Paved with good intentions

A couple of generations ago, when the average decent member of the British public looked for reasons of substance rather than simple convenience before electing for abortion, the danger to the mother’s life was often cited. We hear of this much more rarely now – perhaps because the question has been settled, or perhaps because better medical techniques have so often saved the day.

But it is back again: Sister Margaret Mary McBride, who sits on the ethics board of a hospital in the United States, is in trouble for approving the abortion of an 11 week unborn child to save the mother’s life. While she was, under canon law, automatically excommunicated, her bishop has emphasised his disapproval by making the excommunication public.

I make no judgment of Sister McBride’s good faith or religious devotion; I make no judgment whether the bishop was right to raise the stakes. I understand that they are both people of high reputation. My only concern is to look at the principles.

And the bare principles are straightforward. Both mother and child are human beings with an equal right to life. A heroic mother might choose to sacrifice her life to save her baby but the baby cannot make such a choice. Thus, at this level, it is open and shut.

The situation is different when the death of the unborn child is an unwanted side effect. This might occur when the pregnancy takes root in the fallopian tube. It would be legitimate to remove the tube even though the baby within cannot survive. Provided that the intention is to heal the mother and that the child’s death is not the means of this healing, and provided that the outcome is proportionate, then the act of removal is justified.

We must assume that in the McBride case the continuation of the pregnancy is sincerely believed to be fatal to the mother (accepting that medical prognoses are often fallible) and that the removal of the baby will give the mother a reasonable prospect of survival. So the issue of proportion is satisfied.

But the main condition is not. The action to be taken is not the removal of a diseased organ (eg, a fallopian tube) but the removal of the baby, thereby killing it. This is directly to sacrifice the baby’s life for the saving of the mother.

To look for arguments against this rigorous position I would go to trustworthy, lay Catholic authority. I stipulate “lay” because every cleric is bound by oath to uphold the orthodox position, and so cannot help us. Who better than Professor Tina Beattie of Roehampton University, who is often in the public eye on gender questions concerning the Church? And immediately I am concerned.

In her article in The Tablet (June 5) I read first that the Church’s attitude has its roots “in the belief that the moral value of an action lies in its intention”. Not so. Good intention is necessary but it is not sufficient. The action itself must not be objectively evil. She continues by saying that many would think the situation under consideration is too complex for formulaic judgments. But what matters here is not whether the judgment is formulaic (presumably she means “definite”) but whether it is correct and applies in a given context.

She then expresses surprise that a Church which has behaved so incompetently over the sex abuse question can be so decisive over abortion. Such ad hominem arguments have their place in emotional rhetoric but not in discussion by an academic. Nor, even here, does she notice that killing a child in the womb is a substantially worse abuse than paedophilia.

She puts emphasis on the change in the Church’s attitude on early and late abortion. But she fails to mention that this is a response to a new and fuller scientific understanding of the process of conception. Aristotle’s view on ensoulment, based on a misunderstanding of conception and genetic development, was in need of updating after 2,500 years. Old rulings based on faulty facts are not relevant.

More disturbingly, she creates her own rules for designating personhood and, by implication, human rights. She regards personhood as something which is gradually acquired and dependent on relationship: “It is hard to see how any embryo can be deemed a person before even the mother enters into a rudimentary relationship with it.” Not only is this criterion gratuitous, it is extremely dangerous. In too many historical incidents those in power (in this case the mother and the doctors) have defined humanity in terms of their own priorities. Of course Professor Beattie is in good faith here – which is why my blood runs cold, for unjust discrimination can start with the best intentions.

There are a few theological experts in this area who argue that an embryo is not ensouled for the few days during which a single conceptus can clone into twins, but that is not an issue at 11 weeks. More interesting, I think, is whether the status of the act is altered by the fact that, if the mother dies, the foetus will die anyhow. Or whether, as is possible in some cases, the foetus can be extracted from its abnormal siting in the fallopian tube – allowing the tube to be restored to its normal capacity. The foetus cannot survive whether or not the tube is removed.

