What does the Bible say about life beginning at conception?
Have you heard any of these statements recently?
- “It’s not a baby – it’s just a clump of cells!”
- “It’s not alive until it takes its first breath.”
Oh really? What does God have to say about the matter? What does science say? How about medical professionals like geneticists, embryologists, and obstetricians? Let’s check it out!
Christian quotes about life beginning at conception
“If we are truly committed to social justice, creating an environment where people are treated equally and given equal rights, then that has to include the unborn.” — Charlotte Pence
“Psalm 139:13-16 paints a vivid picture of God’s intimate involvement with a preborn person. God created David’s “inward parts” not at birth, but before birth. David says to his Creator, “You knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (v. 13). Each person, regardless of his parentage or handicap, has not been manufactured on a cosmic assembly line, but personally formed by God. All the days of his life are planned out by God before any come to be (v. 16).” Randy Alcorn
“The fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being and it is a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light.” John Calvin
“It is no more reasonable to destroy a child by abortion because it could not live if suddenly delivered than to drown a non-swimmer in a bathtub because he could not live if thrown into the middle of the ocean.” Harold Brown
“I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born.” President Ronald Reagan
Does the Bible teach that life begins at first breath?
Absolutely, categorically not! The pro-abortion crowd has tried to justify abortion based on absurd hermeneutics of Genesis 2:7:
“Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.”
The pro-abortionists say that because Adam became a living being after God breathed into his nostrils, that life doesn’t begin until after birth when the newborn takes its first breath.
Well, what was Adam’s state before God breathed into his nostrils? He was dust! He was inanimate. He wasn’t doing or thinking or feeling anything.
So, what is a fetus’s state before passing through the birth canal and breathing for the first time? The child has a beating heart and blood flowing through its veins. He or she has arms, legs, fingers, and toes kicking and moving about. Some babies even suck their thumbs in utero. The preborn baby has a fully-functioning brain and can hear and feel pain. He or she is clearly alive.
Let’s consider tadpoles and frogs for a moment. Is a tadpole a living creature? Of course! How does it breathe? Through gills, something like a fish. What happens when it develops into a frog? It breathes through its lungs and also through its skin and mouth lining – how cool is that? The point is that the tadpole is just as alive as the frog; it just has an alternative method of getting oxygen.
In the same way, the developing person inside the womb has a separate way of getting oxygen: through the blood vessels in the umbilical cord. Changing the child’s oxygen-acquisition function in no way suddenly makes it human.
1. Jeremiah 1:5 (NIV) “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.”
2. Psalm 139:15 “My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”
3. Psalm 139:16 (NASB) “Your eyes have seen my formless substance; And in Your book were written All the days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.”
4. Isaiah 49:1 “Listen to Me, O islands; pay attention, O distant peoples: The LORD called Me from the womb; from the body of My mother He named Me.”
Does the Bible teach that life begins at conception?
Oh yes! Let’s review some key passages of God’s Word:
- “For You created my innermost parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, because I am awesomely and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret, and skillfully formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes have seen my formless substance, and in Your book were written all the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts for me, God!” (Psalm 139:13-17)
- God appointed Jeremiah as a prophet from conception: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
- Isaiah also received his calling pre-birth: “The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.” (Isaiah 49:1)
- The Apostle Paul likewise said God called him before he was born and set him apart by His grace. (Galatians 1:15)
- The Angel Gabriel told Zechariah that his son John (the Baptist) would be filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb. (Luke 1:15)
- (Luke 1:35-45) When Mary had just conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit, she visited her relative Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant with John the Baptist. When the six-month-old fetus heard Mary’s greeting, he prophetically recognized the Christ-child in her and leaped for joy. Here, both the embryo of Jesus (who Elizabeth called “my Lord”) and fetus of John (who was already prophesying) were clearly alive.
- In verse 21, Elizabeth referred to John as her “baby” (brephos); this word is used interchangeably to mean an unborn or a newborn child, an infant, babe, or child in arms. God didn’t differentiate between preborn and post-born babies.
5. Psalm 139:13-17 (NKJV) “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. 17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!”
6. Galatians 1:15 “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace.”
9. Isaiah 44:24 (ESV) “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself.”
10. Matthew 1:20-21 “But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
11. Exodus 21:22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows.
12. Luke 2:12 (KJV) “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
13. Job 31:15 (NLT) “For God created both me and my servants. He created us both in the womb.”
14. Luke 1:15 “for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.”
When does life begin scientifically?
