Early church references to abortion
It may surprise you to learn that abortion is not an exclusively modern problem. The Epistle of Barnabas, a Christian letter written in the early second century, states, “You shall not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shall you destroy it after it is born.” I can’t be certain why someone felt the need to write that, but evidently the need existed.
In his commentary on the book of Exodus, John Calvin writes:
The fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being and it is 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 fetus in the womb before it has come to light.
Granted, Calvin was not addressing abortion as we know it, but he offers an excellent defense of the sanctity of life nonetheless.
In the second century, a believer by the name of Tertullian wrote:
In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder 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 the seed.
Written in the first or second century, the Epistle to Diognetus says, “[Christians] marry and have children just like everyone else, but they do not kill unwanted babies.”
I cite these sources, several from the early church, and I could cite a few more, because I want you to see that (1) human nature hasn’t changed in the last two-thousand years, and (2) the church has always needed to address the issue of abortion. It seems every generation of humanity has found one reason or another to excuse the murder of children.