My concern here is that it is emotionally tempting to side with the known, loved and needed mother rather than the invisible foetus. A person of standing and influence could well provide a rationale for unwary Catholics and accusations of inconsistency from our opponents. Choosing to grade human beings and so differentiate their rights is a step toward the abyss.

http://www.secondsightblog.com looks forward to your comments.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Catholic Herald columns, Moral judgment. Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Paved with good intentions

  1. AMDG says:

    I have not posted for a while but I was moved to do so by Quentin’s detailed and systematic dismantling of Prof Beattie’s arguments. I fear this is not the first time that she has entered a debate and proved herself seemingly ignorant of the basics of the Church’s teachings. Knowledge of these teachings is surely a pre-condition whether or not one chooses to accept them if one is to “weigh in” from a Catholic perspective.

    As to the case in point Quentin is absolutely correct in his description of the so called “Double Effect” principle which must satisfy 4 separate criteria concerning the nature of the act intended to be performed before it can be invoked and clearly has no application in this case since the act involved was deliberate killing of the unborn child in order to remove a health risk to the mother. As to the facts of this case it appears from the most reliable sources that the lady in question was suffering from pulmonary hypertension which does indeed carry with it significant risks to the mother’s life particularly in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy because of the stress on the mother’s body of carrying the weight of baby and placenta. That said several eminent specialists in the field have commented that in such a case there is lower risk to the mother in the early stages of pregnancy and that the most sensible solution to this situation is to deliver the baby as early as possible by Caesarian section which these days does not take undue risks with the life of the child but spares the mother the risks associated with the latter stages of the 3rd trimester. There can never be a situation where the baby can be regarded as some kind of disease or illness that requires to be destroyed as a form of medical treatment.

    I think the issue of “ensoulment” is one where Catholic apologists can easily fall into the sorts of traps which contemporary scientific research into early foetal development would lay such as twins, pre-implanted embryos, ova with multiple sperm etc. It seems to me, bearing in mind what St.Thomas Aquinas says about the soul being “the form of the body” that Catholics need to be wary of arguments that suggest some kind of spiritual ‘grafting’ of the soul onto the early embryo. After all we are told in the Old Testatment that God knew us before he formed us in the womb. Instead the Catholic needs to remain rooted in the ethical debate not the science of what is actually happening at what precise time since scientific conclusions on this are constantly changing when the Church’s ethical teaching does not (regardless of what Nancy Pelosi says). Thus the categorical moral imperative to err on the side of caution kicks in and says that where it is impossible to know precisely at what point in the first few days the human person appears, as soon as it can be said that what exists physically is categorically different from what existed before (namely sperm and egg), and that this ‘thing’ is the same thing that develops into a fully functioning human person we must err on the side of caution and afford that thing the protection of personhood. That is the only sure-fire way to prevent the deliberate killing of the innocent which is the moral principle at stake.

  2. Daisy says:

    I have a question here. If we assume (as I realise AMDG does not) that the continuation of this pregnancy will be fatal to the mother and thus the child, we are still left with the question which Quentin raises at the end. A sort of commonsense suggests that it would be foolish to let both die when taking out the baby would save one of them. Yet the principle Quentin explains, and AMDG agrees with it, would appear not to allow this. So I suppose we just wring our hands and say “at least we’ve been faithful to the law.” Exit sobbing, but very holy.

  3. st.joseph says:

    Did the mother know what the consequences were if she became pregnant. I know that won’t answer the moral question
    But there is a certain amount of morality in that-if she knew.

    I believe that the Church teaches that the lives of both are to be saved ,and if the child dies then it can’t be helped. This seems like going back to the ‘intention’ again and may seem an easy way out-but that is why I feel if the mother knew the consequences before becoming pregnant, it is irresponsible to have a child when she knows it will be killed. Or did her illness come afterwards?
    There wlll be a lot of sobbing either way! The baby must be given the respect it deserves from conception ,as he/her self is from that moment on. Like all of us unique

    I think it is right to pray for aborted babies and miscarriages for that reason, then maybe we will be able to respect that.