Scientifically, when a sperm unites with an ovum (egg), the fertilized ovum is called a zygote and carries two sets of chromosomes. Although only one cell (for the first few hours), he or she is a genetically unique living human being.
- Nobel Prize winner Dr. Jerome LeJeune, Professor of Genetics and discoverer of the chromosome pattern of Down’s Syndrome, said: “After fertilization has taken place, a new human being has come into being.”[i]
- Dr. Jason T. Eberl stated in Bioethics, “As far as human ‘life’ per se, it is, for the most part, uncontroversial among the scientific and philosophical community that life begins at the moment when the genetic information contained in the sperm and ovum combine to form a genetically unique cell.”[ii]
- “95% of all [surveyed] biologists affirmed the biological view that a human’s life begins at fertilization (5212 out of 5502).”[iii]
- “At the moment the sperm cell of the human male meets the ovum of the female and the union results in a fertilized ovum (zygote), a new life has begun.”[iv]
- “Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote).”[v]
- “This new human being, the single-cell human zygote, is biologically an individual, a living organism, an individual member of the human species. . . Abortion is the destruction of a human being . . . ‘personhood’ begins when the human being begins at fertilization.”[vi]
When does life begin medically?
Let’s check out the definition of “life” (in a medical sense) from the Miriam-Webster Dictionary: “an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, and reproduction.”
A one-cell zygote has a stunning metabolism; he or she is growing and reproducing cells.
For obstetricians and most medical professionals, there’s no question that the embryo or fetus is alive and distinct from the mother; they treat them as two patients.
The American College of Pediatricians says:
“The predominance of human biological research confirms that human life begins at conception—fertilization. At fertilization, the human being emerges as a whole, genetically distinct, individuated zygotic living human organism. The difference between the individual in its adult stage and in its zygotic stage is one of form, not nature.
. . . It is clear that from the time of cell fusion, the embryo consists of elements (from both maternal and paternal origin) which function interdependently in a coordinated manner to carry on the function of the development of the human organism. From this definition, the single-celled embryo is not just a cell, but an organism, a living being, a human being.”[vii]
Dr. C. Ward Kischer, Professor Emeritus of Human Embryology at the University of Arizona School of Medicine, says, “Every human embryologist, worldwide, states that the life of the new individual human being begins at fertilization (conception).”[viii]
Ultrasound technology has developed exponentially since its introduction to the medical field in 1956. Now, medical professionals can see the developing embryo as early as eight days after conception. Decades ago, the growing preborn baby only could be seen on 2D ultrasound with a black and white thermal image. Usually, the parents had to wait until the baby was about twenty weeks along.
Today, transvaginal ultrasounds can be performed as early as six weeks after conception or even earlier in certain medical situations. Pro-abortionists love to say the developing child is “nothing but a glob of cells,” but these early ultrasounds show exactly the opposite. The six-week embryo is clearly a baby, with a developed head, ears and eyes forming, arms and legs with developing hands and feet. A week later, the developing fingers and toes can be observed. With advanced 3D and 4D ultrasounds now available, the image looks more like a regular photograph or video. Many women contemplating an abortion change their minds after seeing their baby is not a glob of cells but a developing child.
The process of life
Seven life processes distinguish animal life from inanimate existence (like a rock) or non-animal life (like a tree). These seven life processes are growth, nutrition, movement, sensitivity, excretion, reproduction, and respiration.
Growth happens instantly after conception. Chromosomes from both parents combine to decide the baby’s gender, and hair and eye color. As the zygote travels down the fallopian tube, that first cell divides until by the time he or she implants in the uterus, there are about 300 cells, which will develop into all the body’s organs.
Nutrition happens almost immediately as the embryo absorbs nutrients from the mother’s endometrium by the third to fifth day. On day eight or nine, the embryo implants and receives nutrition from the yolk sac until the placenta develops around week ten.
Baby’s first movement is its beating heart about three weeks after conception, which moves blood through the baby’s body. Parents can see their baby’s torso movement at eight weeks and arms and legs moving about a week later.
The baby’s sense of touch is displayed eight weeks after conception, especially touch of the lips and nose. Preborn babies can hear, feel pain, see, taste, and smell!
