Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The tragedy in Brazil

a repost from a comment on CatholicVote.com:

so last night I said this: "abortion, as the direct and intentional killing of an unborn person, is never morally acceptable. It can never be justified as the lesser of two evils," which didn't sit right with you guys. Let me make it clear first that though I said it is not morally acceptable, I never said that the alternative is easy. I'm not minimizing the dangers and risks associated here, nor am I dismissing the trouble brought about in this family (of the girl in Brazil).

That said, we have to understand that the reason abortion is wrong has nothing to do with the external circumstances that surround the decision. It is wrong because it is the intentional and direct killing of an innocent human being. A baby in the womb is not an aggressor. The CCC references that MA posted explain that in the act of defending one's life against an aggressor, one may be justified in using force, even deadly force, if it is necessary to fend off the attack (though if deadly force is not necessary, it is not morally justified). But a baby in the womb's only "crime" is existence, not violent assault. There are, as MA pointed out, certain circumstances that pose a problem, such as tubal (ectopic) pregnancy, etc.

Let me step back for a moment. The Church's teaching on this doesn't pit the life of the mother against the life of her child, as many confuse the issue to be. The Church doesn't tell women that they have to die and their child has to live. The intention must be to protect the lives of both persons to the extent possible.

But what about ectopic pregnancy? In such a case, the zygote has implanted in the fallopian tube instead of in the uterus, thus threatening to rupture the tube and lead to the death of the mother. This is where the notion of double-effect comes in. When I said above that abortion is the direct and intentional killing of the unborn baby, I wasn't adding those modifiers to be emphatic. "Direct" means that the action undergone is the actual killing of the baby, "intentional" means that the purpose is a dead baby primarily, for whatever other reasons may be included. So what? Well, in the case of ectopic pregnancy, one can wait for a while to see if the baby miscarries on its own, which is somewhat common. The only other morally acceptable option is called salpingectomy, in which the section of the fallopian tube with the implanted zygote is removed.

You might be thinking to yourself that I'm splitting hairs here, but I'm not-- The direct action here is not the killing of the baby, but the removal of the fallopian tube, which should it burst, will kill both the mother and the child. And the intention is not to kill the child, but to save the life of the mother. While one effect of the procedure is the death of the child, it is an unintended effect of the procedure to save the life of the mother. Therefore, if another procedure could be developed where an ectopic pregnancy could be treated without the child dying (such as removing the zygote and helping it to implant correctly in the uterus), then salpingectomy would no longer be the morally acceptable option. (I had a friend that this happened to.)

Now, how does this apply to the girl in Brazil? Let's point out that we don't know all the facts, so we have to consider a few possibilities. The doctors were saying that this 9-year old girl's body could not possibly carry these babies to term. I won't refute that, but I also imagine that if that's the case then they might very likely miscarry anyway. If they didn't miscarry, might they be able to grow long enough so that they could be taken out by cesarian section and cared for in an incubator or other technological treatments? The point is that I doubt that this girl was in IMMEDIATE danger, like say, it's Tuesday and if they don't get these babies out Tuesday night she'll die. But let's consider that she didn't miscarry and the babies did put her in serious imminent danger; then they could be removed and any possible steps taken to care for them must be taken. If they die despite medical efforts to save their lives, you must recognize that that is VERY different from intentionally killing them.

Now some of you have said that he decision is easy, that to save your kids, you would choose abortion. I hope the decision is not that easy, because we're talking about the decision to kill your grandkids. If it were my decision, I would do whatever was necessary to save all their lives, if possible. "But the doctors said she would die." Maybe, but as much respect as I have for the medical profession, they don't know everything either, nor do they have a crystal ball to tell the future. In fact, doctors told my mother she should have aborted me just on the POSSIBILITY that I might have had Downs Syndrome. My father should have been dead five years ago, except that he had a miraculous healing from asbestos cancer. Why do we have so little faith not to do all that we can to allow God to solve this in His way? (I know some of you won't accept that point, but why rush anyway?)

I've also been called naive for my position; we can't always look to the textbook, etc. But if we don't study the textbook how can we expect to pass the test? If we don't understand these moral choices and how to come to moral decisions, how can we expect to come to the right decision when faced with difficulty in real life?

Again, abortion didn't magically become morally right because the mother is a young girl. Expedient? Yes. Tempting? I'll even admit that. But right? No. If abortion is wrong, it is wrong because of what it is.

One last point--more outrage and anger have been expressed over the fact that the Church is being consistent to say that abortion is wrong, even in this case, than is being expressed over the fact that some jerk raped a 9 year-old girl.


Anonymous said...

The comment says:
"But let's consider that she didn't miscarry and the babies did put her in serious imminent danger; then they could be removed and any possible steps taken to care for them must be taken. If they die despite medical efforts to save their lives, you must recognize that that is VERY different from intentionally killing them."

Removed - how? If the fetuses aren't yet viable at the moment when there is imminent danger for the girl, isn't this a classical reason for therapeutical abortion? I don't imagine a doctor that would say that a c-section for removing two unviable fetuses can be safer for an endangered mother of her age than an abortion.

Mike in CT said...


I never said that any of the options were without risk.

But I take your point which I will address in a separate post.