Pro-life Exceptions: Is late-term abortion ever necessary?

129 comments

In making the case for life – that is,  the right to life of every human being – the discussion often ends with some type of exception to this right.  Sadly, many pro-life people subscribe to such exceptions.  These people I find the most perplexing.

If you don’t believe that an unborn human person is actually a human person, then when you believe in a right to kill that unborn person, at least you’re being consistent.   You’re ignorant, but at lesat you’re not illogical.

If, on the other hand, you correctly believe an unborn human person is actually a human person, but then think there are things that justify killing this human life, that’s a different kind of horrific.

So when people are pro-life except in the case of rape.  Or they’re pro-life except in the case of incest.  Or they’re pro-life except in the case where the health of the mother is affected.  They actually undermine their entire pro-life position.

I think there are two explanations for these walking contradictions.

The first is that they are not actually pro-life and do not actually believe that an unborn human being is an unborn human being.  However, they call themselves “pro-life” because their personal preferences happen to align with that of pro-lifers (except, of course, for their exceptions).  They may believe they are pro-life, but they are such because it’s convenient and not because they first believe that every human person should be treated with dignity and respect for their individual right to life.

The second is that they refuse or are unable to reconcile the conflict between their belief in an objective right to life of every human person with their emotion associated with a particularly challenging situation.  There are no doubt some extremely difficult situations people find themselves in after traumatic, horrifying events like rape and incest.  And certainly when a loved one’s health hangs in the balance, I can understand the emotion involved, too.

It’s not our place to judge these people.  However, it is our place to stand up for any innocent people who may get trampled on in the process.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be so hard for these people.  Most of these emotional situations are made much worse because the mothers, and often the doctors, are very uninformed as to what options are actually available.  On a larger scale, many who subscribe to these exceptions do so because they have been badly misinformed and lied to about the reality of such emotional situations.

Many justify their entire reason for the need for legal abortions as to save the life of the mother.  They picture a mother who is faced with a decision: To have this baby and die, or abort this baby and live.  Of course, even if this situation was entirely plausible, we are not justified in intentionally killing an innocent human being.  However, the truth is that it’s not a real situation. It’s one made up by abortion advocates to maintain a  shred of credibility in the imaginations of American emotionals.

Others make similar types of arguments for cases where they think the unborn baby suffers from some disability or will suffer and live a short life after birth.  Yet again, these are situations fueled by half-truths, short-sightedness, and hopelessness.

Here is a great article that goes into some of these questions and more.  It is called Is Late-term Abortion Ever Necessary? And it sheds a lot of light on these difficult emotional challenges that so many imagine make exception for horror.

129 comments Add comment

Lisa J July 9, 2009 at 12:14 am

Thank you for writing about this contradiction that is so often not discussed for fear of sounding harsh. More of us need to be clear and strong in our complete defense of the unborn.

KKairos July 9, 2009 at 1:38 am

Matt,
It’s important to distinguish between health and life of the mother; it’s when the line gets blurry that your argument gets weaker, a.k.a. when the life of the mother is in danger but not guaranteed-lost; in that circumstance you’re dealing (likely, at least) with a life vs. life dilemma, not a life vs. health (mental or physical) or life vs. choice dilemma. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve leaned more and more Catholic in my stances on life issues over the years, but this strikes as something that may have been left out. And maybe it was left out for a reason.

I’m not discounting what you’ve said here, I’m talking about the two umbrella cases you didn’t address: When mother and child are either likely to, or definitely going to, both die. What does Catholicism say in those circumstances? In the latter (I am thinking specifically of ectopic pregnancies) it seems to allow for abortion.

I realize that these cases tend to arise in the earlier trimesters, but many of the comments in this post seem to apply to abortion in general. Make no mistake–I’m not a pro-choice person by any reasonable measure. But when the conflict comes to life (as in earthly, pre-death existence) vs. life (as in earthly, pre-death existence), I find myself much more hesitant to make an immediate judgment on the matter.

If you have thoughts on those two circumstances (probable death and definite death of the parties) I’d appreciate them, Mr. Warner.

– Dan Lower

Manya July 9, 2009 at 6:53 am

Great post and fantastic article by Dr. Mary Davenport, who used to perform abortions but now heads an association for pro-life obstetricians! Powerful stuff many of us wouldn’t know exists without your pointing it out to us. Thanks, Matt.

Bob B. July 9, 2009 at 6:59 am

I totally agree with you in the case of rape and incest. I have always found the argument for those exceptions to be intellectually dishonest. In the case of the health of the mother, there, I think it is a question of degree. If we are talking about the life of the mother being threatened, that is a different situation from some adverse health consequence (short of death) or a mental health issue. If the mother’s life is threatened, we have a situation where 2 different lives are at stake, and that is an entirely different situation. Thanks for the post, as it makes a very important point that is often overlooked.

Susan Peterson July 9, 2009 at 7:54 am

As far as ectopic pregnancies goes, the affected tube can be removed because the primary intention is to remove a diseased organ and the death of the embryo is an unintended consequence. Likewise with a pregnant cancerous uterus.

However any act which directly attacks a human life is forbidden by the Catholic Church for any reason. The attempt must always be made to save both the mother and the baby.

The Orthodox Jewish position is that true threats to the life of the mother make abortion legitimate. In that case it is balancing a life against another life, and the life of the older, more aware person who may already have responsiblities is more valuable. This is a respectable position, although it is not mine as a Catholic. There are VERY few such cases in modern medicine, however.

Susan Peterson

Matthew Warner July 9, 2009 at 8:57 am

Dan,

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I actually did address when the actual life of the mother is in danger. In the hypothetical desicion I gave it is one where the death of the mother is certain. But that’s the problem – it’s only hypothetical. I guess part of what I’m challenging people to do is look at the real world examples of some of the hypotheticals they use to try and justify abortion in some cases.

If you read the article I link to at the bottom of the post, I let a doctor talk about many of these specific situations and how realistic they actually are.

It’s one thing to sit back hypothetically and drum up imaginary situations where someone feels abortion should be allowed. It’s another to actually see how often (or if at all) those hypothetical situations actually occur. The problem is that many people allow for abortion in these rare cases that in reality perhaps NEVER actually occur. It’s a ruse.

As far as ectopic pregnancies go, abortion is not a factor. As Susan mentioned above, treating the mother in this case does not, directly and intentionally kill an innocent human life. Therefore no abortion occurs and this situation is not relevant to abortion. This is sad, but there is no moral culpability. Look up the “Principle of Double Effect” if you want to read more on those types of moral situations.

Matthew Warner July 9, 2009 at 9:12 am

If you have any real world examples of where an abortion is NECESSARY to save the mother’s life, I’d be interested in hearing it. I can’t find any. All situations I find there are viable alternatives to abortion (ex: delivering the baby alive first and trying to save his/her life instead of chemically burning them alive or sticking forceps into the back of their skull).

It’s actually pretty barbaric and there is no question it is used as an excuse to end the life of this inconvenient human person inside of them.

All that said, I do also say:

Of course, even if this situation was entirely plausible, we are not justified in intentionally killing an innocent human being.

Even IF the baby is certain to die of natural causes shortly after birth or if the mother has a high chance of dying through the natural process, there is a huge moral difference between 1) allowing them to die naturally while trying to save all lives involved and 2) intentionally murdering somebody.

The “end” may be the same. But the “means” is very different. And that makes all the moral difference.

People die in our world naturally all the time and there are no moral consequences. But when somebody intentionally takes the life of another person, it’s entirely different.

Nobody is morally culpable if everything is done to save the life of a baby and the baby dies naturally anyway. But if somebody punches a hole in a baby’s skull and sucks out the brains, it’s an entirely different moral situation.

But like I said, all I really wanted to do here was challenge people who buy into these “exceptions” to actually look at the real world scenario and not base them on hypothetical situations or half-truths. That article I link to is definitely worth a read.

Phil July 9, 2009 at 10:17 am

“However, the truth is that it’s not a real situation. It’s one made up by abortion advocates to maintain a shred of credibility in the imaginations of American emotionals.”

The spin machine in full effect! C’mon now!

Phil July 9, 2009 at 10:38 am

What about the ‘Double Effect’? Why would this even exist if what you say is true? You should revise that statement – it’s flat out wrong. It looks good for spin though!

Phil July 9, 2009 at 10:50 am

“If you have any real world examples of where an abortion is NECESSARY to save the mother’s life, I’d be interested in hearing it.”

What about a pregnant woman with uteran cancer? Without having her uterus removed in time, she will die. Isn’t this a “To have this baby and die, or abort this baby and live.” example?

Let’s keep this discussion factual. You can still win the argument without all the nonsense.

Phil July 9, 2009 at 11:11 am

And what about a tubal pregnancy?

“A tubal pregnancy happens when the fertilized egg fails to reach its destination – the uterus – and instead becomes implanted in a fallopian tube. Tubal pregnancy is a life threatening situation for the mother and/or the baby. Therefore, whenever it is diagnosed, patient is recommended to get treatment immediately to remove the fertilized tissue.”

This one makes no sense to me. Can someone help me understand why the Catholic Church says it is moral to terminate an ectoic pregnancy ONLY if you remove the tube, irrespective of whether or not the tube is healthy?!

Just so I understand. A baby naturally and unfortunately implants itself in the lining of one of the tubes rather than in the uterus. The baby will not survive as it is getting no nutrients to develop. At the same time, the mother is at serious risk of death.

In order for the Cathloic Church to keep it’s principles on abortion intact, it is only acceptable to REMOVE an otherwise HEALTHY tube with the side affect of terminating a baby who will not surive in the first place. Alternatively, the pregnant mother could just remove the tissue and keep the healthy tube. Should a woman REALLY have to remove a healthy part of her body just to appease a belief system? How is that logical?

Matthew Warner July 9, 2009 at 11:46 am

Phil,

You’re making my point by responding with all of these emotional accusations of spin and being “flat out wrong” when I don’t believe you’ve actually taken up what I’m challenging you to do.

If you had read that article i linked to, she talks about some of the treatments for cancer that do not involve aborting a baby. There are often multiple options.

To say that just because somebody has uterine cancer means we must go in and tear a baby limb from limb is fallacious. That’s what I’m challenging you to reconsider.

Read up on the principle of double effect before you tell me my statement is wrong. I don’t even understand what you’re asking about it, sorry.

Removing a uterus is not an abortion. Removing a tube is not an abortion. These are different moral situations completely. I understand how people would think they are the same because both may result in a baby dying, but they are not the same morally as abortion. If you don’t see the difference, I would urge you to read up more on it before you go accusing me of spin.

I never said there aren’t any situations where it would be necessary to abort a baby in order to save the life of a mother. I just said I can’t find any. Still looking.

