Pope Francis has called abortion and infanticide "unspeakable crimes" in his strongest criticism of killing of the unborn and new-born to date.
In a meeting with several pro-life activists and politicians on Friday, Pope Francis was reported by Vatican Radio to have described children in the womb as "the most concrete example of innocence".
He described the right to life as "first and most fundamental right" upon which all other civil rights are based on.
"It is therefore necessary to reiterate the strongest opposition to any direct attack on life, especially innocent and defenceless."
Quoting the Second Vatican Council, Pope Francis said: "From the moment of its conception, life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes."
Taking the pro-life message in a different direction to many other pontiffs, Pope Francis linked the cause of fighting abortion to the establishment of global social and economic justice.
LifeSiteNews.com quoted the Pope as saying: "This economy kills. It considers the human being in himself as a commodity; a commodity that you can use and then throw away."
He described one of modernity's "most serious risks" as being "the divorce between economics and morality".
Sharing his view of the world, Pope Francis said he saw on the one hand "a market equipped with every technological innovation" and on the other "elementary ethical standards of human nature more and more neglected".
All human life, the Pope said, is "a gift from God" and that those who understand it as such see life as "a valuable and intangible asset, to be protected by all means and not to be discarded".
He shared his support for the 'One of Us' initiative, a European Union Citizens' Initiative fighting to stop EU funding for any research that involves the destruction of human embryos.
However he also urged those attending to not become so focused on the unborn child that care for the mother is forgotten.
Speaking about how to engage with women considering abortion, Pope Francis said: "I encourage you to always act with a style of nearness, of closeness: that every woman feels regarded as a person who is heard, accepted, and accompanied."
In this direction, he praised the work of the 'Gemma Project' which helps women facing crisis pregnancies, and helps facilitate long distance adoptions.
The Popes comments come towards the end of the pro-life Christian project "40 days for Life", which aimed to use "prayer, fasting, and peaceful activism" to alter peoples decisions and "turn hearts and minds from a culture of death to a culture of life, thus bringing an end to abortion".
The project has reported positive stories of women making decisions against having abortions as they met with campaigners camped outside clinics in around the world, including in the UK.
One volunteer on a protest in El Paso, Texas, describing a woman who changed her mind about an abortion, said: "We believe the prayers of everyone united helped give this woman the courage she needed to say yes to life."
In total, the group estimates that 612 abortions were prevented.