Abortion “resolves nothing,” Pope Benedict XVI the Pontifical Academy for Life Feb. 26.
The academy was meeting at the Vatican to present studies on “post-abortion syndrome” and the use of umbilical cord stem cell banks for therapeutic treatments.
The Pope told them that the effects on a woman after an abortion reveal “the irrepressible voice of moral conscience and the terrible wound it suffers each time a human action betrays the human being's innate vocation to good.”
The consequences after an abortion “can be minimal or even traumatic and lead to situations of serious psychological unrest, also in the family sphere,” said academy president Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula during his opening speech to the group.
Pope Benedict explained to the group that moral conscience “has the duty to discern good from evil ... so that, on the basis of this judgment, human beings can freely orient themselves towards what is good.”
It is not a purely “extrinsic or optional value,” nor is it only for believers, “rather, it unites all mankind,” he said.
“Through moral conscience God speaks to each of us, inviting us to defend human life at all times, and in this personal bond with the Creator lies the profound dignity of moral conscience and the reason for its inviolability.”
The Pope asked the academy also to study the “sometimes-clouded consciences” of fathers who abandon their pregnant partners.
Additionally, doctors must do their part to “to ensure that women's consciences are not tricked into believing that abortion will resolve family, economic and social difficulties, or the health problems of their child,” he said.
The Pope explained that women are often convinced, sometimes by doctors, that abortion is morally acceptable or even a “therapeutic act” to eliminate suffering and remove an “unjust burden from society.”
“In a cultural context characterized by an eclipse of the meaning of life ... doctors are called to show particular fortitude in continuing to affirm that abortion resolves nothing; rather it kills the child, destroys the woman and blinds the conscience of the child's father, often devastating family life,” said the Pope.
He said that this duty extends to the whole of society, which must defend the child's right to life from conception and protect “the true good of the woman who can never, in any circumstances, find fulfillment in the decision to abort.”
It is also important to help those who have already chosen abortion and are dealing with the moral and existential consequences. He pointed to Church initiatives and volunteer organizations that help women recover from abortion through psychological and spiritual support.
“The solidarity of the Christian community must not abandon this kind of shared responsibility,” he said.
In an interview with Vatican Radio on Feb. 23, Bishop Carrasco said that the estimated 42 million abortions per year worldwide have “major 'costs' on a personal, family and social level.”
The academy has studied many aspects of the abortion issue in past meetings. A focus of these most recent talks was to examine the risk for the woman and the existence of social pressures, especially in some parts of the world, to turn to abortion.
“Many times, the woman is forced, many times she is a victim,” said Bishop Carrasco.
Pope Benedict also spoke of the use of stem cells from the umbilical cord during his address. He called use of cord blood “a promising form of scientific research.”
Its use, he said, depends largely on the generosity of parents donating cord blood immediately after birth and the ability of institutions to process donations. He invited promotion of umbilical cord donations through “genuine and well-informed human and Christian solidarity.”
He warned against storing cord blood for a possible personal use, which “weakens that genuine spirit of solidarity which must constantly animate the search for that common good.”
Bishop Carrasco observed that some are already making a business of cord blood. He stressed the importance of making the umbilical cord resource available to all people, “overcoming the temptation to throw it away as if it were 'left-overs' or of conserving it for oneself, despite knowing that there will be a low probability of using it.”
In his words, reprinted in part by L'Osservatore Romano, Bishop Carrasco also mentioned that a group from within the Pontifical Academy for LIfe is taking up for a third theme of study: Infertility and therapies to treat it.
They are not going to look at assisted reproduction or the damaging effects to health tied to it, but alternatives to this procedure.
Couples should know about centers that treat infertility, which have made “enormous steps” forward in recent years, said the bishop.
Italian experts are currently working on this question, which will give rise to a shared international study, he said. Their intention is to produce a publication in which they offer a description of all sterility problems and all of the alternative solutions possible.