Statement on Abortion
A Statement Issued by the
United States Catholic Conference
April 17, 1969
1. In recent years, there has been a growing concern for the
dignity of human life. The crisis of conscience that has gripped the country
over the war in Vietnam, the re-examination of the question of capital
punishment, the ethical questions raised by newly developed skills in the
transplantation of vital organs, are all indications that our people
continue to place a high value on human life. Moreover, our society
recognizes that it must increasingly guarantee the basic rights of every
person, particularly of those who are least able to defend themselves.
2. At the same time, we face a widespread effort to
"liberalize" the present laws that generally prohibit abortion. Initial
efforts to liberalize these laws focused on specific problem situations—some
of which have already become less problematical due to scientific discovery
and advance. During the past year, the emphasis has begun to change, and we
are now facing a determined effort to repeal totally all abortion
laws—thereby resulting in abortion on demand.
3. In previous statements on this question, we have drawn upon
our Judaeo-Christian heritage of concern for the person and have stressed
the intrinsic value of human life—a value that bridges the gap between man's
temporal existence and his eternal destiny.
4. In a Pastoral Letter on
Human Life in Our Day (November, 1968), we urged that "society
always be on the side of life," that "it never dictate, directly or
indirectly, recourse to the prevention of life or to its destruction in any
of its phases." Our concern is heightened by the awareness that one of the
dangers of a technological society is a tendency to adopt a limited view of
man, to see man only for what he does or produces, and to overlook the
source of man's dignity, the fact that he is made in the image of God, and
that from the moment of his conception he is worthy of the full support of
the human family of which he is a member.
5. Consequently, we have frequently affirmed as our own the
teaching of the Second Vatican Council, that
Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide,
abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the
integrity of the human person . . . all these things and others of their like
are infamies indeed. They poison human society but they do more harm to those
who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a
supreme dishonor to the Creator. (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the
Modern World, No. 27.)
At the same time, we have emphasized that society has an obligation to
safeguard the life of every person from the very beginning of that life, and to
perfect a legal-political system that assures protection to the individual and
the well-being of the community.
6. We restate with strong conviction and growing concern our
opposition to abortion. In so doing, we do not urge one ethical conviction
as the sole basis of public policy, but we articulate the concerns that are
also held by persons of other faiths and by specialists in the fields of
medicine, law, and the social sciences.
7. Fully aware of problem situations that may exist at
times, such as illegitimacy, great emotional stress, possible disadvantage
for the child after birth, we find no evidence that easy abortion laws will
solve these problems. In fact, the termination of life in these particular
situations violates our whole legal heritage, one that has always protected
the right to life. Moreover, it allows for an extension of the principle
that may well endanger the lives of persons who are senile, incurably ill,
or unable fully to exercise all their faculties.
8. We strongly urge a renewed positive attitude toward life
and a new commitment to its protection and support. We affirm our social
responsibility, together with all society, to bring encouragement,
understanding and support to the victims of rape, to intensify our
scientific investigation into the causes and cures of maternal disease and
fetal abnormality, and to provide to all women adequate education and
material sustenance to choose motherhood responsibly and freely in accord
with our basic commitment to the sanctity of life.
9. We are certain that respect for human dignity and the
reverence for human life are such widely shared values in our society that
the discussion by lawyers, doctors, ethicians, social scientists, and all
concerned citizens of ethical questions like abortion will lead to a deeper
understanding of the eminent value and inviolability of human life.