And of course, even if we do find one, that still doesn’t make it OK to abort a human person. But if we think through this a bit maybe we’ll get people second guessing if they believe there should be any “exceptions” to their pro-life practice.

Phil July 9, 2009 at 11:54 am

Matt:

Please answer my last question. I really can’t make logical sense of this.

In a tubal pregnancy, why is removal of a HEALTHY tube manditory in order to be considered moral?

The only reason I can come up with is that if the Catholic Church says it is acceptable to take a drug to remove a tubal pregnancy, or to remove just the tissue then they contradict their own beliefs on abortion.

So it is preferred by the Church that a woman remove a healthy, and ironically enough, vital LIFE organ in order to stay within the lines of the moral belief system. How absurd.

Phil July 9, 2009 at 11:58 am

While you blog about the moral inconsistencies of some pro-lifers, you may want to blog a segment on the inconsistences of the Church!

Removing a healthy organ to avoid the term “abortion” = acceptable.

Removing a tubal pregnancy via drugs or removal of tissue to keep a healthy organ intact = wrong.

The latter yields a woman who is more apt to deliver life than the former. Yet both yield the same result for the baby. Morals!

Matthew Warner July 9, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Just so I’m clearly understanding what you’re referring to, where are you getting this information about a tubal pregnancy and what the Church teaches about it?

Phil July 9, 2009 at 12:24 pm

“Catholic Theologians typically discuss the morality of three common treatments for ectopic pregnancies according to the principle of double effect.[4] One approach utilizes the drug Methotrexate (MTX), which attacks the tissue cells that connect the embryo to its mother, causing miscarriage. A surgical procedure (salpingostomy) directly removes the embryo through an incision in the fallopian tube wall. Another surgical procedure, called a salpingectomy, removes all of the tube (full salpingectomy) or only the part to which the embryo is attached (partial salpingectomy), thereby ending the pregnancy.

The majority of Catholic moralists reject MTX and salpingostomy on the basis that these two amount to no less than a direct abortion. In both cases, the embryo is directly attacked, so the death of the embryo is not the unintended evil effect, but rather the very means used to bring about the intended good effect. Yet, for an act to be morally licit, not only must the intended effect be good, but also the act itself must be good. For this reason, most moralists agree that MTX and salpingostomy do not withstand the application of the principle of double effect.

The majority of Catholic moralists, while rejecting MTX or a salpingostomy, regard a salpingectomy as different in kind and thus licit according to the principle of double effect. What is the difference?”

http://www.cuf.org/Faithfacts/details_view.asp?ffID=57

Phil July 9, 2009 at 12:35 pm

The drug MTX is 90% effective and although sometimes surgery may be also necessary, it seems to work 90% of the time and does not require part of or the entire healthy tube to be removed (in some cases the tube is damaged or may rupture, no problems with the Church’s stance on removal there).

The problem is with a healthy tube. The Church doesn’t seem to want to discuss the fact that most tubal pregnancy terminations can be done safely and effectively with MTX, without removing a healthy organ (in most cases). But because of the word abortion, they will not make an ‘official’ statement on whether that is acceptable. So what we are left with is a moral belief system that must defer to removing a healthy organ. That doesn’t seem logical to me!

In my opinion, presuming the Catholic site I am researching is factual, the Church will NEVER ‘officially’ comment on what is deemed unacceptable because it is contradictory to common sense. It is illogical to remove a healthly organ in order to avoid the word abortion, when the end result is a woman in good moral standing with one less life bearing organ.

TIM April 17, 2013 at 10:45 am

Phil, you make a very good case!

KKairos July 9, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Matt,

Thanks muchly. I suppose I missed the dealing with the definite-life-vs.-life situation in the post itself, and that’s my bad. I’ll check out the link.

Also yeah, I’m aware of double effect and whatnot. I’m also aware of the massive amount of hypotheticals people put out there. I guess, to my mind, when a church makes a declaration as absolute on a subject as the Catholic Church makes on abortion, hypotheticals are indeed fair game, regardless of their actual probability. Though it is fairly evident that even when these hypotheticals find their way into reality, God’s mercy shines through (e.g. I think there was some TLC special awhile ago that did an episode on a woman who survived an ectopic pregnancy, and possibly her child did as well.)

– Dan

Susan Peterson July 9, 2009 at 1:49 pm

There is really no such thing as common sense. What is called common sense is only a sort of current consensus opinion in the writer’s set of associates. For example, I think many of us would feel that it is common sense that a newborn baby belongs in its mother’s arms. But I heard a hospital nursery nurse say “This baby was born at 3:02 and it is 3:41 now and he is just getting here? That doctor has been letting the mother hold it. Its common sense, a brand new baby should be under the warming lights!

Catholic reasoning about such things works based on and according to, certain principles. One such principle is that an act is judged morally by its intention, not by its outcome. Another is that it is judged by what the act actually entails, its intrinsic meaning, not by its outcome.

Your way of speaking reveals how you are thinking about this act; you call it a “tubal pregnancy termination.” That would be your intention in the act, and it is a wrong one. The only correct intention is to remove a malfunctioning organ, and a tube is malfunctioning by the fact that it has an embryo implanted in it, which it is not designed to sustain. Therefore it may be removed, and , sadly the embryo will be removed with it. If you do it with methotrexate, pregnancy termination is the intention, and that is wrong, It is a direct attack on human life.

Susan Peterson July 9, 2009 at 1:55 pm

Dan; Old obstetric books all have a little section about ectopic pregnancies which have grown to term. In those cases, a tube ruptured and the placenta hooked to the abdominal wall or the outside of the uterus. Or the egg got completely outside the tube, and that happened. Most women would bleed to death when the tube ruptured, but for some reason in these cases, there wasn’t that much bleeding. In the old days when this happened, women would mostly bleed to death at the surgical delivery, when the placenta was cut off the wall, because there is no mechanism available, like the contraction of the uterus in normal deliveries, to close down all those placental vessels. Nowadays, once a woman got past the rupture of the tube part, she could be confident of surviving the surgery in a hospital with plenty of blood available, and IV fluids, and several surgeons working fast with cauterizers! Perhaps someone will come up with a way to move these wrongly implanted pregnancies to the right place. That would be the best outcome.

Phil July 9, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Susan:

That’s just fancy dancing. The tube is not malfunctioning – the Church incorrectly chooses to apply that term to the tube so that the morals of the Church therein are not breached.

Which is entirely my point. Most tubes can and will function properly in the future. Which is why the Church will not comment ‘officailly’ on what is acceptable – they will defer you to the principles they have on abortion and directly destroying human life. But they will not come out say that someone with a tubal pregnancy has a malfunctioning fallopian tube because that is not factual.

Carol June 29, 2010 at 3:02 am

Phil,
Just to quantify “most”. My OB told me with my ectopic, that I had a 1 in 5 chance of ectopic recurrence in the affected tube and 1 in 7 chance of incurring an ectopic pregnancy in the other tube.

I went on to conceive a healthy baby a few months later and I’m glad that I had both tubes from which to pull, but my ectopic baby was already dead so there was no real abortion by taking the MTX. (Given by a Catholic doctor in a Catholic hospital(BTW)) I still mourn the baby… The point is the intent. Are we intending to kill? Would I, as a mother gladly give several organs if that baby could have lived? Yes. The OB swore up and down that there was no way to re-implant, but couldn’t they have tried anyway? (Obviously not so much in my case, but in the cases where the baby is still alive?)

And I do personally know of one woman who’s ectopic pregnancy, re-implanted where it was supposed to on its own. A real miracle.

Thank you, Phil, for asking these questions. I’ve just stirred the pot a bit. Sorry. Only God knows, but the overwhelming truth is that we mothers-to-be are grosely misinformed about our options and the potential outcomes.

Susan Peterson July 9, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Matthew, in your 9:12 am comment you seem to imply that it would be licit to remove an unviable fetus to save the mother’s life if such a case really existed, for instance in the case of that nine year old in Brazil.( if what we heard about it was true, which of course we don’t know. ) I heard several otherwise orthodox and prolife Catholics say that when that case was in the news, but I don’t believe that it is the case.

After all, if for a less dire reason a woman wants an abortion, is it licit to do it by C section and then try,fruitlessly as we know it would be in the current state of medicine, to save, say, an 18 week old fetus? I think you will surely say no. In the current state of medicine one kills an unborn child of 18 weeks as surely by that method as by any other method. The gruesomeness or ungrusomeness of the procedure is really not morally pertinent. Well, then if you couldn’t do it, because, say, the woman had one year left to get her college degree, or she had a scholarship to a great European university which couldn’t be postponed, and you couldn’t do it because it is wrong to kill an unborn human life…then by Catholic principles it is also wrong to do it to save the mother’s life. One must always try to save both the mother and the baby, and it is not trying to save the baby to deliver it when there is no chance of viability. You would have to try to get the baby, or babies, in the case of the 9 year old girl, to about 24 weeks.

Phil July 9, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Furthermore, can you provide evidence that a woman who has a tubal pregnancy terminated has a malfunctioning tube?

I bet there is sufficient evidence to prove that a woman who has successfully treated a tubal with MTX, and has kept her ‘functioning’ tube, has gone on to bare a child with that same tube. Or am I mistaken?

Carol June 29, 2010 at 3:09 am

There’s no way to know which tube the viable egg came from that went on to create the sucessful preganacy. My OB (who’s been practicing for 35 years) told me this – and it makes sense.

Susan Peterson July 9, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Phil, I think it is clear that the *outcome* is better with methotrexate. I will concede this, ok. Stipulated. In both cases the embryo dies, and with methotrexate the woman keeps a tube that may function properly again. (In some cases, where the tubal pregnancy was caused by scarring from STD’s, it might not. But let’s leave that aside.) So, the tube may well function properly again if you kill the embryo with methotrexate. But that is a direct attack on human life, *in which the desired outcome is achieved precisely by ending the human life.* That is never permitted. In the case in which the tube is removed the desired outcome, the saving of the mother’s life, is achieved by removing the malfunctioning tube. The tube is at this moment malfunctioning since it didn’t get that fertilized egg down to the uterus, and now has an embryo growing in it which will burst and destroy it. The moral judgement is based on the intention and the meaning of the act, not the outcome.
Who is this “they” who won’t say? Your parish priest? The ethics committee of a Catholic hospital? Your bishop? Catholic Answers? Jimmy Akin? The Ask Father question box?

Susan Peterson June 29, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Since I wrote that, I read about a case in which Methotrexate was used which did not have a good outcome. It turns out that Methotrexate is not used to “flush” the tube as I had thought, but given to the mother by injection or orally. In this case, the woman was told she had a tubal pregnancy, but this turned out to be wrong. She had a normal pregnancy. But after she had methotrexate, it wasn’t normal any more! Methotrexate is a serious teratogen, and it was given in the period of major organ formation.
She “had” to have an abortion. In the article I read, she was asking how soon she would be safe to conceive again.
Just a reminder that Methotrexate is a dangerous drug.
I know this isn’t really quite relevant to the moral discussion here.

