Abortion and Lying “Christians”

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Roe vs Wade was recently overruled by the Supreme Court leaving even deeper divides in our culture. As of late, the pro-choice side is angrily expressing their dissatisfaction with the decision. There are several arguments I have noticed pro-choice supporters use as a crutch:

  • “What about rape and incest victims?”
  • “Saving the lives of the mothers in medical emergencies (such as in ectopic pregnancies) will be made illegal.”
  • “Those who have miscarried will be interrogated and possibly tried by the state.”
  • “What are we going to do with all those unwanted children? You Christians don’t care about life after the womb!”
  • “Do you really think it is better for a child to be abused and moved to a foster home than to just give the mother access to abortion?”
  • “What about children we know beforehand will have a birth defect?’

To me, each of these arguments loses its steam in the gust of statistics, logic, Scripture, and real-life experience. But there is one argument that has been gaining traction that really has me scratching my head, not because it is a profound argument but such a seemingly bad and lazy one. It is often asserted by self-identified Christians and goes kind of like this:

  • “Christianity is inherently pro-choice. Christians have only recently become pro-life through the use of political activism and misinterpreted Bible verses. The so-called ultra-right conservative Christian minority should fall in line with the historic doctrine of bodily autonomy that undergirds abortion and is found in Scripture and Church history.”

Huh? This is a new one to me. Perhaps, I thought after reading this argument, I was misinformed. After all, although I have heard from Baptist churches most of my life that God values children at the time of conception, I am only in my late twenties. If this teaching is relatively new, could I have been wrong this whole time?

A few media articles:

And of course, social media comments:

I have heard countless a preacher turn to Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” or the passage where John the Baptist rejoices in the womb to prove the sanctity of unborn life. Now I’m being told by internet experts and keyboard warriors that a certain faction of the Church, the “side” I’m labeled as, has been reading these and other passages wrong for the past few decades.

I suppose they could be right about me misrepresenting a passage. I seem to find myself wrong too often for my own liking, and I have had to correct my interpretation on a plethora of passages over the years since I first came to Christ.

I guess it’s lucky I own a set of the early Church Fathers and a few Church histories. For this article, I relied much on Michael Gorman’s research in Abortion & the Early Church. I highly recommend this book as an aid to understanding Pagan, Jewish, and Christian views of abortion in the ancient Roman Empire and before.

This post compiles some of the brief research gathered about the Church’s historic views on abortion. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t really hard to debunk this one. But the argument must be addressed as it is blasphemous against Christ and His Bride. Some Christians have been deceived into believing abortion is a compassionate stance that must be at least partially accepted by the Church.

In this article, I am going to let Church history talk for herself. As will be seen, there is no doubt that historic orthodox Christianity enshrines the sanctity of life in the womb and is opposed to abortion.

A bold statement: the evidence is so clear on abortion that if someone calls themself a Christian and is pro-choice, they are either ignorant, confused, or not a Christian. Those who support abortion are serving a doctrine historically unchristian and anti-Christ.

(This article will continue to update as more quotes are found)

Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD)

“Our whole life can go on in observation of the laws of nature, if we gain dominion over our desires from the beginning and if we do not kill, by various means of a perverse art, the human offspring, born according to the designs of divine providence; for these women who, in order to hide their immorality, use abortive drugs which expel the matter completely dead, abort at the same time their human feelings.”

Athenagoras (133-190 AD)

“What reason would we have to commit murder when we say that women who induce abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God? For the same person would not regard the fetus in the womb as a living thing and therefore an object of God’s care [and then kill it].… But we are altogether consistent in our conduct. We obey reason and do not override it.”

Tertullian (160-230 AD)

“In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, 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 man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in the seed.”

“In this matter the best teacher, judge, and witness is the sex that is concerned with birth. I call on you, mothers, whether you are now pregnant or have already borne children; let women who are barren and men keep silence! We are looking for the truth about the nature of woman; we are examining the reality of your pains. Tell us: Do you feel any stirring of life within you in the fetus? Does your groin tremble, your sides shake, your whole stomach throb as the burden you carry changes its position? Are not these moments a source of joy and assurance that the child within you is alive and playful? Should his restlessness subside, would you not be immediately concerned for him?”

“They [John and Jesus] were both alive while still in the womb. Elizabeth rejoiced as the infant leaped in her womb; Mary glorifies the Lord because Christ within inspired her. Each mother recognizes her child and each is known by her child who is alive, being not merely souls but also spirits….Thus, you read the word of God, spoken to Jeremias: “Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee.” If God forms us in the womb, He also breathes on us as He did in the beginning: “And God formed man and breathed into him the breath of life.” Nor could God have known man in the womb unless he were a whole man. “And before thou camest forth from the womb, I sanctified thee.” Was it, then, a dead body at that stage? Surely it was not, for “God is the God of the living and not the dead.””

Minucius Felix (died 235 AD)

“And there are women who swallow drugs to stifle in their own womb the beginnings of a man to be—committing infanticide before they give birth to the infant.”

Hippolytus (160-236 AD)

“Women, reputed believers, began to resort to drugs for producing sterility, and to gird themselves round, so to expel what was being conceived on account of their not wishing to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time!”

