(Latin: aboriri, to miscarry)
In its widest sense, the ejection (by natural cause) or extraction (by artificial means) of a human fetus from the womb of the mother before it has come to its full development.
A distinction is made between a viable fetus, one that is able to sustain life outside of its mother's body (usually about the sixth or seventh month of pregnancy), and one that is not viable; i.e., unable to continue to live, even though it may live for a short period.
Theologians distinguish between a direct abortion when the practitioner intends primarily to remove the fetus, and an indirect abortion, when the surgeon performs an operation on the mother, and through accident the child is injured or expelled.
A further distinction is made between a uterine fetus, one that is located in the womb (uterus) of the mother, the normal or natural seat of pregnancy, and an extra-uterine, or ectopic (out of place), fetus, which for some reason or other is lodged outside of the uterus, usually within one of the Fallopian tubes.
The moral principles with regard to abortion are as follows.
The Catholic Church has always condemned direct abortion as a crime of the most heinous character.
Pope Sixtus V in his Constitution "Effrenatam" (29 October 1588) says that anyone guilty of abortion should be punished as an ordinary murderer.
His Holiness also withdraws all ecclesiastical privileges from clerics who might have committed abortion and forbids their promotion to Orders.
The Code of Canon Law, #2350, says:
- Every direct abortion, even during the earliest period of pregnancy, is a grievous sin and tantamount to homicide.
- Indirect abortion is sometimes permitted, provided that there be sufficient and grave reason, such as the saving of the mother's life, and that every precaution be taken to save the life of the child and, in case the child's life be in danger, that it receive timely baptism.
Persons perpetrating abortion, not even excepting the mother, incur, if the act meets its effect, excommunication reserved to the Ordinary, and if such persons are clerics, they are to be deposed.
Another canon states:
Those who have committed voluntary homicide or have secured the abortion of a human fetus, and all who cooperated thereto, are to be considered irregular e delicto.
New Catholic Dictionary