I could accept calling the tube malfunctioning once it has an embryo attached to it. Sometimes this does happen because a tube is scarred, but of course not always. But what about if the egg has implanted in the abdominal cavity somewhere. You can’t remove an abdominal wall! A doctor on a thread on a different blog said that in these cases the primary intention is “to stop the bleeding.”
I think that is pretty weak. You could say the primary intent in the recent pulmonary hypertension case (in which the bishop said the ethics committee nun had excommunicated herself) was to reduce the blood pressure in the pulmonary artery. In each case the good intent is being accomplished via the wrong action of killing the child. This sort of reflects back on the ectopic pregnancy example and makes me question if this is really a good case of double effect.
Will we Catholics have to wait in these cases until death of the embryo is confirmed?

TIM April 17, 2013 at 11:11 am

Susan. Phil’s argument rings true in his assertion that it seems to be nothing more than sophistry when the Church insists that it’s morally more acceptable to kill the fetus by removing the “malfunctioning” tube than to do so by administering methotrexate. It’s obvious that the tube is per se okay. It’s the fetus that is causing it to “malfunction.”

Artie July 9, 2009 at 2:52 pm

By the way the tube in of itself is *not* a human being. However the human life inside the womb is and that is the difference.

Most tubes can and will function properly in the future, but the child in the womb will not if you directly kill the baby.

I don’t know about you guys but I would be willing to sacrifice losing one of my limbs for my child inside or outside the womb.

So what we are left with from Phil’s moral belief system is that we must defer to aborting a potentially healthy child and not even give this child a chance at life in order to save a tube. That doesn’t seem logical to me!

Susan Peterson July 9, 2009 at 3:04 pm

No, Artie, sadly, both ways the embryo dies. Until we find a way to get it to reimplant in the uterus.
Susan

Matthew Warner July 9, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Phil, on the one hand you are criticizing the Church for their teaching on this. On the other hand you are criticizing the Church for NOT teaching (officially commenting) on this. So which is it? Your attack is confusing.

It’s ironic that you also accuse the Church of not being the very thing which you are disagreeing with her doing: being consistent. The Church consistently says that you can never directly, intentionally end the life of an innocent human being. Period. The Church is consistent with this in every single teaching it has ever and will ever have.

Phil – I would suggest sticking to what you have always been good at on here and that’s asking thoughtful questions and giving a legitimate personal point of view on these issues. Let’s cut your accusatory speculations as to why the Church has or has not done certain things in realms of which you know very little to nothing about in terms of how the Church operates. It’s a distraction and it reveals some kind of angry bias you have against the Catholic Church.

TIM April 17, 2013 at 11:16 am

“Attack?”

Matthew Warner July 9, 2009 at 3:16 pm

As to your question (Phil), it’s a very good one. But it hits back on the same issue we’ve hit on in other discussions on this blog.

Morality has to do with what one aught to do. If you don’t believe in an absolute Truth then what anyone “aught” to do is a matter of personal opinion and pointless to debate.

You seem to end up a consequentialist on many matters – only focusing on the outcome. Morality includes not only the outcome, but (as Susan pointed out) also the means of attaining that outcome and the intentions involved. All must be good for an act to be morally good.

If you are going to directly, intentionally end the life of a human being, part of that outcome is the moral culpability for having taken that person’s life.

I totally understand the tendency to equate some of these various scenarios, but there are huge moral differences – even if the outcome may seem similar. And we are dealing with human life here.

Perhaps you don’t think there is anything morally wrong with directly ending the life of an innocent human being? If so, I disagree.

Matthew Warner July 9, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Dan – hypotheticals are definitely fair game in terms of discussing the principles and teaching of the Church. But in terms of talking about the necessity of legal abortion, only situations that actually occur in the real world are helpful.

Susan – I certainly do not believe it is ever ok to remove an unviable fetus to save a mother’s life. I didn’t mean to seem to imply that. Thanks for clarifying!

One other note: As Artie hit on, when a woman has a part of her tube removed to save her life, as I understand it, the tube can heal and be functional again after that (i.e. she’s not short “one life bearing organ” just because she goes through this procedure).

Carol June 29, 2010 at 3:20 am

Most ectopic pregnancies are tubal, but in my case and 2 percent on record, these pregnancies occur in the ovary. (It hurts a LOT let me tell you to have a 7 week old baby in your ovary.) Sorry to delve into so much detail, but Phil’s point is still viable, if only on a smaller scale.
Also. I don’t read into Phil’s questions as him having some resentment towards the Church, maybe because they echo the confusion I was confronted with at my local “Catholic” hospital. I think the undertone of anger might be from your having missed his primary point initially. (?)

TIM April 17, 2013 at 11:17 am

Well said!

crowepps July 9, 2009 at 4:19 pm

“The “end” may be the same. But the “means” is very different. And that makes all the moral difference.”

I’m sure knowing that the doctor is morally A-OK will make a big difference to the dead women and their grieving families. When God told Abraham that human sacrifice was no longer necessary to please Him, it must have just meant MALE sacrifices.

Phil July 9, 2009 at 6:55 pm

So absolute truth says that one should remove a healthy tube just to save face on abortion? Seems backwards to me.

Why not just take the drug and save the healthy tube so Mom can have both to create more babies? Rather than have her remove the tube simply because one must apparaently remove a body part, functional or otherwise, just to avoid the word abortion. Logical? Nope. Consistent. Yep.

So I suppose consistency overrides logic. On one hand you have a mother who did not perfrom an abortion (phew!) but loses a perfectly healthy fallopian tube, and a baby in the process. On the other hand, you have a mom who takes MTX, aborts a baby who will not survive, and keeps her fallopian tube.

One results in a healthier Mom who is more ordered towards procreating again and the other yields a Mom who didn’t abort but has one less tube. Interesting logic!

Phil July 9, 2009 at 7:07 pm

“Phil – I would suggest sticking to what you have always been good at on here and that’s asking thoughtful questions and giving a legitimate personal point of view on these issues.”

And Matt, I would suggest that you don’t forget yourself! Wow! I have every right to question the Church and will continue to do so! Glad you take issue!

Matthew Warner July 9, 2009 at 7:27 pm

gee whiz. Never said not to question the church. Where do you get that? Question all you want, of course! I said to cut the accusatory speculation on things you know nothing about. How does that equate to not asking questions?

A few of your accusations and speculations:

The Church doesn’t seem to want to discuss the fact that most tubal pregnancy terminations can be done safely

the Church will NEVER ‘officially’ comment on what is deemed unacceptable because it is contradictory to common sense.

the Church incorrectly chooses to apply that term to the tube so that the morals of the Church therein are not breached.

Most tubes can and will function properly in the future. Which is why the Church will not comment ‘officailly’ on what is acceptable – they will defer you to the principles they have on abortion and directly destroying human life.

The Church is engaged, researching, discussing and studying these very issues in deeper ways than possibly anybody on the planet. Your comments just reveal your ignorance of the reality of the debate in terms of the involvement of the Church. And a suggestion that they aren’t willing to discuss or are trying to avoid the reality of these problems is just absolutely ridiculous.

Was just tryin to help you (and us).

Phil July 9, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Ok, fine. Now can you address some of the points in my prior post!

Also, in that link I provided you there was a statement that the Church has not ruled officially on the acceptable procedures to end tubal pregnancies. That was not speculation on my part. Nor was it ignorance. You can spin it all you want as me being ignorant, etc. but the reality is that Church has no offical stance. Why? Tubals have been around for decades!

Given that tubals have been around for decades, it appears as though they simply don’t know how to respond (speculation). Perhaps there are all sorts of deep studies ongoing, meetings of the minds, etc. . If that is the case, either they are undecided on what’s acceptable or choose not to formally discuss the reality of these problems. Or perhaps they don’t have a logical answer that won’t contradict another set of morals (more speculation on my part!)

Furthermore, why can’t I speculate why? Am I at least allowed that? How can I be out of line when speculating on why the Church has or has not stated it’s position? Don’t I have the right to know their position? And to speculate why they won’t take a position?

Why do YOU think the Church has not ruled either way?
Are the Bishops too busy? Is this topic on the back burner to more important issues? Why can’t they make a simple statment about it? Until I hear either way, I will continue to speculate that they choose to not respond (and continue to speculate on why they choose not to)

Phil July 9, 2009 at 8:11 pm

One more point to ponder: Some woman can only ovulate on one side. Let’s say, hypothetically, that a woman who only ovulates on her right side has a right tube tubal prenancy.

Is it LOGICAL to require her to remove her otherwise healthy right tube? Wouldn’t it make more sense to preserve the tube so she could procreate? Isn’t that more ordered towards life?

Susan Peterson June 29, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Phil- All of your comments are outcome based.
Catholic morality is not outcome based.

Cardinal Newman said that “It would be better for thousands to die in agony than for one single venial sin to be committed. ”

Or if there is an outcome considered, it is the outcome for the immortal soul.
Susan Peterson

TIM April 17, 2013 at 11:26 am

Susan. You are confusing morality or ethical behavior with Catholic doctrine about moral behavior. The two are not necessarily the same. And John Newman’s assertion about venial sin shows how Catholic morality succumbs to the pitfall of reductio ad absurdum.

Phil July 9, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Where’s Pinkie when I need him? Pinkie would be all over this subject!

CathAnon July 9, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Phil, MTX and salpigostomy can only be used at a very early stage of tubal pregnancy, before the threat of a tubal rupture, therefor the mother’s life is not at risk at that point in time. Half of all tubal pregnancies will resolve on their own through miscarriage. Thus the Catholic Church’s stance is, as usual, well-informed, consistent, and moral.

Matthew, FYI, pregnancies that threaten the life of the mother are not hypothetical. Let us ask St. Gianna, a mother and physician who died because she refused to have an abortion to save her own life, to pray for us.

Carol June 29, 2010 at 3:32 am

However, in the case of an ovarian ectopic pregnancy, the threat to life is much earlier and much more extreem. (Nice point about St. Gianna – lol).

Artie July 9, 2009 at 9:37 pm

“No, Artie, sadly, both ways the embryo dies. Until we find a way to get it to reimplant in the uterus.
Susan”

The point I was making is that direct abortion is never permitted no matter what good clinical or therapeutic outcomes may be intended.

Indirect abortions in which you folks are talking about are a different category all together.

In the case of ectopic pregnancy there are two treatments available.

