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Church History and Abortion

Historic writings demonstrate the church's longstanding opposition to abortion.

Church History and Abortion

Historic writings demonstrate the church's longstanding opposition to abortion.


Page Summary:

In writings from the beginnings of Christianity to the Reformation, Christians have stood uniformly against abortion, believing it to be an act of murder and deserving of God’s judgment. Because they viewed life in the womb as the object of God’s care, they believed it should therefore be the object of neighborly love.

Abortion, in various forms, has existed since the dawn of Christianity, and most Christians throughout history have found the practice deplorable. Here you will find a broad collection of extra-biblical statements about abortion from various Christian writings, writers, and decrees, from the beginnings of Christianity to the Reformation.

Christianity Under the Roman Empire (A.D. 30-476)

EARLY WRITINGS: Three of the earliest extra-biblical writings mention abortion as a practice on par with murder and deserving of God's judgment.

SECOND AND THIRD CENTURY FATHERS: Within the first three centuries, Christians were often persecuted, criticized, and marginalized within Roman society. This required Christians to justify and explain their beliefs and practices to those in power and those in wider society. Additionally, as Christianity grew, it became increasingly necessary for Christians to be instructed in doctrine and ethics. Several Christian leaders and writers took up these tasks, and, in the process, put forth the standard Christian attitude toward the practice of abortion – an attitude that vastly differed from the surrounding culture. Abortion continued to be regarded as an act of murder.

FOURTH CENTURY COUNCILS AND DOCUMENTS: With the Edict of Milan in A.D. 313, granting tolerance to all religions including Christianity, Emperor Constantine officially began the “Christianization” of the Roman Empire. This led to many changes within Christianity. Christians would no longer have to worry about institutional persecution, but Christianity itself would become more “institutional.” Also, since more people would now be considered “Christian,” it led to increased immorality within the church, including increased abortions. Consequently, church leaders gathered at various times and places to determine appropriate courses of action for various sins and heresies, and to make “official decrees.” Because the practice was so common, the issue of abortion could not be avoided. In official ecclesiastical councils and official documents, it continued to be considered a practice that was contrary to Christian morality and one that deserved specific punishment (both at the hands of the church and from God in the future judgment). However, it was also decreed that by taking appropriate action one who took part in abortive practices could eventually be restored to fellowship and forgiven.

FOURTH AND FIFTH CENTURY FATHERS: Several important Christian leaders in the fourth and fifth centuries commented on the practice of abortion in their various writings, maintaining the standard Christian stance that the practice was murderous, yet forgivable.


Two of the most prominent reformers continued to maintain a strong stance against abortion:

This page was last updated on March 17, 2017. To cite this page in a research paper, visit: "Citing Abort73 as a Source."

Parent Page:

  • Biblical Teaching: The Bible makes no moral distinction between born children and unborn children.

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