Friday, 5 April 2013

There is no right way to carry out abortions ... in Ireland or elsewhere

Recent news from Ireland surrounding the tragic case of Savita Halappanavar urgently requires deeper reflection on the part of pro-life leaders.

Pregnant women who are ill should be protected by good and ethical means. A woman should not be denied life-saving treatment which targets her own body and does not target her baby’s body, even if her baby dies as a result.

In this connection it must, however, be noted that, whilst deliberately choosing to 'remove a baby' before he or she is viable may have the good further motive of protecting the mother, the immediate intention and procedure is sadly identical to that involved in other abortions.

All abortions involve, at the very least, the intention to end the pregnancy. They target the baby and the baby's own tissues, unlike legitimate life-saving operations on the woman where harmful effects on her baby and on the baby's presence in her body are mere side-effects of treatment. Deliberate induction of pre-viable babies is abortion and is acceptable neither in medical ethics nor in Catholic Church teaching - which is an important fact for pro-life Catholics, and indeed for some pro-lifers from other faiths (or of no religious faith).

The statement put out this week by the Pro Life Campaign (PLC), a pro-life organization in Ireland, does not appear to rule out abortion in certain cases and is part of a worrying trend. Some have gone further in their defence of inducing pre-viable babies: thus one Irish pro-lifer has said of Savita's case:
“hospital staff should have considered accelerating delivery once miscarriage was inevitable in an attempt to pre-empt any infections that might be caused by Savita’s cervix being open”
In other words, induction of the pre-viable baby is now to be encouraged even in cases where the mother is in no immediate danger of death. It is easy to see how this could then be extended by pro-abortionists to allow induction for suicidal pregnant women if it is wrongly claimed that this will help them (of course, abortion does not help suicidal women in any way). This is how we get liberalised abortion: by neglecting to analyse 'hard cases' in detail, which in practice means neglecting the most vulnerable babies and letting down the most vulnerable mothers, who instead need life-affirming health care.

Some defenders of pre-viability induction have gone on to defend D&Cs and D&Es – and it is hard to see why these two options should not also be allowed in principle once we start advocating abortion by induction, albeit with a good further motive.

The baby's own bodily integrity and its physical presence should always be respected, even as we treat illness or infection in the woman's own body as vigorously as we can. Doctors who respect the lives and bodies of both patients, in a way reflecting age-old principles of medical ethics, should be affirmed in this and should not be condemned by any guidelines, medical or otherwise, which are not truly pro-life. Nor should pro-lifers become involved in drawing up guidelines which instruct doctors in the ‘right way’ to carry out abortions. There is no right way to carry out abortions.

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