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State of the Question

Taking the life of an unborn baby.


Divine Revelation


Genesis 4:9-10

          Then the LORD asked Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" He answered,

          "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" The LORD then said: "What

          have you done! Listen: your brother's blood cries out to me from the soil!


Exodus 20:13-14 

          You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery.


Deuteronomy 27:25        

          'Cursed be he who accepts payment for slaying an innocent man!' And all

          the people shall answer, 'Amen!'


Jeremiah 1:4-5      

          Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, "Before I formed you in

          the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you;

Psalms 139:15      

          My frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret,

          intricately wrought in the depths of the earth


Job 10:8-10

           Your hands have formed me and fashioned me; will you then turn and destroy

          me? Oh, remember that you fashioned me from clay!  Will you then bring me

          down to dust again? Did you not pour me out as milk, and thicken me like

          cheese? With skin and flesh you clothed me, with bones and sinews knit me

          together. Grace and favor you granted me, and your providence has preserved

          my spirit.


Psalms 22:10-11   

Yet you drew me forth from the womb, made me safe at my mother's breast.

Upon you I was thrust from the womb; since birth you are my God.  Do not stay far from me, for trouble is near, and there is no one to help.


Catechism of the Catholic Church

 The fifth commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful. The murderer and those who cooperate voluntarily in murder commit a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance (cf. Genesis 4:10).  Infanticide, fratricide, parricide, and the murder of a spouse are especially grave crimes by reason of the natural bonds which they break. Concern for eugenics or public health cannot justify any murder, even if commanded by public authority. (2268)


The Magisterium of the Church

Council of Elvira (c. 305)

Canon 68: If a catechumen should conceive by an adulterer, and should procure the death of the child, she can be baptized only at the end of her life.

 Council of Ancyra (314)

Canon 21: Women who prostitute themselves, and who kill the child thus begotten, or who try to destroy them when in their wombs, are by ancient law excommunicated to the end of their lives. We, however, have softened their punishment and condemned them to the various appointed degrees of penance for ten years.

Pope John Paul II (Vatican City, February 19, 2005) To The President Of The Pontifical Academy for Life on the Occasion of a Study Congress on "Quality of Life and Ethics of Health"

This level of dignity and quality belongs to the ontological order and is a constitutive part of the human being; it endures through every moment of life, from the very moment of conception until natural death, and is brought to complete fulfillment in the dimension of eternal life. Consequently, the human person should be recognized and respected in any condition of health, infirmity or disability.

Pope Benedict XVI (August 5, 2006) interview with broadcasters Bayerische Rundfunk, Deutsche Welle, ZDF and Vatican Radio


As far as abortion is concerned, it's part of the fifth, not the sixth, commandment: "Thou shalt not kill!" We have to presume this is obvious and always stress that the human person begins in the mother's womb and remains a human person until his or her last breath. The human person must always be respected as a human person. But all this is clearer if you say it first in a positive way.


Ecclesiastical Tradition  


Ad Diognetum 5, 6 (AD 200)

They marry like all other men and they beget children; but they do not cast away
 their offspring.


Tertullian, Apologeticus 9

For us, killing and murder being forbidden once and for all, it is not permitted to destroy what is conceived in the mother's womb. To hinder the birth of a child is a faster way to murder. It makes little difference whether one destroys a life already born or prevents it from coming to birth. It is a human being, for the whole fruit is already present.


Athenagoras of Athens, letter to Marcus Aurelius in 177, Legatio pro Christianis ("Supplication for the Christians"), p.35.

Those women who use drugs to bring about an abortion commit murder and will have to give an account to Cod for their abortion.


Minucius Felix, theologian (c. 200-225), Octavius, p.30.

"... there are women who, by the use of medicinal potions, destroy the unborn life in their wombs, and murder the child before they bring it forth. These prac­tices undoubtedly are derived from a custom established by your gods; Saturn, though he did not expose his sons, certainly devoured them."


Clement of Alexandria, priest and the "Father of Theologians" (c. 150-220), Christ the Educator, Volume II, p.10.


We would not kill off the human race born and developing according to God's plan, then our whole lives would be lived according to nature. Women who make use of some sort of deadly abortion drug kill not only the embryo but, together with it, all human kindness."


St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430) Dc Nuptius et Concupiscus ("On Marriage and Concupiscence"), 1.17.

Sometimes this lustful cruelty or cruet lust goes so far as to seek to procure a baneful sterility and if this fails the fetus conceived in the womb is in one way or another smothered or evacuated, in the desire to destroy the offspring before it has life, or if it already lives in the womb, to kill it before it is born.
Sermon 126, line 12
Therefore brothers, you see how perverse they are and hastening wickedness, who are immature, they seek abortion of the conception before the birth; they are those who tell us, "I do not see that which you say must be believed."


St. Jerome (c. 340-420), Letter to Eustochium, 22.13.

Some virgins [unmarried women], when they learn they are with child through sin, practice abortion by the use of drugs. Frequently they die them­selves and are brought before the ruler of the lower world guilty of three crimes; suicide, adultery against Christ and murder of an unborn child.


St. Basil the Great (c. 329-379), "First Canonical Letter" Three Canonical. Letters. Loeb Classical Library, Volume IlL pp.20-23.


The hairsplitting difference between formed and unformed makes no difference to us. Whoever deliberately commits abortion is subject to the penalty for homicide.


Tertullian (Quinisext) Council (692), Canons, 91

Those who give drugs for procuring abortion, and those who receive poisons to kill the foetus, are subjected to the penalty for murder.


The Teaching of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church

Didache 2,2 (AD 70-110)

          You shall not kill the embryo by abortion, and shall not cause the newborn to perish.


Epistola Barnahae 19, 5

          Thou shall not cleave to those who walk in the way of death;


Jerome (347-420)  Epistula 22

You may see many women widows before wedded, who try to conceal their miserable fall by a lying garb. Unless they are betrayed by swelling wombs or by the crying of their infants, they walk abroad with tripping feet and heads in the air. Some go so far as to take potions, that they may insure barrenness, and thus murder human beings almost before their conception. Some, when they find themselves with child through their sin, use drugs to procure abortion, and when (as often happens) they die with their offspring, they enter the lower world laden with the guilt not only of adultery against Christ but also of suicide and child murder.

Human Reason

(1)      God creates us, body and soul, in His own image.

          Genesis 5:1
This is the record of the descendants of Adam. When God created man,
he made him in the likeness of God;

(2)      God has known us as persons since before we were even conceived.

Jeremiah 1:5

          Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born

          dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

(3)      God has a plan for each one of us and values everyone.

(4)      It is a sin to interfere with the plans of God.

(5)      Children are a gift from God.

          Ecclesiastes 3:13
          For every man, moreover, to eat and drink and enjoy the fruit of all his labor is a gift of God.

(6)      Children are the most innocent among us.

(7)      It is a heinous sin to slay the innocent.



Clowes, Ph.D., Brian (1997). The Facts of Life: An Authoritative Guide to Life and Family Issues. Human Life International: Front Royal, VA



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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture texts are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.


© 2011 Robert J. Schihl


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