Is there a case to be made for abortion in Exodus 21:22? This site comes from Liberated Christians of Phoenix, whose views are, uh, er, out of the evangelical mainstream. Interestingly, the claim has some support from philosopher James Rachels, who writes:
The scriptural passage that comes closest to making a specific judgment about the moral status of fetuses occurs in the 21st chapter of Exodus. The chapter here is part of a detailed description of the law of the ancient Israelites. Here the penalty for murder is said to be death; however, it is also said that if a pregnant woman is caused to have a miscarriage, the penalty is only a fine, to be paid to her husband. Murder was not a category that included fetuses. Clearly, the Israelites regarded fetuses as something less than full human being.
To which his son Stuart Rachels, a philosophy professor (and an International Master in chess) at the University of Alabama, added:
We say that the Bible does not treat abortion as murder: Exodus 21 says that the punishment for abortion is only a fine. (5/e, 65; 6/e, 60) I now refer to three more biblical passages which support the same conclusion: three times the death penalty is recommended for women who have had sex out of wedlock, even though killing the woman would also kill any fetus she might be carrying. (Genesis 38:24; Leviticus 21:9; Deuteronomy 22:20-21; see 6/e, 59-60)
However, one of the reviewers for Rachels' book on Amazon suggests that this judgment might be exegetically suspect:
Rachels might have a PH.D, but he is no Hebrew scholar. The mistranslation of "yatsa" as miscarriage in the NAS version implies the death of the fetus, but it still takes conjecture and speculation on Rachels part to conclude that the baby definitely died upon leaving the mother early. With easy access to other biblical translations and the Internet (just type Exodus 21:22 in a search engine like GOOGLE) there is no excuse for Dr. Rachels shoddy academic discourse on such a salient issue in today's society.
I'm guessing that the Amazon commentator is right. If there's a biblical case to be made on either side of this issue, it's going to take more work than Rachels has put in.