Although he contends that the Bible strictly forbids abortion on demand, Rabbi Dr. Fishel Szlajen -- one of the members appointed by Pope Francis to serve on the new Pontifical Academy for Life -- also believes that abortion is allowed in some rare and exceptional cases where the baby is conceived by rape or when the unborn child, because of disease or illness, undeniably threatems the life of the mother, reported the Catholic Herald and Life Site News.
In an article in the Spanish publication InfoBae, translated by the Catholic Herald, Rabbi Dr. Szlajen made it clear that abortion on demand is wrong and when it comes to the fetus (zygote), the fertilized egg, and the mother, it is a situation of "two distinct humans," and each shares the same rights as any human being.
However, the rabbi went on to say that that scripture permits abortion when the life of the "conceptus [baby in womb] inexorably threatens that of its mother." In these cases, "the life of the mother takes priority," reported the Catholic Herald.
These "inexorably" threatening circumstances might include anencephaly or terminal disease, according to the rabbi.
However, he also claimed that abortion is permissible in cases of rape, when the ongoing pregnancy would put the mother at "serious psychophysical risk," reported the Herald.
Rabbi Dr. Szlajen reportedly based his argument about abortion on the Jewish law of "rodef," according to the Herald. The Jerusalem Post states, "Din rodef is a concept in Jewish law that stipulates that if an individual is chasing after another person with the intention to kill them, it is permitted for any other person to kill the individual threatening to commit murder."
A perversion of this teaching has been cited in cases of assassination, such as the murder of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
The Catholic Church forbids abortion in cases of rape or incest, arguing that the innocent child, regardless of how he was conceived, is a child of God and merits the same rights as all human beings, principally the right to life.
The Catholic Herald and LifeSiteNews noted that some other members of the Pontifical Academy of Life support direct abortion.
Anglican cleric Nigel Biggar, approved by Pope Francis for the Academy, said in 2011, “I would be inclined to draw the line for abortion at 18 weeks after conception, which is roughly about the earliest time when there is some evidence of brain activity, and therefore of consciousness."
He also said, “It’s not clear that a human foetus is the same kind of thing as an adult or a mature human being, and therefore deserves quite the same treatment. It then becomes a question of where we draw the line, and there is no absolutely cogent reason for drawing it in one place over another.”
Rabbi Avraham Steinberg, appointed to the Academy by Pope Francis in 2017, said in 2008 that a human embryo has "no human status" before 40 days, and "after 40 days it has 'a certain status of a human being, not a full status,'" reported the Catholic Herald.
“Abortion is not permissible by Jewish law," said Rabbi Steinberg, "but if the situation of the mother is in a psychological upset to a degree that it may cause her serious trouble, then abortion may be permissible despite the fact that for the foetus’s sake, we would not allow it."
“So case by case, occasionally abortion might be permissible," he said, "something which is probably unheard-of in the Catholic point of view.”
Another Academy member, Fr. Maurizio Chiodi, has also argued, based on Pope Francis's letter on the family, Amoris Laetitia, that artifical birth control may be required for some married couples.
In addition to teaching against direct abortion, the Catholic Church also teaches that "sterilization or contraception" are "morally unaccepable means" to regulate births.