How is abortion a violation of the Fifth Commandment?

Legalized abortion is having a destructive effect on our society; few other actions legalized by our public policy as profoundly undermine our values as a people or upset the moral compass by which we live. The Church has always condemned abortion. In the Didache (The Teaching of the Apostles), 2, 2, written toward the end of the first century and revered as an honored guide for Christian life, we read, “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion.” This teaching has never changed and it will not change.

From its conception, the child has the right to life. Direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, is a “criminal” practice (GS, no. 27 §3), gravely contrary to the moral law. The Church imposes the canonical penalty of excommunication for this crime against human life. Because it should be treated as a person from conception, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed like every other human being. (CCC, nos. 2322-2323)

Modern technology has enabled us to appreciate how quickly the growing child in the womb takes on human features. This has made many more people aware of the fact that human life begins at conception, the moment that the egg is fertilized. Many common forms of artificial birth control cause abortions by not allowing the newly conceived human child to implant in the mother’s womb.

The pro-life commitment of the Church is reflected in her compassion for those who so often regret having had an abortion, her understanding for those who are facing difficult decisions, and her assistance for all who choose life. People who have been involved with an abortion are encouraged to get in touch with the Project Rachel ministry and other ministries that enable them to seek the mercy of God in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation and to obtain the necessary counseling. Pro-life ministries work with expectant mothers who are considering abortion by encouraging them to choose life for their children. They also provide alternatives to abortion through prenatal care, assistance in raising children, and adoption placement services.

You can read more from the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, order your own copy, or read questions about it at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website.

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