Outsmarting Bible-thumpers! Talk Choice like a (Religious) Pro


Engaging in a biblical debate about abortion might seem a little ridiculous if you do not, in fact, believe in God or the Bible.  But you’ll never get the choice message across to a Christian fundamentalist without trying!  The bible does not mention abortion.  It does not define life at conception.

Below are a few common Biblical arguments, and some push backs you can use.  For the truly adventurous, I’ve also included some Bible verses that support Pro-Choice arguments.  Trust me, I went to Christian college (shudder).

  • The word ‘fetus’ never occurs in the bible: No kidding.  Fetus/foetus is of Latin origin.   Its generally agreed that the Christian Bible was originally written in a combination of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.  It isn’t in the bible because there was no such word. 
  • “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee,” Jeremiah 1:4-10: Anti-choice Christians love this one.  But read the rest of the verse and chapter.  In this passage, God is speaking directly to Jeremiah – a prophet – not to humanity writ large.
  • God creates every life, and every life is precious to him: Not according to the Old Testament.  There are a handful of passages that threaten miscarriages and ‘untimely births’ onto populations as holy punishments.  Also, this begs the question of what constitutes life.  There is no passage that says every pregnancy is precious.

Pro-Choice verses:

  • The Bible repeatedly equates breath with life. “God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being,” Genesis 2:7.  That’s just one verse, but there are tons that equate breathing with living.  A fetus does not and cannot breath.  Six times the Bible even uses the specific phrase, the ‘breath of life’.
  • The Bible marks birth as the opposite of death, not conception. “A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth,” Ecclesiastes 7:1.
  • The Bible occasions a child’s birth as a cause for celebration, not conception. “Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world,”  John 16:21.
  • Do your own research! Try searching Bible.com for key words like, birth, born, stillbirth, miscarriage, womb, etc.  You’ll be surprised how much ammunition you find.  Also, The Freedom From Religion Foundation has great posts about what the bible has to say about abortion.

Happy Thumping!

About Kate:
Kate is a public policy expert with a vintage dress obsession.


  1. Closet Atheist says:

    You forgot Exodus 21, the chapter right after ‘The Ten Commandments’. When read in context, it says (in Elizabethan English) that causing the loss of a pregnancy is a property crime and not a crime against a person. By logical inference, there is no crime in destroying your own property, so therefore there is no crime in abortion.

    Then again, we are talking about religion, so logic rarely applies.

  2. freewomyn says:

    Kate, I have always been a little hesitant to engage in debates with people about abortion or homosexuality based on what’s in the Bible. Do you have any suggestions about how to keep the tone of the conversation civilized? I mean, these are great talking points. But how can you have an actual debate and keep the conversation respectful?

  3. A fetus is alive. Thou shall not kill. Can’t argue with that one…
    Don’t try to tell me otherwise. A fetus is a living thing according to SCIENCE. And I beg to differ regarding “breathing” and your lies that a fetus doesn’t breath. They breath in amniotic fluid. They start mimicking breaths at 5 months. I have witnessed this in ultra sound. Fish don’t “breath” but does that make them not alive?
    I know you hate bible thumpers but I think feminists are no better sometimes. I don’t want to start an argument but seriously saying a fetus isn’t alive is nonesense…

  4. “Fish don’t “breath” but does that make them not alive?”

    Does that mean “thou shalt not kill” applies to fishing?

    The fact that something is alive does not mean that killing it is morally wrong, much less something that should be prohibited by law and punished by criminal penalties.

  5. @ Missy. I don’t hate bible-thumpers one bit, i have so many so close both genetically and geographically :-)

    according to SCIENCE, not just fish but brussel sprouts are also alive. what do you eat my dear? chances are thou hast been killing when thou shalt not have been.

    a fetus does not breathe. their lungs contract but they are not breathing – they get all of their oxygen from their mother through the placenta and umbilical cord until birth. plus, this ‘mimicking’ of breath you describe seeing in ultra sound doesn’t begin till around the third trimester, at which point abortions are quite rare, and illegal in most states (with a few exceptions for the health and life of the mother)

    thanks for your comment! sorry you dont agree but take it up with the bible, its right there in black and white

  6. @ Serena really good question. mostly i listen. then i ask one of two genres of questions:

    1) where does it say that in the bible and whats the context? this stumps most in abortion discussions. homosexuality is a little different because the bible is quite explicit. in those i usually ask about other absurd biblical dictums that they obviously dont follow (like sequestering menstruating women) and ask why one verse is truer than the other.


    2) i say okay. sounds biblical to me. but why apply that principle to the general population? cause i’m pretty glad my friend rasheed at the Moroccan deli doesnt come take the pork out of my fridge and make me veil because his holy book says so.

    I find these approaches both civil and very effective

  7. I want to plug the organization Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (http://www.rcrc.org/). They have some great perspectives on there for people of different faiths and opinions about abortion.

  8. As an atheist and feminist, I appreciate your post, especially the fallacies of the normal bible-thumper arguments. But as for freewomyn’s comment about trying to keep a conversation respectful, if the person is throwing out false statements from the Bible, I see no reason to try to keep it respectful. They need to be called out on the fallacies. One of the big reasons that cultural attitudes toward religion do not change is that people avoid debates on religion. That needs to change.

  9. What about Psalm 139?

    For you fashioned my inmost being,
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
    I thank you because I am awesomely made,
    wonderfully; your works are wonders –
    I know this very well.
    My bones were not hidden from you
    when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
    Your eyes could see me as an embryo,
    but in your book all my days were already written…

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