    My daughter said to me when my husband died-‘well Mum Dad ‘will be with my brothers or sisters now’ after my numerous miscarriages . For her to remember that and it will be nigh on 40years ago surprised me! But then all babies from conception are our brother and sisters.

    This I suppose doesn’t answer the question.
    I dont agree with Sister Mary McBride, but I would not like to be placed in her position.

    The only right way forward is to take the baby out before full term. We know now that babies can survive earlier, so why was that not an option?

  4. AMDG says:

    If I may I will try to answer Daisy’s question. You are quite correct that common sense would tend to suggest that it is better for one person to die rather than two in a given situation. That principle is not at issue. The principle at issue is whether it is morally right to deliberately take one of those two lives at the expense of the other. Put aside for the sake of the argument the fact that one is unborn and please accept for the sake of the question that each are to be regarded as humans of equal dignity and worthy of equal respect. Imagine a parallel scenario, a woman and her young child have fallen over a cliff and are hanging from the cliff edge-the woman by her fingertips, the child is hanging on to her mother’s feet. A passer by tries to help but is not strong enough to pull both people to safety. The only way he can rescue one is to persaude the woman to kick the child off her or throw stones at the child himself. Should he do that? This is a difficult situation from which one can “exit sobbing but all holy”.

  5. Ion Zone says:

    Bit bad taste, but didn’t the Vatican once plead with rape victims to get abortions? I thought we had strict but sensible criteria (the course of least harm).

  6. Ion Zone says:

    (By once I do mean that I have only heard of one occurrence)

  7. st.joseph says:

    Once is enough to cause a scandal. How ‘official is your’ statement?

  8. I haven’t heard of Ion Zone’s quoted instance. Is there a possible confusion here? I recall that nuns being raped in the Congo were told (not surprisingly) that they were allowed to take physical contraceptive precautions. The grounds were that rape could not be classed as sexual intercourse and that the victims were entitled to defend themselves against violation.

    I am still thinking over AMDG’s answer to Daisy; it’s certainly a vigorous analogy. One problem in thinking about it is that it is hard to keep emotion out of such an example. How would we feel if the child was suspended from the mother by a rope and harness, and was in fact unconscious. Would we decide differently?
    And is there a parallel with the old chestnut: car brakes gone, and you can either swerve to the left and kill three people, or swerve to the right and kill one person. We assume no other option available.

    All these possibilities seem to end with a tails – you win, heads – I lose outcome.

  9. st.joseph says:

    I suppose that would be like the old saying ‘I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t.

    Ulike the first situation of the aborted baby, these are mere speculation., but would need quick thinking.

    With the aborted baby there was the choice of saving both.! More thought should have been given in that situation.
    Obviousley a child in the womb would not ‘to some ‘be the same as a child living in the world-so to speak. Although there are abortions up to birth!

    Another scenario would be like a bank robber who is holding a person at gunpoint, and someone under the counter had a gun, and hesitated to kill him, Then the robber shot the man he was holding, and a few others for good measure.

    Does anyone know what they would do in a situation like that.

  10. claret says:

    I am of the opinion that analogies are not possible when comparing these situations as all they do is lead you up blind alleys in ever more dramatic and complicated scenarios.
    This case has to be looked at on its own circumstances. This is even more difficult when we are not in posession of all the facts but merely an ‘outline’ of a very distressing situation.
    There must surely be some set of circumstances that would allow an abortion where the Mother’s loss of life can be the only outcome should the pregnancy continue.
    For example was it always the Mother’s intention to give life to the child had it not been for the medical situation that was suddenly presented to her?
    What of any other children in her family that perhaps relied on her totally for their support.
    This seems to me not to be a case where we cannot make a judgement on here.
    On the bare ‘facts’ presented though it does highlight the qustion that Tina Beattie raises regarding the way this case was handled by the Church compared to the abuse scandals.
    Quentin asserts that the two issues are totally separate, but to quote him. ‘Not so!’
    The Church’s moral voice has been fatally weakend by the abuse scandals and the total failure over many years to deal with them decisively and properly.
    While the ‘Church Authorities’ draw a distinction between one moral teaching and another so that one is decisively and swiftly dealt with while another is dealt with in entirely the opposite way then the ‘public at large’ and indeed those ‘in the pews’ can be forgiven for smelling a strong whiff of hypocrisy.

