The Catholic Christian definition of abortion is the deliberate killing of a Child of God. The secular definition is the removal of an unwanted pregnancy. Both definitions agree that the fetus in a woman’s womb is a human fetus and not that of a cat or dog. Both definitions agree that removal of human fetus before it can survive on its own means depriving the fetus of life, no matter what stage of pregnancy. The Catholic and secular definitions disagree about whether a fetus has all the rights and protections of other human beings. Catholicism states that all the rights and protections accorded human beings begins at conception. For the secular world, abortion is the killing of an “it” and not a person.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997) Article 2270 states: “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which are the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”
For the Catholic Christian, any interference with human life, from the moment of conception until natural death, is a violation of the fifth commandment “thou shall not kill.”
The Catholic Church’s teaching on human sexuality has not changed. Human sexuality is a sacred gift from God which allows humans to participate in God’s creative powers through the procreation of children. Using sex for any other purpose degrades the gift. This attitude toward sex is the reason for the Church’s teachings on chastity, celibacy and contraception. Following this teaching is not a problem for the God-centered person. It is, however, a major problem for the self-centered person.
The general American attitude toward sex has changed from procreation to recreation. Casual sex leads to casual pregnancies which lead to casual abortions. To prevent this sequence of events, many Christians use contraceptives which are seen as responsible behavior.
Catholic Christian women are as influenced by cultural values just as much as are other women. The current question is not to have premarital sex but whether to have sex on the first date.
Society tells a woman that having an abortion will solve all her problems and no one need ever know. She will not be burdened with supporting an unintended life which may have been brought to existence through rape or other abuse.
Since a woman is generally considered to be responsible for her own pregnancy, no matter how she became pregnant, she may feel that abortion is a more viable option than the responsibilities of a life with an unwanted child. If a pregnant Catholic girl constantly hears that abortion is an OK solution to an unwanted pregnancy, and if the Church tells her that she will be excommunicated if she has an abortion, what are her options as a Catholic?
American population statistics say that single mother households constitute the largest group of the poor. Raising a child takes time and attention. Although some women can take their children to Day Care from an early age, the costs of Day Care often exceeds the woman’s income. How many Catholic parishes routinely offer Day Care for single mothers who need to have a job to support their baby? Even when her child/children are old enough to go to school leaving her free to find a job, the job may not correspond to school hours. What happens to the child after school?
At one time there were many Catholic orphanages and hospitals in the United States that had a “baby gate” where a woman could place her unwanted baby. Due to conflicts between Catholic principles and government regulations, few Catholic orphanages exist in the United States today. Due to conflict between Catholic principles and government regulations, Catholic social services, which provide adoption services, are also being curtailed. The current government regulation that all employers, religious or secular, must offer a health insurance that covers the costs of abortion will inevitably reduce the number of Catholic services which are currently open to people of all faiths.
For the Catholic Christian, abortion is a simple issue. It is not done. Abortion, however, is not an isolated issue; it is part of a process that begins with attitudes and beliefs about the purpose of human sexuality and the rights and dignity of the human being. When sex is used by rapists as a power play, by consenting adults as recreation, or by adults abusing children, it is being used for self-serving purposes for the physical pleasure it provides. When sexuality is used for purposes other than procreation, it sets up an entire string of consequences, which may lead to abortion.
When sex is used as God intended it to be used, it becomes part of God’s divine plan for humanity. In the Catholic view, there is no such thing as an unwanted pregnancy. Abortion, as the solution for an unwanted pregnancy, is a violation of God’s law.