Recently someone emailed me (in good spirit), encouraging me to outline the Church's response to abortions in case of rape, incest, grave danger to the mother's life, etc., and so I shall oblige.
One must understand, as I have come to understand, that abortion is evil. Abortion causes the death of a human being—a living person (that I believe is endowed with a soul given by God at the moment of conception, although that is debatable). Even though the person may not be completely able to live on his own yet, he is living, with his own cell structures, DNA, genetic code, etc., and should be given all the God-given rights any other human person has. Abortion, the immoral killing of a human being in a mother's womb (and sometimes outside the womb), is wrong. Our society seems to be stuck on saying 'NO' to life; why can we not begin to accept the great gift of life God has given to us?
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2270):
"Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life."
A lot of the right-to-life problems have stemmed from a distorted view of sexuality and 'theology of the body' in our society. Many people blindly accept what organizations such as Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and other pro-abortion agencies tell them: artificial contraception is good, premarital sex has no moral consequence, moral and ethical relativism is fine, etc. The Catholic Church's view of the sanctity of sexuality, the body, and human life stems from it's belief in the 'natural law', "the divine law written in our hearts and knowable by human reason." (credit: Catholic Update). Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body and Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae are two of the most comprehensive works on these issues.
Pope Paul VI explains the sanctity of God's natural design of human sexuality:
"The sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is, as the recent Council recalled, "noble and worthy.'' (11) It does not, moreover, cease to be legitimate even when, for reasons independent of their will, it is foreseen to be infertile. For its natural adaptation to the expression and strengthening of the union of husband and wife is not thereby suppressed. The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws. The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life."
Pope John Paul II explains why artificial contraception is an impediment to true marital love:
"For those who are filled with the Holy Spirit, contraception is simply unthinkable. They know it replaces the true language of the body with a lie. And lying within the heart of marital intimacy has a ripple effect, as does speaking the truth. Spouses who strive to speak honestly in the nuptial embrace also strive to be open and honest with each other in the other areas of their married life."
A profound respect for life must begin with a profound respect for sexuality and our bodies. After we understand these gifts from God, we may move on towards developing greater respect for the main result of the marital act: a new creation. From Catholic Update:
"We should all respect human life from the moment of conception. And you might say that a bottom-line minimum for respecting human life is not killing it! As our Holy Father puts it, the first right that everybody has is "the inviolable right of every innocent being to life" (Donum Vitae). Everyone has, in other words, a right not to be killed. This is a moral principle held, if not always applied, through the ages and across the globe. When it is violated, there is almost always an outcry."
Now, concerning abortion in cases of rape and incest:
"Many question why the Church won't make specific exceptions for abortion when unborn children are conceived in rape or incest, or are disabled. They also feel that the Church is being unduly hard when it makes no exceptions for situations in which a mother will have her mental or physical health taxed as a result of carrying a baby to term and/or rearing the child. But consider the implications of making such exceptions. It would send them the message that people's value depends upon their physical condition, the circumstances of their conception or others' perception of them."
And, from Catholic Answers:
"An unborn child is an innocent human, regardless of the circumstances of his conception. Though tragic, the crimes of rape or incest are only exacerbated, and the woman's torments are only intensified, by the additional sin of abortion. Since... the unborn is human, regardless of the "caliber" of his pre-born life, no alleged deficiency in his "quality" of life can justify the taking of that life.
The same applies to the so-called "either/or" dilemma: The mother's life is supposedly in danger, and there is a chance she might die; to ensure her safety, it is said, it is necessary to kill the child. Yet one is never justified in doing evil that good may come of it (Rom. 3:8). What is at issue here is homicidal intent.
[Some people allow] for abortions when the mother's "health" is in jeopardy. But what health? Physical only, when there is a likelihood of her death? Physical only, when there is no real likelihood of her death? Emotional? Besides, what is the definition of "jeopardy"? All mothers know that pregnancy inevitably brings "health" problems, if nothing more than nausea, varicose veins, and additional weight. The "mother's health" loophole is the greatest entree to abortion."