  11. st.joseph says:

    If nuns were told in the Congo to take physical precautions in the case of rape, Would sterilisation be a better option than artificial contraception, as they could be an abortifaciant.As would the morning after pill.Or do you mean Quentin by physical contraceptive as ‘killing’ the raper’.
    I don’t believe that the church would have known about that-if they did suggest that .If they do ‘it is a little hypocritical’ As if a young girl was raped or any women ,the church could not object to the morning after pill-could it?

    I would think that if the nuns were told what Quentin said, and it could be true-it would open the flood gates for all sorts of abuse.But anyway there are millions of abortions from pills knowing how they work ‘morning after’ or not.And yet I havent heard of a priest mention that yet.
    Maybe we oufght to have married priests and then the wives would lead the way forward.

    I am going to get some stick for that comment!

  12. The Congo incident dates back to the disorder in 1960, when the pill was not available, and the ‘morning after’ unheard of. I had in mind the dutch cap and spermaticides. But the principle still holds.
    I agree with Claret about the problems caused by analogies. But the point he makes about hypocrisy, though true, doesn’t get us very far. I could fill a column with contrasts between the Church’s stern views of sex, and its handling of clerical sex abuse over the centuries, couldn’t you? I just thought that in the context of the Beattie critique of the the moral law a tu quoque argument strayed into an emotional agenda rather than dispassionate analysis.

  13. st.joseph says:

    Quentin thank you. But I seem to remember that the diaphrgam or Dutch cap would have to be inserted before intercourse and if a person was being raped I feel that this would be very difficult to apply if one was being raped. Unless of course they had a very considerate rapist. But I suppose if a person knew she was going to be raped she may be given time. Maybe that is what the Church meant.
    As far as it goes I would rather be abused than aborted.

  14. Horace says:

    This post raises a number of complicated, emotional and confusing points.

    With regard to Professor Beattie’s statement “the Church’s attitude has its roots ‘ in the belief that the moral value of an action lies in its intention’ ” this presumably reflects the statement of Thomas Aquinas “Now moral acts take their species according to what is intended . . II-II, 64,7”.
    But, of course, this is part of an answer which starts “Nothing hinders one act from having two effects, only one of which is intended, while the other is beside the intention.” and this leads us into the very difficult territory of “Double effect”.

    I think st.joseph has the best answer:- “I believe that the Church teaches that the lives of both are to be saved ,and if the child [or the mother – or both?] dies then it can’t be helped.” In other words; rather than deciding deliberately to kill one party we should do our best to save both, and as AMDG points out this can often be done ‘against the odds’, with the expenditure of a little more effort (and money).

    What seems to me much more relevant than considering arguments which might justify or excuse the deliberate recommendation of abortion is the statement “surprise that a Church which has behaved so incompetently over the sex abuse question can be so decisive over abortion”.
    I suspect that the decisive and public reaction of the bishop in this case was precisely driven by the allegations of ‘cover up’ over the sex abuse question. It may have been an overreaction but this is perhaps understandable in the circumstances.

  15. AMDG says:

    Just a few comments by way of follow up:

    1. “It’s a bit bad taste” – a massive understatement when we are talking about stopping the heart of a human infant. I am afraid if we are going to discuss these issues we had better be prepared to accept what we are dealing with.

