Is abortion ever necessary?

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From Dr. Frank’s Blog

The next topic was generated in response to a recent article published in a pro-abortion religion magazine wherein the author claims that the conscientious objection, by some American physicians, to participate in abortions is somehow endangering the lives of women.

These latest attacks against pro-life health professionals seeking to follow their informed conscience are based entirely on false assumptions (premises). The first is the mistaken belief that there exist situations where a direct abortion is required to save a woman’s life or somehow preserve her health. An appendectomy, hysterectomy, or salpingectomy is often necessary to preserve the life or health of a woman. Sometimes an early delivery may be needed to save a pregnant woman’s life. For example, a pregnant woman with sepsis needs IV antibiotics and possibly an early delivery–even if the infant is too young to survive outside the womb. (Unfortunately, this baby would not be able to survive very long either in or outside the uterus.) One thing this woman certainly does not need is a direct abortion. For example, in my experience, I’ve treated several women in the unfortunate situation where she had an intra-uterine infection at a point during the pregnancy where her preborn child was too young to survive outside the womb. In these tragic settings, I’ve never hesitated to recommend induction of labor. Sadly, the child is unable to survive inside the uterus due to the infection, nor outside due to prematurity. Even though the child dies soon after delivery, he or she dies as a foreseen, yet secondary effect resulting from the unavoidable prematurity. He or she does not die as a direct result of my violent dismembering of the child’s body using surgical instruments. Students of ethics will recognize this as the principle of double effect. Another classic example used to illustrate this concept is that of uterine cancer (tubal pregnancy can easily be substituted here also). The pregnant woman with advanced uterine cancer will usually benefit from a complete hysterectomy as soon as possible. If this determination is made before 24 weeks of pregnancy, the baby would of course die as a similar secondary effect and this would be ethically permissible (i.e. it would not be a direct abortion). If on the other hand the child is beyond 24 weeks, the child’s life can be saved by delivery via cesarean immediately prior to the hysterectomy. As an obstetrician, my duty is to do everything in my power to preserve the life of both the mother and the child. Conditions (like advanced cancer) that seriously threaten a woman’s health also threaten her preborn child’s health. Therefore, its misleading to suggest we’d place higher value on one life over the other. Justice demands that we do everything possible to save them both. Imagine a firefighter being told he had to choose to save only the mother or her child from the burning house. I’m sure every firefighter alive today would do everything possible to save them both if at all possible.

I repeat: a direct abortion is never required to preserve the life or health of a woman. On the contrary, a direct abortion always threatens the life of the woman and seriously damages her health. Recall the continued talk by pro-abortionists of the multitudes of women dying from illegal abortions? (A deceptive tactic effectively used to force legalization of abortion in the U.S., and one that is no doubt being used today to try and force the same barbaric practice upon Ireland.) Declaring these procedures legal by judicial fiat does nothing to change the nature of the abortion procedure itself. This newer argument about abortion being necessary for a woman’s health is just another variant on the same illogical theme and ironically, it discredits the first argument.

First, it is argued women’s lives are endangered by abortions simply because they are illegal. Once legalized (as in the U.S. today), the next baseless claim is that women’s lives are endangered because some doctors refuse to perform these now legal abortions. In other words, we are supposed to believe that the mere legalization of abortion immediately transforms this violent procedure from one that kills women to one that women will die without! Furthermore, we are frequently challenged with absurd claims that refraining from direct abortions will result in “a woman bleeding out from a uterine rupture, or going into shock from sepsis following a miscarriage.” Such statements betray not only profound ignorance of obstetric medicine but also a reliance on dishonest fear mongering to push a militant pro-abortion dogma.

The second and more broadly dangerous error frequently made is based on a tragically misguided idea. I am speaking of the flawed logic which suggests evil actions may be done to bring about good. St. Paul rightly condemns such foolishness: “And why not do evil that good may come? — as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.”(Romans 3:8). Furthermore, St . Thomas Aquinas is quoted by the Catechism of the Catholic Church on this very principle: “An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention” (par 1759 CCC). More succinctly stated, the end does not justify the means.

Ideas have consequences and bad ideas often have disastrously violent consequences. How soon we forget that the utilitarianism of Nazi ideology was used to justify the killing of innocent humans for the supposed good of the German economy and human race. Recall too how the errant communist ideology similarly justified the direct killing of millions more (under Stalin and Mao Zedong) in the name of an apparent necessity for the life and health of their supposed great society. No doubt, many Nazis shared the current pro-abortionists errors on both points when they claimed that killing Jews was somehow necessary for their life and health. Moreover, they share the same spiteful tone and rhetoric deriding any who would dare suggest that all humans have a human dignity and value that we should respect. Most despised of all were and are the courageous priests who taught the inviolability of all human life in defiance of the Nazis then and those priests who teach this truth in defiance of pro-abortionists today.

Dr. Frank (Ob/ Gyn)

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