Abortion remains illegal or unavailable for millions of women around the world. In the U.S., the constitutional right to abortion faces constant challenges, despite the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade. The Catholic hierarchy’s political sway plays a huge role in influencing public policy and limiting the availability of reproductive health care services worldwide.
Catholics for Choice fights for the rights of all individuals to have access to the full scope of reproductive health care, including abortion. When abortion access is limited those who suffer the most are the poor, the vulnerable and people of color. We are part of the majority of the faithful in the Catholic church who see abortion access as a social justice value—and a matter to be decided by one’s individual conscience.
Questions about Abortion
We've compiled these talking points to help inform Catholic conversations about abortion.
Yes, Catholic women have abortions. In fact, Catholic women have abortions at the same rate as other women.
Catholics around the world support the right to legal abortion and believe it can be a moral option. In the U.S., 56% of Catholics believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 68% believe that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned.
Catholic teachings on abortion have changed over time. Many past and present Catholic theologians have said abortion can be a moral choice. Others disagree.
St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, both Doctors of the Church, believed that the fetus did not become a person (or become “ensouled”) until later in the pregnancy. For much of the church’s history, popes made clear distinctions between ensouled and unensouled fetuses. The Vatican’s total ban on abortion was not codified until 1917. Even today, although the Vatican does not condone abortion, it has said definitively that it does not know when a developing life becomes a person. This history demonstrates that the Catholic tradition is more than the teachings written down by popes and theologians. Catholicism is based on a deep respect for the conscience, which each person must follow above all else when making a moral decision.
The simple answer is that church law does not state that every woman who has an abortion is automatically excommunicated.
Under church law, penalties can sometimes be imposed for abortion under specific circumstances. But it also recognizes that in some situations a person might receive a lesser punishment or none at all. Some believe this includes a person who acted according to their conscience in choosing an abortion.
That decision is entirely up to your own conscience.
People have abortions because they don’t want to be pregnant. Each person’s circumstances are unique, which means they are the one best placed to decide about their pregnancy. No matter what the reasoning, one’s decision should be respected.
Ultimately, you know your life better than anyone, and only you can make the right decision about your pregnancy.