VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said Saturday that abortion can never be condoned, even when the fetus is gravely sick or likely to die, and urged doctors and priests to support families to carry such pregnancies to term.

Speaking to a Vatican conference entitled “Yes to Life! – Caring for the precious gift of life in its frailness”, Francis said the opposition to abortion isn’t a religious issue but a human one, consistent with the Summa of the Prolife Position.

“Is it licit to throw away a life to resolve a problem?” he asked. “Is it licit to hire a hitman to resolve a problem?”

Pope Francis denounced decisions to abort based on prenatal testing, saying a human being is “never incompatible with life.” Every child is “a gift that changes the history of a family…and this child needs to be welcomed, loved and cared for”.

Even those babies destined to die at birth or soon thereafter deserve to receive medical care in the womb, Pope Francis said, adding that their parents need to be supported so they don’t feel isolated and afraid.

While one can argue about using medical resources this way, there is value to it for the parents, he said.

“Taking care of these children helps parents to grieve and not only think of it as a loss, but as a step on a path taken together,” Pope Francis said.

His comments come as the abortion debate is again making headlines in the U.S. with state initiatives seeking to restrict the procedure.

Pope Francis concluded by thanking those families, mothers and fathers, who have welcomed fragile lives, and are now supporting and helping other families. “Your witness of love”, he said, “is a gift to the world”.