Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Historical Views on Abortion and Legal Status of the Fetus

Gringo Royale and I have been carrying on a discussion concerning abortion. I admit that I am rather ignorant of the historical philosophical, theological and legal views regarding abortion and the status of the fetus. I thought I would start a post on it and let others contribute what they know about it. So far, I have found this article:

Abortion and Personhood: Historical and Comparative Notes.


AdamT. said...

You might be interested in this as well. It presents positions both for and against abortion, both from secular thinkers.

Jon Garvey said...

Bilbo - here are some early Christian quotes and references I gathered a while ago, that may start the discussion usefully:


* Regarding the Jewish Diaspora: "...growth in the Jewish population was not limited, as elsewhere in the ancient world, by infanticide or abortion." [Times Atlas of the Bible, p170, 1987]
* "The second commandment in the Teaching means: Commit no murder, adultery, sodomy, fornication or theft. Practise no magic, sorcery, abortion or infanticide." [Didache, 2, 1st Century]
* "Never be in two minds as to whether something is or is not to be. Never make free with the name of the Lord. Love your neighbour more than yourself. Never do away with an unborn child, or destroy it after its birth." [Epistle of Barnabas 19, 1st-2nd century]
* "Like other men, [Christians] marry and beget children, though they do not expose their infants." [Epistle to Diognetus, 5, 120-200]
* "And when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder? For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very foetus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God's care, and when it has passed into life to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it." [Plea of Athenagoras for the Christians, 35, c177]
* "How many, think you, of those crowding around and gaping for Christian blood, - how many even of your rulers, notable for their justice to you and for their severe measures against us, may I charge in their own consciences with the sin of putting their offspring to death? ...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 its seed. [Tertullian, Apologeticus, I.9, c200].
* "Thou shalt not slay thy child by causing abortion, nor kill that which is begotten; for 'everything that is shaped, and received a soul from God, if it be slain, shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed (Ex.21.23, LXX).'" [Hippolytus of Rome, Apostolic Constitutions, VII.3, c200].
* "And God would have us to bring up all our children, and not to destroy any of the offspring given us by his providence." [Origen, Against Celsus VIII.55, c230].

Jon Garvey said...

The piece on Augustine in your citation sounded most un-Augustian, so I researched a bit and found this more complete explanation:

I'll try and find the original - moderns citing Patristic writers so regularly misuse them that I never take anything on trust nowadays.

Bilbo said...

Thanks for the links, fellas.