A recent graduate of my alma mater writes a few comments to tell me that she was taught in college that Catholic doctrine actually allows for abortion to save the life of the mother. Her other, more extended comment is here, along with my reply.
Frankly, it comes down to this:
A pregnant woman would have almost certainly died without an abortion. Had she died, her baby would have died as well. With the abortion, she had a chance to live. Either way, the baby is dead.
I understand your belief that it is better to let two people die “naturally” than deliberately end the life of one who was going to die anyway to save another.
However, let us consider this from the question of choice. Consider the fact that this woman was placed in a Catholic hospital and *could not be moved* due to the very serious condition she was in. Is it legitimate to say that regardless of what *she* wants, what *she* believes, regardless of the four living children she has waiting, a HOSPITAL (where she has gone for *life-saving* treatment) can deny her a procedure that would save her life? The end doesn’t justify the means? The “means” was going to happen either way! The baby was going to die!
I am very pro-choice but I do support the right of a religiously-affiliated hospital to choose not to provide abortions, birth control, etc. And yet, in the situation where a patient is dying, has absolutely no other options in terms of getting treatment, what then? I also cannot believe that a sister would flippantly “o.k.” an abortion if she did not clearly see that it was fit. I genuinely believe that her excommunication indicates an ongoing distrust of female opinion, particularly in the Catholic church.
Mr. Nadal, do you think you could stand there and tell that woman she could not continue to live because you couldn’t justify ending the life of a baby that was doomed to die in the next few hours anyway?
I would appreciate if you would read the post in the following link and share your thoughts:
Gerard M. Nadal
Congratulations on your graduation!! It’s hard work, but ultimately worth the sacrifice. What was your major?
You raise several great issues. Let’s tackle them individually.
First, I read the NPR article and wrote a post on it:
I beg you to remember that because of HIPAA restrictions, it is interesting to note the level of detail being released by the hospital. In truth, nothing at all ought to have been released. They are leaking just enough information to spin the story their way.
Next, NPR is hardly the authoritative source of information when it comes to Roman Catholic Doctrine. Actually, the most authoritative voice in the matter is being dismissed, and that is a Roman Catholic Bishop, who is an Apostolic Successor speaking in his capacity and with authority as such. Bishop Olmsted also possesses a doctorate in Canon Law (Church Law). So, as both a doctor of Canon Law and a Bishop, I would expect that HIS would be the voice considered most authoritative on what the Church accepts as permissible. Instead, it is being derided by a media that thinks they know best what the Church teaches.
Next, I believe that you labor here under a false and misleading notion of what the Church teaches, specifically as you recall your education on the matter at St. John’s Univ. Either you were taught the principle of double-effect and you are making a mistaken application here, or you were taught erroneously by a theologian who was substituting their preferred view of the universe for established moral dogma and Canon Law.
As for the particulars of this case, as I have written, it is highly unlikely that this woman suddenly found herself in this condition at 11 weeks of pregnancy. You’ve seen the comments here on this blog from a pediatric cardiologist, who in her 20 years of this specialty has only seen three cases of sudden pulmonary hypertensive crisis, essentially one case every seven years. So my comments in the link provided above stand. It is highly unlikely that this woman suddenly found herself in this situation.
The position of the Church is clear. We do not directly and intentionally kill the baby to save the mother. If you ask if I were a physician, could I stand and tell the mother she had to die?
That’s the wrong question. As her physician, I would have told her from the outset that I do not abort babies. Period. I would have told her that St. Joseph’s will not abort babies. Period. I would have stressed that my job is to do all that I can to save BOTH mother and child and that I will do all within my power to do so. I would have advised that if the couple wanted to hold out therapeutic abortion as an option, that they see another physician with privileges at another hospital that permits abortion. (Not hard in a city as large as Phoenix). That’s the exercise of the woman’s legal choice in the matter.
I would refer you to the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists for further inquiry from actual pro-life OB/GYN’s:
Again Erin, this is a very bad situation, made so by the failure of the hospital administration to lay down clear limits. Bishop Olmsted represents those limits with great fidelity.
Finally, I refer you to the case of Dr. Gianna Beretta Molla, a physician, wife and mother who chose the life of her baby over the abortion recommended to her. It cost her nothing less than her own life. Read about it here:
Her whole life was a protracted preparation for that one heroic and love-filled decision. Her life illustrates what is missing in this story, and that is the daily practice of virtue on the part of the nun who allowed for the direct and intentional death of the baby, as well as the physician who did the killing. Consider this quote from former US Senator Dan Coats:
Character cannot be summoned at the moment of crisis if it has been squandered by years of compromise and rationalization.
The only testing ground for the heroic is the mundane.
The only preparation for that one profound decision which can change a life, or even a nation, is those hundreds of half-conscious, self-defining, seemingly insignificant decisions made in private.
Habit is the daily battleground of character.
That’s why Sr. McBride has been excommunicated and Dr. Molla has been canonized a Saint.