In one, the diseased tissue of the tube is removed. This is a medical procedure done to save the mother– the *unintended consequence* is that the baby dies because we do not possess the technology to successfully move the baby to the uterus. The *intent* is not to kill the child. The result is that the child dies because we lack the ability to prevent it.

The second method is the adminstration of a drug that causes a chemical abortion– it kills the baby and leaves the tube intact. This is never a morally acceptable option as the purpose is to kill the baby– a direct action that is always wrong.

CathAnon I think what Matthew was getting at in hypothetical situations is when people start to say “but what about when…” these people are basically trying to say “there are some cases where it is OK to kill a baby”.

This is of course absurd– it is never OK to kill a baby.

So, contrary to what a lot of people may think, it is possible to avoid an abortion even the case of ectopic pregnancy. Intentional abortion is NEVER acceptable.

TIM April 17, 2013 at 11:30 am

Artie. NEVER, really? Remember that never is a universal.

Phil July 9, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Artie, your facts are inaccurate.

There are three treatments:

1. MTX (the chemical abortion drug).
2. Salpingostomy (directly removing the fetus from the wall of the tube)
3. Salpingectomy (removing part or all of the tube)

The Church does not have an *offical* stance on which of these procedures are permissible. The 3rd seems to be the generally accepted, *permissible* Catholic method based on what I have read (even though the Church itself has no *official* opinion)

The Church maintains one must never abort. But a womens health is also in grave danger if nothing is done. So the solution is to remove a perfectly healthy organ (with a baby embedded in it) just to not abort. Personally, it’s laughable that procedure is not considered an abortion in itself, i.e. removing a healthy organ to remove an egg embedded within the organ. It’s like having a cyst in a perfectly healthy stomach and removing the stomach to resolve the cyst. And I understand that it is a baby and not a cyst, but it is a baby that will never develop, will never live, 100% sure of that. For all intents and purposes, in THIS EXAMPLE ONLY, these babies are like cysts – a group of cells that will grow to nothing more.

Let’s look at this from a logical perspective rather than a moral one. Both outcomes will result in a baby that does not survive, 100% accurate and a sure thing. Knowing with 100% CERTAINTY that the baby WILL DIE, why would you not do what is best for procreation and the Mother???

Carol June 29, 2010 at 3:37 am

Nope. No no no. It is in no way 100% certain the baby will die. There are documented examples of natural re-implantation. God is awesome. Just had to clarify. Check out standupgirl.com

Phil July 9, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Artie, can you please point me to a reference where it says it is acceptable by the Church to remove the tissue of the tube (and the embryo with it)?

Honestly, THAT would make sense to me and would be entirely different than requiring a woman to remove part or all of her tube as the only option. From what I read at the site below, removing the tube is the ONLY permissible Catholic way to treat (which is my whole problem here!)

http://www.cuf.org/Faithfacts/details_view.asp?ffID=57

Artie July 9, 2009 at 10:09 pm

I believe we should be careful of making false dichotomies and simplistic conclusions regarding the Church. It is through the Church we meet Jesus in the only way anyone can meet him: through humble gratitude.

The Church actually states the following… on May 28th, 1884 and Aug 18th, 1889 that “it cannot be safely taught in Catholic schools that it is lawful to perform . . . any surgical operation which is directly destructive of the life of the fetus or the mother.”

Some moralists thought they saw reasons to doubt whether an exception might not be allowed in the case of ectopic gestations way back when and the Church did indeed respond with what I wrote above in a decree in 1898. (according to which, as far as possible, earnest and opportune provision is to be made to safeguard the life of the child and of the mother.)

Notice it didn’t say *organs* of the child or the mother.

We should:
1. Not wish the evil effects, but make all reasonable efforts to avoid them;

2. Make sure the effect be good in itself;

3. Make sure that the evil is not made a means to obtain the good effect; for this would be to do evil that good might come of it (a procedure never allowed)

4. The good effect be as important at least as the evil effect.

It should be evident that the determination of what is right or wrong in human conduct belongs to the science of ethics and the teaching of religious authority. When you apply both these applications you come up with what the church has stated

Phil July 9, 2009 at 10:12 pm

“In one, the diseased tissue of the tube is removed”

Just as a follow-up to my last post, the reason I ask for a reference is because removing the tissue (and embryo of course) from the lining of a fallopian tube sounds an awful lot like an abortion!

Artie July 9, 2009 at 10:14 pm

“Artie, your facts are inaccurate.”

Which ones?

CathAnon July 9, 2009 at 10:14 pm

Artie, I agree, yet I, too, am making a distinction. While two treatment options are available, the choice is not arbitrary from a medical standpoint; if the tube is rupturing, the only case in which the mother’s life is truly threatened, then salpigectomy is the only option. While Phil wants to spin this as the Church forming moral teaching in a vacuum insensitive to dying women, he is letting his bias overtake his reason by jumping to conclusions and ascribing dark motives when information is unavailable to him.

The sad part is that most of the medical community has not been taught to consider this distinction when acquiring informed consent. Likely women are told that if they do not receive the chemical or surgical abortion that they will die, not that there’s a 50% chance that this will resolve on its own. They are not presented with an option to wait until the situation truly becomes life-threatening. If a person does not have the same regard for the embryo as they do for the mother, then there is no reason to offer that option because all they see is the possible maternal death, not the certain fetal death. (25% of perforated appendixes will heal without surgical intervention, too, but no one would suggest that option–an appendix does not have an eternal soul.) Only the Catholic Church gives voice to that distinction, and it should be part of informed consent. Lack of full consent is a criminal offense in other cases.

Artie July 9, 2009 at 10:18 pm

“Just as a follow-up to my last post, the reason I ask for a reference is because removing the tissue (and embryo of course) from the lining of a fallopian tube sounds an awful lot like an abortion!”

The ****intent**** is not to kill the child. The result is that the child dies because we lack the ability to prevent it.

Susan Peterson June 29, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Artie, Phil is, insidiously, saying that if you only scrape some tissue from the inside of a tube, rather than cutting out a section of the tube or the whole tube, this is not unlike scraping some tissue from the inside of a uterus…ie, an early first trimester abortion. I think he is right. And I think it would be wrong to do so.

Phil, I am beginning to think that it is only licit to address an ectopic pregnancy when the embryo is dead, or at least when the tube has ruptured or is rupturing.
If some of these situations resolve on their own by the natural death of the embryo, then it is wrong for there to be intervention until one is certain that won’t happen. And in most cases the rupture of the tube means the death of the embryo, so no killing needs to be done by human beings.
This does involve more pain and some danger to the mother, but if the situation is watched closely, not a risk of death.

Artie July 9, 2009 at 10:20 pm

“Just as a follow-up to my last post, the reason I ask for a reference is because removing the tissue (and embryo of course) from the lining of a fallopian tube sounds an awful lot like an abortion!”

Do a CTRL + F on this page and search for ‘intent’ this may help.

Artie July 9, 2009 at 10:37 pm

Great link Phil! I see your argument is that the Church does not have a direct teaching on the issue. I agree with that 100%.

Where we disagree is the application of what is moral and what is immoral in regards to what the Church teaches about direct vs. indirect abortion AND that just because the Church doesn’t have an “official direct teaching” doesn’t mean the Church does not care.

We must apply science and moral teachings. I think it is wise for the Church to make sure before they come out with a teaching without looking at the biological aspect.

I read the following and it makes sense…

“While the Church has not spoken officially about the morality of specific treatment options, she does provide several principles rooted in the natural law concerning human life. In applying these principles, the great majority of moral theologians agree that the salpingectomy does not constitute a direct attack on the life of the baby and is morally licit. A couple may serenely choose this option in good faith without fear that they are violating Church teaching.”

I would like to say that having an ectopic pregnancy is a nightmare that no woman should have to go through.

Phil July 9, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Cathanon:

So I understand what you are saying: a woman who is aware of an egg growing in her tube very early on, an egg that will NEVER become a living baby, must wait until it becomes a threat to her health to deal with it in the Church approved way (i.e. removal of part or all of the tube)? She can not deal with it prior? What if she is in the bad 50%? She must wait to first determine if it is going to potentially kill her before she can resolve it?

Sheesh! Let’s say the egg in her tube, that will never be a living breathing baby, no matter how hard we wish it (and is essentially a group of cells), is really a group of cancerous cells instead (also essentially a group of cells). Should we wait to treat it or should we be proactive to avoid potential medical issues? Futhermore, if we treat it now we may save her tube! Shouldn’t we try sooner than later? After all, we know those cells are just going to die anyway when we treat her eventually !

“Thus the Catholic Church’s stance is, as usual, well-informed, consistent, and moral.”

Care to enlighten me? What is the *official* Church stance on tubals? Is removal of part or all of the fallopian tube the only “Church Approved” option then?

CathAnon July 9, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Let me make even more distinctions:

If a tube is rupturing that is due to the fetus growing larger than the tube, so it has certainly implanted there; the mother is in mortal danger and the only option at that point is salpigectomy–removing the entire tube and fetus.

If a tube is not rupturing, the fetus may or may not have implanted there. 50% of these will resolve without intervention; that means 50% of the time we are administering MTX or performing surgery unnecessarily. These procedures are not without risks of their own.

And just to add another tidbit into all this, far and away tubal pregnancies are the aftermath pelvic inflammatory disease, or infection from a sexually transmitted disease. If the culture embraced all the moral teachings of the Catholic Church then this situation would be rare indeed.

Carol June 29, 2010 at 3:48 am

HOLD IT!

That accusation is disgusting and defeats your argument. The real truth is far and away tubal pregnancies are undetetcted and end in miscarriage anyway. PID can be a result of an STD but it can result from a plethora of other conditions (ie an unnoticed yeast infection, TSS, etc.) In any case how dare you imply the affected person deserves this/ is morally irresponsible? Shame on you. Where do you get your misinformation?

Susan Peterson June 29, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Carol. I don’t know about the percentages for the cause of tubal pregnancies, or if this is even known. I do know that PID is often the result of an STD, and that scarring of the tubes can result. Often infertility is the result of the scarring of the tubes from STD’s. Of from some other reason.

IF the scarring is from STD’s from sex outside of marriage, the woman’s actions did cause this, there is no question of that.
But the same thing could happen to a woman whose husband was unfaithful and then gave her an STD. So STD doesn’t = guilty of sexual indiscression.

Now, what about “deserves.” ? Does the person who falls asleep at the wheel deserve to die? No, but she might die none the less.
Does the person whose child through a moment of inattention drowns in a pool or runs into traffic, deserve the anguish of losing her child? I don’t think so, but sometimes this happens. In general, we draw the conclusion from these events that it is unwise to drive when one is too tired, and that toddlers have to be watched every minute.

