To start off, let me say that I have always had a pro-life attitude. Several miscarriages early in my marriage I found quite devastating. Even today, thirty something years later, I sometimes wonder what type of characters they might have been, had they made it through. As a pro-lifer, I have never consciously sought to confirm my stance in the scriptures, virtually assuming that God felt as I did. Here, now, I am finally ready to search out God's perspective.

Placing responsibility for spontaneous abortion in God's in-tray, the purpose here is to determine how God feels about Man's destruction of potential human beings. More specifically, to answer the question:


"At what point does a fertilised ovum (zygote) receive a soul?"

It seems fairly obvious to me to that induced abortion, at any time after the infusion of foetal cells with a soul, would have to rate as murder.

I appreciate that many women who have had clinical abortions possibly do not believe in the existence of a soul, while others don't believe that the soul is an immaterial substance that out-lives the body.  Others still may not even have given it a thought, overwhelmed by the stressful circumstances of an unwanted pregnancy. But the arguments here are based on the presumption that the soul is the essence of our being and survives physical death. (Refer to my essay "Body,Soul and Spirit").  It therefore makes sense that anything done deliberately to prevent that soul from reaching maturity, (and then salvation), would have to be classed as murder.  

And there is another view to be considered.  If anything, non-existence of a soul separate from the body would strengthen the pro-life argument.  If someone doesnot believe in the existence of a soul separate from the body, then deliberate abortion of life at any stage of development would surely have to rate as murder.

The Bible actually does not have much to tell us about this issue (clinical abortion). A probable explanation for this may be that in Biblical times the bearing of children and "being fruitful and multiplying" was considered to be a much treasured thing. The thought of deliberately aborting a pregnancy probably never crossed any woman's mind.  Babies were lost in violent acts by others, but every woman's dream was to bear as many offspring as possible. Barrenness was regarded as a reproach; fertility a blessing.  Barren women would give their husbands their maid servants, to have children on their behalf.  Clinical abortion appears to be a relatively modern innovation, brought on by the revision of the Biblical value system to accommodate the modern trend of making 'ME' the centre of the universe.

The closest I came to finding a reference which gave some insight actually was a confusing surprise to me initially, especially as I usually read the New American Version:


"And if men struggle with each other, and strike a woman with child, so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no further injury, he shall be surely fined, as the woman’s husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide.  But if any harm follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." (Exodus 21:22  NAV)

My confusion came from the word 'miscarriage' which I immediately took to imply a dead baby. It seemed to say that if 'only' the baby had died, a fine was payable, but if (say) the mother died as well, a life for a life rule applied. However, the NIV and NKJ both translate it more accurately as 'give birth prematurely', which is more in line with the original Hebrew which basically refers to 'children coming out'.  So, my first impression, that God wasn't as concerned about the death of the child as He might have been, has been repudiated. The passage obviously refers to an accident, albeit the result of violent conflict between two or more parties, where an innocent bystander is hurt, causing her to give birth prematurely. If the baby died, the life for life rule applied. However, if the baby survived unharmed, the father could still demand whatever compensation the judges agreed to.

Whether this type of conflict between men, (with pregnant women standing around to watch), was a common occurrence in those days, I don't know. There had to be some good reason why God put the rule in.  There are some other weird rules in Exodus, covering circumstances which seem quite outside the norm in these times. Verses 20-21 refer to a man being punished for beating his slave to death, but escaping punishment if that death takes 'a day or two'. We can only speculate as to why these rules are in there.  What is important here is that in God's eyes the life of an unborn baby is worth the same as the life of a quarrelsome adult male.


There is no doubt the Bible, and therefore God Himself, places great value on human life.  It is the divinely created medium for initiating a deep and meaningful relationship with our Creator and the only opportunity for establishing an eternal one.

Psalm 139 says it beautifully:


"For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb.  I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvellous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well." (verses 13-14, NKJ)

There is no doubt in my mind that the 'miracle' of birth is indeed a miracle of divine origin.  Each individual conception is a precious part of His universal design.


When a female ovum is released and fertilised by a male sperm, the 23 chromosomes contained by each merge, forming a new and totally unique DNA core of instructions, 46 chromosomes in length, specifying how to create a new and unique individual. This 'zygote' also contains an incredible array of life supporting structures, mechanisms and systems (primarily provided by the mother's ovum), loudly proclaiming: "design, and hence Designer". DNA testing can now determine who the father and mother are, with a certainty of odds greater than there are people on this planet. That means there is no one in this world who will be quite like this person, if he or she makes it out of the womb.

But does that mean that the fertilised egg, which has not yet even divided into two cells and has no way of feeling pain or experiencing thought, already has a soul?  Wouldn't it be good if we could just go straight to a Bible verse that says it does?  Unfortunately there isn't.