The preborn baby begins urinating at week eleven after conception. A baby begins to form meconium (earliest form of poop) in his or her digestive tract around week twelve after conception, preparing for excretion. About twenty percent of babies will poop this meconium before birth.
The entire reproductive system begins forming four weeks after conception. By twelve weeks, the sexual organs are distinctive between a boy and girl, and at twenty weeks, the baby boy’s penis and baby girl’s vagina are formed. A baby girl is born with all the eggs (ova) she will have.
The unborn baby’s lungs are forming, and breathing movements begin at week ten, as baby’s lungs move amnionic fluid in and out of the lungs. However, the baby gets its oxygen from the mother’s placenta. By week twenty-eight, the baby’s lungs have developed enough that most babies survive outside the womb in the event of a premature birth.
Clearly, all the processes of life are evident in the preborn child. He or she is not an inanimate being or a “clump of cells.” The preborn child is every bit as alive before birth as after.
Are the unborn less valuable?
Sometimes folks misinterpret Exodus 21:22-23 to suggest an unborn baby’s life is less valuable. Let’s read it first:
“Now if people struggle with each other and strike a pregnant woman so that she gives birth prematurely, but there is no injury, the guilty person shall certainly be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life.”
A couple of translations use the word “miscarriage” instead of “premature birth,” and pro-abortionists run with that, saying causing a miscarriage only got a fine, not death. They then insist that since God didn’t require the death sentence for someone causing a miscarriage, that fetal life wasn’t as important as post-birth life.
But the problem is faulty translation; most translations say, “premature birth.” The literal Hebrew says, yalad yatsa (the child comes out). The Hebrew yatsa is always used for live births (Genesis 25:25-26, 38:28-30).
If God was referring to a miscarriage, the Hebrew language had two words for that: shakal (Exodus 23:26, Hosea 9:14) and nephel (Job 3:16, Psalm 58:8, Ecclesiastes 6:3).
Notice the Bible uses the word yalad (child) for the premature birth. The Bible clearly considers the fetus a child, a living person. And also, notice that the person was fined for the trauma the premature birth caused mother and child and if further injury occurred, the person was severely punished – by death if either mother or child died.
15. Genesis 25:22 (ESV) “The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.”
16. Exodus 21:22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows.”
17. Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
18. Romans 2:11 “For God shows no partiality.”
God has a purpose for every child in the womb
The Bible says that God called Jeremiah, Isaiah, John the Baptist, and Paul while they were in their mothers’ wombs. Psalm 139:16 says, “In Your book were written all the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.”
God knows unborn children intimately and personally as He watches over them in the womb. When a woman is knitting something, she has a plan and a purpose for what it will be: a scarf, a sweater, an afghan. Would God knit a child together in the womb and not have a plan for him or her? God created all babies with a unique purpose: a plan for their life.
19. Matthew 1:20 (NIV) “But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
21. Acts 17:26-27 “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”
22. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
23. Ephesians 1:11 (NKJV) “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.”
24. Job 42:2 (KJV) “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.”
25. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
26. Proverbs 23:18 “Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”
27. Psalm 138:8 “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.”
My Body, My Choice?
The child growing inside a pregnant mother is a separate body. He or she is in her but isn’t her. If you’re sitting inside your house right now, are you the house? Of course not! The mother’s body temporarily houses and nurtures the baby, but two lives are involved. The baby has a different DNA, he or she has a separate heartbeat and body system, and 50% of the time a different gender.
The time for a woman to make a choice is before conception. She has the choice to enter into marriage before having sex, so even an unexpected pregnancy isn’t a crisis. She has the choice to practice responsible birth control. She has the choice to give her child up for adoption if she is not able to provide for a child. But she doesn’t have the choice to end another person’s life.
28. Ezekiel 18:4 “For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son—both alike belong to me.”
29. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
30. Matthew 19:14 (ESV) “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
31. Job 10:8-12 “Your hands fashioned and made me altogether, Yet would You destroy me? 9 Remember that You have made me as clay; Yet would You turn me into dust again? 10 Did You not pour me out like milk, And curdle me like cheese, 11 Clothe me with skin and flesh, And intertwine me with bones and tendons? 12 You have granted me life and goodness; And Your care has guarded my spirit.”
The Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice debate
The “Pro-Choice” crowd argues that a woman should have power over her own body: she should not be forced to give birth to a baby she isn’t able to care for or doesn’t want. They say the preborn baby is “just a clump of cells” or has no feelings and is completely dependent on the mother. They say that Pro-Life supporters are only “pro-birth” and don’t care about the mother or child once he or she is born. They point out all the children in foster care, and all the poverty, implying that its all because mothers needed to have abortions.
Abortions have been legal in the U.S. since 1973, but it has done nothing to end poverty or the number of children in foster care. The vast majority of foster parents are pro-life Christians and the vast majority of people adopting from the foster care system are pro-life Christians, so yes! Pro-lifers do care about babies after they’re born. Pro-life centers offer ultrasounds, STD testing, prenatal counseling, maternity and baby clothing, diapers, formula, parenting classes, life-skill classes, and much more.
By contrast, Planned Parenthood provides nothing for mothers who choose to keep their babies. The Pro-Choice crowd abandons mothers who choose to let their babies live. They only care about killing babies, not caring for them or their mothers who choose life. They threaten to kill Supreme Court justices and bomb Pro-Life centers helping mothers in crisis. The Pro-choice group is a demonic culture of death.
33. Proverbs 24:11 (NKJV) “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.”
34. John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Can Christians be pro-choice?
Some people who identify as Christians are pro-choice but don’t know their Bibles very well or choose not to obey it. They are listening to the strident voices of sinful society more than they are listening to God. They may be misinformed on the facts surrounding abortion and be buying into the common mantra that a developing preborn baby is nothing more than a “clump of cells” and not really alive.
35. James 4:4 “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
36. Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
37. 1 John 2:15 “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the Father’s love is not in him.”
39. 1 John 5:19 (HCSB) “We know that we are of God, and the whole world is under the sway of the evil one.”
Why should we value life?
Any society that doesn’t value life will fall because violence and murder will prevail. God values life and tells us to. All human life, no matter how small, has intrinsic value because all people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
40. Proverbs 24:11 “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter”
41. Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
42. Psalm 100:3 “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”
43. Genesis 25:23 “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.”
44. Psalm 127:3 “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.”
Is abortion murder?
Murder is the deliberate killing of another human being. Abortion is the premeditated, deliberate killing of a living human being. So yes, abortion is murder.
45. Deuteronomy 5:17 “You shall not murder.”
46. Exodus 20:13 “You shall not murder.”
47. Isaiah 1:21 (ESV) “How the faithful city has become a whore, she who was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers.”
48. Matthew 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to the ancients, ‘Do not murder’ and ‘Anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.”
49. James 2:11 “For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”
50. Proverbs 6:16-19 “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19 a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”
51. Leviticus 24:17 “Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death.”
I’m thinking about getting an abortion
Your baby is innocent and has a God-given destiny. You may be in a desperate situation and think abortion is the only solution, but you have choices. You can choose to keep your baby or give your baby for adoption to the more than one million couples waiting to adopt.
Abortions are not safe. About 20,000 mothers in the U.S. experience serious complications from abortion each year, and some die. This includes massive infection, excessive bleeding, torn cervix, punctured uterus or bowels, blood clots, sepsis, and infertility. Almost 40% of women suffer PTSD, depression, anxiety, and extreme guilt after an abortion, when reality sets in, and they realize they murdered their child.
52. Romans 12:21 “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
53. Isaiah 41:10 “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
We recently experienced a great victory in the overturning of Roe versus Wade; however, we need to continue promoting a culture of life and defeating the culture of death that pervades our country. We need to continue praying and helping mothers in crisis. We can do our part by volunteering at crisis pregnancy centers, making financial donations to pro-life organizations, and educating others about life.
[i] Dr Jerome LeJeune, “Report, Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158,” 97th Congress, 1st Session 1981
[ii] Eberl JT. The beginning of personhood: A Thomistic biological analysis. Bioethics. 2000;14(2):135.
[iii] Steven Andrew Jacobs, “Biologists’ Consensus on ‘When Life Begins,” Northwestern Prizker School of Law; University of Chicago – Department of Comparative Human Development, July 5, 2018.
[iv] Considine, Douglas (ed.). Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia. 5th edition. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1976, p. 943
[v] Carlson, Bruce M. Patten’s Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3
[vi] Dianne N Irving, Ph.D., “When Do Human Beings Begin?” International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Feb. 1999, 19:3/4:22-36
[viii] Kischer CW. The corruption of the science of human embryology, ABAC Quarterly. Fall 2002, American Bioethics Advisory Commission.