Likewise, does a woman who had sex outside of marriage with someone who turned out to have an STD, deserve to become infertile or to have an ectopic pregnancy? Probably not. But it might happen. And prudence would suggest avoiding this danger.

I think that is all CathAnon is saying.
Susan Peterson

Phil July 9, 2009 at 10:55 pm

Artie:
This is what I struggle with:

“While the Church has not spoken officially about the morality of specific treatment options, she does provide several principles rooted in the natural law concerning human life. In applying these principles, the great majority of moral theologians agree that the salpingectomy does not constitute a direct attack on the life of the baby and is morally licit. A couple may serenely choose this option in good faith without fear that they are violating Church teaching.”

Basically what this says is that it is only acceptable to remove the tube, irrespective of whether or not the tube is and will be healthy (from the research I have done, they are healthy more frequently than not.)

1. A ‘tubal’ baby WILL die. 100%.
2. A mother must wait with the egg in her tube to see whether or not it will miscarry on it’s own.
3. If it does not, then her health is at serious risk and she must have it moved. She can no longer use a drug or remove the tissue as she is now too far along.
4. At this point, she can only treat the tubal with an invasive surgery to remove part or all of her tube. The health and future functioning capibilites of the tube are irrelevent. She must not abort period.

Synopsis: she has her healthy tube removed when completely unnecessary, just to not abort an egg that is 100% certain to die. She could have kept the tube to help procreate

Now what if she only ovulates one side (frequent in women) and we removed that tube?

Susan Peterson June 29, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Again, your evaluation is all outcome based.
The outcome is irrelevant.
What counts is the intrinsic morality of the actions taken.

TIM April 17, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Are outcomes really irrelevant? Don’t they serve to stimulate the thinking of moralists to find ways to achieve them, even if by indirect and circuitous ways? Moral theologians are a lot like lawyers, frequently skirting the edge to achieve the desired results (outcomes)!

CathAnon July 9, 2009 at 10:56 pm

Phil, your analogy is like the appendix I already gave. Cancerous cells do not have a soul; an embryo does even from the moment it is a single cell different from the two that formed it. The discussion is unique to embryos and fetuses and cannot be broadened as you suggest.

We also assume that imaging and outcomes are exact and certain. Ultrasound is used to try and find a yolk sac and a beating heart, so the embryo is long beyond the bundle of cells that you imagine it is (it would be far too small to cause any threat at that stage.) Often the readings come back as “possible ectopic.” The imaging is not perfect. I have no reference for this, but I am willing to speculate that if more women chose to wait rather than risk surgery we would see a subset of those tubal pregnancies end up as in utero pregnancies. Just a guess.

Artie July 9, 2009 at 10:59 pm

Phil,

It is not an easy case my friend and the Church realizes this. Could you imagine if science found out a way to prevent the baby from dieing from an ectopic pregnancy and the Church 20 years prior said it is perfectly ok to directly kill the baby because the baby is going to die anyways?

The crux is direct abortion vs. indirect abortion.

We disagree with the application, but I believe Phil you want to see good come out of this as much as me.

My initial stance is this and I may have to rethink this after reading more on the subject, but removing a section of the tube containing the baby would seem the most logical to me, as the baby would not directly be aborted, but I worry that God still might see this as an abortion.

I would like to see this issue to no be confused with direct abortion.

Phil July 9, 2009 at 11:08 pm

Is an embryo that is 100% certain to never develop, scientifically proven and assured to die, the same as a healthy embryo?

Is it logical to have an embryo destined and certain to die before it goes on to procreate ordered above a woman who may lose her ability to procreate as a result of said embryo?

Logical?

CathAnon July 9, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Well, it didn’t take me long to find a case…

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23782145-2,00.html

Artie July 9, 2009 at 11:13 pm

“Synopsis: she has her healthy tube removed when completely unnecessary, just to not abort an egg that is 100% certain to die. She could have kept the tube to help procreate.”

Are we talking about a mere egg or an embryo?

“Now what if she only ovulates one side (frequent in women) and we removed that tube?”

To answer your question directly, I would assume she would be unable to have anymore children.

I think this is a sad sad situation. I have heard people make the analogy “It’s like saying that removing a feeding tube from someone is ok as long as you aren’t shooting them.”

I do understand the principle of “double effect” and going back to your question that is why I posted up I would be willing to give up a limb for my child. You may find this morally repulsive to give up fertility when you say it is unnecessary when the child is going to die anyways.

I also find it morally wrong to directly kill the child. I may differ with the site in regards to the application myself… but I still struggle with the issue.

CathAnon July 9, 2009 at 11:19 pm

Also here, under the heterotrophic pregnancy section:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ectopic_pregnancy where it states, “Successful pregnancies have been reported even from burst tubal pregnancy continuing by the placenta implanting on abdominal organs or on the outside of the uterus.”

Your assumption of “100% certain” is false. When it comes to medicine 100% certain assumptions are rare. An embryo is by no means destined to die. You and the general medical community make that false assumption and base your moral thinking upon it. The Catholic Church does not make that assumption and therefor has more sound moral thinking. You falsify your argument by building it upon false premises.

Phil July 9, 2009 at 11:25 pm

Whether it is 100% or 99% is of little difference to me. Let me rephase so you can understand:

Is an embryo that is 99% certain to never develop, scientifically proven and assured to die, the same as a healthy embryo?

Is it logical to have an embryo destined and certain to die 99% of the time before it goes on to procreate ordered above a woman who may lose her ability to procreate as a result of said embryo?

Logical?

Carol June 29, 2010 at 3:55 am

You must allow for life. Always make room. Even if it hurts. I risked my life and waited until I was sure that my baby was dead before taking the MTX, and even then it was after the two top OBs in the Catholic hospital begged me to do so. Any mom with a heart for life would not hesitate to do so and I am glad that the Catholic church seems to support us in this effort… She could be more clear, though.

Artie July 9, 2009 at 11:26 pm

“Is an embryo that is 100% certain to never develop, scientifically proven and assured to die, the same as a healthy embryo?

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23782145-2,00.html

I wonder if this baby was scientifically proven and assured to die.

“Is it logical to have an embryo destined and certain to die before it goes on to procreate ordered above a woman who may lose her ability to procreate as a result of said embryo?”

Question, does logical mean morally right? Is logic in of itself moral if it is true? Just curious

Logically this is not a logic question, this is a question where you attempt to apply logic by itself in attempt to morally justify a situation.

If you believe in survival for the fittest sure it is logical.

BTW

The article states that, “Doctors are baffled at the medical phenomenon, saying an ovarian pregnancy is one of the rarest variations of ectopic pregnancies and generally have life threatening complications.”

This sounds like an improbable not impossible scenario to bare a child…? NO?

Does this article change the dynamics of this conversation?

OK I will answer your question with a question is the baby unhealthy or the environment? It would appear that the environment is unhealthy?

Artie July 9, 2009 at 11:31 pm

“Whether it is 100% or 99% is of little difference to me.”

Tell that to the child when he turns 16.

“Is an embryo that is 99% certain to never develop, scientifically proven and assured to die, the same as a healthy embryo?”

Bad logic.

1. How can there be 99% certainty yet also be proven and assured to die? Improbable yes… Impossible no

So my question is if there is a fighting chance for a child to survive why not go the extra mile and not directly abort the child? Probably because 99 = 100 in your logic? No doubt it is highly improbable but not impossible.

Phil July 9, 2009 at 11:33 pm

An interesting statement

“the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever”

Would removing a fallopian tube intentionally, when unnessary to do so, be considered an “impediment to procreation directly intended for any motive whatsoever?”

Let me guess – no. Fallopian tubes are a dime a dozen! That’s why we have two!

Phil July 9, 2009 at 11:35 pm

“Whether it is 100% or 99% is of little difference to me.”

“Tell that to the child when he turns 16.”

I’ll tell that to the 1 if you tell that to the 99 who were never born because mommy can’t procreate with just one fallopian tube!

Artie July 9, 2009 at 11:36 pm

From the article…

“Dr Miller said had the ectopic pregnancy been detected in the early stages Mrs Thangarajah would have been advised to abort.”

Watch this child cure cancer, what would people say then?

Phil July 9, 2009 at 11:38 pm

“1. How can there be 99% certainty yet also be proven and assured to die? Improbable yes… Impossible no”

You are dissecting words. Stay on topic. Fine by me – Change the above to 99% MOST PROBABLE, ALMOST CERTAIN, NEARLY GUARENTEED, MOST ASSUREDLY,

Phil July 9, 2009 at 11:40 pm

“Watch this child cure cancer, what would people say then?”

I would rather take a compilation of the accomplishments of the other 99!

Phil July 9, 2009 at 11:42 pm

G’night Artie and Catanon! Good luck – and keep it real!

Susan Peterson July 9, 2009 at 11:44 pm

Phil-
Stipulated, the chance of a successful ovarian/ruptured tubal pregnancy is so small that no one would take the chance of just doing nothing. I don’t understand Artie’s saying that one could just wait, because women usually present with this in intense pain; the differential diagnosis includes appendicitis because the presentation is similar. At that point, the tube has ruptured and it has to go.
I suppose these days when women have all kinds of ultrasounds, ectopics are diagnosed earlier than that. Still, I don’t think one would see them while there was still any chance of a normal pregnancy. Implantation occurs very early, about a week after conception, when you are talking about something little bigger than a dot on a page. And after that, it is not going to move. So there is no point in waiting. (I can’t figure out how the ovarian pregnancy in the linked story wasn’t discovered on ultrasound.)
The procedure which is licit, removal of the tube, does destroy the function of the tube on that side. If a woman has a functioning ovary on one side and a tube on the other side, believe it or not, pregnancy is remotely possible. And I bet there is a way of getting that tube closer to the ovary and making it more possible. Nevertheless, let’s admit that fertility is reduced and in a few cases, destroyed and that that is not a good thing. But one has not achieved a desired outcome directly by destroying a life. Your thinking is still outcome based,not intention.

Artie July 9, 2009 at 11:47 pm

“I’ll tell that to the 1 if you tell that to the 99 who were never born because mommy can’t procreate with just one fallopian tube!”

I apologize in advance as I am about to ramble…

I am not going to get petty and perhaps I already have, but I just wanted to point out the logical fallacy in your argument of it being without a doubt a done deal for the baby.

The fact of the matter is we have to use sound morality, good logic, with faith, hope, and love in these situations and that is my point all along.

I am just letting you know that science has obviously not found a way yet to assist the mother and baby to live further in this circumstance. So the Church is not so quick to give up and make a statement on the matter, which I think is very wise.

I sympathize a great deal for families that have to go through this. Miracles can happen in the case of the link that was provided. I am well aware that is is highly improbable that this happens on a regular basis, and that we must in good charity do what is logically and morally right, both most go hand in hand.

