Catholic Classroom: Legal Protection for Fetuses
Question: Why do fetuses deserve legal protection?
Today, we observe the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. This day of special prayer and repentance is held annually on or near the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade legal decision legalizing abortion. We pray in a special way on this day for the legal protection of life, beginning at conception and ending at a natural death.
In current debates about abortion, a common statement from pro-choice activists is that a fetus is not a human life. Pro-choice activists argue that human life does not begin at conception, but at a certain stage in the development of the embryo. Therefore, from this point of view, it is morally permissible to abort a fetus that is still considered a clump of cells.
However, the Catholic Church teaches that life does, in fact, begin at the moment of conception. The Catechism says, “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life” (CCC 2270). We know scientifically that from conception, a zygote has a unique genetic makeup and functions as a distinct type of cell. This fact alone makes the embryo worth protecting as a distinct human life.
But we also believe, as Catholics, that every human life is conceived in accordance with God’s will, for God said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). Even when it is a tragic circumstance that leads to conception, the human life created is fundamentally good, since all life is created in the image and likeness of God. God does not make mistakes, and he creates each human being with a unique, unrepeatable mission in the world.
It is our duty to legally protect the dignity of all human life, especially those who are most vulnerable. Fetuses in the early stages of development are the most defenseless. If we truly believe in the value of every human life, then we must do all we can to protect every life from its natural beginning to its natural end. You can help by joining us in praying a rosary for the protection of all human life.