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 Issues | Ethics | Abortion

Abortion - Early Christian Teaching

The following are a small selection of teaching by early Christian leaders on abortion.

“You shall not murder the child by obtaining an abortion. Nor, again, shall you destroy him after he is born” (Epistle of Barnabas, 70-130A.D.).

“You shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill one who has been born” (Didache or the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, 80-140A.D.).

“We say that women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder.  And we also say they will have to give an account to God for the abortion.  So on what basis could we commit murder?  For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very foetus to the womb as a created being (and therefore an object of God’s care) äč yet, when he has passed into life, to kill him. We also teach that it is wrong to expose an infant.  For those who expose them are guilty of child murder” (Athenagoras. 175A.D.) The term ‘exposed an infant’ refers to the practice of abandoning infant children on the road sides, leaving them to die or taken up by people who raised them to be slaves or prostitutes.

“In our case, murder is once for all forbidden.  Therefore, we may not destroy even the foetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance.  To hinder a birth is merely a speedier way to kill a human.  It does not matter whether you take away a life that has been born or destroy one that is not yet born” (Tertullian, 197A.D.).

“Indeed the Law of Moses punishes with appropriate penalties the person who causes abortion.  For there already exists the beginning stages of a human being.  And even at this stage, [the foetus] is already acknowledged with having the condition of life and death, since he is already susceptible to both” (Tertullian, 210A.D.).

“There are some women who, by drinking medical preparations, extinguish the source of the future man in their very bowels.  So they commit murder before they bring forth.  And these things assuredly come down from the teaching of your gods” (Mark Minucius Felix (200A.D.).

“You shall not slay your child by causing abortion, nor kill the baby that is born.  For ‘everything that is shaped and has received a soul from God, if it is slain, shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed’ [Ezek 21:23]” (Apostolic Constitution, complied 390 A.D.)

The early Church teachers clearly stated that abortion at any time or in any way was wrong because it means murdering a child, a human with a soul, loved by God.  Abandoning a child leaving it to die or falling in a wrong is equally evil.

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