There are so many arguments going on in this area at the moment. Foetal stem cell research versus adult stem cell research. Both areas are promising a whole new approach to medicine, with breakthrough cures for paraplegia, MS, Parkinson's disease, you name it.  Both of these areas of research hold the potential for both incredibly good and incredibly evil outcomes.  It is almost like the garden of Eden all over again, mankind being tempted to not place his trust in God. The 'good' centres on the relief of suffering, providing quality of life for the less fortunate among us. The 'evil' centres on the tampering with God's creation, trying to improve it without the wisdom to discern the long-term implications. Whatever, the arguments are, for or against, and whatever legislation is passed to control the research, I have no doubt that someone, somewhere, will take a bite of forbidden fruit.

Please don't take this to mean that I am opposed to finding medical cures for a multitude of diseases. I am not.  And I believe God gave Man dominion over His creation (Genesis 1:28), opening the way for exploring it as far as it is technically feasible.  However, sometimes a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. And there are always those intent on exploiting any given circumstance for personal gain.  We must indeed tread warily.

After the ovum has been fertilised it divides first into two identical cells, then into four, eight, sixteen, and so on. At this stage each of those cells is known as a 'pluri-potent' stem cell, which I guess means it is as stemmy a stem cell as you are ever likely to come across.  Each cell has the potential to become any cell of the body, from a skin cell to a heart cell to a brain cell to a nerve cell to a more specialised stem cell (apparently not a red blood cell, as red blood cells contain no DNA).  At this stage, I understand, these cells could be injected into any individual and not be rejected. Upon injection, this cell will not multiply to generate a new human being. Instead, the theory goes, the cells will specialise, multiply and generate the types of cells required to heal the patient (eg, nerve cells for a paraplegic or brain cells for a Parkinson's sufferer). 

However, at some time during early stage cell division, each cell somehow acquires or grows a unique protein coating, permanently marking it as belonging exclusively to the individual human being growing inside its mother. If one of these cells werethen to be injected into another human being, it would be rejected, unless, by sheer chance or calculated intent, it was "tissue type compatible".

With adult stem cell research, the challenge is to turn a person's own existing specialised stem cells back into a more primitive version, where they could become the type of cell needed to treat that particular patient.  There would never be a problem with rejection, as the cell would have the same protein coating and even the same genetic core. This area of research overcomes many of the ethical objections plaguing foetal stem cell research.

Research has already proven that very early separation of pluri-potent stem cells can produce a number of viable individual foetuses.  The very existence of identical twins proved this much earlier, well before we understood what was involved in genetic terms. If a fertilised ovum can split into two potential human beings, this would seem to indicate that the equipping of an individual with a soul occurs not at conception, but some time later. However, when that 'later' is, remains a matter of speculation. And appearances do not necessarily constitute proof. Who knows? Maybe God assigns a new soul each time foetal stem cells are separated, whether that separation occurs by some unknown mechanism in the mother's womb or by man's interference in the lab. The truth is we just don't know, and currently there is no way of finding out.  The movie '21 grams' claimed that the weight of the soul could actually be measured.  Maybe one day we will know more.


How do Christians know they have a soul? Because they believe the word of the God who died on a cross to save that soul.

Whether deliberate abortion of a viable foetus constitutes murder hinges on when God assigns a soul to inhabit the growing tissue.  At some stage Man decided 26 weeks was the acceptable cut-off point.  From breakthroughs in imaging techniques in recent times, I believe it has to be much earlier than that. Irrespective, the current legislation that does not recognise a baby as a person until it has been born is a farce.

For women contemplating an abortion, reasoning they are simply making a decision about their own body, I advise extreme caution.  Many women have found it very hard to live with their decisions to abort.  I know we are sometimes confronted by incredibly difficult circumstances if a pregnancy occurs.  But how difficult are the circumstances that lead to murder of (say) a husband?  Life is a precious commodity at any stage of development. And clinical abortion appears to be a relatively modern concept, introduced only as people became increasingly self-indulgent.

There appears to exist circumstantial evidence to argue a soul is not assigned immediately upon conception. But proving it is another thing altogether.


There is no way to prove when a soul is assigned to a fertilised and growing clump of foetal cells. In these circumstances, it will remain my considered stance that I'd rather be safe than sorry. I would not want the scar left by the killing, carved on my conscience for the rest of my life.  However, that does not mean I have no empathy for the twelve year old girl, pregnant as a result of rape.  Somewhere in all the confusion, God's mercy and grace still rules supreme.

And I am not here to put women who have had an abortion on a soul destroying guilt trip.  Check out my essay on 'Forgiveness', where I make a case for only one unforgivable sin.

In addition, I believe with all my heart that, in God's view, whilst we are all born in sin, the condemnation incurred by sin only becomes operative upon conscious recognition (John 9:39-41 and John 15:22-24). On that basis, I am more than confident that the soul of any aborted baby would return straight into the Father's loving arms.

What don’t we like about God?  When His standards make our life difficult, we argue that somehow there ought to be a loophole, giving us a way out.  We don’t like it when He puts these standards in our face.  We don’t like the complications of considering others in what is already a traumatic situation.  Our first thought is, “What about ME?”