Abortion, as such, is not discussed in the Tanakh. Explanations as to why it is not legislated or commented are at best speculative. The biblical world was much more concerned with the survival of its members, rather than with the willful termination of its unborn. Archaeological evidence suggests that in ancient Israel the infant mortality rate was about 50%.
Discussions concerning abortion are ancient indeed. The Torah imposes a fine on the assailant for causing abortion of a woman’s fetus in the course of a quarrel, and the penalty of death if the woman’s dies as a result of the assailant’s attack. “When two people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exod. 21:22-23).
If the Code of Hammurabi is of any indication, the Torah had in mind only financial damages but did not advocate the death penalty for the death of the fetus—regardless how premature or maturely it was. In Section 209: Hammurabi writes, “If a man strike a free woman and cause her fruit to depart, he shall pay ten shekels of silver for her fruit.” Continue reading “More Reflections on Abortion”