First of all, the main and most important fact you should know is that the Bible doesn’t say a thing about abortion. It never mentions it.
I must follow that, however, by saying that the Bible does talk about subjects that contribute to the discussion, and that I can write about.
A most important thing to know is that nobody, and I mean NOBODY, knows for sure when life begins. There are positions that range from the moment of conception, or when the brain starts functioning, or after the first trimester, or when the fetus is viable (when it is able to live outside the womb), to the moment of birth, or even to several months after the birth. NOBODY knows. Doctors don’t know. Scientists don’t know. Philosophers don’t know. Theologians don’t know.
I’m going to tell you what the Bible says.
So the first thing you must know about “when does human life begin” is that any position you take should be based on the weight of evidence, and not on any proof. There will be arguments pro and con for any position you will take, so you have to think it through and choose the position that makes the most sense. There is no agreement about “when does life begin” in medical, scientific, or theological circles. So saying, you also must realize that any position anyone takes on this issue is largely an OPINION.
While there is no passage of Scripture that says “Life begins at conception”, there are Biblical passages from which are derived the principle that the unborn human is a person possessing a unique life. Scripture also assumes a continuity of life from before the time of birth to after the time of birth. The same language and the same personal pronouns are used indiscriminately for both stages. Further, God’s involvement in the life of the person extends back to conception (and even before).
POINT 1: The Bible teaches that human beings are unique in creation as being in the image of God. (At least one point here is that humans differ in qualitative ways from animals.) Genesis 1.26-27 and Genesis 5.1-2 both teach us that humankind (male & female) is created in the image of God. Animals aren’t. Nothing else is. So we at least know from the Bible that humans are unique. Saving a whale or a baby seal, as noble and right as those two things are, is going to be different from saving a human being.
POINT 2: A bunch of verses teach us that God is active in conception. Gen. 16:2; 21:1, 2; 29:31; 30:22; 1 Sam. 1:5; Ruth 4:13; Job 31:15; Luke 1:25, 36, 37. It means that if God wanted to stop someone from being able to conceive a child, he could and did.
First, that is not to say that every time a woman can’t conceive it’s because God is preventing it. That’s not a fair conclusion.
Also to be fair, though there’s every reason to think that God is active in conception of animal life the same that he in active in conception in humans, nothing of the sort is ever mentioned in Scripture.
POINT 3: God is active in gestation (the development of the fetus in the womb). Ps. 100:3; 119:73; Is. 44:24. The Lord made us and formed us the way we are.
(None of these points proves when life begins, but only the specialness of human life, even in the womb.)
POINT 4: God values life before birth. See, here’s where it gets more interesting, and possibly more important to the subject of abortion.
God talks about humans being sinful in their nature—a spiritual condition—from conception. Now, as far we know, sin is only a spiritual condition of humans, so this would give a clue that God considers us to be human from conception. On top of that, there are verses expressing that God has a plan for the preborn person which precedes even conception. Ps. 139:13-16; Is. 49:1, 5; Jer. 1:5; Ps. 51:5; Job 10:18, 19; Luke 1:39-44; John 9:1-3; Gal. 1:15.
So the point here is that even though we aren’t told specifically that human life begins at conception, and that we are human (and not just a mass of cells) from conception, the verses seem to be saying that is truly what God considers us to be: human.
There’s another place, in Ex. 21.22-25, where God provided penalties for injury to the unborn, appearing to treat the unborn as a person. Again, this would seem to indicate that Scripture considers the unborn fetus to be human, but the interpretation of this passage is debated by scholars.
POINT 5: Unborn human life is in the image of God.
The verses above will only take you so far in your thinking. Yes, God is active in human gestation, but he is also active in animal gestation. God is active in human conception, but he is also active in animal conception. What clearly makes us different from animal life, though, is that we are in the image of God. What does that mean? I believe it means we are like God in every way, except that we have limitation. Anything and everything that God is, we also are expected to be, only that we can’t be that to the extent that God can. Evidence from the above verses suggests that we are in the image of God from conception. Genetically, we are distinctly human from conception. Evidence seems to be heavier in the direction that we are in the image of God from the moment of conception based on the status afforded to the unborn. This is reasoning from a biblical viewpoint.
POINT 6: It would make sense to err on the side of safety. Basically that means if you’re going to make a mistake, choose the safest path. If stem cells are not human life, or not in the image of God, and we develop them, experiment with them, and use them, then there is nothing wrong. But if it is human life and it is in the image of God and we do “create them” from fertilized eggs, we have committed wrong. Now, it would seem that the sensible thing to do here, given that NOBODY knows when human life begins, is NOT TO EXPERIMENT WITH FETAL STEM CELLS. It makes every sense to avoid even the remotest possibility of making a mistake in this area. (If a building was burning and there was a remote chance a child was inside, people would make every attempt to rescue it. If an earthquake demolished a building and there was a remote chance that someone was still alive, buried in the basement, we would attempt to rescue that individual. If there is even a remote chance that a cluster of cells is human life, in the image of God, doesn’t it make sense that our attitude should be not to create, experiment with, or let die, this cluster of cells?)
If, then, there is the slightest possibility that human life begins at conception, wouldn’t we be wise to err on the side of safety?
POINT 7: Our society seems to bestow more value to most animal life than it does to prenatal humans, which is a profound inconsistency. Acceptance of the fact that our animal “kin” possess equally the intrinsic right to life necessitates showing consistent consideration to the rest of nature, including the unborn human. If an animal’s life deserves full protection, and a human fetus does not, is a human fetus now sub-animal? Think about it. If it cannot be proven that a fetus is an actual living human person, there is no doubt that it is a potential living human person. It is, at worst, a developing person in process. It is not in a frozen state of potentiality with no actuality. The fetus will, without interference or unforeseen calamity, become (if it is not already) a fully actualized, living human person.
In addition, stem cell research—whatever else it may be—is an act against nature. After all the elaborate mechanisms have worked together to produce a fertilized, developing human embryo, the natural process is then interrupted and frustrated by a willful act of a human being.
Jesus, in Matthew 5, sees the law against murder as including within it not only the act of actual murder, but also actions of potential murder, such as anger. If Jesus saw sinful anger as inappropriate, what might he consider stem cell research to be? Since Jesus prohibits both actual and potential (anger) murder, what is implied is a positive mandate to work for the protection, sustenance, and respect for the sanctity of life. Whatever else stem cell research does, it does not promote the life of the unborn (and it is life, even if some would debate that it’s fully human).
It’s for these reasons that I consider abortion to be morally wrong. I believe, based on the evidence of Scripture, that human life begins at conception, and therefore abortion is the willful destruction of a human life.