4.28 Is abortion wrong?
It is very sad when a mother feels compelled to consider an abortion. Abortion is the deliberate termination of a pregnancy. This cannot be right, because it concerns the deliberate ending of a human life. Every abortion involves the death of a child.
Although it is still tiny, an embryo is a human being with dignity and rights. Like any man or woman, this little person is entitled to his or her life. That life begins at the moment when an egg cell is fertilised by a sperm cell. From that moment onwards, the embryo is a unique person who is entitled to receive care and protection from his parents and a safe environment to grow up in.
What is forbidden by the fifth commandment?
The fifth commandment forbids as gravely contrary to the moral law:
- direct and intentional murder and cooperation in it;
- direct abortion, willed as an end or as means, as well as cooperation in it. Attached to this sin is the penalty of excommunication because, from the moment of his or her conception, the human being must be absolutely respected and protected in his integrity;
- direct euthanasia which consists in putting an end to the life of the handicapped, the sick, or those near death by an act or by the omission of a required action;
- suicide and voluntary cooperation in it, insofar as it is a grave offense against the just love of God, of self, and of neighbor. One’s responsibility may be aggravated by the scandal given; one who is psychologically disturbed or is experiencing grave fear may have diminished responsibility.
Why is abortion unacceptable at any phase in the development of an embryo?
God-given human life is God’s own property; it is sacred from the first moment of its existence and not under the control of any human being. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jer 1:5).
God alone is lord over life and death. Not even “my” life belongs to me. Every child, from the moment of conception on, has a right to life. From his earliest beginnings an unborn human being is a separate person, and no one can infringe upon his rights, not the state, not the doctor, and not even the mother or father. The Church’s clarity about this is not a lack of compassion; she means, rather, to point out the irreparable harm that is inflicted on the child who is killed in abortion and on his parents and on society as a whole. Protecting innocent human life is one of the noblest tasks of the state. If a state evades this responsibility, it undermines the foundations of a rule of law. [Youcat 383]
The texts of Sacred Scripture never address the question of deliberate abortion and so do not directly and specifically condemn it. But they show such great respect for the human being in the mother's womb that they require as a logical consequence that God's commandment "You shall not kill" be extended to the unborn child as well... Throughout Christianity's two thousand year history, this same doctrine has been constantly taught by the Fathers of the Church and by her Pastors and Doctors. Even scientific and philosophical discussions about the precise moment of the infusion of the spiritual soul have never given rise to any hesitation about the moral condemnation of abortion. [Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 61]