ROME — Abortion is never a solution even when the unborn child is suffering from pathological disorders, because children in the womb are “small patients” and medicine knows how to provide patient care, Pope Francis said Saturday.

When prenatal testing shows there’s the possibility of the child having a pathology, Francis said, “on a social level, the fear and hostility towards disability often lead to the choice of abortion, configuring it as a practice of ‘prevention’.”

“But the Church’s teaching on this point is clear: human life is sacred and inviolable and the use of prenatal diagnosis for selective purposes should be discouraged with strength, because it is the expression of an inhuman eugenics mentality, which takes away the possibility of families welcoming, embracing and loving their weakest children,” Francis said.

But beyond what the Church teaches, the pontiff also said that using abortion as a “prevention” is always inadmissible, and that this is a “human problem, faith has nothing to do with it.” Improvising, he adds: “Is it legitimate to take out a human life to solve a problem? Is it permissible to contract a hitman to solve a problem? The answer is yours. This is the point, it is not about religion, it is a human thing. It is never lawful!”

Statistics indicate, for instance, that in countries where abortion is legal, 9 in 10 children who present the possibility of Down Syndrome during pregnancy are aborted. As CBS reported in 2017, “With the rise of prenatal screening tests across Europe and the United States, the number of babies born with Down syndrome has significantly decreased.”

Abortion is never the answer that women and families seek, Francis said on Saturday, addressing a May 23-24 Vatican conference titled “Yes to Life! Caring for the precious gift of life in its frailness.”

The conference was focused on perinatal medicine, which offers opportunities to assist the unborn while posing important medical, ethical, spiritual and pastoral questions in the accompaniment of families living the experience of their new-born suffering from serious illness or disability. Some 400 people from 70 countries took part.

According to the website of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, headed by American Cardinal Kevin Farrell, the conference was devoted to the idea that no matter the child’s condition, “life is always a gift and an opportunity to grow in love, mutual aid and unity.”

During his remarks to participants Saturday, Francis said that the “practical, human and spiritual difficulties are undeniable, but precisely for this reason more incisive pastoral actions are urgent and necessary to sustain those who receive sick children.”

“It’s necessary to create spaces, places and ‘networks of love’ to which couples can turn to, as well as dedicate time to the accompaniment of these families,” the pope said.

According to Francis, the “mere suspicion of the pathology, but even more certainty of the disease, changes the experience of the pregnancy, throwing women and couples into profound discomfort.”

“The sense of loneliness, of helplessness, and the fear of the suffering of the child and the whole family emerge as a silent cry, a call for help in the darkness of a disease, of which no one knows how to predict the certain outcome,” Francis said.

Many children in the womb, as the pope noted, “can often be treated with extraordinary pharmacological, surgical and other interventions, capable of reducing that terrible gap between diagnostic and therapeutic possibilities, which for years has been one of the causes of abortion” and also abandonment of newly born children.

Francis also said that it’s essential that doctors understand the value of treatment, but also the sacred value of every human life, “whose protection remains the ultimate goal of medical practice.”

“The medical profession is a mission, one vocation to life, and it is important that doctors are aware that they themselves are a gift for the families entrusted to them: doctors must be able to enter into a relationship, to take charge of the lives of others, be proactive in the face of pain, who are able to be reassuring, and who strive to always find solutions respectful of the dignity of every human life,” Francis said.

At times going off-the-cuff, the pontiff also said that the throwaway culture leads to children in conditions of extreme fragility being defined as “incompatible with life.” However, he said, “no human being can ever be incompatible with life, not for his age, not for his health conditions, not for the quality of his existence.”

Francis recalled that “every child who announces itself in a woman’s womb is a gift, which changes the history of a family,” because immediately the mother feels “the awareness of a presence,” which makes her “not just a woman, but a mother.”

The pontiff closed his remarks by thanking the families, mothers and fathers, who have welcomed a “fragile life” and who are today supporting and helping other families.

“Your witness of love is a gift to the world,” he said.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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