The bible mandates and instructs how to do an abortion. Would following it alter the debate?

Did you know that the Bible doesn't just condone abortion, it actually requires it in the case of infidelity, and gives (bad) instructions on how it is to be done? It's all in Numbers Chapter 5, starting at verse 11. I wonder if it would be possible to set up abortion clinics which perform abortions with a modernization of the method described in the Bible, for the subset of women who qualify. It would only help some women, but it would make it much harder for those fighting abortion rights for religious reasons to stop women getting abortions as described and required in the Bible, who are exercising their religious freedom.

In a biblical abortion, it's required when a husband is jealous and suspects his wife of infidelity. (It does not have to be the case, he just has to suspect it.) He takes her to the temple, and the priest explains how it will work and makes her take an oath saying "so be it."

He then gives her a drink, which he has explained will not harm her if she has been faithful, but will curse her and cause an abortion if she has been unfaithful.

The drink is holy water, mixed with dust from the floor of the tabernacle, and into which a scroll with the rules has been dipped. But imagine that prior to this procedure, the woman has received a prescription for a medication abortion, and the dust placed on the (cleaned) floor before the procedure is powdered mifepristone and misoprostol, from the "abortion pill" she was prescribed. (They could possibly also be on the scroll.)

To strictly confirm to the biblical instructions, this would only be useful for married women. The Bible does not demand that the suspicion of infidelity be true, or that the woman deny it. It says the drink will only cause an abortion if the wife is unfaithful, but that's because God wills it that way, so that's up to the Lord. In many cases, a pain reliever and anti-nausea drug can be mixed in, or taken independently. The water may be bitter--but that's how the Bible says it should be.

(I will note that misoprostol is normally prescribed to be taken 24 to 48 hours after the mifepristone, and either under the tongue or vaginally, but it can be taken at the same time, though drinking it dissolved in water may not be suitable. While it's nice to exactly conform to the biblical instructions, obviously working and safe medical practices are also important. The biblical rules say what to do, they don't say more can't be done, then or later.

The priest/minister/rabbi performing the biblical procedure would obviously have to be supportive of a woman's right to control her own body and the fact that, if the dust is mifepristone/misoprostol, it will medically induce a miscarriage exactly as described in the Bible. It isn't 100% effective, so sometimes it won't induce one, and the phrase "only God knows if it will" matches the biblical rules. It's only suitable for about half of abortions, and if following the biblical instructions strictly, they require a married woman suspected of infidelity. So this hardly solves the general problem. But it does provide a strong counter to those who want to ban all abortions, because if their reason is derived in their Christian religion, how can they ban the ones described, and even required, in a Bible that is the inerrant word of God? It is harder for them to demand their own religious freedom while denying couples the procedure prescribed in the Holy Bible.

Of course, most political positions (on both sides) are taken for tribal reasons, not through reasoning, so it's very hard to get changes of views. In the case, anti-abortion forces have successfully used religious affiliation's extra strong tribal bonds. In the 1970s, most of the evangelical Christian movement was not anti-abortion, but triggered by protests against an anti-abortion movie, this flipped, and Republican forces discovered that if they spun the issue as "are you with Jesus or with the baby murderers?" they could create a wedge issue so strong it was one of the largest, if not the largest issues in elections since then. While only a few women could partake of a biblical abortion, it might create a chink in that wall.

Bible Verses

From Numbers 5, New International Version:

11 Then the Lord said to Moses, 12 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him 13 so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), 14 and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure— 15 then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah[c] of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.

16 “‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. 17 Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. 18 After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. 19 Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. 20 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”— 21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse[d] among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. 22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”

“‘Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.”

23 “‘The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. 24 He shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering will enter her. 25 The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the Lord and bring it to the altar. 26 The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial[e] offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. 27 If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse. 28 If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.

29 “‘This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and makes herself impure while married to her husband, 30 or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the Lord and is to apply this entire law to her. 31 The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.’”

Add new comment