Shortly after Roe v. Wade, St. Paul VI ratified a 1974 document that completely details the Church's stance on abortion.
The original Roe v. Wade decision was released on January 22, 1973, and created quite a stir, not only in the United States, but also throughout the world. It didn’t take long for other countries to follow suit, opening up access to abortion.
It was in this context that the Vatican issued a Declaration on procured abortion, a document that detailed the Church’s stance on abortion.
While written by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it was ratified by St. Paul VI on June 28, 1974.
The document is not well-known in the Catholic Church, even though it attempts to refute nearly every argument against abortion.
Here are a few key quotes from this document, which should be read in full to understand the Church’s stance on abortion.
1The Church has always been against abortion
The tradition of the Church has always held that human life must be protected and favored from the beginning, just as at the various stages of its development. Opposing the morals of the Greco-Roman world, the Church of the first centuries insisted on the difference that exists on this point between those morals and Christian morals. In the Didache it is clearly said: “You shall not kill by abortion the fruit of the womb and you shall not murder the infant already born.”
2Respect for life is not simply a religious argument
Respect for human life is not just a Christian obligation. Human reason is sufficient to impose it on the basis of the analysis of what a human person is and should be.
3Science supports respect for life
Right from fertilization is begun the adventure of a human life, and each of its capacities requires time — a rather lengthy time — to find its place and to be in a position to act. The least that can be said is that present science, in its most evolved state, does not give any substantial support to those who defend abortion.
4The Church needs to support women in crisis
Heroism is sometimes called for in order to remain faithful to the requirements of the divine law. Therefore, we must emphasize that the path of true progress of the human person passes through this constant fidelity to a conscience maintained in uprightness and truth; and we must exhort all those who are able to do so to lighten the burdens still crushing so many men and women, families and children, who are placed in situations to which, in human terms, there is no solution.
Above all, this document is one of the most complete explanations of the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion and is important for the discussion on how to address the modern world.