I would hope direct abortion would be appalling to everybody on this forum and I believe to a certain degree extent everybody does.

There is no doubt a difference in application to the situation at hand, we must entrust that God knows our intent and that we pray for those who have gone through this. This is the most humane thing we could do.

Phil July 9, 2009 at 11:47 pm

One last one to Artie:

“So my question is if there is a fighting chance for a child to survive why not go the extra mile and not directly abort the child? Probably because 99 = 100 in your logic? No doubt it is highly improbable but not impossible.”

because by trying to save the one you are risking:
1. The life of the mother
2. Future procreation of the mother

In saving one you may lose 99 tubes. Worth it? Honestly I don’t have any stats in front of me but I am guessing that out of 99 tubes, a handful of women will lose their ability to procreate. That’s many babies being prevented from being born. All for that one longshot.

Susan Peterson July 9, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Now I have a question.
Removing the whole tube is licit under double effect.
Methotrexate is illicit.
Cutting the embryo out of the tube is illicit.

What if one could remove a section of the tube and do a reanastomosis? (Sewing the ends back together?) Would that be the same as removing the tube? Or more like just cutting the embryo out?

I am sure this problem will become moot when a way is found to get the embryo implanted in the right place. After all, if the tube can rupture and there can be implantation in the abdominal wall, why can’t we make this happen in the uterus. It would probably require finding them early.

CathAnon July 9, 2009 at 11:52 pm

First, 99% is an assumption for which we have no data. Second, if we automatically abort, then we will not search for ways to make that 99% become dramatically lower. Let’s get imaginative–open the fallopian tube and give the embryo room to develop instead of killing it–there’s many reports of abdominal pregnancies growing to term. Life for both mother and baby!

Phil, you want to play the numbers in some cases but not others. What are the chances that a woman only ovulates on one side? You state it as if every salpingectomy leads to infertility. Shall we say that 99% of the time losing one fallopian tube will not render a woman infertile?

BTW, my guess is that a partial salpingectomy, a commonly CHOSEN sterilization technique when a woman decides she no longer wants to have children, would be an “impediment to procreation directly intended for any motive whatsoever?”

Artie July 9, 2009 at 11:52 pm

Hey Susan I am curious where I stated, “that one could just wait.”?

If I did then I will try to explain myself in the best way possible.

Phil July 9, 2009 at 11:57 pm

Susan:

Thanks for the note.

Sometimes I wonder why the Church won’t view abortion, IN CERTAIN INSTANCES ONLY, with the same *outcomed based* ideals it views, say captial punishment. Sometimes morals need to be bent, sculpted, molded to certain situations.

Murder is bad. But murder is ok if it will prevent the OUTCOME of what will become more murder (i.e. less life). (Capital Punishment)

Why can’t the Church be consistent with abortion in that abortion, although morally wrong, in some instances, such as this one, may prevent the OUTCOME of what will be less life (i.e. removing thousands of fallopian tubes MANDATORY)

It’s all too odd for my little brain to understand I guess.

CathAnon July 10, 2009 at 12:00 am

Susan, I don’t know for sure, but I can imagine that a reanastamosis would cause so much scarring that the tube would either lose it’s patency anyway, or leave the woman at higher risk for ectopic pregnancy, or possibly induce a chronic pain syndrome.

Pelvic surgery is not benign. Phil, you need to factor that in–the chances of a complication from that are a whole lot higher than the chances of a woman ovulating on only one side.

Artie July 10, 2009 at 12:01 am

“because by trying to save the one you are risking:
1. The life of the mother
2. Future procreation of the mother
In saving one you may lose 99 tubes. Worth it? Honestly I don’t have any stats in front of me but I am guessing that out of 99 tubes, a handful of women will lose their ability to procreate. That’s many babies being prevented from being born. All for that one longshot.”

I think we have gotten into an area where we dug ourselves so deep with tightening the variables that we have basically put this argument in a box in which it is impossible to open back up.

In other words lets back up a bit…

The reality is direct abortion is wrong, indirect abortion perhaps not so much “God only knows the intent of the person.”

My argument to yours is simply this we have to apply logic, moral reasoning with faith, hope and love. The inevitable in this scenario is a high percentage of severe complications for the mother and almost always as you say “99%” of the time death.

In regards to future procreation of the mother is it always certain that she cannot procreate again? I don’t know this to be true or false.

The last part shows you believe in survival of the fittest. Even 1 child is a blessing. If you are proposing direct killing of the child because future procreation, then yes I disagree with you.

Who is to say that even after a direct killing that the woman can have children later on in the first place?

Phil July 10, 2009 at 12:10 am

Goodnight all. Thanks again for the informative, thoughtful discussion.

Phil July 10, 2009 at 12:20 am

BTW, my 2 week old little girl says good night too! (in baby grunts)

Matthew Warner July 10, 2009 at 6:05 am

Wow! Thanks for the great discussion everyone. Here are my final thoughts after reading everyone’s comments.

CathAnon – thank you for the insightful wisdom you brought to the discussion in terms of more of the specifics on these procedures. That’s reason number one I, and most of us, are not qualified to make an accusation that the Church is unthoughtful or unreasonable in its moral stance – simply because we don’t have all the information. So it’s important to approach in good faith and ask questions. This conversation has gone a long way to helping us all understand the issue a bit better in terms of specific facts, as well as in realizing how difficult these situations are to understand morally.

Artie – great points on why the Church does not come out and “officially” teach absolutely on applications that relatively change.

Phil, not being a Catholic, I understand how you would view the Church as you would other big organizations or states. But it is very different. When it makes “official” statements it speaks in terms of decades and centuries (millenia even) – perhaps for all time. It gives us principles that will guide us in all applications and for all time.

This case of, for instance, tubal pregnancies is too consequential. The morality of the situations depend specifically on how the procedure is done, the specifics of the woman’s body, the technology available, the environment within which it all occurs, etc. It’s impossible for the Church to make a universal statement that will apply for all time.

You then accuse her of not wanting to make a statement because she doesn’t want to seem illogical or is afraid to contradict an existing teaching. But that’s short-sighted. It’s precisely because she is so careful to never teach something that will ever be contradicted that she speaks so thoughtfully. This is what makes Church teaching not only relevant to today, but relevant for all time. She has a very different perspective than our sound-bite driven instant gratification culture.

Instead, she gives us a clear teaching that it is never morally OK to directly, intentionally kill an innocent human being (direct abortion in this case). Then we (and the moral theologians) can do our best to apply that to the infinite number of applications we find in our world.

If you can understand this point it will help you with the capital punishment thing too. Capital punishment is consequential as well as to whether it can be morally justified. But we’ve had enough tangents in this convo, so let’s leave this one for another day for now.

Matthew Warner July 10, 2009 at 6:26 am

Finally, I think the crux of Phil’s point is this:

– It seems illogical to end up doing more destruction to a mother’s body when we get the same results in the end and preserve more of her body by doing a direct abortion. –

And he’s right. It does seem illogical. The problem is what Phil is allowing to weigh in to his logic. That makes all the difference.

Phil only takes into account the end results. That is all that matters to his “logic.” And this is where he differs from Catholic logic. As Catholics, we take into account the morality of the act. This is very logical as we care about the state of our eternal souls and our relationship with God (things infinitely more important than the finite utilitarian end results). We don’t just care about the end results, we care about how we go about doing it and our intention while doing so.

So the intention, the act itself, AND the end results all matter to us and are a part of the calculation as to whether something is logical or not. (I suspect these things matter in most cases to Phil, also)

So how we treat and what we do to the persons involved (baby and mother) actually matter in themselves – regardless of the end result.

SO when you say, Phil:

“Is an embryo that is 99% certain to never develop, scientifically proven and assured to die, the same as a healthy embryo?”

The answer is yes. At least in terms of their worth and the respect we owe to them. The problem is that you are placing value on these two people (the tubal embryo vs the non-tubal embryo) based on how long their lives are or what they are destined to “do for us” in the future. In other words, what their use is.

The reality is that each has inherent value as human beings regardless of anything else. And they deserve our respect simply as human persons.

It doesn’t matter how many children could possibly be born in the future. It doesn’t matter if the person lives 1 second or 100 years. It doesn’t matter if it’s more convenient for somebody. It doesn’t matter if it’s easier. What matters is how we treat the real-live person in front of us.

The best, most efficient use of these people is not what necessarily equals what is most “logical.” What is logical is taking care of one’s soul – for it is eternal. It is logical to care about the morality of a situation (something with eternal consequences) infinitely more than what gives us the best utilitarian temporal end results.

Yes, the results may seem the same or even improved if we directly, intentionally end the life of an innocent human being. But there is something that matters much more, and that’s the morality of how we accomplish it. That’s the logic.

Even take a business analogy if you like. The best way to run my business is not necessarily the way that makes the most money. It matters how I make that money. Am I exploiting my employees to do it? Am I stealing? Am I cheating? Am I lying? Or am I doing it in a moral way? All of these things matter – not just how much money we have in the end (even if I plan on doing “good things” with all the extra money I get). Same with these life issues. Being pro-life is not what gives us the highest “net” life. It has to do with how we treat the lives we have right in front of us – however sick, weak, or short-lived they may be. That’s what matters.

Further, as we’ve seen as we’ve discussed this even further, if we put our minds to it, we can come up with ways that are both moral AND produce the best results (as they often correlate in life anyway). And we should also give the Church the benefit of the doubt (doesn’t mean not to question) on issues while the uneducated masses (us) learn more about these complex issues that they have normally already thought through extensively.

Matthew Warner July 10, 2009 at 6:57 am

CathAnon – thanks for the St. Gianna example. I wasn’t saying there aren’t pregnancies that don’t threaten the life of the mother. I was just looking for a situation where abortion (Direct abortion – sorry if I didn’t specify clearly earlier) is necessary to save the life of a mother.

I still haven’t found an example yet. And I’m looking specifically for a present-day example with our current knowledge and technology to treat mother and baby (stuff not available yet to St. Gianna). FYI – this is a practical issue that would disqualify anyone’s claim that with today’s technology we still “need” abortion to save a mother’s life. The article I link to in the post makes a good case against the need for “late-term abortion”. Just looking to expand that a bit.

crowepps July 10, 2009 at 5:49 pm

This was a really interesting discussion about what the male heirarchy of the Church and the non-pregnant members of the Church think is ‘moral’ in the case of ectopic pregnancy, and what procedures should be allowed in Catholic hospitals or performed by Catholic surgeons. The one thing I didn’t see anywhere in these posts was even a moment’s consideration of letting the woman herself decide.

I used to wonder why Catholics spent so much time honoring martyrs. I’m beginning to grasp the fact that it’s because their theology of ‘better dead than immoral’ creates so many of them.

