Calvin On Abortion

If men strive, and hurt a woman. This passage at first sight is ambiguous, for if the word death only applies to the pregnant woman, it would not have been a capital crime to put an end to the foetus, which would be a great absurdity; for the fœtus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being, (homo) and it is almost a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a foetus in the womb before it has come to light. On these grounds I am led to conclude, without hesitation, that the words, “if death should follow,” must be applied to the foetus as well as to the mother.

John Calvin in Commentary on the Four Last Books of Moses, on Exodus 21:22

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  1. Calvin’s language, even in translation, is so poignantly understated, “and it is almost a monstrous crime to rob it of the life, which it has not yet begun to enjoy.”

  2. Dr. Clark,

    Thank you for posting this quote from Calvin. That is a wonderful text for showing the sin that abortion is. Can you please tell me what you think about the views of Andrew White (PCA elder and former governor candidate for TX), whose view of the two-fold kingdom led him to say he wouldn’t try to change the legality of abortion if elected?

    • Luther,

      Life, relative to the civil magistrate, is a natural right. It is the duty of the magistrate to preserve legally innocent and to prosecute the unjust taking of life. I’ve been arguing this for some time in this space. Frankly, this doesn’t seem like a very difficult conceptual problem. White’s claim certainly is not inherent to a twofold-kingdom ethic.

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