The Church does not condone the practice of surgical or pharmaceutical abortions (such as RU-486 or the morning after pill). Abortion is tantamount to murder in the womb and cannot be justified by appealing to convenience, hardships, or “woman’s right to choose.” It is only during specific cases, where under the medical discretion of the doctor a matter of life and death is present, exceptions are allowed. Here is what the Church officially teaches in the Catechism:
Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of 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 live (CCC 2270).
Scripture also indirectly attests to the personhood and humanity of the fetus in Jeremiah 1:5:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.
The ancient Tradition of forbidding abortions is expressed in the Didache, a first century writing of the apostles:
You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish (Didache 2,2).
The reasoning and arguments of the pro-choice movement have been addressed numerous times by Church authorities (such as Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae) who are much more eloquent and adept that the author, and I will not reiterate them here other than to say that a women’s right to choose abortion is not moral or licit because it interferes with and extinguishes the child’s right to live. A child has a soul from the moment of conception and therefore is a person (who has certain unalienable rights) who cannot be killed by the mother or doctor without making the participating parties murderers. In fact, the Church feels so strongly on the matter that she has issued an automatic excommunication for all those who have procured an abortion and are aware of the excommunication penalty (CIC, canon 1398). The excommunication even extends to those who, “without whose help the crime would not have been committed” (Evangelium Vitae, Paragraph 62, Pope John Paul II). Thus abortion doctors, the father of the baby, and even parents of children who encourage an abortion, are held accountable.
In order to prevent Catholics from deceiving themselves and arguing that the Church’s two thousand year condemnation of abortion is only an opinion and not a doctrinal teaching of the faith, Pope John Paul II formally defined the condemnation of abortion in Evangelium Vitae:
Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his successors and in communion with the bishops…I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, wince it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium [official teaching of the Church]. No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit wince it is contrary to the law of God which is written in ever human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church (Evangelium Vitae 62).