Abortion up to the day of birth does grate a little on me. But then, Ancient Rome allowed it for up to three years after birth. So my distaste for the notion is cultural rather than objective. It helps to be aware of stuff like that. Did you know that the Bible even includes instructions for a chemically induced abotion (Numbers 5:11-31) for women suspected of infidelity? Fascinating!
People love throwing around the word “science” as though that can provide some kind of moral guidance. Yes, the cells making up an embrio or zygot are a unique combination of their parents’ genes and therefore can be defined as a unique and individual human who is going to die some time in the next 100 or so years regardless of what laws we pass. Genetic science can show that conception results in a new and unique human set of DNA. It can also show that the majority of fertilised eggs are naturally passed from the body and die, and of those that do manage to attach the the ureteral wall, well over half self abort within a few weeks under natural conditions.
The question really isn’t “Is this life human?”, as it clearly is. The real question is who gets to decide whether this individual human life should continue? Is it the parents or is it the government?
4 thoughts on “Abortion”
I appreciate the conclusion of your article and the important question you raise, however, blithely characterising Numbers 5:11-31 as “instructions for a chemically induced abortion” is incorrect. The predicted judgment for infidelity in this passage was for permanent infertility not abortion. As the method used was meant to have absolutely no effect on the innocent, it’s quite wrong to regard this as sanctioning – far less providing a recipe for – abortion The Talmud is more explicit in instructing that there is to be no vitriol added to the mixture so the innocent will remain unharmed. The main intent for this seems to be putting a stop to jealous shenanigans of husbands who refuse to believe their wives’ assurances of fidelity – interestingly, there is no recorded instance of a woman suffering from this judgment in scripture.
Given that the floor of the tabernacle would frequently run red with the blood of animals which would then be trodden into the dust by feet and hooves, I can’t imagine that having a pregnant woman drink dirt off the floor would pass the Pregnancy Nutrition test. I distinctly recall my pregnant friend saying she couldn’t eat unpasteurized dairy foods, seafood, and anything that has touched the floor of an abattoir. I will concede that there is nothing specifically in the text that states the purpose of this “test” was to induce miscarriage, but if there were any record in the Bible of it actually being used I have a pretty good idea of the likely result.
Looks like you’re thinking of the (inner) courtyard – no animals would enter or be sacrificed in the tabernacle itself and the only blood to be taken in there would be in a small bowl to be applied on the interior furniture and implements once a year.
While I don’t see a great difference between the dirt off the floor where animals were slaughtered and dirt off the floor where people could only access after walking through the blood and scattered entrails, I’ll leave that point as it isn’t sufficient as a foundation.
The symptoms of a guilty verdict appear to be pelvic prolapse (stomach swells and the groin drops and wastes away). This condition is common in pregnancy but is not exclusively caused by it, so it isn’t an absolute that the woman must be pregnant but does seem likely. The fact that a husband suspects infidelity but has no proof would support the possibility of a pregnancy, since most other evidences of infidelity provide a degree of certainty or at the very least a male suspect. This interpretation doesn’t actually do anything to support my initial interpretation as pelvic prolapse is rarely a fatal condition for the foetus (particularly when compared to a woman being stoned to death if found guilty of infidelity while pregnant).
Would you be willing to provide a link to the section of the Talmud which refers to not adding vitriol? I’ve found others referencing it but I haven’t been able to find this verse in an original translation.