Does Exodus 21:22-25 Support Abortion?

In this article, I’ll take a serious look at an exegesis by an atheist skeptic in regards to a Biblical passage that’s said to support abortion. Are they right, or is the Bible pointing to something else?

Abortion is a hot topic, there’s no getting around that. Any objection raised is often shot down with insults the next second. Since the controversy surrounding this issue is so sensitive I feel that arguing my views will deter what I hope to accomplish with this post, that is to point to what the Bible says on the matter.

During a debate with a skeptic (one I was not personally a part of), I noticed the conversation had turned to the issue at hand. The skeptic, challeged to point to a verse that supports abortion, brought up Exodus 21:22-25 in quite a cocky manner. The passage states,

“If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely, but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” (NIV Version)

The comment that followed went like this,

“….this clearly shows that the Bible views the killing of an unborn child as a minor matter – punishable by paying a fine to the father…. If the same fight causes the mother to be seriously injured or killed, however, then “an eye-for-an-eye” kicks in. The mother is viewed as a person. The unborn child is not.”

The problem with our skeptic’s exegesis is that he’s looking at things from an entirely different angle than what the verse is saying. He’s looking at it with the question “Does the Bible see an unborn child as a person?” in mind rather than the question the passage requires which is “What counts as murder?” All we need to do is place some common sense into the text.

If the offending party (we should make the strong emphasis that they are fighting here) struck the woman hard enough to cause a miscarriage, was he aiming to murder the baby? Obviously not. How could he, during the heat of a fight, have the rational capability to realize the woman was pregnant? Also, note that this is clearly an accidental situation, which implies they barely took notice of her in the first place. The Bible never counts an accidental injury or death as a murder, which is the unlawful taking of another life. Thus the miscarriage obviously wouldn’t be counted as murder. Yet, as they are still in the wrong with failing to notice their surroundings, they must pay whatever fine the father demands.

But what if the woman was seriously injured or killed by the fighting gang? Then as the law in the verse commands, they should be put to death as they have no excuse. Unlike the unborn child, the woman could be clearly seen, so any fight that affects the woman to the point of serious injury or death could hardly be counted as an accidental result of some brawl.

In conclusion, anyone who uses this passage to show that the Bible supports abortion has no basis to do so. The passsage does not have the question of abortion in mind as it’s purpose is to outline actions that count as murder.

Referrences: Tekton Ministries: Abortion and the Bible *Available. (also see for a full referrence on the Bible’s position on the subject).