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Does the Bible support the use of abortifacients?

Published: 30 April 2020 (GMT+10)

Courtney K. from the US asks:

I was wondering, since Psalms 104:14 says God made “herbs for the service of man,” why are many plants used as abortifacents in certain societies, such as Native Americans and some Amazon tribes? I suppose the same question could be asked as to why many are poisonous: the Fall. But is there perhaps another refutation, to prevent some from saying that if that verse is true, He’s ok with abortion? I saw somewhere that some scholars interpret Numbers 5:11-31 as abortion. And yet elsewhere, it seems clear the Bible does not advocate for it. Thank you for your time.

of CMI–US responds:

Hi Courtney,

Psalm 104:14 is speaking of how plants are good for food and for nourishing our bodies in other ways. Of course, plants serve many other good purposes as well, like being used as building materials (wood from trees), etc. But that doesn’t stop fallen people from using God’s good gifts in the wrong way. Hammers are good for pounding nails, but they can be used improperly as weapons that cause harm. The same is true of many plants.

Even poisons can be good (and non-poisonous) if they are used in the right way, for numbing pain and other things. Typically, that means small doses, rather than an excessive amount of a given substance. So, plants are good. We just have to use them in proper ways.

Numbers 5 certainly would not justify abortion. In the Mosaic Law, a woman accused of adultery would be given the drink described and then would be considered guilty only if the harmful effects appeared. It’s not clear whether the harmful effects refer to problems with her reproductive organs (e.g., womb swelling) or if these expressions are euphemisms for miscarriage or stillbirth. But the drink is basically just water with a bit of dust, so it’s not likely this is some potion that chemically induces an abortion. It’s likely only symbolic—a way for the curses (which are written down and symbolically scraped off into the water) to ‘enter’ her if she is guilty. If the death of a child is at all in view here—and I think that is highly debatable—then it would be God who takes that life in judgment, not the bitter water that is administered per se.

But, most importantly, as just stated, whatever the ill effects are, they are presented here as a judgment. That is, there is absolutely no way to justify a woman intentionally harming herself or her offspring based on this text. That would be like claiming that abortion is okay because God’s prophet Nathan told David that, because of David’s sin with Bathsheba, the child from that union would die (2 Sam 12:14). God is the giver of life, and has the right to take our lives when He sees fit. But we human beings do not have the right to take each other’s lives without proper justification. Proper justifications would arguably include self-defense or capital punishment. But they do not include elective abortion.

The justifications typically given for abortion are hopelessly inadequate. We would never say that it’s okay to kill toddlers because we can’t afford them, or because they are a burden, or because we have freedom to choose, or because we have a right to do what we want with our bodies. This shows the moral failure of abortion logic. Abortion is morally wrong. It takes the life of an innocent human being without proper justification—something God has forbidden us to do.

You are correct that the Bible does not support abortion. We have many articles dedicated to this subject on creation.com, so feel free to use the search engine to become better equipped on this topic. Our articles make the case from Scripture (as well as science and philosophy) for the pro-life position, showing that the unborn are whole, distinct, living human beings, and that all human beings are valuable, made in God’s image.

I hope that’s helpful.

In Christ,

Creation Ministries International

Helpful Resources

Is Human Life Special?
by Gary Bates and Lita Cosner
US $3.50
Soft Cover
US $10.00
Life Before Birth
by Gary E Parker
US $13.00
Hard Cover

Readers’ comments

Mark A.
In Adam all died because the eating of the tree happened before any offspring was born & you could interpret it as the fruit of the tree actually caused a genetic change in Adam & Eve allowing genetic malfunctions to escape God's inbuilt repair mechanism & lead to physical death, (I've heard of research showing famines & dietary intakes in your ancestors past had affected their genetics that they then passed on to their offspring, & we now know not to drink to much alcohol & smoke or take drugs etc during pregnancy due to the effects on the fetus.) The fruit also caused a change in their mental & Spiritual world view as they realized they were naked & to know the difference between good and evil, That's how everyone became a sinner from Adam because everyone inherited the knowledge of good & evil from him & everyone at different times in their childhood becomes sinners when they first realize what they are about to do or what they just did is wrong & don't care. But the difference in Jesus's Death is the undoing of the curse of sin in our spiritual life & in the resurrection our spiritual body is reset to God's original design, but only to those who accepts Jesus & His free gift of eternal life.

Back to abortion, the act of abortion can have unknown effects on future pregnancy by either damaging the womb in mechanical abortions or chemical affects lasting longer than people expected, We know some chemicals/minerals stay in the body & slowly build up overtime so affecting future births, as each person is affected differently by the residual of the abortion. That's not including the mental affects of the abortions that may not show up for years.
Brandon L.
I noticed that our former posts are listed last, which seems odd. But hopefully this follows well. In Romans 5:19 many are made sinners by one man's disobedience just as many are made righeteous by one man's obedience. By choosing to follow the one in disobedience, or the One in obedience. Yes I believe Romans 5:12 is speaking of spiritual death.

Sorry, I did not mean to ignore your point there (about "the many" referent). Hopefully I'm understanding what you mean by referent. But saying that the word "many" in Romans 5:18 refers to everyone ever born in one half of the sentence and then refers to those that choose in the other half of the sentence; saying that seems to me to be implying an idea upon the scripture that is not there. One can take the whole verse to mean that neither is by choice and there is no free will involved in being made a sinner, and no free will involved in being made righteous. Or one can take the scripture to mean that both are by choice and there is free will involved in being made a sinner, and free will involved in being made righteous.

I would like to say more also. But I have taken far many liberties in discussing this on your page. Thank you for the kind responses. We can agree on this, abortion is wrong.

God Bless you sincerely.
Keaton Halley
I am glad we do at least agree on that. Seems like a good place to conclude this back-and-forth as I think your points here are mainly assertions rather than arguments, and I believe I've answered them already. Readers can consult the rest of our discussion in prior comments. But best wishes to you as well Brandon.
Brandon L.
Every creature dies physically because of Adam's sin. Puppies also die, but they are not held accountable for Adam's sin. They die because the creation is under a curse. We are not guilty sinners because of Adam's sin, nor are we held accountable for it. We are guilty of our own sin (Ezekiel 18:20) Isaiah 53:6 - "we have turned EVERY ONE to HIS OWN way". (Personal choice & direction)

You can't take "all" from Romans 5:12 and paste it into verse Romans 5:19 when clearly Paul is using the word "many" when speaking of many being made sinners and many being made righteous.

Adam was forefather of Jews & Gentiles and was the archtype of both groups of sinners. Adam sinned and spiritual death came upon him, but notice it doesn't say "and so by inheritance" death passed upon all men. But it says "and so" death passed upon all men (Jews & Gentiles) because they all (Jews & Gentiles) sinned. It's saying, in the same way (as with Adam) death passed on all men because they all sinned.

In Romans 5:19 my point is no one becomes a sinner automatically because of Adams' sin, just as no one becomes righteous automatically because of Christ's obedience. We need to read Romans 5:18-19 together for proper context on the meaning here. In verse 18 in the same sentence "all" must be read the same way, it would not be right to change the meaning halfway through the sentence. In verse 18 "all" does not mean "everyone ever born" at any point in that verse. When read in context, in verse 19 "many" does not mean "everyone ever born" at any point in that verse either.

Wages mean what you work for. A baby can't work for death. Romans 9:11 speaks of unborn children that have not done any good or evil. They are amoral and innocent. They have not sinned with Adam.

God Bless,
Keaton Halley
Okay, I've let you have your say. But you haven't answered what it means for the many to be made sinners by one man's disobedience (v. 19). What group was not made sinners? How were the sinners made to be so by Adam's disobedience? And it seems to me like you are contradicting yourself if you say that babies die because of the curse based on Adam's sin, but you interpret Romans 5:12 to mean that death spread to men because of their own sins. Or are you reading that as only spiritual death too?

Readers can judge whether I'm pasting meanings into Romans 5:19 or instead interpreting that language according to the wider context. In v. 18, Paul is coming back to the point that he started to make in v. 12. I note that you did not address my distinction between sense and referent, but ignored it and instead reiterated your claim that I am switching the meaning of "many" part way through v. 19. I actually take it to have the same meaning, with a different referent, just as you presumably do.

There is more that could be said, but I don't want to chase this rabbit forever as we are getting away from the point of my article.
Christopher H.
I would like to add that David's child that died may have grown up to be a wicked person. God may have prevented a greater tragedy if the child lived. Another possibility is that unborn babies go directly to Heaven. If this is true, it certainly doesn't give us the right to murder the unborn.
Brandon L.
Thanks for the response Keaton! In Romans 5:19 the 2nd half of the scripture says many were made righteous by the obedience of one. We can't change the meaning of "many" here to mean "all" for the 1st half of the scripture and then have it mean something else for the rest of it (without interjecting a pre-held belief upon it). "Many" can't be "all" here because it would have to mean that everyone was made a sinner and everyone will be made righteous. Everyone will not be made righteous by Christ (many will be) Neither is everyone made a sinner as by Adam (many were)

Romans 6:23. The wages of sin is death. The rest of that scripture says "but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" The contrast here is life and death. Not physical, but spiritual\eternal death and spiritual\eternal life. We die physically because of Adam's sin. That is a consequence that was placed on all of creation because of Adam's sin. But in order to sin you have to be capable of choosing to sin.

Ephesians 2:3 is describing sinful behavior. What is it that made them children of wrath? The answer is right there in context in Ephesians 2:1-2. There it speaks of walking according to the course of the world. Following the devil. Nothing there about inheriting sin from anyone. The word nature is refering to the things we practice, our habits. By habit\practice they were children of wrath.

This is clearly the teaching of Scripture. My friend, there is no danger in believing what Scripture teaches. The teaching that babies are born sinners is not Orthodox Christianity. It was absolutely brought about by Augustine. Please research the history here. I pray God reveal this truth to you and any one else willing to hear. It's very important.

God Bless you sincerely.
Keaton Halley
Thanks for the clarification, but I don't see how your own interpretation avoids the problem you are attributing to my view. You admit that physical death is because of Adam's sin. Yet I don't see how, on your view, that avoids the problem you raised about sons not being held accountable for the sins of their fathers. Also, Romans 5:19 says that many were made sinners, not just that many died. I don't see the relevance of trying to claim that not all became sinners through Adam's sin. Even if some did, that doesn't fit with your view. But Romans 5:12 says that "death spread to all men because all sinned", so the word "many" does refer to all men in the case of Adam's sin. The word doesn't have different meanings in the two cases, but it does have different referents. Many includes all men in the case of Adam, but not in the case of those Christ saved. This is a perfectly consistent use of language, but you are trying to force the parallel to say more than it does.

In Romans 6, it's mistaken to think that physical death is not included in the wages of sin. Jesus physically died, and eternal life includes the resurrection of the body, just as Jesus physically rose.
Brandon L.
Great response. But I’ll have to disagree with the notion that babies are conceived as sinners. This is wrong thinking, our God is just. Ezekiel 18 clearly says the son won’t be punished for the fathers sins, but the soul doing the sin dies (spiritual death). In fact the doctrine of inheriting Adams sin is not found anywhere in scripture. Not in Psalm 51 or Romans 5 either. But that doctrine was brought about by Augustine a few hundred years after John penned The Book of Revelation.

That doctrine wasn’t taught by Jews or the early church. My understanding from scripture is that babies are born amoral, not good or bad. We inherit physical death from Adam but not sin or spiritual death.

This is important to me because I believe it’s a false doctrine that paints God in a bad light. He is just and righteous. And doesn’t look upon innocent babies are wicked sinners because of someone else’s sins.

God Bless
Keaton Halley
I'm glad you liked the response in general, but I think you are in dangerous territory here claiming that humans are born innocent (or "amoral", as you put it). The idea of humanity's corporate fallenness in Adam did not originate with Augustine, but rather is present in Scripture. This is just orthodox Christianity. Romans 5:19 says that "by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners," and Ephesians 2:3 says that people are "by nature children of wrath". The very fact that even babies sometimes die shows that all are under judgment, because "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). These teachings go against a certain modern individualistic perspective on human beings, but I disagree that they violate the justice of God.
Raymond R.
> "In 2 Samuel 12, the death of David's infant son was not a punishment of the son, but a punishment of David. In other words, the child died because of God's judgment on David, but the child was not being held accountable for David's sins. That's a subtle distinction but I think an important one."

Hi Keaton, it seems you've missed Glen's point. Glen's point, it seems to me, is that God, took the life of a completely innocent person here, i.e. David's *son*, instead of doing something to *David* himself. After all, David's *son* had nothing to do with Uriah's murder by his father or his adultery with Bathsheba, Uriah's wife. Therefore, this is a question about God choosing to "punish David" by killing his son, rather than by, say, by killing David himself. I think that's the question you may want to directly address.