    2. Would it be different if the child were unconscious and in a rope and harness? The bottom line in all of these analogies the only way to intervene directly is to kill deliberately. This is the crucial point that in our natural human determination to be masters of our own destiny and of our world we feel a strong compulsion towards action in every situation. Cases like this illustrate the limits of this inclination because they show how this instinct can lead us to commit gravely immoral acts in its pursuit.

    3. The Belgian Congo case. This is well documented and exactly as Quentin explained. Missionary sisters were issued with IUD’s to be worn during their time ‘in country’ to guard against the consequences of rape. No abortifacients were involved.

    4. The analogy with the clerical abuse crisis. This argument seems to be to be undermined by an assumption that Catholic Church moral teaching is made up ‘on the hoof’ so to speak to suit the requirements of the day. In fact the situation is quite the reverse. Catholic moral teaching attempts not to invent policies to suit an agenda as with much political policy making today, but rather to discern and defend what the Church considers to be the natural moral law in any given situation. This natural moral law is not of the Church’s own making it is an eternal law with its origin in God the Creator and would still be the law even if the Universe had never been created. In that sense the Church sees the Natural Law as akin to the laws that Science discovers-they are universal laws not contingent on the material Universe but pre-existing it. The sex abuse crisis is more akin to a modern political controversy in that it has revealed how the Church has on a human level introduced policies at local level which have sought to manage the practicalities of sexual abuse cases and have failed in their priorities. None of these errors constituted the Church making a false moral judgment on the intrinsic evil of the sexual acts themselves rather local practical errors in the management of the ‘fall out’. Nowhere is there a document issued by the Pope or the Bishops stating “it is morally permissible in soem circumstances for a priest to have sexual relations with a person under the age of consent”. The decision makers did not seek to alter Catholic moral teaching they simply made human errors in deciding how to deal with the consequences. In most situations they sought to deal with the offender purely as a sinner and not as a criminal. Many put their trust in contemporary therapists who believed treatment could cure the behaviour, and all no doubt put the reputation of the Church first in the belief that scandal would damage the wider faithful’s trust in the Church. These are pragmatic if erroneous decisions but they are not akin to the Bishops attempting to defend the abuse from a doctrinal perspective and certainly not akin to the Church countenancing the killing of a child.

  16. Horace, st joseph’s verdict does not not address the ectopic pregnancy question, described in the column. Can you and others find an answer here?
    I see in The Tablet (19 June) that the Jesuit theologian. Ladislas Orsy claims that the conditions required in Canon Law for the excommunication of Sister McBride are not present.

  17. Semper sperans says:

    Professor Beattie’s article did not deal with the Phoenix case at all really but used it to raise questions about the Church’s teaching on abortion as a whole. Quentin dealt with this very well in his own piece but there are a couple of other issues the Professor raised which I found interesting. In passing I should say that I found her remark that the number of abortions in the UK was ” unacceptably high” disturbing. How high would she find acceptable?
    Professor Beattie asked that the Church should respect the ” moral authority of women” in such matters. I am not sure what the Professor intended by that statemnt but I know that in the USA it has come to mean that women are entitled to regard the foetus as essentially a part of their own body rather than as a separate human life. It is argued in support of this that the foetus cannot survive outside the mother. The consequences of this approach in respect of abortion are obvious.
    The Professor also asked that ” Women theolgians and ethicists be part of the Magisterium” ( her initial capital for Magisterium not mine). Either the Professor has an odd idea of what the magisterium is or I have ( possibly we both have!). Her words imply that the magisterium is some sort of advisory body similar say to the Bank of England’s MPC. My understanding of the ordinary magisterium of the Church, and it is primarily that magisterium which underpins the teaching on abortion, is that in matters of faith and morals what the Church has taught universally and throughout the ages is taught authoritatively and must be accepted by faithful Catholics.
    There is a further odd reference to abortion in the leader article in this week’s Tablet. In making the point that secularists can have a misleading impression of what the Church teaches it says that they get the impression that ” the Church is wanting to ban abortion in all circumstances”. Well isn’t it, or if it isn’t shouldn’t it be?The Church certainly believes that all abortions are wrong because they are the taking of an innocent life. Here again the transatlantic parallels are obvious. Any number of US politicians declare themselves Catholic but excuse their voting record on abortion issues on the grounds that they do not have the right to impose their views on others, a self denying attitude they do not extend to other matters. If we believe abortion to be wrong we should have the courage to say so and act accordingly.

