comments_image Comments

There's Nothing About Abortion in the Bible -- So How Do Right-Wing Christians Justify Their Crusade Against Women?

The modern religious right is trying to bring back the Bible's teaching that women are inferior and should be the possessions of men.

Continued from previous page


Another that's often cited is Psalms 139:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb... My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

This is a truism in the Judeo-Christian worldview, since in that belief system, by definition, God creates everything. A verse saying that he created one particular thing, therefore, doesn't establish the moral status of that thing. Presumably, in the same poetic sense that this passage puts it, it's equally true from a biblical standpoint that God "creates the inmost being" of other animals and "knits them together" in the womb, but Christians have never considered that an argument for veganism.

This handful of vague verses constitutes the sum total of the anti-choice arsenal, even in the most searchingly creative scheme of interpretation. On the other hand, there are numerous Bible verses which clearly point in the opposite direction. These passages state explicitly that the men who wrote the Bible didn't conceive of an unborn fetus as equivalent to an adult human being. Let's look at some of them:

Judah and Tamar

In the Book of Genesis, chapter 38, the Israelite patriarch Judah marries off his firstborn son Er to a woman named Tamar. But Er "was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him" (38:7). After several unsuccessful attempts to find Tamar a new husband, Judah orders his daughter-in-law to put on widow's garb and wait at her father's house until his son Shelah is grown up and can marry her (it being the law in ancient Israel that a man should impregnate his dead brother's wife to carry on the family line).

But Tamar gets fed up with waiting, takes off her widow's garb and disguises her face with a veil, and goes out to sit on the roadside. Judah finds her, mistakes her for a prostitute, and agrees to pay her one goat in exchange for sex. (I'm not making this up.) Later on he finds out she's pregnant, and not realizing that he's the one responsible, he orders her to be put to death:

About three months later Judah was told, "Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant."

Judah said, "Bring her out and have her burned to death!"

Tamar ultimately escapes her fate by proving Judah's hypocrisy, so the issue is never forced. But it's clear that he had every intention of having her executed on the spot, even though she was pregnant at the time. No mention is made of waiting for her to give birth.

Fights Causing a Miscarriage

The biblical verse that comes closest to an explicit mention of abortion is in Exodus chapter 21:

"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. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." (RSV translation)

Consistent with the other verses cited here, this passage decrees eye-for-an-eye retribution in the case of harm to an adult human being, but if a man injures a woman and causes her to miscarry, he only pays a fine.

See more stories tagged with: