Question: “What does the Bible say about reproductive rights?”
Answer: In the broadest sense, reproductive rights are the rights of individuals or couples to determine if and when they have children and how many children they have. The term is also used to mean that everyone should have access to free birth control, health exams, and medications pertaining to childbearing. But in the last 50 years, the term reproductive rights has been used almost exclusively to refer to the legal right to abortion on demand—the right to terminate a pregnancy at any stage for any reason. Since the Bible was written thousands of years before chemical birth control, medically induced abortion, and the sexual revolution, does the Bible say anything about reproductive rights?
As far back as the Garden of Eden, God has been involved in the reproduction of humanity. He instructed Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:27–28), so reproduction is not just a “right” but a command. Interestingly, the command to multiply immediately follows the statement that God had created the humans “in His own image.” So God’s directive to the first people was to fill the earth with others who bore His image. With that clear command ringing in their ears, Adam and Eve did not have “rights” to disobey the Lord.
God continued exercising His authority over reproduction at Mt. Sinai. When God gave the Israelites His Law, He included several commands pertaining to reproduction, all of which validate the life of an unborn child. The laws concerning a woman’s period and a man’s nocturnal emissions also included purification rites that significantly limited the number of days each month when a couple could have sexual relations (Leviticus 15; 18:19; 20:18; Deuteronomy 23:10–11). So God had already instituted “birth control” and a natural rest time for a woman’s body as part of His Law. The Bible contains several examples of barren women, and Scripture explicitly says that it was God’s direct intervention that enabled those women to conceive (Genesis21:1; 29:31; 30:22; 1 Samuel 1:19; Ruth 4:13).
Our “reproductive rights” do not trump God’s authority. A dominant theme throughout the Bible is that God is the sole giver of life and that He alone has the right to take it. After the flood, God reinforced the value of human life by declaring the rule of a life for a life: “And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being. Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind” (Genesis 9:5–6).
Today, “reproductive rights” is almost synonymous with the right to abortion. The closest the Old Testament comes to mentioning abortion is in Exodus 21:22–23. If someone accidentally caused a pregnant woman to go into labor, but the baby survived, the culprit was only fined. However, if the fetus died, the culprit was to be executed as well, because God required “a life for a life.” We can infer much from that command. If those were God’s instructions for accidental miscarriage, how much more inexcusable does God consider intentional miscarriage?
Our “reproductive rights” cannot be used as a cover for sinful behavior or as an excuse to destroy the innocent. Sexual relations are reserved exclusively for married couples (Hebrews 13:4); therefore, any sex outside of that bond is sin and does not entitle anyone to any “rights.” In the case of non-consensual sex that results in pregnancy, the right of the child to live must supersede the right of the mother to control her body. Ending the life of an innocent baby only compounds the evil of the situation.
A woman has the right to reserve her body for her husband. A man has the right to reserve his body for his wife (1 Corinthians 7:2–4). A couple has the right to determine together the size of their family by using appropriate methods of birth control. But no one has the right to violate the higher right of an innocent child to live. Reproductive rights end when another life has begun. Possibly the clearest declaration of God’s heart on the matter is Jeremiah 1:4–5: “The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.’” Reproductive rights are always superseded by the rights of our Creator. Before He formed any of us in the womb, He knew us (Psalm 139:13–16). And no human being has the right to destroy a developing child who is already known by God.