Early Pagans & Abortion

Ancient instruments such as those found at Pompeii are not unlike modern surgical instruments.
  • Papyri from Egypt around 1500 BC contain prescriptions for abortions.
  • Plato and Aristotle both recommended abortion as a means of limiting family size.
  • Romans were not as keen on abortion, because they had low birth rates and needed citizens.
  • Forensic archaeologists have shown us that many primitive societies used various means to induce abortion.
Early Written Records
Abortion techniques have been described by many ancient societies who considered abortion a way of maintaining a stable population.

It was forbidden by the Sumerian Code (ca.2000, Abraham was from Sumeria); by the Code of Hammurabi (ca.2000); by the Assyrian Code, the Hittite Code; by Zoroaster (ca.590BC); by Buddha (ca.550BC),and by some schools of Hinduism. (Sources: “The Origins and History of Hebrew Law” and “The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East”)

Women faced with unwanted pregnancies however, have always turned to abortion with little regard to religion, legal sanction, safety or consequence.
The oldest known medical texts describe abortion methods.


Methods
Evidence from forensic archaeologists have shown us that many primitive societies used various means to induce abortion. These include herbs, poisons, sharp sticks and abdominal pressure. The oldest known medical texts describe abortion methods.

Egyptian papyri dated around 1500BC contain prescriptions for abortions.

Hippocrates prohibition was against the use of pessaries to cause abortion, which were probably harmful to the woman. It is uncertain if this was meant as a total ban on abortion by other methods as well.

Greek medical texts discussed abortion, giving case histories and prescriptions. Plato and Aristotle both recommended abortion as a means of limiting family size.

The Romans were less keen on contraception and abortion, mainly because they had low birth rates and needed citizens. Women who attempted abortions were suspected of trying to cover up illicit love affairs. But the paterfamilias (head of the family) was empowered to force abortions on his wives and slaves.
While Roman law punished women for contraception and abortion, it allowed fathers to put to death live babies they did not want: girls, the disabled, and babies whose paternity they denied.


While Roman law punished women for contraception and abortion, it allowed fathers to put to death live babies they did not want: girls, the disabled, and babies whose paternity they denied.

Customarily they killed them by exposure to the elements. Almost all these infanticides were directed at girls. Mothers had no legal standing to oppose them.

Phoenecians/Carthage
In ancient times the Phoenicians, in Carthage and elsewhere, had a reputation for sacrificing children. One adventurer/explorer in the 1920s found 6,000 funerary urns in the sancturary of Tanit, where the little children of Carthage were sacrificed for the sake of the city's security.

Major excavations in the 1970s concluded that child sacrifice at Tophet took place almost continuously for nearly 600 years, sometimes in numbers of up to 500 at a time.

Typical of other early pagan cultures, the Phoenicians practised abortion and infanticide, especially if the baby born was disabled, sickly or a girl.
The early Christians condemned infanticide, abortion, all forms of suicide, and consistently boycotted the gladiator contests.


Christian Influence on Society
When the early Christians entered the Greco-Roman culture, human life was cheap and expendable. Infanticide was widespread and legal.

In contrast, the early Christians saw all human life as sacred. They condemned infanticide (they rescued and raised abandoned infants), abortion, all forms of suicide, and consistently boycotted the gladiator contests. Infanticide, was outlawed by Valentinian (a Christian emperor) in 374AD.