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Patristic writings

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In the late 1st century or early 2nd century, the Didache explicitly condemned abortion, as did the Apocalypse of Peter in the 2nd century. Some early Christians considered abortion wrong in all circumstances, and early synods imposed penalties for abortions that were combined with some form of sexual crime and on the making of abortifacient drugs: the early 4th-century Synod of Elvira imposed denial of communion even at the point of death on those who committed the "double crime" of adultery and subsequent abortion, and the Synod of Ancyra imposed ten years of exclusion from communion on manufacturers of abortion drugs and on women aborting what they conceived by fornication (previously, such women and the makers of drugs for abortion were excluded until on the point of death). Basil the Great (330-379) imposed the same ten-year exclusion on any woman who purposely destroyed her unborn child, even if unformed. Abortion was sometimes regarded as worse than murder, but Basil thus imposed for it a lesser penance than the twenty-year exclusion that he imposed for intentional homicide, apparently because abortion was likely to be due to fear and shame rather than malice.

Several historians have written that prior to the 19th century most Catholic authors did not regard termination of pregnancy before "quickening" or "ensoulment" as an abortion.

In the 13th century physician and cleric Peter of Spain wrote a book called Thesaurus Pauperum (literally Treasure of the Poor) containing a long list of early-stage abortifacients, including rue, pennyroyal, and other mints. Peter of Spain became Pope John XXI in 1276.

Some prominent theologians, such as John Chrysostom and Thomas Sanchez, believed that post-quickening abortion was less sinful than deliberate contraception. John Chrysostom believed that late-stage abortion was not as bad as deliberately killing an already-born person, whereas contraception was definitely worse than murder, according to him.


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