Early Church Teachings on Abortion

Compiled by Randy Alcorn

“You shall not kill an unborn child or murder a newborn infant.” — Didache

“You shall love your neighbor more than your own life. You shall not slay the child by abortion.” — Barnabas [c. 70-138], Epistles

“For us [Christians], murder is once and for all forbidden; so even the child in womb, while yet the Mother's blood is still being drawn on to form the human being, it is not lawful for us to destroy. To forbid birth is only quicker murder...He is a man, who is to be a man; the fruit is always present in the seed.” — Tertullian, 197, Apologeticus

“Those women who use drugs to bring about an abortion commit murder and will have to give an account to God for their abortion.” — Athenagoras of Athens, letter to Marcus Aurelius in 177, Legatio pro Christianis [Supplication for the Christians]

“There are women who, by use of medicinal potions, destroy the unborn life in their wombs, and murder the child before they bring it forth. These practices undoubtedly are derived from a custom established by your gods; Saturn. Though he did not expose his sons, certainly devoured them.” — Minucius Felix, theologian [c. 200-225] Octavius

“If we would not kill off the human race born and developing according to God's plan, then our whole lives would be lived according to nature. Women who make use of some sort of deadly abortion drug kill not only the embryo but, together with it, all human kindness.” — Clement of Alexandria, priest and the “Father of Theologians” [c. 150-220]. Christ the educator

“Sometimes this lustful cruelty or cruel lust goes so far as to seek to procure a baneful sterility, and if this fails the fetus conceived in the womb is in one way or another smothered or evacuated, in the desire to destroy the offspring before it has life, or if it already lives in the womb, to kill it before it is born.” — St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo [354 to 430], De Nuptius et Concupiscus [On Marriage and Concupiscence)

“Some virgins [unmarried women], 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 ruler of lower world guilty of three crimes: suicide, adultery against Christ, and murder of an unborn child.” — St. Jerome [c. 340-420], Letter to Eustochium

“The hairsplitting difference between formed and unformed makes no difference to us. Whoever deliberately commits abortion is subject to the penalty for homicide.” — St. Basil the Great [329- 379], “First Canonical Letter,” Three Canonical Letters

“Those who give drugs for procuring abortion, and those who receive poisons to kill the fetus, are subjected to the penalty for murder.” — Trullian Quinisext Council (692), Canons