Ancient Abortion II

I've written here and here about the disregard for life shown by the early Romans, and its eerie similarity to our own culture today. Today Mike Aquilina at Way of The Fathers has another excellent post about this.

In pagan Rome, a child did not achieve personhood until recognized by the head of the family, the father. When the mother had given birth, a midwife placed the child on the floor and summoned the father. He examined the child with his criteria of selection in mind.

Was the child his? If the man suspected his wife of adultery — ancient Rome’s favorite pastime — he might reject the child without so much as a glance.

If the child was an “odious daughter” (a common Roman phrase for female offspring), he would likely turn on his heel and leave the room.

If the child was “defective” in any way, he would do the same. As the philosopher Seneca said: “What is good must be set apart from what is good-for-nothing.”

Life or death? It all depended upon the will of a man. Human life began when the child was accepted into society. A man did not “have a child.” He “took a child.” The father “raised up” the child by picking it up from the floor.

Those non-persons who were left on the floor — while their mothers watched from a birthing chair — would be drowned immediately, or exposed to scavenging animals at the town dump.

Against these customs, the Church consistently taught that life begins at conception and should continue till natural death. In such matters, Christianity contradicted pagan mores on almost every point. What were virtuous acts to the Romans and Greeks — contraception, abortion, infanticide, suicide, euthanasia — were abominations to the Christians. READ MORE.

Again I ask: exactly how is this different from the way we regard life today? Now it is usually the mother whose "choice" decides if her child lives or dies. With our technology we don't have to wait until the child is born to evaluate its worthiness. The process is cleaner, quicker, not as messy. Is it any less evil?


Jennifer F. said...

It's funny that you're on this topic. I too have been thinking about this very issue lately. I was reading the Everlasting Man where Chesterton brings up some unspeakable things that were done to babies.

I was perplexed: were these people the same species as I am? Surely not. Something just doesn't make sense. How could they and their society turn their backs on such atrocities and act like it was ok?

And then I read some story about late-term abortion and realized that that is exactly what we do. Like the ancients, we tell ourselves a story. Just like we say, well, it doesn't happen that much, or it's not *really* a baby, etc. etc....that's how they did it. They too had a story they told themselves.

Lynne said...

Also, look at the 'need' for safe haven laws, i.e. a woman who has just given birth can give the baby to a police or fire station or a hospital, no questions asked. Except, women are still throwing their babies in the trash.