  18. AMDG says:

    At the risk of falling into a kind of casuistry which my initials would leave me ripe for charges of there is a clear consensus even among those ethical and canonical commentators from what might loosely be called “progressive” Catholicism that ‘indirect abortion’, that is the performance of some surgical or other procedure aimed at relieving a medical condition can in those circumstances be permissible even if the child’s life is ended as a direct consequence but that direct abortion is not.

    Thus the commentators who have criticised the bishop in the Phoenix case have divided into two camps. First there are those who have explored whether there is any way the procedure carried out in this case could be made to fall into this indirect category. They have problems because there was apparently nothing defective or diseased about the baby, the location of the baby or the womb itself. What they have fastened onto is that it might be possible to assert that the cause of the worsening hypertension in the patient was the placenta (despite the fact that the placenta does not start to assume its functions until at least 12 or 13 weeks), and thus its removal (and the inevitable consequence of the death of the baby) was the remedy required and that this might be licit indirect abortion by removal of the placenta (even though they have no evidence that what took place was that anything rather than a straightforward and direct termination of the child’s life by acts directed against the child rather than the placenta or that thsi formed the basis of the actual decision). The others of whom Prof Orsy SJ is the most prominent do not challenge that it was a direct abortion but have sought to remove Sister McBride from the category of those who incur automatic excommunication for procuring abortion on the grounds (inter alia) that her actions are insufficient to constitute ‘procurer’ and that she did not act with malice aforethought. The problem with these interventions is that none of these commentators know the full facts but are prepared to condemn the bishop (who we must assume does). Prof Orsy does legal somersaults with the term ‘procure’ to remove Sister McBride from the category when he has no more idea of exactly what she did or didn’t do or knew about what she was doing than any of us. The bishop who is the only appropriate and competent authority (and who has his own access to the advice of Canon lawyers) decided that her conduct did procure a direct abortion after his private interview with her after the event and confirmed the status of her automatic excommunication. I think we need to respect that decision before leaping to conclusions that the Bishop is a fool, ignorant or poorly advised or that what was done was an indirect abortion mistakenly believed by all at the time to be a direct one.
    Canon Law serves the Church and the truths of Catholic teaching and not the other way round. What is at stake is whether Sister McBride acted in such a way that she deliberately chose to separate herself from communion with the Church’s beliefs in what she did. I suspect (although as I say above none of us can know the full facts) that she did not attempt an argument based on indirect abortion or even seek to distance herself from the decision making but sought to defend direct abortion in this particular case. The bishop has clearly decided following his private interview with her that she did make that choice to separate herself from the Church and until anything emerges to contradict that we ought to respect his decision.

  19. st.joseph says:

    Thank you AMDG for putting your comment in the correct context for me. It was in my mind put I was not able to put it so explicitly as you did.

  20. Horace says:

    I have previously commented on the ectopic pregnancy question (Two years ago “Life Death and the fallopian tube”).
    “To argue that removal of part, or all, of a fallopian tube is morally neutral but that “shelling out the child from the damaged tube” is equivalent to an abortion and therefore morally unacceptable, seems to me unreasonable.” – not to say casuistic.

    This is not my field, however:-
    1) I do know that something like half of all ectopic pregnancies abort spontaneously and the mother may not even know that anything has happened.
    2) The vast majority of the remainder cause rupture of the tube associated with serious bleeding. This an emergency situation where the priority is to stop the bleeding and, although the foetus may be destroyed in the process, there is surely no question in this case.
    3) Sometimes a tubal pregnancy may be diagnosed early, say by ultrasound imaging. In my opinion the use of Methotrexate (which targets the developing embryo directly) cannot be justified morally. The problem may resolve itself naturally but it may be necessary to intervene in case of emergency.

