Friday, August 20, 2010
Abortion and the Early Church
In the early Roman Empire abortion was practiced with little shame. It was not uncommon for a man to insist that his wife abort their baby if she suspected it was a girl. Hippolytus of Rome records that women either took drugs or bound themselves tightly around the mid-section in order to “expel was being conceived” (Refutation of all Heresies, Book 9). Another method was to “expose” the newly born by simply abandoning it. Again, this practice was more common if the child was a girl as illustrated in the classic letter written in 1 B.C. by the Egyptian laborer Hilarion to his wife. “If you give birth to multiples, if there is a boy let it [live], but if they are girls, expose [them].” However, according to Origen (A.D. 185–254), Christianity changed men’s moral character so thoroughly that they no longer participated in these evil deeds of darkness. Christians then went on to openly challenge these practices in the public square (see Letter to Diognetus, 6 and Justin, 1 Apology 27). Though during Rome’s history Christians did not end these vile practices completely, their compassion for the unborn, infants, and expectant mothers turned public sentiment so sharply that large numbers of women were attracted to the Church. In time, it was Rome that fell. Let us therefore remain vigilant.