(I've updated this twice since I first posted it. I apologize, but I want to interleave my points together rather than just leave them in the comments.)
Dale Franks comments on the abortion discussion Xrlq and I have been having, and adds that from his persective the Bible doesn't treat abortion like murder. He quotes the only real mention of human-induced miscarriage in the Bible:
Exodus 21:22-25It's clear from the context that causing the death of an unborn child wasn't punished the same way that causing the death of the woman was, but it's also clear that the miscarriage in this example is accidental. The interpretation of the Amplified Bible (the version quoted above, selected by Mr. Franks) also indicates that the woman was interfering with the fight; the phrasing in other translations I looked at doesn't give me that impression, so I'm not sure how accurate/important it is. Whether the woman was supposed to be interfering or not, this example is pretty far afield from the circumstances of abortion, in which a mother purposefully kills her own child.
22. If men contend with each other, and a pregnant woman [interfering] is hurt so that she has a miscarriage, yet no further damage follows, [the one who hurt her] shall surely be punished with a fine [paid] to the woman's husband, as much as the judges determine.
23. But if any damage follows, then you shall give life for life,
24. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
25. Burn for burn, wound for wound, and lash for lash.
Why is the punishment different for killing the baby versus killing the mother? Mr. Franks says that this proves that abortion isn't murder, but there are several other possiblities.
1. Perhaps the fighters were assumed to be ignorant of the pregnancy.
2. Perhaps the woman was assumed to bear some responsibility for risking her baby by interfering in the fight.
3. Perhaps the distinction was made for the same reasons Moses allowed divorce. Jesus made it clear later that God doesn't like divorce, but that Moses permitted it because the people's hearts were hard.
4. The Old Testament also treats the deaths of slaves more lightly than the deaths of free men. A few verses above the passage under discussion:
12 "Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death." ...Yet it wouldn't make sense to argue based on these laws that God values the lives of slaves less than the lives of free men.
20 "If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, 21 but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property."
Is the child referred to here a real human being? The literal phrase translated here "has a miscarriage" is yaled yatsa' -- "so that her fruit depart [from her]". The definitions for yaled make it clear that the "fruit" is a child, and the word is elsewhere used to refer equivalently to children outside the womb.
I see Mr. Franks' point, but I don't think this excerpt from Exodus sheds a lot of light on the issue of abortion. After all, the second law in the section instructs that anyone who strikes his father or mother should be put to death. Old Testament laws are valuable for discerning the mind of God on various issues -- so I'm not entirely discounting this passage -- but most of the implementation details of these laws were specific to the Hebrew nation at the time and don't necessarily carry over to modern times (such as laws regarding holy days and sacrifices, &c.).
Here's an exhaustive argument for the Biblical acceptability of abortion, by Brian Elroy McKinley. Although it's not at all convincing to me (obviously), it's still an interesting read and goes over a lot of applicable Biblical passages. The gist of Mr. McElroy's position is that the many instances in the Bible where unborn children are specifically dealt with by God are mere special cases that don't reveal any broader principles of how God works with humanity. He gives no particular justification for this view, and it's unconvincing because every interaction between God and man recorded in the Bible is a special case of some sort. Using Mr. McKinley's logic we couldn't make any generalizations from the Bible at all, and it would be almost entirely useless.
There are a many passages similar to this one that Mr. McKinley refers to:
Psalm 139:13-16Mr. McKinley admits that, "... this passage does make the point that God was involved in the creation of this particular human being...", but apparently believes that David, when writing this worship song for all of Israel, was intending to make a point about his own special relationship with God. It seems pretty obvious to me that God extends the same special loving care towards every person he creates (even those who later reject him).
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
He also argues that abortion is justified because Job and Solomon wrote (in fits of emotion) that it would have been better not to have been born.
Job 3:2-4, 11-19Mr. McKinley also quotes from portions of Ecclesiastes where Solomon decries the vanity of life. These passages, however, are clearly not intended as instructions or examples of Godly living. There are many instances in the Bible where people say or do things that are not intended to serve as examples, but are instead simply accounts of what happened -- in this case, emotional trauma (such as Job, after the death of his children) and despair (such as Solomon, who was very far from God near the end of his life and was finally realizing the futility of depending on earthly pleasures for real happiness).
He said: "Cursed be the day of my birth, and cursed be the night when I was conceived. Let that day be turned to darkness. Let it be lost even to God on high, and let it be shrouded in darkness.
"Why didn't I die at birth as I came from the womb? Why did my mother let me live? Why did she nurse me at her breasts? For if I had died at birth, I would be at peace now, asleep and at rest. I would rest with the world's kings and prime ministers, famous for their great construction projects. I would rest with wealthy princes whose palaces were filled with gold and silver. Why was I not buried like a stillborn child, like a baby who never lives to see the light? For in death the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest. Even prisoners are at ease in death, with no guards to curse them. Rich and poor are there alike, and the slave is free from his master.
As far as I'm aware, the Bible doesn't make a linguistic distinction between born and unborn children. Consider the word usage in this passage from Genesis:
Genesis 25:21-23The unborn children, Jacob and Esau, are portrayed here engaging in acts of spiritual and historical significance, even if only symbolically. According to Strong's Condordance, the Hebrew word translated "babies" is ben, and you can see from the definitions given that it's always used to refer to human beings, and generally to those who have already been born.
21 Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, "Why is this happening to me?" So she went to inquire of the LORD .
23 The LORD said to her,
"Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger."
There's a lot more that can be written on this topic, but I think it's generally pretty clear that the Bible does not condone abortion, and that the principles consistently revealed in the Bible do, in fact, condemn abortion. No linguistic distinction is made between children ex utero and children in utero. (Although I'm not an expert on Hebrew and I'd welcome further information on the matter.)
The developmental process of a child in the womb wasn't even vaguely comprehended until a couple of decades ago, and we're still learning a lot. As we learn more, the wonder of God's creation becomes evident, as does the humanity of the unborn.
As Allen Glosson points out in the comments, the NASB translation of Exodus 21:22 says:
If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman's husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide.The Hebrew phrasing doesn't necessarily make it clear that the prematurely born baby in this scenario even dies. AG further links to an article which dissects the frequent misuse of the Exodus passage by pro-abortionists.