ROME (NYTIMES) - Pope Francis said that abortion is always unacceptable, regardless of whether a foetus is fatally ill or has pathological disorders. He also urged doctors to help women bring to term even pregnancies likely to end in the death of a child at birth or soon after.
"Is it legitimate to take out a human life to solve a problem?" Pope Francis asked attendees at a Vatican conference on the issue on Saturday (May 25), repeating one of his most contentious remarks on the issue.
"Is it permissible to contract a hitman to solve a problem?"
A decision to abort based on medical information about an ill foetus amounted to inhuman eugenics, he said, and denied families the chance to welcome the weakest of children. He argued that using abortion as a mode of prevention could never be condoned, and that such a position had nothing to do with faith.
"Human life is sacred and inviolable, and the use of prenatal diagnosis for selective purposes should be discouraged with strength," Pope Francis said.
His remarks come as the deeply divisive issue of abortion is once again gripping the United States. Conservatives in states such as Alabama, Georgia and Missouri are passing some of the strictest limits on abortions in decades, while anti-abortion activists are hoping the Supreme Court will reconsider its legalisation. Liberal activists in Democratic states are trying to shore up abortion protections or repeal restrictions.
In the Pope's backyard, Italy, where abortion was illegal until 1978, conservatives in the government have blamed the country's dangerously low birthrate on abortion, and some cities under conservative leadership have symbolically declared themselves pro-life.
That Pope Francis, who has expressed sympathy with women who have had abortions and made it easier for their sins to be absolved, has an absolutist view against abortion is less than surprising. He is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, which considers abortion a grave sin.
On Saturday, Pope Francis was explicit on the issue.
He argued that children who were not expected to live long after birth deserved to be treated in the womb "with extraordinary pharmacological, surgical and other interventions". Such care "helps parents to grieve and not only think of it as a loss, but as a step on a path taken together," he said.
Every child in the womb is a gift that changes the history of a family, Pope Francis said.