularity. If a woman goes through the ritual and subsequently miscarries, it follows that she will have committed adultery, which in turn carries a sentence of death. So even if she did not commit adultery, the ritual will have found her guilty as such if by coincidence she miscarries. If the witch floats…

For rebelling against God, Hosea 13:16 tells us that Samaria’s people will be killed, their babies dashed to death, and their pregnant women cut open. Sounds unbelievable, I know, but here are the versus: “Samaria must bear her guilt/For she has defied God/They will fall by the sword/Their little ones shall be dashed to death/And their women with child ripped open.” (This is a common outcome for people who don’t do what God wants.)

There is a profound paradox here: if you disobey God by aborting a fetus, if aborting a fetus is indeed disobeying God, then you will be ripped open with a sword and your fetus aborted. Don’t try to figure it out. There’s no way out of religious contradiction.

What about the New Testament? All Jesus said about fetuses that I know of is this, according to Matthew (24:19): “Woe to pregnant women and those who are nursing.” Jesus was speaking about the end-times. It is not a passage about abortion. You’d think if abortion were such a terrible wrong, then Jesus would have mentioned it.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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