    In summary I would suggest that the best course of action in this case is one of ‘watchful expectancy’.

    Not all ectopic pregnancies are tubal, rarely implantation is in the peritoneal cavity. I know of at least one case where it was possible to deliver a viable baby by the equivalent of caesarian section.
    (Zhang J, Li F, Sheng Q: Full-Term Abdominal Pregnancy: A Case Report and Review of the Literature. Gynecol Obstet Invest 2008;65:139-141)

  21. st.joseph says:

    I didnt make a comment on the ectopic pregnancy as I was not aware that a baby survived until Horace mentioned in hi comment. I studied it when I was teaching .N.F.P( Physiology of the Reproduction System ) The below is a paper from 30 years ago. Things may have progressed since then but just to put some details for those who may be interested. Maybe if things have progressed, someone will tell me.

    There are two Fallopian Tubes and each consists of a tube continuous with the uterus (womb) on the medial side, and distally ending in a free ane formed by finger- like projections known as the fimbria. The tube is line by ciloated epithelium to aid the egg to move along the tube towards the uterus. At the moment of ovulation when the ripe egg is extruded from the ovary, the fimbra of the colateral tue approximates the part of the ovary where the ripe egg is situated. The moment the egg is released from the ovary it is taken up by the fimbria into the Fallopian Tube where it continues to live for a maximum of 24 hours. If sperms are present in the female reproductive tract these ascend through the uterus and the Fallopian Tubes and fertilization of the egg takes place in the outer third of the tube.Cell division takes place immediately after fertilization of the egg and continues at a standard rate while at the same time the dividing egg continues to move along the tube to the uterus,taking five days to reach the uterus.

    If there is damage in the tube because of infection there are two possibilities depending on the severit and duration of the infection.
    (a) Where the infection is severe and lond- standing, the fimbria of the tube can become closed and adhere altogether.In this case although ovulation occurs eachmonth and the egg is released from the ovary, it never gets into the Fallopian Tube, but drops into the abdominal cavity where it dies after 24 hours.It causes no problem in the abdominal cavity, but the woman is infertile.
    (b) Where the infection is not so severe, the lining of the Fallopian Tbe is damaged, although the fimbria are patent and take up the into the outer end of the tube. If fertillazation occurs ,the fertilized egg continues to divide at its normal rate,but because of the tubal damage movement along the tube is delayed until eventually the dividing egg gets too big to pass along the tube. It therefore implants in the tube (ectopic pregnancy) which however has a very thin wall and lining so that the tube eventually ruptures or bursts. This is called a ruptered ectopic pregnancy and depending on the amount of bleeding into the abdominal cavity, it may cause proufound shock and and be classified as a surgical emergency necessitating immediate operative intervention. Where the bleeding is less, it causes a haemotoma or blood clot in the area where the tube can be infected and lead to chronic lower abdominal pain as well as complete infertility. Infection to-day is mainly due to the gonococcus which is transmitted sexually, or due to infection from the fitting and wearing of an intrauterine device (coil)
    In the olden days in this country, and still in some developing countries tuberculous infection of the tubes accounts for a high degree of the damage. End.

    The morning after pill ,it is also know that being sexually active under the age of 16 years causes cervical cancer, the under aged body has thinner skin tissue than the older woman’s. Females under 20 years have a 280% higher risk of cancer of the cervix.
    The morning after pill after use, there is 5% higher risk of an Ectopic Pregnancy, which is life threatening.

    It is know that taking Oral Contraceptives below the age of 20 increases the risk of developing breast cancer, 820% more than in older women.
    Deep Vein Thrombosis and stroke risk increases in daughters of mothers who took the Pill, and their own daughters have an even higher(120-280%)risk.

