Vatican Declaration

The Vatican's Declaration on Procured Abortion was issued on 18 November 1974. During this time, abortion was mainly the result of the many premarital sexual connections begun during the late 1960's. The Church regarded this as a great problem, as contraception in the eyes of this institution was an evil similar to abortion: it prevents life and birth, and can therefore be constituted as murder. Currently, more than thirty years later, the Vatican maintains its position on abortion, contraception and parental responsibility, even while many feel that these ideas are outdated and unfair from an individualistic point-of-view. The above-mentioned document addresses the abortion issue from three points-of-view: the religious, the legal, and the humanistic.

According to the Vatican, all human life is sacred in terms of divinity. To allow abortion is to transgress not only at a legal level, but also against divine law. Indeed, the document also relies upon religious history, along with biblical teaching, to substantiate this point. The Greco-Roman paradigm of infanticide and abortion is cited in opposition to the doctrine of the Church. Because life and humanity ensues from God, the Church holds that life begins from the moment of conception, and that even abortion during the very first weeks may constitute murder. It makes no difference whether it is a few cells, animated, or an already fully formed baby. Terminating a pregnancy is therefore seen on the same level as killing an already born infant, which is then a crime not only against humanity, but also against the commandments of God.

By citing various declarations over the centuries, the Church also relies on its own sense of constant stability in terms of doctrine. For the Vatican, it is important to remain constant in terms of teaching, and as such to remain a refuge for the worshipers its serves. In this light it is perhaps not surprising that the Vatican remains unchanged in its opinions regarding this issue; it is the aim, according to the document, to be a timeless refuge for those who are uncertain which of the many opinions should be followed. From a religious viewpoint, one might therefore constitute this as the attempt of the Church to follow the image of God in terms of adherence to a single doctrine. The Church, like God, refuses to change for the sake of social evolution. The document also indicates that the faithful in general are required to adhere to the principle of the Church.

In addition to ideal, the faithful are also called to action: they are required to do what they can to as far as possible eradicate the causes of abortion. The document acknowledges that there are circumstances in which an abortion might appear to be the best option not only for the parents, but also for the unborn. Physical or mental abnormalities for example are a common cause for abortion. When the child is considered a burden to the parents or society, such an abortion is legalized in many countries. Furthermore, pregnancy as a result of rape, the financial circumstances of the parents, and if the mother or child is in serious danger as a result of the pregnancy, are also causes for abortion. None of these, for the Church, is sufficient cause for terminating a pregnancy. The Church remains with its basic view that human life, whatever the form of its origin or culmination, is sacred and as such human beings have no right to decide its fate.

Of course the above causes themselves cannot be changed. The Church however suggests a change of idea; a change in how these children and mothers are regarded by society, and in the support they are provided with as a result. According to the document, the main reason for abortions in the above cases is the fact that society does not support the families of such children sufficiently. In this, the Church calls not only for Christian charity, but also for humanity in general. The document suggests that all human beings, not only Christians, are obliged to help those less fortunate themselves.

According to the document, the families of these children are also under obligation to raise the children to the best of their ability, even with the challenges involved. Here again the religious paradigm is encouraged. Life is to be seen in a multi-dimensional paradigm: the sorrow of earthly life, if handled in a Christian way, leads to joy in the afterlife. Mothers of unborn children with abnormalities are therefore to allow birth and help the children live the life intended for them by God. Society, from the paradigm of humanity, is to provide these mothers with all the help and support necessary to do so.

From the legal viewpoint, the Vatican's document calls upon legislators to retain anti-abortion laws. Because the Church sees abortion as murder, it calls for the law to also regard such action as a punishable crime. Several parallels are drawn between murder and abortion for the duration of the document. As such, the issue is taken very seriously. The document warns that the legalization of abortion might encourage an increase of the "crime," even as a means of birth control. Another warning is that abortion may be dangerous for women's health, and for their reproductive future, should they have more children.

A further acknowledgement of the document relates to medical science. It addresses for example the facts that medical advances have made abortions at an early stage much easier than the case was in the past. This, according to the Church, is not a sound position for medical science. Instead, it should be required to promote rather than terminate life. Rather than therefore pouring medical resources into abortion technology, it should be applied to promote life, even at the very point of conception in the womb. This is also an area that could be legally enforced.

A further legal issue that the document uses to support its point, is human rights. In this, the Vatican uses a combination of morality, legal issues and human history to support its point. This is also the most important point around which the rest of the document and the argument are structured. The most fundamental human right, according to the document, is the right to life. All other human rights and actions depend on this single right. The Church goes on to state that the right to life predates society as it is known today. As such, this is not a right that can be granted or removed by a society of human beings. Once again, the religious ideal of god-given rights is mentioned here, along with the historically-established ideal.

The right to life has always been provided to humanity by God. God, the document argues, desires and perpetuates life. Because this is so, humanity has no right to terminate human life in any of its forms, for any reason, or at any stage. Society is however obliged to uphold, enforce and promote the right to life of all human beings. Here the document combines his with the issue of human obligation towards those who suffer as a result of poverty or abnormality.

The Church calls for legislators to put structure in place to support persons in need. Sufficient support for families in need, according to the argument, will prevent or at least diminish the abortion problem. In the same way that the old or the terminally ill is cared for, each child and family in need should be supported by means of both government and social resources. Rather than support the termination of life, therefore, society is called upon to support the perpetuation of life by means of charity, legislation and kindness towards those who suffer.

In terms of ideology, the document also warns against using ideological pluralism in order to promote abortion. While the Church is not against freedom of opinion, it opposes opinions that seek to subordinate or disadvantage other opinions or persons. According to the document, pro-abortion opinions fall into this category. The Church holds that all abortion is against the divine principle of life, and therefore disadvantages others in terms of the right to life. This opinion, in terms of not only religion, but also in terms of legality and humanity, is not valid and should not be allowed. Christians specifically and human beings in general have an obligation to respect the right to life.

According to the document, this right is the most perpetual throughout the history of humanity. All other rights have been denied and reinstated; the right to life is however so fundamental that it takes precedence above all else. Human beings have to strive for what the document refers to as "the good." The loss of life is never "good," as the human directive is towards life. Life on earth is to be live according to each individual's best ability for the purpose of eternal spiritual life in the hereafter. To interfere with the cycle of life and natural death is…