Thursday 18 August 2011

Read Fr John Fleming's opinion on the recent nurses-and-abortion success

On Saturday I blogged about the representations made by the Thomas More Legal Centre in support of two nurses who were being pressured to participate in abortions in their hospital. Following those representations, the hospital backed down without the matter going to court.

Fr John Fleming Ph.D, SPUC's bioethical consultant, has kindly sent me his opinion on that success, below:
"The right to conscientious objection to participating in abortion procedures has been under attack in many jurisdictions around the world. So much so, that any victory in protecting those rights for doctors and nurses is to be welcomed.

And yet ... one is left feeling somewhat uneasy about the argument used by the Thomas More Legal Centre in its recent successful representation in support of two nurses.

I do not mean to criticise the Thomas More Legal Centre which, in defence of its clients, has to use the law as it is.

My criticism is of the law itself which is now seen to be in the grips of the philosophical lunacies of postmodernism and that philosophy’s flight from reality. It now appears that the objective findings of the natural sciences are no more than “beliefs”, subjective beliefs which are impervious to rational scrutiny.

So we reach the absurd conclusion that the beginning of biological human life is not an issue to be decided by the scientific facts of the matter. It becomes just a 'belief' which is apparently protected by the UK’s Equality Act 2010. I could just as well expect that a belief that the moon is made of green cheese is also to be protected under the Equality Act.

For those of us who ground the search for truth in objective reality, such as the reality of the natural world, this is intolerable. Over the centuries the natural sciences have become ever more sophisticated and we have become aware as much of how little we know as of how much we know.

But what the natural sciences have revealed to us with ever greater precision is the process of the formation of the embryonic human being. It is a matter of scientific fact, not belief, that from the time when the human sperm fertilises the human egg we have a member of the human species in his or her earliest form.

It is the objective fact that human life begins at fertilisation which causes us to apply to the embryo the universally held moral conviction of the wrongfulness of killing the innocent. This is why the nurses object to abortion and to their participation in it. It is because abortion involves the killing of a human being. It is not based on a peculiar 'Catholic belief' about the beginning of life. It is based upon the scientific reality that human life begins at the beginning, at fertilisation.

Where 'beliefs' are concerned, the philosophy of personhood is beset by an astonishing array of 'beliefs'. Personhood is said to apply at 14 days after the beginning (if you want embryo experimentation), birth (if you want abortion, and up to 3 months after birth (if you want infanticide). So abortion may be morally justified on the unscientific proposition that human life does not begin at the beginning but only when we arbitrarily decide that the embryo has become a person based on a particular philosophical account of personhood.

Never mind that Article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UN 1948) says that: 'Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law'.

Moral truth in British law, it appears, is not to be based on reality, on things as they really are, but more upon the way we would like things to be or believe them to be.

Flat earthers will no doubt be reassured."
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