In the beginning, God created the world. He created the waters, the earth, the sky, the animals, and finally, He created man and woman to hold dominion over them all. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, and had they not sinned, they would have continued to be able to see God and speak to Him without the need of an emissary. When they do eventually sin, God not only lays out commandments to clarify what is forgivable and what is not (the Ten Commandments), but also saves all humankind from that original sin through His son, Jesus of Nazarth. On a Biblical basis then, understanding that human beings are intrinsically special and created for a specific purpose, that the Ten Commandments specifically order human beings to not kill, and that Jesus himself in the Gospel of Matthew (and other Gospels) declares that the kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like little children, the tradition of Roman Catholicism takes the stance that abortion is never morally justified.
Any woman who takes part in an abortion for any reason will be excommunicated from the church. However, that does not necessarily lead to a complete and total separation from the church for the rest of that individual’s life. If they choose to seek absolution, they have a chance to be accepted back into the church. On the issue of the doctors who perform abortions, the church has no authorization over whether their medical licenses are revoked or not, though if the doctor is a practicing Roman Catholic, he or she would also need to seek absolution for the breaking of one of the Ten Commandments.
Some would argue that the church’s stance is overtly harsh, and that it doesn’t heed the fact that some women may need to have an abortion in order to stay medically stable, or that a child may have occurred due to rape. However, regarding the canon that the church follows, it is impossible for we as human beings to claim that one life is more important than another. Each human being, regardless of how they were conceived, is a sacred child of God, and thus the question of their life can only be judged and handled by God. While the situation may arise that the woman’s life is in danger due to the pregnancy or the possible birth, it is her duty as a moral human being to continue through the pregnancy and attempt to bring the child into the world. Even if the child has some sort of degenerative disease, or will have medical issues, it is not up to the mother to decide that she can simply take the child’s life before it even takes its first breath. If the family is not fit to raise the child, whether due to financial issues or due to personal issues, they can always give the child up for adoption.
In this way, they uphold the sacrality of life while also performing a great act of charity on behalf of both the child and on behalf of the couple who will be adopting that child. The important thing to stress is that the child is in fact a gift, and that they are a unique individual from the time their DNA is formed, making it impossible to declare that a conceptus or an embryo is not in fact a human being. Scientifically they are, and at the very moment their personal DNA is formed, they are living. While the cell may not seem as though it is alive, it still grows and performs functions that cannot be categorized as non-living. The argument can be made that at that point, the cell has no cognizant thought, or that it cannot feel pain, but while this is true at the moment, scientific revelations in the future may state otherwise. It is better to preserve human life at the moment it becomes uniquely human than to believe that we know what the first appropriate signs of life are.
To rid the world of that DNA at any point before birth is equal to the killing of the child right after it is born. At this point, the child is helpless and innocent, and the Bible states that individuals who fall under those categories should be protected and treated with kindness. No one but God can divinely see the potential that the child has, or what kind of human being they will be, so therefore no one but God has the ability to intervene. If the child is not meant to be born, then he or she will either not be conceived in the first place, or will not naturally make it to a live birth. To purposefully take that child out of the womb before allowing it a chance at life should then be regarded as a sin of great proportion, which is why the punishment for abortion is excommunication from the church. While this punishment is greater than the one someone who murders another might face, the sin is also greater. Again, the fetus has not purposefully harmed anyone or anything, nor has it ever sinned, so it is unlike killing an established human being.
However, while the individual who participates in the abortion will be excommunicated, there is still always the chance for forgiveness. The church understands that sin is not always avoidable, which is why they have a penance system in the first place. When one sins, one confesses to a priest, who best knows the proper penance to perform. The extent of the penance is all based on the quality of the sin. The worse the sin, the more penance that needs to be done. The priests act on centuries of tradition, as well as on orders from the Pope, who is driven by the Holy Spirit. When it comes to the issue of abortion, a regular priest cannot give absolution. To to the gravity of the sin, only a bishop can give absolution to the individual who is seeking penance. After they are absolved, that individual is free to rejoin the church community. Again, many arguments can be made against this view point.
The question of the rights of the bishop versus the rights of the woman who participated in the abortion is a common argument, which usually makes the point that the bishop is not a parent, nor will he ever experience being pregnant or giving birth to a child. However, it needs to be taken into consideration that the bishop does not act alone. The bishop has life experience of having been a child, and also has advisors who may be women. At the very least, he has known an influential woman in his lifetime. Also, the point has to be conceded that any leader cannot have every experience. A leader who has been wealthy for his or her entire life may not have ever known the pain of starvation, but he or she can still understand how to remedy that pain. It follows then that one does not need to go through childbirth to understand what it is like to have a child. It is the bishop’s prerogative to have a full and thorough understanding of the world in order to have proper judgement in any way possible, and if he were not able to fulfill his role, then he would not have been chosen for it.
In regards to the doctor who performs the abortion, it is not for the church to decide whether or not his or her medical license is revoked. The church, in most places, is not directly related to active legal systems, and while they can work to outlaw abortion, they cannot revoke someone’s medical license without having a more solid argument against the doctor, such as a malpractice lawsuit. Within the United States, it is up to the governing body to decide what actions are considered to be grave enough to revoke a medical license. Once again, on that level of law forming, the church really has no grounds in the United States. However, if the doctor who performs the abortion is a practicing Roman Catholic who realizes they have committed a sin, the church can then decide to excommunicate him or her, or issue a different penance in order for the doctor to gain absolution. If the doctor is not Roman Catholic, then the issue does not fall under the church’s jurisdiction. They cannot force an individual who does not share their beliefs to conform to their ideologies. Also, it should be taken into account that the individual has his or her own oaths that have been prescribed (the Hippocratic Oath) which outline certain professional standards as well as ethical standards.
The sacrality of life in the Catholic tradition is an absolute truth. Each life is created divinely by God, who is unfathomable and unknowable in His plans. To take a life, especially a wholly innocent life, is no small matter. The woman who partakes in an abortion will be excommunicated, and if she feels as though she needs absolution and a return to the church, then she will take the steps necessary to procure that absolution. If she feels absolutely that she has not committed a sin in the eyes of the church, then she need not seek absolution (though she will have to understand that she can no longer be a part of the church’s community). There are not many unforgivable sins in the Catholic canon, so again, it really falls down to the individual. That does not change the fact that it is still a sin, though, and that in all ways, it is an immoral act. Every child, regardless of ability or way of conception, deserves a chance at life. Every life, regardless of religion or moral compass, is sacred and deserving of redemption.