Questions and Answers about Abortion

As an international organization dealing with the most critical moral issue of the day, we get lots of mail and lots of questions. On this page, I will share some of those questions with you, along with my answers. Feel free to submit a question Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question!

God bless you!

Frank Pavone

1. I am trying to help a Catholic woman who is not pro-life because she feels the Church does not support the life of a mother when carrying her baby would end her own life. I cited the example of St. Gianna, the physician woman who refused chemotherapy because she wanted her fourth child to live.

There are two questions at issue here. One is medical (Is there ever need for an abortion to save the mother's life?) and the other is moral (Would an abortion in that case be justified?) The answer to both questions is no. There is no medical situation whose only solution is a direct abortion, as many doctors have testified. Morally speaking, furthermore, it is never right to directly kill an innocent person, even if good results are foreseen. We do not say that a baby's life is more important than the mother's. We do say that they are equal. You may never directly kill either one of them. If, in spite of the best medical efforts, one or both of them die, nothing morally wrong has been done, because an effort has been made to save life, but has failed. That is far different from killing.

2. I am an oncology nurse and was asked to give methotrexate for an ectopic pregnancy on another floor since only oncology nurses can give chemotherapeutic drugs. I believe the pregnancy was tubal. Needless to say I refused because I was unsure of the morality of it. I do not know the entire patient situation since the patient was on another floor. Could you please explain the morality of this act according to the church's teaching. I do not think the mother's life was in danger at this particular time. Thanks and God bless you. P.S. I work at a catholic hospital

There is more than one medical way of handling an ectopic pregnancy. The relevant moral question is whether the method or action is in fact a killing of the child. If so, that is a direct abortion, which is never permissible for any reason. "Direct means that the destruction of the child is willed as the end or the means to another end. Sometimes ectopic pregnancies are handled this way, killing the child but leaving the tube intact. Such an action is morally wrong.

However, if what is done is that the damaged portion of the tube is removed because of the threat it poses to the mother, that is not a direct abortion, even if the child dies. What is done is the same thing that would be done if the tube were damaged from some other cause. The mother is not saved by the death of the child but by the removal of the tube. Because the death of the child in this case is a side effect which is not intended, and because the saving of the mother's life is not brought about by the death of the child, such a removal of the damaged portion of the tube is morally permissible. The ethical rule that applies here is called the Principle of the Double Effect.

3. What is the distinction between pro-choice and pro-abortion? I have Christians I dialog with who say in utter dismay that nobody is pro-abortion - how could they be?

An old axiom in psychiatry says, "Believe behavior." People would rarely admit that they are for abortion, but it is behavior that proves otherwise. Currently, the law allows abortion at any time of pregnancy and for any reason. A person who is against abortion can reasonably be expected to demonstrate that in action, by trying to prevent abortion in some way.

If "pro-choice" people want us to believe they are not pro-abortion, they need to show us what they are doing to stop it.

There are people in legislatures all around the country, and in activist groups like NARAL, who actively oppose a ban even on partial-birth abortion. In what sense, then, are they against abortion?

4. I know that abortion is never merciful for the baby and therefore could never be allowed, but can't it also be considered an act of mercy to an unmarried mother, especially since the pregnancy never should have happened in the first place?

Abortion is not merciful to a mother; abortion hurts women, as evidenced by the post-abortion testimonies posted on our web site:

5. I have a good friend who believes abortion is wrong, but would support it in the case of rape or incest. He has known some girls who were raped and kept the child, and he argues that every time they look at the child they remember the way they were taken advantage of.

"Well what about rape? Are you saying that the woman can't have an abortion?"  Normally, the primary concern of this question, normally, is not "Do you think abortion is OK in this instance?", despite the fact that this is how the question may be expressed. The concern which is uppermost for the questioner is, "Don't you care about this woman? Won't you have compassion and help her?"

When we answer the question, therefore, let's start by addressing this point head on. Before we even mention abortion, we should stress that we agree totally that the woman who has been raped has undergone a terrible trauma, which we can hardly begin to understand, and that her well-being is very much our concern. Stress this point strongly, and go further by saying that we in the pro-life movement are ready to reach out to such women, giving them counsel, healing, and compassion.

This approach, of course, differs in that it does not start where most people would start in answering this challenge: namely, with the rights of the child. It starts with concern for the woman, which is where the questioner is.

