The sixth commandment of God’s holy moral law says, “You shall not murder.” Christians have always understood this to prohibit abortion, i.e., the unjust taking of a human life in utero. The Didache (c. AD 114), an early Christian document testifying to Christian theology, piety, and practice says: “And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born. You shall not covet the things of your neighbor, you shall not swear, you shall not bear false witness, you shall not speak evil, you shall bear no grudge. You shall not be double-minded nor double-tongued, for to be double-tongued is a snare of death” (chapter 2). Later in the 2nd century, the Christian teacher Athenagoras wrote, “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?” The early 3rd century Christian theologian, Tertullian, taught: “In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fœtus [infant] in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance.”The consensus position of the fathers was re-affirmed in the early medieval church by the Council of Trullo (692), in Constantinople. Canon 91 says: “Those who give drugs for procuring abortion, and those who receive poisons to kill the fœtus [infant], are subjected to the penalty of murder.” Below are some resources to help Christians think through some of the biblical, theological, historical, constitutional, and practical questions surrounding abortion.
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