When does a human being start to be a person?
Some say that we can talk about a human person only after she is born. Others even dispute that and say: someone is truly human only when she can think and decide. Still others define the beginning of the human person as the moment when the brain stem is formed or the moment when there is no more possibility of identical twinning. The Church rejects all these interpretations and says: human life begins with the fusion of an ovum and a sperm cell.
At the earliest moment of the embryonic stage after fertilization, the Church in accord with both science and common sense regards the life that has resulted as a complete human being already and as such endowed with the dignity that belongs to every human person. Respect for this dignity must also be shown to the unborn and to the weakest members of society.
Why does the Church reject abortion in principle?
Every human being, from the moment of conception, has absolute rights and inviolable personal dignity. Therefore, the killing of an embryo is always morally objectionable – regardless of the circumstances in which the child was conceived, the stage of development in which this new human being happens to be, or the health problems with which she will come into the world. An embryo does not develop INTO a human being, rather she develops AS a human being. Therefore, an abortion is in every case the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.
However, as long as Christians do not do everything possible to assist pregnant women who are in difficulty and to make it easier for them to decide in favour of their child, their commitment against abortion and laws that condone it will not seem very credible.
The mother’s right to freedom, which is often weighed against the child’s right to life, is situated on another level and must not be pitted against the right to life.
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 her earliest beginnings an unborn human being is a separate person, and no one can infringe upon her 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 her 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.
Can a disabled child be aborted?
No. Aborting a disabled child is always a serious crime, even if it is done with the intention of sparing that person suffering later on.
What can a woman do in an unplanned pregnancy?
In crisis situations, and also in the case of an unplanned pregnancy, one can turn to any priest or directly to Catholic counselling centres. All of them are instructed to welcome people lovingly and not to judge them. No one should be left alone in such a situation, and various kinds of help and support are available. Find out more.
What can be done to help a woman who has become pregnant after a rape?
In the case of a rape we must distinguish between two sets of facts. In the first place, a terrible crime has been committed against a woman; it must be prosecuted and viewed as morally reprehensible. Help must be made available to the victim, both by government agencies and by those who provide pastoral care. A priest or (in some countries) specially trained co-workers at Church-owned hospitals and Catholic counselling centres can help the victim. They can offer her consolation and show her ways of coping.
Secondly, the human being that resulted from the rape is a child willed and loved by God. Regardless of the biological father, God has a plan for this child. However serious the emotional harm done to the woman may be, the child can become a consolation and give new hope to the woman. Or the child can be adopted. Whatever happens, God cares for all involved and wants what is good. Because of human free will, God cannot prevent crimes, but he can make sure that new hope and new life come of them. The resulting child needs a mother’s care and love. But those in the mother’s social circle must also take care that the pregnant woman feels safe and accepted.
If you have an abortion and you confess it to the priest, is it forgiven? Is it wrong to kill an unborn child? Do you still go to heaven?”
It is wrong to kill an unborn child – very wrong. Many women realise that this is what has happened only after the abortion has already taken place. But always remember this: God loves you – no matter what you’ve done. If you have had an abortion, or done anything else that offends him, he doesn’t love you any less. He still loves you madly. He is there, waiting to forgive you. If you are sincerely sorry for a sin and you confess it in the confessional, it is forgiven. Never ever doubt that. There is no sin in the world, including abortion, that he won’t forgive if you are sincerely sorry and want to come back to him.
Take the first step. Go to confession. In doing that, you are going to Christ to express your repentance and to ask him to set you back on the right path – his path, the path of life. Don’t worry about the priest or what he will think.
You won’t shock him. He will be glad you’ve come back. If you are more comfortable going to a priest you don’t know, or going anonymously, you can do that. Just take that first step. God is waiting for you. In the midst of all of this pain, he loves you more than you could ever imagine.
I’ve had an abortion and I’ve confessed it, but I am having a very difficult time forgiving myself. What can I do?
Please talk to someone, soon. A terrible thing has happened to you. Abortion is a seriously traumatic event for a woman. Any woman who has had an abortion needs help to work through the profound emotional consequences she will experience.