Abortion and the Eighth Commandment
By Fr. Frank A. Pavone
We usually think of abortion as a violation of the Fifth Commandment, "Thou shalt
not kill," and that is true. But abortion is wrong for many reasons. It breaks all
The Eighth Commandment says, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy
neighbor." This is not only a matter of falsely testifying that somebody did
something wrong, as we see, for example, in the Old Testament story of Susanna (Daniel
13). This commandment also forbids false testimony about who our neighbor is, about what
value and dignity our neighbor possesses, and about what our obligations to our neighbor
The question in abortion is not only, "When does life begin?" but more
deeply, "What does life mean?" What are the implications of being human? Is
human life disposable when it is unwanted, or inconvenient, or not recognized by a
government? Is there anything about human existence that cries out for recognition and
protection apart from what a particular society decides to bestow? What is the truth about
humanity? What is the human person destined for? Are we made for the grave or for the
Abortion not only takes a life; it makes a statement about life, and not only about the
life it takes, but about the lives of all of us. Abortion says we are disposable. Abortion
says our value is determined by others. Abortion says there is no intrinsic dignity in
human life that requires its absolute protection, and no destiny that reaches beyond this
world or even beyond this Supreme Court.
Do not bear false witness against your neighbor! Abortion lies about the human person.
Christ, on the other hand, reveals the truth about human life (see Vatican II,
Constitution on the Church in the Modern World #22.) Particularly by His Ascension, He
shows that we are made for the heights of heaven, not for the medical waste bag.
"Lord, what is man that You care for him?" (Ps.8:5). The psalmist asked the
question, and God Himself answered it in Christ. May our treatment of human life
faithfully echo that answer!