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What is the Torah's View on Abortion?

What is the Torah's View on Abortion?



What does the Bible say about abortion? Is a child's life worth less than an adult's? Does life begin at birth or conception?


Judaism contains a lot more wisdom than what you can read in the Bible. There's a very rich tradition that tells us how to understand the Bible and how to apply it. That tradition has been passed down from teacher to student in an unbroken chain since Moses. Eventually, much of it was written in the Mishnah and the Talmud, along with many of the discussions and later enactments that were based on these traditional teachings.

For example, the Bible tells us "Thou shalt not kill." But what does that mean? What if someone is going about killing others? What if he is trying to kill me?

So our tradition tells us that the Bible is not talking about those cases. If someone is out to kill you or other innocent people, you need to protect those innocent lives, even if it means killing the murderer.

This applies to an abortion, as well. A fetus is a potential life, so we are not allowed to kill a fetus. However, if the fetus is endangering the mother's life and the only way to protect the mother is by taking the life of the fetus, then we must do so.

However, this is all only as long as the fetus is a life-in-potential. Once the baby's head has emerged from the birth canal, s/he has become a full-fledged human being of the same status as the mother. Even though the mother has a family to take care of and has proven herself viable and valuable, we consider this a matter of one life versus another. At that point, we can't give precedent to either life. Life, according to our tradition, is not something to which you can apply relative values.

There is a very large literature on this topic. And as in all areas of complex halachah (Jewish law), every case needs to be individually evaluated by a rabbi -- who when necessary will consult with medical professionals and/or rabbis who are experts in this particular field of law.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Discussion (62)
April 1, 2016
That's not the point I was addressing in the previous post - I was just showing that Torah regards baby's life equal to the adults life in the matters of un/intentional murder.

Regarding your new comment, I agree with the most of it, however, it is up to mother, and mother alone to decide. Torah is not supporting her decision to end the life of a fetus, whatever the reason is - especially in cases of rape or emotional troubles. However, we as men cannot judge women, that is their burden, and we can only pray that they will always make wise decision.
Honestly, I don't know how can a Rabbi give suggestion in those cases. It surely cannot be based on anything that is written in the Tanakh. These are special circumstances that don't have clear explanation and guidelines in the Torah - so everyone has to be very careful when making decisions.
I, too, hope that the medicine will soon bring to light advancement that will allow for millions of fetuses to be saved every year.

March 29, 2016
To Daniel
There are instances when a woman tells her rabbi why she needs an abortion and he approves it. It may be her physical health; for example, if she has TB, the pregnancy will kill her--and her health has priority over the baby's life, because her current children need her, her husband needs her, her parents need her--many people in her life need her, and she has no right to give up her life, or even her health, to produce this baby.

She may have been raped. By her father or her brother, even.

Or she may be emotionally so threatened that she has decided to kill herself rather than face whatever comes with this baby.

There may be other reasons that a rabbi will say she really needs to be free of this pregnancy. If she wants it she calls it her baby. If not, she calls it a fetus.

She needs to be treated as a surrogate mother of someone else's baby. Let the medical community learn to transplant the baby to another woman's womb ASAP. A baby deserves to grow in a loving womb.
March 27, 2016
True Torah
Hymie, that's true for accidental miscarriage. But we have to make clear difference between accidental and intentional killing.
Torah says:
"He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee. But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die." - Exodus 21:12-14
So, any accidental murder is not capital sin. But intentional murder is.
Killing intentionally a baby from day one is a MURDER. How can we even think to say that baby is not a person from the moment of conceiving?
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you;..." Jeremiah 1:5
"The children fought with each other inside her so much that she said, “If it’s going to be like this, why go on living?”" Genesis 25:22
Baby is a person from conception.
March 16, 2016
And He breathed into his nostrils the breathe of life and the man became a living soul.
February 19, 2016
The Torah specifically says that if two men are fighting, and cause a nearby woman to lose her unborn child, the man at fault must pay a fine to the woman's husband. Thus the death of an unborn child is not murder. It is a serious loss, but it is not murder.

I notice that the rabbi used the word "kill" not the word "murder".
February 14, 2016
Life is precious. In my opinion a woman has a right to abortion if raped or her life is threatened by the fetus. Otherwise casual abortions are sacrifices to the idol narcissism.
Dr. Reitmam
September 23, 2015
I'd like to see references from the Torah that supports your article. As an active learner I want to make sure what I'm reading has merit. Can you point a verse?
July 16, 2015
Rectifying an abortion
There are two steps to repairing any sin. One is to regret and resolve that it will never happen again. At that point, you are forgiven, 100%.

But the sin itself still needs repair, and that is done by doing more good.

There are several foundations that assist women who feel they must abort because they don't have the means to care for a child. Getting involved in such organizations is certainly one way to fix up the past.
Tzvi Freeman
July 9, 2015
If a woman had an abortion before she knew the halacha about it, and then she did teshuvah and eventually learned about how abortion is murder, what should do to try to rectify this averah?
December 18, 2013
Potential life means, potentially able to live ON ITS OWN. Ideally it is born and held happily
in its mother's arms.

Until it can breathe on its own it is certainly alive and able to feel pain, but it is a parasite. It feeds off another human being, and that other human being (its mother) may not be able to survive the drain on its own life force. Or the size and weight of the parasite on the host's internal organs may be fatal. There are many ways in which the parasite may damage the host. The adult may already be the mother of ten other children who need her. To allow the parasite to destroy her life or even to render her unable to take care of the other children is heartless and merciless, even though the mother loves the unborn parasite.

As technology advances, more and more unborn babies can be removed alive and sustained technologically until they are able to breathe and take nourishment on their own. There are many childless couples eager to adopt.

But the happy outcome of a living mother and a successful birth is always preferable