That said, I'm aware this is unrelated to, and especially not a justification for, abortion.
Keaton Halley
I understand, but David's loss of his son was devastating to David. It caused him pain and accomplished God's goal to punish him. As for the justice of God's actions toward the child, I think what I said addressed that too. He was not killed because he was held responsible for David's actions. The taking of the life of the child was justified on other grounds, namely that God has the right to give and take life, and that humanity is corporately fallen in Adam. Hopefully that makes it a little more clear.
Dave S.
Do Christians understand that "the pill" contains abortifacients? I didn't know that until I had been married for 15 years. I think that message needs to be proclaimed more.
Mark A.
No matter how much you twist it abortion is still murder & apart from ending a human life the actual abortion process still affects the mother & family members for years to come. David & Bathsheba's son GOD took to Him because the child was born outside of GOD'S plan & GOD could see the full timeline of the child & his affect on Israel's history e.g. what if the child grew up as an outcast in David's family due to his siblings rejection & constantly being put down to the point he snaps & kills some family members including Solomon (if even born due to the changed circumstances) or even a successful coup against David or Solomon History would be totally different & Israel of JESUS'S day wouldn't have existed so god took the baby to HIMSELF for the baby's benefit & History including ourselves benefit.

Also it's not written in the Bible what the penalty of birth outside of marriage was at that particular time in Israel's history since looking at history GOD'S chosen people tend to take things beyond what GOD actually said, also the written word was that technically a kinsmen of Bathsheba's husband could kill David if they wanted to if it became known that the actual age of the child & the circumstances of the husbands death & the known character of the husband, people would eventually put 2&2 together & realize what actually happened & David rule could have ended before it really began so with GOD removing the baby kept people from thinking about it. Since GOD chose Solomon to became heir to the throne I think that David would have married Bathsheba anyway due to her husband would have died in the war & David & Bathsheba living so close would have met anyway but in GOD'S timing. So only GOD can see the future & abortions disrupt HIS plan for us all.
Keaton Halley
For future reference, please refrain from using all caps, which can come across as shouting. Submissions are less likely to be considered when they contain all caps.
Glen J.
Why did God take David's and Bathsheba's son as punishment for their sin (and David's murder of Bathsheba's husband). My limited understanding is God does not punish the children for the sins of the parents.
Keaton Halley
I believe you are thinking of Ezekiel 18, where God specifically declares that righteous men should not be judged for the sins of their wicked fathers. But this should not be understood to mean that people cannot be impacted by the sins of others or that God has no right to take our lives. Our sins can impact future generations. See Exodus 20:5 and Numbers 14:18. Everyone is conceived as a sinner (Psalm 51:5) since we are all descendants of Adam, and so we all die like him. In 2 Samuel 12, the death of David's infant son was not a punishment of the son, but a punishment of David. In other words, the child died because of God's judgment on David, but the child was not being held accountable for David's sins. That's a subtle distinction but I think an important one.
Joseph G.
As human life is precious from conception, anything that purposefully ends that life is wrong, including abortifacients.
Louis C.
I was once told in a YouTube comment debate about the morality of abortion of unborn babies that Numbers 5 commands abortion. Intrigued, I went to read it. I can't see how it can be interpreted as such when only taking the historical context into account. It is clear that it isn't some chemically induced abortion, because then how would it sometimes not work? It is also questionable, as you said, if it is referring to stillbirth or miscarriage at all. I didn't interpret it like that. I understood it as something along the line of infertility.

However, your argument concerning the situation when it is referring to God causing stillbirth or miscarriage is excellent. Because God may end our lives whenever He wants doesn't warrant us from doing so to our brothers and sisters in the human race. God may do so, because all of us deserve to be destroyed immediately. If He grants us even a moment of life, it is His grace. Any argument stating that God is somehow "out of bounds" if He takes life forgets this. God may take lives any time He wants, because all men are sinners and guilty. They must pay for that guilt by dying. Properly understanding that cures both the wrong notion that God is "evil" if He takes life and that "if God may, then so may I". Only God is sinless and in a position to judge.
Gina T.
Abortion is in defiance of the sixth commandment, which says "Do not murder".
Whether we murder a baby in the womb with poisonous herbs or whether we murder a grown person using poisonous herbs, what's the difference?

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