What the Bible actually says about abortion may surprise you

In the days since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had established the constitutional right to an abortion

some Christians have cited the Bible to argue why this decision should either be celebrated or lamented. But here’s the problem: This 2,000-year-old text says nothing about abortion.

As a university professor of biblical studies, I am familiar with faith-based arguments Christians use to back up views of abortion, whether for or against. Many people seem to assume the Bible discusses the topic head-on, which is not the case.

What the Bible says  The absence of an explicit reference to abortion, however, has not stopped its opponents or proponents from looking to the Bible for support of their positions.

Abortion opponents turn to several biblical texts that, taken together, seem to suggest that human life has value before birth.

For example, the Bible opens by describing the creation of humans “in the image of God”: a way to explain the value of human life, presumably even before people are born.

Likewise, the Bible describes several important figures, including the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah and the Christian Apostle Paul, as having being called to their sacred tasks since their time in the womb.

However, abortion opponents are not the only ones who can appeal to the Bible for support. Supporters can point to other biblical texts that would seem to count as evidence in their favor.

Exodus 21, for example, suggests that a pregnant woman’s life is more valuable than the fetus’s. This text describes a scenario in which men who are fighting strike a pregnant woman and cause her to miscarry.

A monetary fine is imposed if the woman suffers no other harm beyond the miscarriage. However, if the woman suffers additional harm, the perpetrator’s punishment is to suffer reciprocal harm, up to life for life.

There are other biblical texts that seem to celebrate the choices that women make for their bodies, even in contexts in which such choices would have been socially shunned.

The fifth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, for example, describes a woman with a gynecological ailment that has made her bleed continuously taking a great risk:

She reaches out to touch Jesus’ cloak in hopes that it will heal her, even though the touch of a menstruating woman was believed to cause ritual contamination. However, Jesus commends her choice and praises her faith.