Recently, Pope Francis publicly denounced abortion as a facet of a “throwaway culture” that places little value on human life. Although the Catholic Church has made its stance on abortion clear throughout its history, suggesting that those who receive abortions care less about other people than those who are pro-life is not a fair judgment of a practice that many women deem their only viable option.

On the contrary, terminating a pregnancy is not often an easy decision for a woman. There are many reasons that may convince someone to have an abortion. If a woman had been using drugs and/or drinking heavily, unaware that she is with child, there is a high possibility of significant damage to the surviving fetus. Perhaps the woman in question does not have the financial means available to support even a healthy baby. Many abortions occur because the prospective mother values human life enough to not want to force their future child to live a life of suffering.

In some cases, a woman’s body may not be capable of withstanding the trials of pregnancy or childbirth. If the child is conceived as a result of being raped, carrying the child to term may cause serious emotional consequences for the mother, as any recovery is inhibited while she physically bears a daily reminder of her assailant.

In the discussion of the precious nature of life, it is unjust to prioritize the worthiness of one life over another. The life of the mother is just as valuable as the life of a newborn child and if terminating her early-stage pregnancy could prevent any further harm to her, she should not be criticized for her decision to abort.

That being said, by no means is abortion a practice to think of lightly. If someone has reached the point in their life where they feel that they are emotionally ready to begin having sex, they should also be aware of the potential consequences of such behavior. All consensually sexually active individuals should regularly be using protection, while also acknowledging the remaining potential for conception associated with their actions.

However, belittling the women who have had to arrive at the difficult decision to terminate is not an effective way of spreading the message of universal love or the value of life. The pressures associated with society’s disapproval of the completely legal practice often drive some women to seek abortions in dangerous locations, rather than at safe and approved clinics.

Ultimately, the decision to have an abortion is a complex and sensitive determination that should be met with support and understanding rather than immediate condemnation. The termination of an early pregnancy does not mean that the would-be mother values the lives of other individuals any less than a woman with ten children, but simply that the decision to have a baby is a significant responsibility that is not always plausible for every woman who discovers that she is with child.

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