What is the doctrinal basis for the Catholic teaching that abortion is immoral? I understand that these will be based on Scripture, but will likely come from official Catholic documents.

So, I'm specifically looking for an answer from a Catholic doctrinal position rather than a purely exegetical answer (as provided to my previous question).

  • Why is this distinct from a purely biblical basis? Would you expect Catholics to preach a doctrine that was primarily based on the Bible? Are you just looking for a quote from the catechism?
    – Richard
    Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 21:24
  • @Richard This came from an answer on my other question about abortion that referenced Catholic teaching from the Humanae Vitae. I thought it would be better to target this teaching.
    – Narnian
    Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 21:30
  • I only really mentioned Humanae Vitae on that question because it says, contrary to how some people thought, that the Church's authority to make statements regarding natural law is based on Scripture. The answer to this question, is not Humanae Vitae itself, but the Natural Moral Law going back through St. Thomas Aquinas to St. Augustine of Hippo. When Humanae Vitae came out, people didn't seriously think the Church was going to give in on abortion, only contraception.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 21:35
  • 1
    @PeterTurner Are you going to submit your answer?
    – Narnian
    Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 21:59
  • I was rewriting the answer from the other question when I realized what I just said above. This is a much bigger answer, I'll try to tackle it, though not right now. Hope someone else answers too, this is a good question, especially if you have to try to reconcile what the pre-scientific theologians believed with what we now believe.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 22:04

1 Answer 1


The Catholic catechism has a section on abortion (2270-2275). It starts with this:

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.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before    
you were born I consecrated you.


 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, 
 intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.7

ccc 2270

Essentially, the position is that at the moment of conception, the embryo is fully human, that it should be "treated from conception as a person" (CCC 2274). Because of that, destroying the embryo (or worse, the fetus) is murder. Therefore, the ban against abortion is based on the fifth commandment (do not murder).

  • 1
    I've never understood why that is about conception instead of God's knowledge, knowledge that knows of us "Before" conception. Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 23:47
  • 1
    @thursdaysgeek Uh, true. But before conception, you can "abort" the situation by simply changing your mind about having sex... That type of "abortion" isn't really... murder.
    – Richard
    Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 14:58
  • @thursdaysgeek There's also the passage Luke 1:41-44, where it's a baby in the womb that can recognize people and leap and be filled with the Holy Spirit: And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
    – mbomb007
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 15:21
  • In the above passage, it should also be noted that the baby in Elizabeth's womb is likely leaping because of the baby (Jesus) that was probably conceived in Mary's womb by that time.
    – mbomb007
    Commented May 25, 2022 at 15:24
  • @mbomb007 - It is clearly obvious that life begins before birth: there is brain activity and all the other indicators we use for life. But those verses seem to me to be about God, and referring to God knowing us even before conception - they don't seem to be about when life begins at all. Commented May 25, 2022 at 15:55

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