None of us will have missed the chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, Cathy Warwick, deciding, without formally consulting members of the RCM’s governing board, that her organisation should campaign for women to be legally free to have an abortion at any point in pregnancy – effectively up to the day before birth. She tells us that RCM has no policy pro or against abortion. This sits somewhat awkwardly with her position as chairman on the British Pregnancy Advisory Service which describes itself as “… the UK’s leading provider of NHS-funded abortion care.”
Not surprisingly a large number of midwives have taken exception to this decision. And no doubt most, if not all of us, find it impossible to accept what we see as a thoroughly evil policy. At the time of drafting this, Warwick has excluded retracting her view. However we must bear in mind that her case is more logical than many of her opponents.
Going by the reader correspondence which follows newspaper articles on this subject, the majority of her opponents are not in fact against abortion in principle. It is often seen as a feminist right: woman are entitled to choose whether or not to be pregnant, and no one, especially men, should be opposing this. While much is made of hard cases (pregnancy through rape, or a damaged foetus) in practice abortion should be available for any reason or none. While the 1967 Abortion Act requires certain conditions to be fulfilled, in practice abortion is on demand. Their sticking point is the viability of the foetus. (Currently 24 weeks, although some are arguing for 22 or 20 weeks.) Warwick is logical in saying that, if a women is to have full control over her reproduction, then that control is present over the full term of pregnancy.
But most people who support the principle of abortion are guided by emotions rather than by logic. You may remember the fuss when scans of the foetus became available and there was a danger that the mother’s emotions might become engaged. As long as the foetus is out of sight it is apparently possible to withhold the bonding which takes place at birth. There is a great danger here. If we remember recent history, we will be aware how easily feelings rather than rational judgment can be used as the criterion of human rights.
But we (I hope) maintain that the infant in the womb is an individual human being, and therefore has all the rights we attribute to human beings. Emotion has nothing to do with it. The Church instructs us that we should base this on the moment of conception – though we should notice that there is an argument for claiming that the embryo cannot be regarded as ‘individual’ until it can no longer split into identical twins. That is, at about 14 days. No one knows for sure.
One apoplectic reader almost shouted on the page that surely we know that a foetus is not a baby. And of course we do. We distinguish between embryo, foetus, baby, child, adolescent, adult, pensioner. These are distinct labels (although the borders may be wooly) which identify stages of human life. They are all individual human beings. And that is how I habitually refer to them in this matter. I cheerfully invite others to identify which of ‘individual’, ‘human’, or ‘being’ they would care to deny. That seems to shut them up.
But the saddest part for me is how often I find my own friends, who are good people, favour abortion – some as a matter of principle, some according to cause. A quick flick through the internet tells me that, internationally, the proportion of Catholics who approve is on the north side of 50%. There is even an active organization called ‘Catholics for Choice’, who majors on the rights of women to form their consciences. I hope they don’t extend that to the mothers (or indeed fathers) of two year old children. I hold my breath.
Ironically, in some parts of the world (I think particularly of the East — such as India and China) abortion is used to prevent the birth of girls. Now that it is relatively easy to identify the gender of the conceptus, the temptation to make a negative choice is strong. Girls may require dowries and, where small families are envisaged, there is a perceived need to preserve the line through a male descendant. The result is a disproportionate number of adult males in the future. And that makes for social trouble where testosterone fuelled young men can find no partner. And we may assume that this also renders them more vulnerable to a radicalism which they see as giving them a respectable self image.
Thank you for taking up this one, Quentin. I look forward to hearing from contributors who call themselves ‘Catholic’ and have sympathies with Professor Warwick’s views.
This is one area where I am full of admiration for the stance that the Catholic position takes on Abortion. From what Quentin says, it seems sadly the Catholic position appears to be slipping over the years from its stance initially.
Many other Churches take the some position, but I don’t know what their statistics are. The Orthodox Church too is against Abortion in principle, apart from certain caveats.
I have written many times to various Government Ministers over the years include Lord David Steele who brought in the Bill on Abortion. I have sought to get them the revisit the whole basis and legislation on Abortion – sadly all in vain.
You say ‘though we should notice there is an argument for claiming that the embryo can not be regarded as an ‘individual’ until it no longer splits into identical twins. That’s 14 days and no more’
I think it is known that the embryo implants between 6 to 10 days.
It can not implant in the wall of the womb if the womb is aggressive from the use of the contraceptive pill. Will that be considered as an abortion or an abortfacient
The ‘primitive streak, which becomes the spinal column, occurs around 14 days – so after the conceptus is attached in the womb. Many take this as the point at which the life of an individual starts. Many disagree, and some choose other signs around this point. If something has stopped the conceptus from attaching to the womb, then this point would not have been reached. The part that the pill may play in affecting the womb’s ability to hold the conceptus is a different and vexed question.
Thank you for your reply.
I have been thinking about the vexed question, and I suppose it would not apply to Catholics, as we ‘ have to believe the soul is present at the moment of conception’.