    What does this say about a society who seems to be so Health conscious!

    And how much does it say for Humanea Vitea!

  22. st.joseph says:

    Sorry about the typographical errors. It went before I could correct them!

  23. Michael Mahoney says:

    Sister McBride can thank her lucky stars that she lives in liberal America and not in sixteenth century Catholic Spain, for at that time the Church would have handed her over to the civil authority to be burnt alive. And there, at that specatcle, seated on ecclesiastical thrones, would have been the bishops, the canonists and moral theologians, fresh from applying the perfect circles and straight lines of their logic to the human condition, all for the greater glory of God.
    Plus ça change it seems!

  24. st.joseph says:

    St Thomas More and St John Fisher whose Feast day it is to-day and who died for OUR Faith. They would have liked not to have lived in the liberal times of their day. Lest we forget!

  25. Ion Zone says:

    The general argument for abortion seems to amount to the baby being a parasite that the mother should be allowed to dispose of at her convenience. There is no valuing of life in that argument.

  26. Horace says:

    I broadly agree with st.joseph – The question, however, was “What is the moral way to handle this situation?”
    The question of excising the tube, shelling out the foetus or directly killing the foetus with methotrexate should not be an issue.
    Fortunately things are not quite so desperate as might at first appear – Nature may cope unaided. Nevertheless a crisis situation could arise and in this case the priority is to stop the bleeding.
    The foetus may die as a result but that is in no way the intention.

  27. st.joseph says:

    Thank you Horace.I can understand a little more about that now.
    2 ladies I know who have had ectopic pregnancys lately, both have had one fallopian tube removed. The loss of the baby was not taken lightly, both were devastated! One has had another baby at 46.The other one has had ovarian cancer in one of her ovaries at 21 and is told she probably won,t be able to have a child.

    Quentin we are discussing the morality of the eptopic pregnancy. Does not the issue of the morality of the contraceptive pill and the I.U.D.which allows the foetus not to implant in the mothers womb after fertilization. Also the Mini Pill ,which is given to very young children age 11years!

    We are speaking about saving lives in one ‘moral’ issue, but what is the moral issue in the other?

  28. st.joseph, the issues you have raised are important ones to discuss, but I think that in this correspondence we should not be distracted too far from the main issues of the general morality of abortion and its relationship to the rights of the mother.

    What I am hoping to do is to produce a separate post on your questions, so that they can be considered directly and we can have the benefit of experts commenting. I hoe that’s OK with you.

  29. st.joseph says:

    Yes Quentin that is o.k with me. Thank you.
    But I would like to make one comment on the the issue I mentioned with the case of the 46 year old mother who had an ectopic pregnancy and went on to have another baby a while ago.

    She already had 3 boys ,and it was her perrogative to have anothers child if she wanted one. At her age I would have thought twice about it .but then it is not for anyone to choose for her.

    Now the circumstances of her ectopic pregnacy and the moral issue concerned, I would feel that whatever her decision was, it was between her and her Maker,if it meant ending the life of her baby or dying herself. She had three other children to look after ,also a sick mother and a husband. I believe there are certain issue we must leave in the hands of the Lord and our conscience in the that kind of situation is ones own!

    This is as you say is a diffirent issue. But the same situation arises when the mothers right to choose to use abortifacients to kill her baby and her life is ‘not’ in danger only through their use, and that to me is irresponsible when there is a choice,

    I look forward to

  30. st.joseph says:

    the comments from ‘experts’

  31. tim says:

    It’s intellectually stimulating to consider very rare cases, such as mothers dangling their children over cliffs, or trucks careering down tramlines where switching the points will result in two people getting killed instead of five. But is it justified? Around 200,000 human beings are aborted in UK each year (slightly less this year). Of those abortions 1 or 2 may be reported as being to save the life of the mother. Straining at gnats, swallowing camels?

    Frankly, discussing deliberate killing as an acceptable solution closes down other options. Look for another solution! Try to derail the truck!

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