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Legal Development of Abortion

Legal Development of Abortion

This essay traces the development of abortion law in English and American society up to the time of Roe v. Wade in 1973. Beginning with Biblical citations, the essay researches the Early Church Fathers on the issue; the American colonies; developments of the 1800’s which caused change, and so on.

Up to the time of the Protestant Reformation, the English society inherited its traditional anti-abortion law from the Church practice of 1500 years standing; which belief began even before Christianity as part of the Old Testament Jewish belief. The Old Testament tells us: “Death was not God’s doing, he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living” (Wis. 1:13). What is willed is life, and in the visible universe everything has been made for man, who is the image of God and the world’s crowning glory (Gen. 1:26-28). In the Christian tradition, the Early Church Fathers taught in The Didache, perhaps the first Christian catechism from 70-90AD, the following in chapter 2, verses 1-2: “The second commandment of the teaching: You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child.” (Jurgens vol.1,p.2)

The colonies inherited English Common Law and largely operated under it until well into the 19th century. English Common Law forbade abortion. Abortion prior to quickening was a misdemeanor. Abortion after quickening (feeling life) was a felony. This bifid punishment, inherited from earlier ecclesiastic law, stemmed from earlier “knowledge” regarding human reproduction.


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…ial state (pre-polled at 60% pro-abortion), voted 63% against abortion. It seemed obvious that most people did not want abortion. But, on January 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, and abortion was imposed from the top down. (Roe)


Dellapenna,J. The History of Abortion: Technology, Morality, and Law, University of Pittsburgh Law Review, 1979 Quay, Justifiable Abortion-Medical and Legal Foundations, Georgetown Univ., Law Review, 1960-1961

Jurgens, William A. The Faith of the Early Fathers. N.p.: Liturgical Press, 1998.

Roe vs. Wade, U.S. Supreme Court410 U.S. 113, 1973 Doe vs. Bolton, U.S. Supreme Court 410 U.S. 179, 1973

Washington Post April 27, 1981

Women and Abortion, Prospects of Criminal Charges Monograph, American Center for Bioethics, 422 C St., NE, Washington, DC 20002, Spring 1983

Persuasive Essay: Christians Should Oppose Euthanasia

Christians Should Oppose Euthanasia

Those who advocate euthanasia have capitalized on people’s confusion, ambivalence, and even fear about the use of modern life-prolonging technologies. Further, borrowing language from the abortion debate, they insist that the “right to choose” must prevail over all other considerations. Being able to choose the time and manner of one’s death, without regard to what is chosen, is presented as the ultimate freedom. A decision to take one’s life or to allow a physician to kill a suffering patient, however, is very different from a decision to refuse extraordinary or disproportionately burdensome treatment.

As Christians, we believe that life is the most basic gift of a loving God–a gift over which we have stewardship but not absolute dominion. Our tradition, declaring a moral obligation to care for our own life and health and to seek such care from others, recognizes that we are not morally obligated to use all available medical procedures in every set of circumstances. But that tradition clearly and strongly affirms that as a responsible steward of life one must never directly intend to cause one’s own death, or the death of an innocent victim, by action or omission. Euthanasia and willful suicide are offenses against life itself which poison civilization.

nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Moreover, we have no right to ask for this act of killing for ourselves or for those entrusted to our care; nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action. We are dealing here with a violation of the divine law, an offense against the dignity of the human person, a crime against life, and an attack on humanity.

Legalizing euthanasia would also violate American convictions about human rights and equality. The Declaration of Independence proclaims our inalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” If our right to life itself is diminished in value, our other rights will have no meaning. To destroy the boundary between healing and killing would mark a radical departure from longstanding legal and medical traditions of our country, posing a threat of unforeseeable magnitude to vulnerable members of our society.

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