A couple of days ago, Kathimerini, Greece’s “international English-language newspaper, posted The Wines and Herbs in the Land of Pan, a feature story that touches upon the medicinal potions of antiquity. Included in the discussion are contraceptives and abortifacients, which the Fathers consistently condemn (as do their heirs in the Catholic Church today). Rodney Stark studies the documentary and archeological record in chapter 5 of his book The Rise of Christianity, and even includes a photograph of an abortionist’s surgical tools, unearthed at Pompeii. The Christian notion of chastity — which included opposition to contraception — immediately set the Church’s doctrine apart from all its pagan rivals. Moreover, Christian fertility contributed to the Church’s growth over those early centuries, while pagan sexual practices surely helped to carry out Rome’s slow cultural suicide.
Christians did not waver in this matter until the twentieth century. The Protestant Reformers — Luther, Calvin, and Wesley — univocally opposed birth control and abortion.
For a fascinating book-length treatment of the subject, see my friend Pat Riley’s book Civilizing Sex: On Chastity and the Common Good.