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By Diogenes (articles ) | Mar 07, 2008

Today is the memorial of Saints Felicity and Perpetua, martyred in Carthage on March 7, A.D. 203, in the reign of the emperor Septimius Severus. This detail in the Catholic Encyclopedia article is interesting:

Felicitas, who at the time of her incarceration was with child (in the eighth month), was apprehensive that she would not be permitted to suffer martyrdom at the same time as the others, since the law forbade the execution of pregnant women.

If it's true that the law of pagan Rome forbade the execution of pregnant women, it points to a recognition, however incomplete, that her child had a value distinct from that of its mother and was worthy of protection. Would NARAL and NOW, I wonder, be prepared to take a position contrary to that of Roman law -- viz., that pregnancy should not delay an execution in states with capital punishment -- on the grounds that there exists no moral entity distinct from the condemned woman to be taken into consideration?

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  • Posted by: - Mar. 07, 2008 11:27 AM ET USA

    Romans had some meager regard for children and gave the father of the woman-to-be executed a chance to receive his progeny. But, if at birth, the *father* of Felicitas' child decided he did not want the baby, then the midwife was bound by law to turn the newborn head down into a bucket of water and drown it. Compassion and mercy to the weakest and most innocent in ancient Rome, as today, was as often as not dictated by 'choice' - just not the mother's.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 07, 2008 9:47 AM ET USA

    Great point! Even pagan Rome had more compassion and respect for the children. i would hazard a guess that the Romans did not belong to the Democrat party.