This issue is really bugging me, as you can probably tell.

I’ve already ranted at length from a secular and biological perspective about abortion and the selling of dismembered fetal body parts on my comic, Scientific Opinion, if you haven’t read it already. But, let’s delve into a little bit of ancient history, more science (because I love biology), and theology for sanctimonial Sunday, shall we?

For some reason, many people seem to believe that having children was never inconvenient at any time other than our modern era. After all, in our modern era, we have often have households in which two adults are working, which puts a tremendous strain on the parents’ relationship with their children. And that’s not even touching the strain of being a working single parent, which puts an even more tremendous strain on the parent’s relationship with their children. In cases where it takes two incomes to survive, even without children, and daycare can cost as much as a single parent’s yearly paycheck, this can seem like an insurmountable obstacle. Combine this with all the other factors that make raising children difficult, and it is perfectly understandable that many people do not want to have children and will go to extraordinary lengths to prevent children because of their inconvenience.

But having children has always been inconvenient for a multitude of reasons and the deliberate killing of children was not an uncommon occurrence in the ancient world. The comic, of course, refers to Molech, which the Caananites and Amorites worshiped, and whom the Israelites were also prone to worship from time to time, and there are many instances in which Molech’s name comes up in the Old Testament. When they are small, a child’s use is minimal, after all. At least when they are sacrificed, maybe Molech will be happy with the people. Finally, through their death, they can become useful and stop being a burden to society!

But there are also many other instances of the killing of children in the ancient world. In fact, infanticide was fairly common in both ancient Greece and Rome. Why? Because these ancient peoples didn’t consider children to be people until they hit the age of reason, essentially. This is not to say that they wouldn’t take care of their children, if they wanted to raise their children. But, children weren’t considered to be fully human until they could demonstrate that they could think. Thus, it was completely acceptable to kill infants and small children, especially if they were a burden. In a letter from the centurion, Hilarion, to his wife Alis, he writes:

Know that I am still in Alexandria…. I ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son, and as soon as I received payment I shall send it up to you. If you are delivered [before I come home], if it is a boy keep it, if a girl, discard it. You have sent me word, “Don’t forget me.” How can I forget you? I beg you not to worry.

If the sex selection of that quote horrifies you, don’t worry; boys were routinely killed as well.

So, the inconvenience and burden of raising small children is not a new thing.

For some reason, people also believe that abortion is this new thing that has never existed before. But, this is also not true. In fact, abortion was so popular in ancient Greece and Rome that the United States Supreme Court, in its historical Roe vs. Wade decision which ultimately legalized all abortions, referenced this fact as a justification that abortion can exist in a civilized society. (For some reason, infanticide did not get the same okay.) In fact, Tertullian, who was a Christian writer who lived in ancient Rome, wrote this about the procedure:

Among surgeons’ tools there is a certain instrument, which is formed with a nicely-adjusted flexible frame for opening the uterus first of all and keeping it open; it is further furnished with an annular blade, by means of which the limbs [of the child] within the womb are dissected with anxious but unfaltering care; its last appendage being a blunted or covered hook, wherewith the entire fetus is extracted by a violent delivery.

There is also [another instrument in the shape of] a copper needle or spike, by which the actual death is managed in this furtive robbery of life: They give it, from its infanticide function, the name of embruosphaktes, [meaning] “the slayer of the infant,” which of course was alive. . . .

[The doctors who performed abortions] all knew well enough that a living being had been conceived, and [they] pitied this most luckless infant state, which had first to be put to death, to escape being tortured alive.

– Tertullian, The Soul 25, [A.D. 210].

This method is not completely dissimilar to our own method of abortion, except we are prone to use vacuums to suck out the fetal body parts as well. In the recent controversy regarding the sale of dismembered fetal body parts, Dr. Nucatola talks about being extra careful to keep certain body parts, such as organs, intact. This is because when an abortion happens, often the fetus is ripped apart in the process. If you would like, you can even see the graphic images of the fetal remains so that you can better understand what happens when an abortion takes place and how they extract the parts in this way.

So, we shouldn’t pretend that any of these things are new. Nothing is new under the sun.

But we, as Christians, should make sure to continue to stand up against this whole idea of children being disposable things that can be gotten rid of when life is difficult. Abortion has been denounced by early Christian writers from the early times of the Church. We should hold fast to our traditions, just as the bible tells us to do, and continue to fight for life. After all, Jesus asked us to let the children come to him… and no, that doesn’t mean kill them off so they can go to heaven.

And this is not to say that the women who procure abortions are to be hated. Far from it. Part of being pro-life is about supporting women too, which is why nobody should ever hate a woman for having an abortion. If you’re going to talk on and on about the human dignity of a fetus, you need to at least recognize the human dignity of the woman who is contemplating or has already had an abortion. Otherwise, you miss the point of the beauty of human life and your argument is ridiculous.

There’s a meme going around on Facebook which is a Catholic nun, Sister Joan Chittister, talking about the difference between pro-birth and pro-life… if all you care about is the baby, but you’re willing to smear the mother to kingdom come, there is something wrong with your perspective about things. This is true. There are people who are suffering from medical conditions, both physical and mental, who are ignored or ostracized or told that they should just get over it. They need people who will stand up for them. There are people who are imprisoned in terrible, terrible conditions. They need someone to reaffirm that they are still human and to stand up for them. There are people who are impoverished and struggling to survive. They are called lazy because they don’t earn the top dollars some do and there is this whole crazy mindset that they deserve to be poor and to struggle to survive. This is madness. These people need people to stand up for them as well. There is so much temptation for those who “have” something to dismiss the concerns of those who don’t have that particular thing, be it health, wealth, age, freedom, or whatever else they aren’t privileged with.

The same is true for women who procure abortions — the majority of the people who abort are some of the most vulnerable in society, and that cannot and should not be ignored in this abortion ethics discussion.They are just as important and worthy to be loved as anybody else. Period. We need to stand up for them too.


The unborn are also human too, and their dehumanization is particularly tragic. They are so vulnerable that, if you take them out of the womb, they cannot survive on their own without major medical intervention. They are clearly human — we know too much about biology to pretend that they magically become human when they pass through the birth canal, alive. The womb is built to protect them until they are ready to come out — through the strange and wonderful process of evolution, the womb has designed itself to protect this tiny little human life and to foster its growth. Sometimes it fails, such as miscarriage, but on the whole, that’s what the womb is designed to do. And now, we are ignoring nature and forcing it to bend to our own whims and designs.

We need to stand up for them as well.