In medieval Ireland, saints performed abortions. It was a lesser sin than oral sex
Those who support legal and safe abortion might better reflect a ‘medieval’ Irish Catholic attitude than those who oppose it
April 19, 2018
People on all sides of the abortion debate tend to share an assumption, regardless of their personal views on the issue: Catholicism allows only one attitude toward abortion, that it is among the worst sins, an unconscionable evil. Proponents of women’s rights over their own bodies often criticise anti-abortion legislation as “medieval”, with the Irish Constitution’s Eighth Amendment regularly characterised as such. And yet medieval biographies of multiple Irish Catholic saints, including beloved Brigid of Kildare, reverently record abortions among their miracles, and medieval Irish Catholic penitentialists, priestly authorities who prescribed penances for sins and were often celebrated as saints themselves, treated abortion as a relatively minor offence.