Concise Roman Catholic Medical Ethics

edition 2014 by J.A. Raymakers, MD PhD

2.1.13 Rejection of procured abortion by the Church

According to many, procured abortion is a serious offence and in the teaching of the Church it is a great evil that, de facto, excludes those involved from the community of the Church. For every human being has a fundamental right to life, to the possibility of development into independence, and to the love of its parents from the moment of conception.

2.1.14 Specific reasons for rejecting procured abortion

  1. An incipient, defenseless human being is denied the fundamental right to life by intentionally killing it.
  2. The child is thereby degraded to a mere object that can be freely disposed of and its human dignity is therefore denied.
  3. This act implies a denial of the marital love of the parents that should be the background of the coming into being of the child and it is a denial of their responsibility as parents.
  4. It contributes to a loss of the correct notion within society of the status of the child in the mother’s womb and of the priority that love for one’s neighbour (i.e. a defenseless child) should have over any advantage, pleasure or desire directed at oneself.

In short: procured abortion can be said to be:

  1. murder;
  2. the denial of the true human nature of the child;
  3. the denial of marital love;
  4. a deleterious example that undermines society.

2.1.16 False arguments by supporters of procured abortion and the proof of contrary

False argument 1.

At the beginning of pregnancy the embryo cannot be put on the same level as a human being and is not entitled to the rights that law and custom normally confer on people.

Answer: According to its nature the zygote that originates at conception cannot develop into anything but a human body that by the will of God is ensouled with a human principle of life, i.e. a human person. For from conception onwards all genetic information that is necessary to the development into the definitive form of appearance, is contained in the zygote. This finality gives the embryo the same dignity as every person come to full development.

False argument 2. The woman has total authority over her own body.

Answer: As it was said before, no one has total authority over their body. Moreover the embryo in the woman’s womb is not her body, since it is distinct and separated from it as to its genetic content, as to the development and construction of its tissues and its circulation. When taking also into account the arguments proposed in answer 1 the women cannot freely dispose of the embryo. Her only freedom lies in the choice whether or not to engage into sexual intercourse that led to this conception.

False argument 3. The child in the womb may be seen or experienced as an aggressor against whom the women is allowed to defend herself;

Answer: The argument of the embryo as an aggressor is a way of deliberately confusing phrasing. It would suppose an agent who, following his nature or not, would aim at harming the mother’s integrity. This might occur unconsciously as in the case of a microbial or animal organism, or consciously as in the case of a hostile person.

While it is recognized that pathological conditions and illnesses exist that present themselves in connection with the presence of an embryo, including its placenta in the womb or elsewhere (in the case of an extra uterine pregnancy), one cannot maintain that the embryo, be it as a developing human person or as an organism is the formal cause of such a disease. The problem is rather a disturbance in the mother’s body in its ability to deal with the situation of pregnancy, which is physiological in itself.

False argument 4. A child is not wanted or suffers from some defect such that it will be better off not to be born.

Answer: In this argument human life itself and the right to life are made subordinate to a personal opinion on the quality of life of the developing child held by the mother and/or others. This is clearly a false way of reasoning in two ways: Firstly, it is not for man to decide on the life of a fellow human being and, secondly, one should not confuse life itself with quality of life.

2.1.17 Selective abortion

By this term is meant the killing of one or more embryos because of a reason that is based on choice, e.g. when the embryo is seen as supernumerary, its sex is not the desired one, certain genetic properties are unwanted or other deviations from what is desired. This means that, in addition to the rejection of the incipient human being as such, a discriminatory motive is added to the action, thereby excluding this specific human being from existence because of an unwanted accidental quality.

2.1.18 Procured abortion to save a mother’s life

One may not intentionally kill a child in its mother’s womb to save the mother’s life. The choice between two human live does not belong to man. Also one may not kill the child because one expects that it will die anyway. In all such cases all that is possible to save both lives has to be done.

There may me situations where the life of the mother is in acute danger, and where the intervention that is needed to save her life may bring about the death of the child (e.g. hemorrhage into the abdominal cavity in an extra uterine pregnancy). In such cases, the intervention can be judged according to the principle of double effect.