Abortion is understood as denoting the unjustified killing of unborn human life. According to the Christian faith, every person is made in the image of God (Gen 1.27) and has a special, inviolable dignity that prohibits use of that person as a mere means external to him- or herself. This dignity makes every person inherently valuable, unique, and irreplaceable. Accordingly, no one may attribute value or lack thereof to another human life. On the contrary, every person – no matter whether man or woman, poor or rich, healthy or sick – has the same right to life, liberty, and security irrespective of the person to which these rights accrue. It is the conviction of all of the major Christian confessions that these statements regarding the image of God and the dignity of human beings also apply to unborn life, from the moment of conception. From its outset, unborn life entails the capacity for an unconstrained exercise of the traits of human being; this capacity develops as part of a process that continues even through and beyond birth itself. Yet, if unborn life is human, God-given life from the very outset, no one has the right to destroy this life. Those who nevertheless do so are held to have violated God’s commandment and to have incurred a heavy burden of guilt. The Christian tradition features only one exception to this absolute protection of unborn life: those special cases, not necessarily comparable to other situations, in which the life of the mother must be weighed against that of the child and a termination of pregnancy is indicated on medical grounds. Such a case, the underlying rationale maintains, involves no direct, unmediated killing of unborn life, which must be rejected in all circumstances, but rather an indirect killing, an unintentional side effect of an inherently good action that may be accepted in order to save at least one of the two lives.
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