Declaration on Abortion
A Statement Issued by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops
November 18, 1970
1. In fulfillment of our teaching responsibility as bishops, once
again we speak of the grave evil of abortion. Since the first centuries of
the Church's existence, abortion has been considered the destruction of
human life. Nothing permits us to judge it differently now. Scientists tell
us that, from the moment of conception, the child is a complex and rapidly
growing being, endowed with the characteristics of human life. Although
dependent on a privileged environment for development, the child in the womb
has a life of its own.
2. The fundamental principle has been solemnly recalled by the
Second Vatican Council:
For God, the Lord of life, has conferred on men the surpassing ministry of
safeguarding life -- a ministry which must be fulfilled in a manner worthy of
man. Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the
greatest care, while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes (Pastoral
Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, No. 51).
3. The function of law is to support and protect the rights of
every person. The unborn child's civil rights have consistently been
recognized by American law. Proposed liberalization of the present abortion
laws ignores the most basic of these rights, the right to life itself.
4. The child in the womb is human. Abortion is an unjust
destruction of a human life, and morally that is murder. Society has no
right to destroy this life. Even the expectant mother has no such right. The
law must establish every possible protection for the child before and after
5. We remind Catholic physicians and nurses that, regardless of
changing laws, direct abortion is always morally wrong. Catholic hospitals
and their staffs must witness to the sanctity of life by respecting and
defending human life, before birth as well as afterwards. Theirs ought to be
the highest standards possible in the total care both of mother and child.
6. The evil of abortion is not exclusively the responsibility of
one person. Society is also often guilty of a lack of compassion and justice
for the expectant mother. In fulfillment of its responsibility, society
should do all that is possible to provide necessary medical and other
assistance. We urge government and all voluntary agencies, including
Church-sponsored institutions, to intensify and broaden counseling and care
of expectant mothers who otherwise may be tempted to resort to solutions
contrary to God's law.