What the Early Church Church Said About Abortion

Date: December 20, 2011

Category: Abortion and the Church

The Didache - First Century 
“Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not corrupt boys; do not fornicate; do not steal; do not practice magic; do not go in for sorcery; do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant.” 

The Epistle of Barnabas - First Century 
“You shall love your neighbor more than your own life. You shall not slay the child by abortion. You shall not kill that which has been generated. 

Apologia of Athenagoras of Athens-177 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 a fetus in the womb as a living thing and therefore, an object of God’s care, and at the same time slay it, once it had come to life.” 

Tertulian (Western Church) - Third Century
Abortion is a precipitation of murder, nor does it matter whether or not one takes a life when formed, or drives it away when forming, for he is also a man who is about to be one.” 

Clement of Alexandria - Third century
“Universal life would proceed according to nature if we would practice continence from the beginning instead of destroying, through immoral and pernicious acts, human beings who are given birth by Divine Providence.” 

The Regional Council Of Elvira, Spain - 303 A.D.
Prescribes life-long excommunication for penitent persons involved in abortion. Eucharist denied even on the death bed. 

The Council of Ancyra, Canon 21-314/315 A.D. 
“Regarding women who become prostitutes and kill their babies, and who make it their business to concoct abortives, the former rule barred them for life from communion, and they are left without recourse. But, having found a more philanthropic alternative, we have fixed the penalty at ten years, in accordance with the fixed degrees.” 

St. Basil The Great (330-379 A. D.)
“A woman who deliberately destroys a fetus is answerable for murder.” 

“Those who give potions for the destruction of the child conceived in the womb are murderers, as are those who take potions which kill the child.” 

“. . . we do not have a precise distinction between a fetus which has been formed and one which has not yet been formed.” 

“. . . any hairsplitting distinction as to its being formed or unformed is inadmissible with us.” 

St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-394)
“There is no question about that which is bred in the uterus, both growing, and moving from place to place. It remains, therefore that we must think that the point of commencement of existence is one and the same for body and soul.” 

St. John Chrysostom (345-407)
Speaking about those who force a woman to have an abortion to hide immorality: “You do not let a harlot remain a harlot, but make her a murderer as well.” 

Regarding the abortionist, St. John considered him/her: “. . . worse than a murderer.” 

Quinsext Ecumenical Council, Canon 91-691 A. D. 
Decreed that people “. . . who furnish drugs for the purpose of procuring abortion, and those who take fetus-killing poisons, they are made subject to the penalty prescribed for murderers.” 

All these various writings and canons were codified by St. Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople in the Ninth Century, into the “Photian Collection” and are still in effect today. In fact these teachings were universal in the whole Christian Church, East and West. Even the Protestant reformers such as Luther and Calvin were outspoken in their opposition to abortion.

Source: Orthodox Christians for Life ProLife Handbook

Article Filter

Return to Life Issues