CathAnon July 10, 2009 at 7:55 pm

These “logical” decisions, as Phil describes, would be denounced in other situations. Matthew brought up to business analogy; I suggest another medical one.

In the flu pandemic of 1918, or in the case of a future such pandemic, it is logical to round up anyone with the illness and slaughter them immediately. They are going to die anyway, 100% or 99% of them anyway. We would kill only a tiny percent of the population while saving vast numbers of people.

We actually do exactly this in animal populations when tuberculosis or mad cow or avian flu is involved.

We do not take this “logical” step because of our respect for human life. Mother Church holds that very same regard from conception until natural death. To apply this to Matthew’s original question, we find it so easy to take the life of
someone not looking you in the eyes begging for mercy, making it easy to make these seemingly “logical” decisions.

We did not do that in 1918, and we eventually formulated vaccines. We would have no reason to search for such a solution if killing infected people were as acceptable as abortion is today.

We should not let science dictate our morals because science is ever-changing. It is logical and reasonable to let morals dictate our science instead.

CathAnon July 10, 2009 at 8:07 pm

To crowepps: my decisions would be based on the moral teachings of the Church, and I trust that physicians at Catholic hospitals will practice in that framework when treating me. I am so glad the Church has done this difficult work should I be faced with that decision.

You may not understand this without having Faith, but yes, it is better dead than immoral. My soul will be eternally saved if I die as St. Gianna did. My immorality will only get me a few more years here on earth followed by an eternity of suffering (should I not realize my sin, repent, and confess.) And in the particular case of abortion, I would also be sending my own child’s unbaptized soul into eternity.

Thank God for Confession, for I know not how else a woman could console herself once she should come to this grave realization. It is witness to the true depth of Christ’s Divine Mercy.

CathAnon July 10, 2009 at 8:10 pm

To Phil: hey, I think I’ve crossed swords with you before on your blog (are its initials AT?) Small world, and a pleasure to be debating with you again!

O.K. back to the fray…

crowepps July 10, 2009 at 8:26 pm

“And in the particular case of abortion, I would also be sending my own child’s unbaptized soul into eternity.” I certainly hope you’re not going to argue that the lack of baptism has any negative effect on that child, since even the Pope has said that there’s no way to know that. Considering that a minimum of 20% of fetuses are lost to miscarriage, that would be a lot of souls.

CathAnon July 10, 2009 at 8:56 pm

It again returns to intent. One is clearly God’s plan, while the other is a profound lack of Faith. And you are right, we do not know and cannot assume, so we must pray for them. Personally I like to give my children the best start I possibly can and avoid any uncertainty. And in the latter case, the effect on one’s own soul could only be detrimental.

crowepps July 10, 2009 at 9:12 pm

“One is clearly God’s plan, while the other is a profound lack of Faith.” Really? I’ve had two miscarriages myself. Want to let me in on the secret of why ‘God’s plan’ required killing my babies?

Phil July 10, 2009 at 10:25 pm

Good thoughts Matt. Thanks, you nailed it on the head, great 3 part post. I think we are begining to understand a bit more of where we are each coming from. It’s interesting to me how people who want to do good and be good can have such different views on how to do good and be good.

I had a curious afterthought on intent. What is the moral position on willfully and knowingly committing unnecessary damage on another human being?

For example, if a doctor knew that he could easily resolve a lung infection with antibiotics but he chose to remove the lung, would that be moral?

Obviously I am drawing a tanget here to the tubal example. One thing I am trying to better understand about the Church is whether or not there is, for lack of a better term, a moral pecking order. For example (try to stay with me on this), is it permissible to commit an act that is immoral just as long as the immoral act you are committing is not as grave as the immoral act you are preventing?

For example, if someone beats the living crap out of an abortionist and it prevents that abortionist from performing abortions, is that person not morally cupable because even though they beat a man up, they saved lives?

I am trying to make sense of the whole tubal thing. It’s hard to fathom that God’s will would be to do unnecessary bodily harm to a woman without some sort of moral hierarchy. Clearly there must be latitude and consideration of moral gravity, right?

Artie July 11, 2009 at 8:50 am

“This was a really interesting discussion about what the male heirarchy of the Church and the non-pregnant members of the Church think is ‘moral’ in the case of ectopic pregnancy…”

Remember when Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman and smashed four social barriers–religious, ethnic, political and *gender*–all at once?

Many people that make this accusation know nothing at all about Jesus treating Mary of Bethany as a disciple of equal dignity with all his other disciples (which is what “sitting at his feet” signifies).

Nor does she seem to have grasped the significance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was emphatically not viewed by the early Church as little better than a talking cow.

The Church with the love of Christ really did bring something new into a world in which, due to the Fall, women were universally oppressed. It was the Christian tradition that gave birth to the idea that the love of woman was ennobling.

The whole concept of equality is *nothing but* a mystical idea that comes to us from the Judeo-Christian tradition. Empirical science knows nothing of human equality.

The notion that we can get rid of the Christian tradition and retain a faith in human equality is one of the great lies the devil is busy telling the world today. (I.E. My body my choice!)

How dare you ROMAN CATHOLIC MEN tell a women she does not have a choice!

I agree choice is a good thing! Directly killing a child in the womb is never a good thing.

Artie July 11, 2009 at 9:10 am

““One is clearly God’s plan, while the other is a profound lack of Faith.” Really? I’ve had two miscarriages myself. Want to let me in on the secret of why ‘God’s plan’ required killing my babies?”

First and foremost I pray that healing my take place for you and your family regarding your 2 miscarriages. These are not easy to go through and are emotionally draining. I ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to make these prayers perfect through faith, hope, and love to her Son Jesus Christ.

Life is a gift and none of us is promised another day after today.

I would like to point having a miscarriage is not murdering a human being. Thus God is not killing your children.

Has anyone examined the babies you lost to see if they were genetically okay? Has any doctor discovered a reason why you may have miscarried?

Only reason I ask is because sometimes babies in the womb could have a genetic affect and it is natural laws way of ending the pregnancy.

Another thing is that some babies are lost because of the lack of the hormone progesterone.

I know there will be no satisfying conclusion that we will ever come to as to why bad things happen to people, especially innocent children who haven’t even begun to live. We must understand that God does not take away our loved ones from us as some sort of cruel punishment.

I found a great article that you may want to take the time to read.

http://www.freewebs.com/janeparkinson/

God Bless

CathAnon July 11, 2009 at 9:52 am

Phil, I am a little unclear of the central theme of your question. Is it along the lines of the lesser of two evils? That it is O.K. to harm a person who is harming others because the ends justify the means? These are not consistent with Catholic teaching.

All sin is sin and displeasing to God. The Church does teach about venial v. mortal sin (maybe you are thinking of that, too?) but your examples do not reflect that teaching. There’s also a notion of a just war, but again your examples do not relate to that.

Evil and suffering exist as part of God’s greater plan, which includes human free will, and by living in obedience to His will, as revealed to us in His Word and the teachings of the Church He established, we draw closer to Him to work out our eternal salvation. The only way to stand up to these evils is in obedience, otherwise we sin.

I look forward to Matthew’s response to your interesting questions.

crowepps July 11, 2009 at 5:24 pm

“I would like to point having a miscarriage is not murdering a human being. Thus God is not killing your children.”

If the fetus isn’t a human being during the miscarriage what about having an abortion suddenly elevates it to that status? If God isn’t responsible, how can you describe it as part of His plan? I had my miscarriages 25 and 35 years ago when they patted you on the head and said “these things happen all the time” which is true but not helpful.

Don’t bother Mary on my behalf. I’m not Catholic. As a Presbyterian, I get to make my own choices about ‘sin’ instead of having the men in my church make them for me. Does it count as ‘obedience’ if you don’t get to actually exercise your free will but instead other people prevent you from making bad choices by making sure you don’t HAVE any choice?

Carol June 29, 2010 at 4:23 am

FINALLY! Thank you, crowepps. Nothing has changed in 25/35 years.
I still got the pat on the head from my priest who then fired me from my position as bookkeeper as if I had embezzled. I involved the parish council and it got ugly but was never resolved because even after all this beautiful posturing about life and its value, show me where at the end of the day, the Church feels the loss of my unborn baby the way I do? I’ve plowed though all these posts and not a single one has touched on the real issue. If it’s a life that I’m supposed to risk mine to protect, why have you given me absolutely no way to mourn its passing? We have no funeral, no mourning service, no prayers for the lost little life. Maybe if we took that step, we would not appear such hypocrites.

As to your mean-spirited second paragraph. If the “men” in my church help me become better informed about how it would rip my soul into pieces to not protect my baby in any way possible, then please let the “men” be heard. I saw my dead baby on that ultrasound and it was like it died in my arms only worse. If I had been mislead into killing that baby even to supposedly save my life, I could not live with myself as so many women, after the fact are finding out. “What if?” always haunts some wome. You can tell from their sad eyes and far off looks… To live like that is not living at all.

Manya July 11, 2009 at 5:36 pm

The fetus is a human being from the moment of conception. Miscarriage, however, is not murder.

Artie July 11, 2009 at 7:01 pm

Crowepps thank you for the response.

Manya you are absolutely correct.

Phil July 20, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Matt, I would love to hear your thoughts RE: whether or not there is a moral hierarchy, i.e. my last post on this thread – it’s still a bit confusing to me. Can you respond when you have time?

For example, I know if I was a doctor and I performed a sugery on a woman that caused her more damage than required to fix her ailment, that would not be moral according to my belief system (Christians too I am sure). And I also know that the alternative option of abortion would not be considered moral either (by Christians). I’m curious how one chooses when put in a position where both solutions require immoral acts.

Is there a ranking system or a cheat sheet for morality? For example:

1. Life
2. Stealing
3. Cheating
4. Lying
5. Etc.

And it would go something like this: if in a situation where one MUST lie to avoid cheating, that is ok. Or one can cheat to avoid stealing. Or one can steal to perserve life. But one can never move backwards down the ladder, i.e. can not kill to avoid stealing, or steal to avoid cheating, etc.

Very curious to hear your thoughts!

Chris June 29, 2010 at 11:27 am

I am fairly certain that should I ever face the hideous, faith-rending decision between preserving the life of my wife and that of our unborn child, I will be talking to God and our family priest for counsel and not the Catholic blogosphere.

For readers however, wanting to grasp our Bishops’ authoritative guidance on the subject, here it is:

The Distinction between Direct Abortion and Legitimate Medical Procedures ->

https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://usccb.org/doctrine/direct-abortion-statement2010-06-23.pdf

Peace and all good-
Chris

ycw June 29, 2010 at 3:35 pm

1. Crowepps, I am so sorry you have lost children to miscarriage. I have also (not sure how many as I have a condition that can correlate with very early miscarriage, but at least one). I do not understand why God chooses–for undoubtedly He is in control–to sometimes take our children so young, but I do know that He is good and He knows more than I, and so I must simply rest in that. I am not saying it is easy to do so–simply that there is nothing else one can do.