No, we don’t have to believe this. The ruling document, Donum Vitae does not declare that at the point of conception a human person with a soul is present, although it emphasises the intrisic connection with a human being. Effectively it is saying: either it is a human person or it is in the process of becoming one – therefore it must be treated as if it were.
*there is an argument for claiming that the embryo cannot be regarded as ‘individual’ until it can no longer split into identical twins”.
I feel this is probably a side-issue – but it’s very tempting to debate it! Why is ‘individuality’ crucial? An embryo which is capable of splitting into two separate human beings should surely be entitled to as much respect as one that does not (or cannot) split. Is a pregnant mother not (at least one) individual? Further, this is hypothetical (and let us hope will remain so). No one has – so far as I know – done experiments with human embryos of this age to see if they can produce two viable embryos. The argument is by analogy with other non-human organisms – which may or may not hold in practice. It seems illogical to argue that one has no duties towards a microscopic human being because you can’t be sure that it might not become two humans?
But this is a side-issue. Anyone ought to be able to see that what is aborted at 12 weeks from conception is an individual human being.
If one does not believe that there is a soul at the time of conception and we as Catholics do not ‘have to believe there is’ then it does make Catholics more comfortable with IVF treatment. Whereby embryos are created in a dish, and not placed into the womb until later, and left in storage or removed from the womb allowing the stronger to survive.
People can easily clear their conscience if it is left ‘to one’s conscience at the time.
I realise it is going to the other extreme of abortifacients, to wanting baby.If one wants money when they are starving they don’t steal it, there is always benefits.
One should not do wrong so that good will come out of it.
There is always NAPRO to consider.
Did you see the recent interesting article in the U.K’s Telegraph newspaper that sums up a remarkable discovery by researchers at North Western University near Chicago. ‘Human life begins in a flash of light as a sperm meets an egg,scientists have shown for the first time after capturing the astonishing ‘fireworks’ on film.
An explosion of tiny sparks erupts from the egg at the exact moment of conception..
May 12th Life Site News. Flash of Light at Conception. Gods miracle to admire not to exploit.
God’s active act of creation as described in Genesis 1. begins with those familiar words
‘Let there be light’.
Throughout the Scriptures God’s presence and power is associated with light.
This is most obviously true in all the writings, the Apostle John.
1- John tells us God is light and there is no darkness in Him at all!
I shall always remember the day when I was a medical student and we were sitting in the lecture theatre contemplating an array of models of foetuses in successive phases of development.
Our Professor entered and said:-
“There was a time when those of us who were to be most beautiful (indicating with a sweep of his hand the girls – who in those days sat in the first two rows); looked like this > (and he selected the ugliest of the foetus models)!”
One of the reasons I became a Catholic – rather than, say C of E – (having been brought up in a household with no religious faith) was because the Catholic Church was quite uncompromising on abortion. Uncompromising means not being in favour of abortion even in “hard” cases such as rape or incest. If the foetus is a human being, then it’s a human being no matter how it was conceived.
I would agree with the church’s teaching on abortion if it took into account the medical health of the mother over the conceptus, the poverty of any family with an unwanted pregnancy, or unwanted pregnancies when a woman is raped, where a pregnancy is a result of incest, or it is the result of an affair, where the consequences of a jealous husband or partner would impact gravely on the woman in question. Society does not agree with the church that a fully cognisant, sentient human being occurs at the moment of conception. A conceptus is not given equal legal or philosophical status compared with a child who has just been born.
Anyone will agree with the church’s teaching if modified to take into account of their own personal views. We know that society (‘the world’) does not agree with the church about this – the question is, who is right?
John, neither the Church nor anyone with even a little knowledge about human development thinks that a fully cognizant human being occurs at the moment of conception.
And the status of a conceptus [by which I think you mean an unborn child, whether at the instant of conception or a week overdue to be born] is not a well defined philosophical issue. The legal issue is what our governments make of it; some governments prohibit abortion, others (like China) allow it at any time. We do not have to agree with what our governments have arbitrarily done with abortion, but as Catholics we are called to moral opposition to abortion just as we are called to moral opposition to all unjust killing of human beings.
Legally it is a different matter, and we can argue about where the cutoff point ought to be. However, I am unalterably opposed to the ideologically driven, inhumane stance that Cathy Warwick has taken. I’d like to see you take a stand on it one way or the other, and also to distinguish more clearly between legal and moral issues than you have in this first comment of yours.
John, are you suggesting that society’s views settle the status of the conceptus? Or should we be recognising this through reason applied to the phenomenon? Quentin uses individual, human, and being as the key words. Do these not apply at (to save argument) 14 days after conception? Does our moral right to life depend on our current stage of development? Would you say that poverty in the family justifies taking a life? And. if so, why not the life of a baby of six months, whose father has just lost his job?
I have a lot of sympathy for those that argue that the word ‘Holocaust’ with a capitol ‘H’ should only be used when referring to the European calamity during World War II, and nothing else. It is a convention that I was made aware of many years ago and it is something that I have taken upon myself to always remember to follow. Having a post entitled ‘Holocaust 2016’ three weeks after a very serious discussion of the historical roots of antisemitism & the Nazi Holocaust, is better avoided for a more suitable heading that does not offend other people’s sensibilities. The issue of abortion however passionate it resonates with people as a contemporary issue should never be aligned with the European Holocaust or inadvertently water down the emphasis and meaning of the word ‘Holocaust’. I am not suggesting that Quentin or anyone else is being deliberately disrespectful.