The Council of Elvira (305 AD)

(While these Canons may on the surface seem to speak only of infanticide, they are applied to abortion by later writers, such as in the Council of Ancyra and by Basil the Great)

“Canon 63: If a woman becomes pregnant by committing adultery, while her husband is absent, and after the act she detroys [the child], it is proper to keep her from communion until death, because she has doubled her crime.”

“Canon 68: If a catechumen should conceive by an adulterer, and should procure the death of the child, she can be baptized only at the end of her life.”

The Council of Ancyra (314 AD)

“Canon 21: Women who prostitute themselves, and who kill the children thus begotten, or who try to destroy them when in their wombs, are by ancient law excommunicated to the end of their lives. We, however, have softened their punishment, and condemned them to the various appointed degrees of penance for ten years.”

Basil the Great (330-379 AD)

“She who has deliberately destroyed a fetus has to pay the penalty of murder. And there is no exact inquiry among us as to whether the fetus was formed or unformed. For, here it is not only the child to be born that is vindicated, but also the woman herself who made an attempt against her own life, because usually the women die in such attempts. Furthermore, added to this is the destruction of the embryo, another murder, at least according to the intention of those who dare these things. Nevertheless, we should not prolong their penance until death, but should accept a term of ten years, and we should determine the treatment not by time, but by the manner of repentance.”

“Moreover, those, too, who give drugs causing abortion are [deliberate murderers] themselves, as well as those receiving the poison which kills the fetus.”

Ambrose (349-397 AD)

“The wealthy, in order that their inheritance may not be divided among several, deny in the very womb their own progeny. By use of parricidal mixtures they snuff out the fruit of their wombs in the genital organs themselves. In this way life is taken away before it is given.… Who except man himself has taught us ways of repudiating children?”

“It is written: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and in the genitals of your mother I sanctified you” (Jer 1:5). To inhibit your rashness, you are made to notice that the hands of your maker are forming something in the womb into a man.”

Jerome (347-420 AD)

“Some, when they learn they are with child through sin, practice abortion by the use of drugs. Frequently they die themselves and are brought before the rulers of the lower world guilty of three crimes: suicide, adultery against Christ, and murder of an unborn child.”

Apostolic Constitutions (380 AD)

“Thou shalt not slay thy child by causing abortion, nor kill that which is begotten. For every thing that is shaped, and hath received a soul from God, if it be slain, shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed.”

Augustine (354-430 AD)

“Sometimes, indeed, this lustful cruelty, or if you please, cruel lust, resorts to such extravagant methods as to use poisonous drugs to secure barrenness; or else, if unsuccessful in this, to destroy the conceived seed by some means previous to birth, preferring that its offspring should rather perish than receive vitality; or if it was advancing to life within the womb, should be slain before it was born.”

John Chrysostom (347-407)

“Why sow where the ground makes it its care to destroy the fruit? where there are many efforts at abortion? where there is murder before the birth? for even the harlot thou dost not let continue a mere harlot, but makest her a murderer also. You see how drunkenness leads to whoredom, whoredom to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather to something even worse than murder. For I have no name to give it, since it does not take off the thing born, but prevents its being born. Why then dost thou abuse the gift of God, and fight with His laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter? For with a view to drawing more money by being agreeable and an object of longing to her lovers, even this she is not backward to do, so heaping upon thy head a great pile of fire. For even if the daring deed be hers, yet the causing of it is thine. Hence too come idolatries, since many, with a view to become acceptable, devise incantations, and libations, and love-potions, and countless other plans. Yet still after such great unseemliness, after slaughters, after idolatries, the thing [fornication] seems to many to belong to things indifferent, aye, and to many that have wives, too.”

Catholicism in the Middle Ages

Christianity continued to outlaw abortion throughout the course of the Middle Ages, mainly following the teaching laid out in the Council of Ancyra. There were some deeper questions explored about when life truly began. However, abortion was always viewed by Christianity at large as a moral evil. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has the following to say about abortion during this period of time:

  • “In the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas made extensive use of Aristotle’s thought, including his theory that the rational human soul is not present in the first few weeks of pregnancy.  But he also rejected abortion as gravely wrong at every stage, observing that it is a sin “against nature” to reject God’s gift of a new life.”
  • “During these centuries, theories derived from Aristotle and others influenced the grading of penalties for abortion in Church law.  Some canonical penalties were more severe for a direct abortion after the stage when the human soul was thought to be present.  However, abortion at all stages continued to be seen as a grave moral evil.”  
  • “From the 13th to 19th centuries, some theologians speculated about rare and difficult cases where they thought an abortion before “formation” or “ensoulment” might be morally justified.  But these theories were discussed and then always rejected, as the Church refined and reaffirmed its understanding of abortion as an intrinsically evil act that can never be morally right.”

Martin Luther (1483-1546 AD)

“The God who declares that we are to be fruitful and multiply regards it as a great evil when human beings destroy their offspring.”

John Calvin (1509-1564 AD)

(Commentary on Exodus 21:22)

“This passage at first sight is ambiguous, for if the word death only applies to the pregnant woman, it would not have been a capital crime to put an end to the foetus, which would be a great absurdity; for the fœtus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being, (homo) and it is almost a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a foetus in the womb before it has come to light. On these grounds I am led to conclude, without hesitation, that the words, “if death should follow,” must be applied to the foetus as well as to the mother.”

William Gouge (1575-1653 AD)

“That which hath received a soul formed in it by God [which] if it be unjustly cast away, shall be revenged.” (Source, p46)

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