2. We’ve already seen that ectopic pregnancy (including tubal pregnancy and pregnancy in the ovary) is not invariably, 100% fatal for the the child (and certainly not for the mother). Even when the tube bursts the mother usually survives (and if the ectopic pregnancy were diagnosed before the tube burst, so that medical care were quickly available if that happened, surely survival rate would be much higher). Therefore, it is fallacious to say that it is a case where either party is doomed to die.

3. Why on earth are we sitting around debating which way is best to kill the baby instead of trying, however fruitlessly, to save his or her life? Almost all the solutions I see here are: 1. Kill the baby. 2. Cut the baby out, leading to his or her death. 3. Remove the tube, leading to the baby’s death. 4. Wait and see if the baby dies on his or her own before one of these “solutions” is necessary.

Let’s at least try here! I have two ideas that are a whole lot more hopeful (and helpful): If the embryo can reimplant ectopically in the abdomen or on an organ after a rupture, surely there is a chance he or she could reimplant in the uterus given the opportunity! Cut the embryo and placenta out of the tube, make an incision in the uterus, stick the baby in the uterus, and see what happens. Maybe he or she will end up miscarried instead of implanting, but why not give it a shot?
Or, cut open the tube so it won’t rupture, reposition the tube against the uterus (to allow the baby access to the rich blood supply–the outside of the uterus is the most favorable place for an ectopic pregnancy to implant), and (with careful monitoring) wait and see if he or she makes it!

I would certainly want to do one of these things if I were diagnosed with ectopic pregnancy. I would refuse any treatment that included killing my baby or letting him or her die.

Why do we save the living rather than try to increase the number of potential future offspring? Because the living are here, and future offspring are not. We owe it to future offspring not to deliberately prevent them, or do things that will negatively affect their wellbeing, if possible–for instance, using an IUD will probably cause any children conceived to be miscarried, and a Caesarian delivery makes future pregnancies more risky, so it shouldn’t be done purely electively. However, if it is necessary to the safety of a child in the womb that he or she be delivered immediately–for instance, he or she is in distress–a Caesarian section is performed. The health and safety of this child, now, overrides the potential problems that might be faced by his or her siblings later, who might or might not ever be conceived.

You might notice that most don’t sanction fertility treatments or early weaning/not breastfeeding purely to have more children. Wouldn’t removing 4 eggs, fertilizing them, and transferring them all be preferable to natural conception, because “more life” is more likely? In fact, four human beings are created even if none live outside the womb. If I didn’t breastfeed my children, I might conceive again only a month or two after pregnancy–but my desire to give each child the best possible start in life means I breastfeed them even if that means I will likely end up with fewer children overall. And as others have said, we don’t kill the infirm, the weak, or the poor to free up resources for the strong, or prevent the spread of disease. Not even if the large amount of money we use to treat cancer patients might save more lives elsewhere, or HIV positive patients might spread their disease to others.

We always owe our best to the person in front of us, the person we are actually interacting with at the moment. We can’t beg off listening to a fellow human being and being there for them so that we might be available should another (more important, more pleasant, more able to reciprocate our favors) human being come along.

crowepps June 29, 2010 at 5:05 pm

The chances of a live baby resulting from an ectopic pregnancy are about one in 10 Million, judging by the fact that there are only half a dozen cases in the history of medicine.

The odds that the woman will die are 50-50. In 50% of cases the pregnancy is spontaneously aborted or reabsorbed, in the other 50% the woman dies.

So if there are 10 Million ectopic pregnancies, and they aren’t treated because that’s ‘immoral’, then the results will be 5 Million surviving women, 4,999,999 dead women, and 1 miraculous live birth.

I can certainly understand why a woman with strong religious beliefs would take the risk of being the lucky 1 in 10 Million, especially if her religion teaches that dying for a doomed pregnancy makes her a martyr. I cannot understand why anyone would withhold medical treatment and REQUIRE her to do so.

And as others have said, we don’t kill the infirm, the weak, or the poor to free up resources for the strong, or prevent the spread of disease.

Well, actually, if you compare the lifespan expectancies of ‘the infirm, weak and poor’, or for that matter the maternal death rate as compared between all women and poor women, generally speaking, yeah, we do indeed. That was the whole POINT of trying to get universal medical care, so that wouldn’t continue to happen in the future, and the idea was roundly abhorred by conservatives who considered it ‘socialism’.

Catholic Pro-lifer June 30, 2010 at 10:04 am

“Well, actually, if you compare the lifespan expectancies of ‘the infirm, weak and poor’, or for that matter the maternal death rate as compared between all women and poor women, generally speaking, yeah, we do indeed.”

Completely untrue. We don’t “kill them off, they are in less fortunate circumstances than we are, so they simply die. Ridiculous comparison.

crowepps June 30, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Well, I guess if being in “less fortunate circumstances” means early death should be considered an expected and ‘natural’ consequence, then nobody has any responsibility to do anything about those less fortunate circumstances and extend those lives. The same, of course, could be said of the ectopic pregnancy. It too is in “less fortunate circumstances” and its early death is the expected and ‘natural’ consequence. That of the woman, of course, isn’t necessarily, but apparently depends instead on which hospital is providing her care, or withholding care.

ycw June 29, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Ectopic pregnancy is not at all a death sentence. Very few women die of it in developed nations. If the baby is dead, no one is saying his or her body should not be removed. In many cases, a natural miscarriage occurs, because the tube is not a good place for a baby to grow. Even when a rupture occurs, with medical treatment, odds of survival for the mother are very good. Odds would be even better if it is known that a rupture was possible/imminent–the woman would not be left alone (in case a rupture happened suddenly and she passed out), and she might even be hospitalized. No one is even trying treatments that give the baby a chance, though, which might lead to even better outcomes–so we have no statistics on those. We also don’t have real data on outcomes of ectopic pregnancies that are discovered and monitored–the children are discovered and killed or not known to be ectopic.

Actually, statistics show that those women who have elective abortions are more likely to die of ectopic pregnancy because abortionists are such shoddy care providers.

crowepps June 29, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Ectopic pregnancy is not at all a death sentence. Very few women die of it in developed nations.

That’s because ectopic pregnancies are REMOVED as soon as they are found, which cuts the death rate, and yet ectopic pregnancies are STILL a leading cause of pregnancy related deaths in America, causing 10 to 15% of maternal mortality in the first trimester. It was my understanding that the entire point of this thread was while people will reluctantly allow women’s lives to be saved, they wish to reserve permission to survive only to those women who sacrifice the tube in which the embryo likely is present and that available medical care should be restricted to only that option, no matter what the patient’s wishes are, thus halving the woman’s chances of future fertility. As I understand it, this is in order to satisfy a religious belief that removing any embryo must be an ‘accidental by-product’ of unnecessarily removing an otherwise salvageable tube. It is my understanding that the exact location of an ectopic pregnancy is determined by ultrasound before the diagnosis is made in the first place. I cannot image how a study of continued ectopic pregnancies could be ethically constructed since such a study would have to be of either women who refused treatment or cases where the medical staff knowingly failed to provide the appropriate standard of care to women known to have a life threatening condition while everyone crossed their fingers and hoped they’d miscarry naturally before the tube ruptured and an emergency operation had to be done before they died. For accurate facts on ectopic pregnancies from a neutral source, try this:
http://www.aafp.org/afp/20000215/1080.html

Catholic Pro-lifer June 30, 2010 at 10:02 am

“As I understand it, this is in order to satisfy a religious belief that removing any embryo must be an ‘accidental by-product’ of unnecessarily removing an otherwise salvageable tube.”

Let’s forget religious belief for a second, as important as that is-it’s a belief in the unalienable right to life that every human has. As such, no, we don’t believe it’s moral to directly kill ANYBODY. Hoever, yes, it IS moral to remove an organ where the person is unfortunately located.

Is it unfortunate for the woman? OF course. But murder is murder, and I don’t think ANYBODY should commit it, not just Catholics.

Susan Peterson June 29, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Croweps, we are discussing what Catholics may do, and what a Catholic hospital may do, not what we expect the civil government to permit or secular hospitals to do.

That would be a separate discussion first requiring a discussion in which people debated what is the idea form of government.
Susan Peterson

crowepps June 30, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Oh, goodness, I don’t have any opinion whatsoever on what Catholics should do. It would be totally inappropriate for me to insert my personal opinion into their moral decisions. On the issue of what Catholic hospitals should do, however, particularly concerning non-Catholic patients and non-Catholic doctors, any non-Catholic who might find themselves having to get care in one certainly can have an opinion, and in my opinion, no hospital serving the general public should be restricting medical care on the basis that doomed patients are more important than ones that can be saved.

crowepps July 2, 2010 at 8:00 pm

As such, no, we don’t believe it’s moral to directly kill ANYBODY. Hoever, yes, it IS moral to remove an organ where the person is unfortunately located.

Gotcha — it’s okay to remove a healthy organ knowing that will kill them, because it is still considered ‘accidently’ even though the sole purpose of removing the healthy organ is to allow them to die.

TIM April 18, 2013 at 12:42 am

Excellent point, Crowepps.

Susan Peterson April 18, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Now Crowepps, you are suggesting that the civil government impinge upon our rights of conscience. I said that we did not require that the civil government in all things reflect Catholic moral opinions-although as citizens we will work for a government which protects innocent life as that is one of the main functions of government. However you appear to be wanting to insist that Catholic hospitals, that is, those who administer them and those who work in them, violate their own consciences by participating in what they consider intrinsically evil actions, just because some nonCatholic may have chosen to obtain medical care there. To this I object. And I know you won’t stop with requiring Catholic hospital to use methotrexate for ectopics. You will require them to prescribe the morning after pill without any consideration if the woman might already be pregnant. You will require that Catholic hospitals perform abortions if any representation can be made that the pregnancy harms the mother. In other words, you will require that Catholic hospitals be functionally nonCatholic and pratice medicine according to secular moral standards rather than our own. That we will not accept. (Or at least I hope our Catholic hospitals will not capitulate to this. I am afraid some have begun to, a little bit here and there, under great financial and social pressure. But I think there will be a point where even they will be pushed too far and they will dig in their heels and say no more.)

A Catholic hospital is not a government institution. It has no moral responsibility to practice according to what any secular goverment has decided is moral and appropriate. People can go to Catholic hospitals or not as they choose. If a Catholic hospital operates where no other hospital sees a profitable opportunity, people should be glad they are there for everything they do, not say that because they are the only hospital there they have to betray their prinicples.

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