It pains this author to have to write on such a topic, but it is one which cannot go without comment after the passage of the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 through the NSW Legislative Assembly.
While we pray that the Legislative Council will reject this barbaric piece of legislation, it is most likely that it will not. This is despite this legislation being one which:
Having established the fundamental reasons why this bill should not pass through Parliament, let us now turn to the teachings of the Church on the practice of abortion. We must begin, first and foremost, at Genesis 1:26, where it is written that human beings are created in the image and according to the likeness of God. The Church invariably teaches that this creation occurs at the moment of conception, not at the moment of birth.
Those who advocate for this practice argue that a child in the womb is not human, and thus its destruction cannot fall under the classification of murder. Yet when we look carefully through the Bible, we find that there is no distinction between life inside the womb, and life outside.
It is written in Psalm 138:13 that “You have covered me in my mother’s womb”, and in Psalm 21:10 that “I have been strengthened in Thee from the womb, From My mother's womb Thou art My God." However the most clear Biblical reference to life existing within the womb is that of the Holy and Glorious Forerunner, John the Baptist, as seen in the extract below:
“Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah, and entered into the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She called out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came into my ears, the baby leapt in my womb for joy!” (Luke 1:39-44)
Having established that life is indeed present in the womb, it is then natural to conclude that the commandment “Thou shalt not murder” (Exodus 20:13) - handed to Moses on Mount Sinai - also applies to the unborn. This is how the Church has perceived abortion since its inception.
One of the many practices of the Church during the time of the pagan Roman Empire was to rescue victims of infanticide, those who had been abandoned to die on mountaintops and on the edges of cliffs. In the anonymous Epistle to Diognetus, dated to the second century, it was noted that “[Christians] beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring”.
Many of the Church Fathers have also written against this practice, including the Apostles, St Barnabas, St Hippolytus, St Basil, St John Chrysostom, St Ambrose, St Jerome and St Theodore of Studion. A concise list of these teachings has been compiled at the end of this article.
As individuals, what actions can we take to show our opposition to this law? Firstly, we must pray - that God may guide the legislators, and for those who have been, and will be, killed as a result of these laws. We can also directly contact the legislators by following this link.
Below is a prayer for the unborn:
O most merciful, all gracious and compassionate Lord Jesus Christ our Savior, Son of God: we entreat Thee, most gracious Master: look with compassion upon Thy children who have been condemned to death by the unjust judgment of men. And as Thou hast promised to bestow the heavenly kingdom on them born of water and the Spirit, and who in blamelessness of life have been translated unto Thee; and Who said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven"—we humbly pray, according to Thy unfailing promise: Grant the inheritance of Thy kingdom to the multitude of spotless infants who have been cruelly murdered in the abortuaries of this land; for Thou art the resurrection and the life and the repose of all Thy servants and of these innocents, O Christ our God.
Turn the hearts of those who seek to destroy Thy little ones. We beseech Thee to pour forth Thy healing grace upon them, that they may be convicted in their hearts and turn from their evil ways. Remember all of them that kill our children as on the altars of Moloch, and render not unto them according to their deeds, but according to Thy great mercy convert them—the unbelieving to true faith and piety, and the believing that they may turn from evil and do good.
O Holy Master, Almighty Father and pre-eternal God, Who alone made and directs all things; Who rises up quickly against the evil of the impious ones; Who, by providence, teaches Thy people preservation of justice and the obliteration of evil on earth; Who condescends to raise up warriors for the protection of the people of God: we entreat Thee with compunction, that as Thou didst give David power to defeat Goliath, and as Thou didst condescend through Judas Maccabeus, to seize victory from the arrogant pagans who would not call on Thy Name; so too, grant protection to us, Thy servants against the enemies rising against us as we go forth to do spiritual battle against the evil one and those who do his will rather than Thine.
For Thou art a merciful God, and lovest mankind, and unto Thee do we ascribe glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Didache of the Apostles
“There are two ways, one of life and one of death; and between the two ways there is a great difference … do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant.”
Epistle of St Barnabas
“Thou shalt not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shalt thou destroy it after it is born" (Epistle of Barnabas 19)
St Hippolytus, Refutation of all Heresies
"Women who were reputed to be believers began to take drugs to render themselves sterile, and to bind themselves tightly so as to expel what was being conceived, since they would not, on account of relatives and excess wealth, want to have a child by a slave or by any insignificant person. See, then, into what great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by teaching adultery and murder at the same time!"
St Basil the Great, First Letter to Amphilochios, Bishop of Iconium
“She who has intentionally destroyed [the fetus] is subject to the penalty corresponding to a homicide. For us, there is no scrutinising between the formed and unformed [fetus]; here truly justice is made not only for the unborn but also with reference to the person who is attentive only to himself/herself since so many women generally die for this very reason.”
“Those who give the abortifacients and those who take the poisons are guilty of homicide”
St Ambrose of Milan, Hexameron
“The poor get rid of their small children by exposure and denying them when they are discovered. But the rich also, so that their wealth will not be more divided, deny their children [when they are] in the womb and with all the force of parricide, they kill the beings of their wombs [while they are] in the same fruitful womb. In this way life is taken away from them before it has been given.”
St John Chrysostom
“Why then dost thou abuse the gift of God, and fight with His laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter?”
St Jerome, Letter 22
“Some [women], 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.”
St Theodore the Studite - Excerpt from his Homily on the Birth of Saint John the Baptist.
“And it happened,” it says, “when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary that the babe leaped in her womb.” O John the blessed foetus, the unsleeping embryo! How is he who is in the womb, appearing to be in the world? How is he who is yet to be perfected, appearing as one who is whole? How does he who is six-month conceived, act as one of age? How does one who cannot think, appear as one most rational? How does one who cannot talk, become eloquent?
Tell us, please tell us, since you are enclosed in the dark place of the womb and cannot yet see and cannot yet perceive sound through hearing and cannot yet utter a word and have not yet tried the action of walking and haven’t yet laughed, how do you see? How do you recognise? How do you theologise? How do you leap from joy? How are you full of elation? Answer us, tell us, you who are worthy of wonder. ‘The mystery being performed,’ he says, ‘is great and that which is happening is beyond human comprehension. I am justified in going beyond what is natural, for the one who is about to go above nature. Even though I am an embryo, I see, since I can see the Sun of Righteousness being conceived. I hear, because I understand that I am being born with the voice of the great Word. I am shouting, since I comprehend that the only begotten Son of the Father is becoming incarnate. I am jumping for joy, since I sense the Creator of all is becoming human. I am joyful since I ponder that the Saviour of the world is taking on flesh. I am revealing to you,’ he says, ‘the beginning of the entrance of God in the world and his arrival in body. I am running ahead of his coming and in some way I am beginning the song of praise in front of you. Take the psaltery, as I speak like David, and the timbrel, speaking with the prophets, a pleasing song with strings, sing and chant to him, declare all his wondrous works.’