Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks recently made an argument that the Bible is actually pro-abortion. In “The Bible is Pro-Abortion. Poor Republicans Don’t Know It,” Uygur and co-host Ana Kasparian lament the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, resulting in a conservative majority on the bench.
After Kasparian reported/yelled about pro-life policies passed in West Virginia and Alabama, Uygur warned women to get out of those states before their rights are taken away and put in prison. He said, “If you’re a woman: get out, get out. Before Kavanaugh and those other guys take away Roe vs. Wade; otherwise, they’re going to take away your rights and they’re going to imprison you because of their religion.”
Uygur warned viewers that they have been lied to and mislead about the Bible. “Your religious and political leaders have kept you in ignorance.” Uygur declared, “The Bible is actually pro-abortion. That’s a fact.” Is it?
Is the Bible Pro-Abortion?
The Young Turks host referenced Numbers 5:11-31 as the “pro-abortion” section of Scripture. This passage is from Israel’s case law and is concerning a jealous husband who suspects his wife of infidelity.
This section provides instructions which are intended to either vindicate the woman’s innocence or expose her sin. Uygur referenced verse 20-22, “But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband” — here the priest is to put the woman under this curse — “may the Lord cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”
His interpretation of this passage is that the last statement is a depiction of abortion. He posits that the jealous husband is giving his wife an abortifacient, toxic potion which induces the miscarriage. Uygur alleged that this is “as clear as day” and viewers should go read for themselves. So, I did. Cenk’s Bible study has a few problems. (Putting it mildly.)
First, the NIV is one of the only versions to translate the Hebrew text as indicating a miscarriage. The New Jewish Publication Society version translated the Hebrew as “causing the belly to distend and the thigh to sag.” The New American Standard translated it as “make your abdomen swell and your thigh waste away.” References to the “thigh” are a euphemism for the adulteress’s womb and indicates that she will become barren. The text gives no hint that there is a baby in the womb which is being aborted.
Second, the bitter water which the woman would drink is not a toxic potion, as Uygur believed. As a part of the ceremony, the priest would take dust from the floor of the sanctuary and mix it in water. Under oath, the woman would declare her innocence and drink the water. R. Dennis Cole, in The New American Commentary, explained that the bitter water drink “carried no deleterious effect.”
The ceremony depended upon a divine intervention to confirm the husband’s suspicions or prove the woman’s innocence. Justice for the alleged affair was removed from any human party and was resigned to God’s authority. The dust from the floor of the sanctuary, perceived as ritually pure, was the authoritative symbol of this reality. The bitter water would enter the woman’s womb, as it were, and bring either blessing or curse.
Protecting the Vulnerable
Far from being a “pro-abortion” passage, Numbers 5:11-31 is intended to protect a vulnerable woman from a jealous husband. Levitical law prescribed capital punishment for both members of an adulterous affair (Leviticus 20:10). In the case of Numbers 5, the husband has no evidence of an affair. The bitter water prevents an enraged, jealous husband from unjustly having his wife executed by removing jurisdiction from men and giving it to God.
Uygur chose an Old Testament passage having nothing to do with the issue of abortion to defend a pro-choice position. That’s evident by simple research. However, his argument that the Bible is pro-abortion has more problems.
What Does the Bible Say About Life?
Uygur’s Bible study disastrously chose the wrong passage for his argument. Moreover, he conveniently skipped over a few other pertinent passages of Scripture. For example, there is a fairly famous list in the Old Testament called the Ten Commandments. Number six is “Do not murder” (Exodus 20:13, CSB).
The Young Turks hosts reject that a fetus is a human being and therefore sacred. What does the Bible say about the life of the unborn? Psalm 139:13-16 says,
For it was you who created my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise you
because I have been remarkably and wondrously made.
Your works are wondrous,
and I know this very well.
My bones were not hidden from you
when I was made in secret,
when I was formed in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me when I was formless;
all my days were written in your book and planned
before a single one of them began.
At the prophet Jeremiah’s calling, God told him, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5, NIV). These verses make no sense in a worldview which distinguishes between a fetus and a person. The Bible views the unborn child as a person.
Once more, Mosaic law reveals the biblical position on the personhood of the unborn. In a section on laws regarding personal injury, there are rules for the case of two men fighting and accidentally striking a pregnant woman. If the woman prematurely gives birth and the children are unharmed, then the guilty man will be fined. However, there were severe consequences for injuring the life of the mother or unborn children. “If there is an injury, then you must give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, bruise for bruise, wound for wound” (Exodus 21:23-25, CSB).
These verses initiate the category of biblical laws known as lex talionis, or Talion law. These are laws using the language of “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” The significance of these laws is that they prescribe justice which is commensurate with the injury committed. Talion laws ensured that appropriate justice was carried out in response to serious injuries and death. For the law to introduce lex talionis in the context of injury to a pregnant woman, we ought to pause and consider the significance. Harming the life of a pregnant woman or her unborn children is a serious offense.
Uygur claimed that conservative leaders are lying to pro-life people about the Bible in an attempt to control women. He begged viewers to read the Bible. I wish he would take his own advice.
Uygur thinks that the Bible is pro-abortion. He strongly exclaimed, “I didn’t say it. I didn’t say it. Your God said it!” Actually, Cenk, no. You said it. The Bible is not pro-abortion.