You may wonder why many Evangelicals, especially in the Southern U.S. deny a woman the right to abortion. Most are not aware of any biblical basis but just follow some leader or church dogma. Let’s look at some interesting and ignored passages that pertain to the topic.
Numbers 5 outlines what a man is to do if he is jealous and suspicious of his wife sleeping with another man. He is to take her to a priest to be examined/tested for her purity. The priest writes curses on a scroll and then washes them off with bitter water. The woman is forced to drink this bitter water “that brings a curse, and this water will enter her and cause bitter suffering [v.24 NIV]. If the woman is guilty, the drink will cause her abdomen to swell and her “thigh waste away” [v.25 NIV – or the footnote: “she will have barrenness and a miscarrying womb” – perhaps an ideological choice to only footnote that translation]. She will be accursed among the people.
It’s clear that a fetus has no value. What is of value here? The man! Forget the health/rights of the fetus or the woman! Considering that the man owns the woman, this should not surprise anyone. Let’s look at another scripture for further clarification.
Exodus 21 deals with laws pertaining to rights. “When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child [pregnant], so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no harm follows [to the woman], the one who hurt her [the woman] shall be fined, according as what the woman’s husband shall lay upon him, and he shall pay as the judge determines [v.22 RSV]. The fetus has no value. In this case, the woman does have value. The NIV is the only version that mistranslates the word “miscarriage” – probably for ideological reasons, again. Slaves also have little value as v.20-21 show, but we don’t have room to deal with that presently.
The above reveal the inequality of men, women and fetuses. It was a very patriarchal and authoritarian culture/religion. But this, in no way, excuses or justifies the message. Men had all the power to determine the fate of a woman and a fetus.
Today, men still want to control women’s bodies. Banning abortion doesn’t stop it – it merely makes it more unsafe for the poor who can’t afford to pay a doctor. A large number of women are dying as a result in areas of the U.S. where people have made it very difficult to get the procedure. The rich can always pay for the best medical care so they don’t resort to coat hangers and the like!
If one says the bible is inspired by God, then that includes the verses above. It is “surprising” how some will hold tightly to a verse against homosexuality but then ignore these ones. It’s called PAC Theology: Pick and Chose Theology. Rather than being honest about the faults of their religion/ideology, most will ignore what they want or project their values onto a text.
One solution is to see this, as all “holy texts” as CERTAIN peoples’ version of their reality at the time. Remember it is the power-full who [literally] write history – especially when it was only a few, of a certain background and class that could even write or read! Fortunately, some of us can now, being more “en-lightened” by humanistic values, condemn injustices and authoritarian ideologies/systems.
But if believers claim that the bible is the final authority, then they cannot simply ignore the difficult messages of these texts because they don’t fit into their ideological box.