The Church Fathers on Abortion
I’m presently reading Dennis Di Mauro’s A Love for Life: Christianity’s Consistent Protection of the Unborn (Wipf and Stock, 2008), in which he argues that historic Christianity has always opposed abortion, and that pro-choice Christians have departed from the biblical and historic teaching of the church. In chapter 3, he makes the case from the early church fathers. Following are a few noteworthy quotes.
This is Clement, from The Tutor:
“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 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” (quoted in Di Mauro, 11-12).
Here is Tertullian, from his Apology:
“But for us [Christians], to whom homicide has been once for all fobidden, it is not permitted to break up even what has been conceived in the womb, while the blood is still being drwan from the mother’s body to make a new creature. Prevention of birth is premature murder; and it makes no difference whether it is a life already born that one snatches away or a life that is coming to birth that one destroys. The future man is a man already: the whole fruit is present in the seed” (quoted in Di Mauro, 13).
And Chrysostom, from his Commentary on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans:
“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 makes her a murderess also. You see how drunkenness leads to whoredom, whoredom to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather to a 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?” (quoted in Di Mauro, 16).