Then, having agreed that the woman has been victimized and needs our help, you can frame the question of abortion in this manner: Will an abortion help her? By asking this, you are now questioning what is normally an unspoken, unchallenged assumption, namely, that the abortion is somehow a solution to the rape, and somehow helps alleviate the pain and trauma of the woman.

Having questioned this assumption, therefore, bring in the evidence that not only does the abortion not alleviate the trauma of the rape, but it brings a trauma of its own. Countless women suffer for years and decades after abortion.. I know of women who have been raped and then had abortions, and are in counseling not for the rape but for the abortion! In rape, the trauma is "Someone hurt me." In abortion, the trauma is "I hurt and killed someone else: my child." That brings even more grief.

We therefore help the questioner to see that our reason for denying the rape victim an abortion is not based on insensitivity but rather on compassion, that is, the same basis on which the questioner is challenging us to allow the abortion.

The next step of the process is to show that our compassion actually is more inclusive than that of those who would allow abortion. Having established that we care about the rape victim, we then ask the powerful question, Why can't we love them both? Why can't we extend to the child the same practical compassion which we both agree belongs to the woman? Why can't we expand the boundaries of those we welcome and care for? Why should helping and loving one (the mom) mean destroying the other (the child)? In reality, you cannot help one without helping the other and you cannot hurt one without hurting the other.

A key study on this topic is the book Victims and Victors: Speaking out about their Pregnancies, Abortions, and Children Resulting from Sexual Assault, By David C. Reardon. In this book, read the testimonies of 192 women who reveal that most pregnant sexual assault victims don't want abortion, and those who do abort only suffer more. This is the most comprehensive study published on this theme. (ISBN Number 0-9648957-1-4; Published in 2000 by Acorn Books/Elliot Institute, PO Box 7348, Springfield, IL 62791-7348; Phone 1-888-412-2676, 217-525-8202; Website

Dr. Theresa Burke also addresses this topic in her book Forbidden Grief.  One example from that book is this testimony: "The rape was bad, but I could have gotten over it. The abortion is something I will never get over. No one realizes how much that event damaged my life. I hate my rapist, but I hate the abortionist too. I can’t believe I paid to be raped again. This will affect the rest of my life."

Please also see the following testimony from Jenni Speltz, who was conceived in rape:

6. What makes more money, pornography or abortion industry? This question came up in a faith formation class in our diocese.

Both of these industries generate a massive amount of revenue. 

The abortion industry has a revenue of about half a billion dollars a year.

Robert Peters, the president of Morality in Media (, states, “I don’t think anyone could give you an accurate figure of how much money the ‘adult entertainment industry’ brings in,” he said. “Estimates in the U.S. typically range from $10 to $15 billion per year.  Two or three years ago, however, an article in Forbes magazine questioned those estimates, making the case that the true figure was much lower. Clearly, the “industry” has every reason to overestimate the money it makes, because in the eyes of many people, financial success equals acceptability.”

Of course, the amount of money each industry brings in does not determine which is morally worse. Abortion, because it is the direct taking of innocent life, is a worse form of evil than pornography, although both are gravely wrong.

7. Someone told me the Bible is silent about abortion. Is it?

The Bible is silent about abortion in the same way it is silent about the Trinity.

In other words, the word itself is not there, but the teaching is.

First of all, Scripture is clear from beginning to end about the fact that human life is created by God, is in God's image, belongs to God, and has a destiny with God. The obligation to respect human life is illustrated in a thousand ways. Our obligations to each other are crystal clear. See our pamphlet Scripture's Teaching Against Abortion as well as our outline of Scriptural themes for more details.

But there is another consideration here.

Suppose those who criticize us by claiming the Bible is silent on abortion were right. Suppose there were nothing in it to indicate that abortion is wrong.

So what?

Am I then to consent to the killing of little children?

Many of those who make this argument do not believe in the Bible anyway. They make all sorts of judgments about what to do and not to do in life independently of what is in the Bible.

Are they then to say we cannot do the same?

I believe in the Bible. And it condemns the killing of the innocent, which abortion is.

But even if the Bible were silent about abortion, I have enough decency and good sense to see that abortion is an evil that neither I nor anyone else should tolerate.

Priests for Life
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