Thank you for this John. Yes, I would never use ‘the Holocaust’ in the way that you mention. In this case of course it had a capital letter (but no definite article) because it was the beginning of a sentence.
However it did draw its force from the analogy. Taking the UK alone, upwards of a million human beings are put into a special class without human rights and destroyed, every 5 years. It is just under 50 years since the UK’s Abortion Act became law. If we are concerned with the killing of innocent human beings, I don’t think the analogy is unjustified.
John C., your disclaimer is quite unnecessary. Nobody who has read your many thoughtful contributions to the blog would for a moment think you would be so foolish as to attribute to Quentin an intention of being deliberately offensive. No more that we would be tempted to believe that your comment is merely an attempt to divert the discussion to an area where you can plausibly claim the moral high ground!
Thank you for your kind words Tim. They are greatly appreciated.
I think the term Holocaust of the Jews, around 6 million during WW2, appalling though that was,
pales into insignificance when the consider the numbers since abortion act became law in 1967, Over 10million. Eastern countries and other countries in the West one could mention, I am led to believe the figures are much higher.
If anything, this shows from the highest levels of society and intellect, and financial advantage, to the poorest who lack many such advantages, add to it just this fact, it is global, demonstrates the depravity of man and his society that he has built up and mankind moral decline.
We are talking about the wholesale killing through abortion more souls than the two WW. We are into figures of hundreds of millions.
Mankind is truly on the last acts of their depravity that our forebears would have found it hard to stomach, let alone pass an Act of Abortion on.
It is incredible, murderous, insane and intrinsically evil. But he end is coming and their evil acts revealed and sentence will be passed buy the One who sought to save them, but they would not.
have Him or listen to Him, so, judgement will come suddenly at a time they think not.
You say ‘judgement will come suddenly at a time they think not.
That is so true, the world has gone mad, we can pray for the world and hope that God will have patience.
My mother used to say that Our Blessed Mother is holding His hand back. How long for.
There have always been wars, however the Holy Innocents who were slaughtered by Herod is a drop in the ocean to the babies who are being slaughtered every day for the sake of what. I ask?
Such slaughter of the modern day innocents, for what you ask?
For the sake of convenience, for the sake of sexual pleasure, for the sake of their sinful will
Hard cases like rape, or the mother or foetus health at severe risk which is a small number in comparison to the total we can have some empathy with.
If a woman gets pregnant, that child within her is not hers to do with as she likes, that little soul is God’s and this is the evil of Abortion.
As you no doubt know there are many who having had an abortion, suffer often for years after with sorrow about it, or sense of loss, or guilt.
I also see this as a work of the enemy, the Devil. He desires to lead humanity, God’s creation, to destruction. This is known, because he always seeks and pushes mankind from one extreme to another, this is his tactic.
Philosophically, medically, you see the same, going from the norm and pushing to the extremes in their arguments to justify such an action as abortion. So the position for great sways of society is not living a norm but in an extreme orchestrated by the Devil himself.
All such faced with abortion, don’t need lecturing, but to see that their considering abortion
is an extreme position to have and to hold.
Some women’s lobbies have gone down the route of a woman’s body is my own and therefore I can choose to have or not have a baby.
But if such, still want to indulge their sexual gratification and a pregnancy results, their behaviour has lead them by temptation into an extreme position.
Government, too, by various lobby groups, push the Government of the day into adopting
an extreme position, just the same as with the issue on homosexuality.
Remember, and this shows the often clever deceit of the Devil. The Abortion Bill was brought in to (safeguard women) from backstreet abortionists. I and I dare say many others warned of the consequences then – such consequences that have since come to pass. Thousands of single parents, with concomitant stresses and problems.
Let us pray for young people and women in particular, that the Lord would turn this evil tide of Abortion to the norms He had in His mind when He created us. And to be aware they
are being pushed into extremes.
I think of Jesus speaking, to the women of Jerusalem , Do not weep for me but weep for your selves and for your children, For behold the days are coming when they will say, Blessed are those who are barren and the wombs that never bore children and the breasts that never gave suckled! ‘Then they will begin to say to the mountains. “Fall on us”! to the hills, “Cover us!” For if men use the green wood like this, what will happen when it is dry?
How do we think with regards to what Jesus said in context with society today. Viruses etc
I take it to mean that God will allow these things to happen, as they have been ‘warned’¬!
According to research for their SQA Higher Modern Studies, a teenager of my acqaintance gave me the following global data for the year 2012. I don’t doubt their accuracy:
Total deaths in all armed conflicts = 0.5 million
Total deaths from HIV/AIDS = 1.2 million
Non-medical abortions = 38-42 million.
Now that’s definitely a ‘caust.
I recall speaking to a midwife who was working at a large city maternity unit when the Abortion Act first came into being. She told me that all the midwives at that hospital, of religious faith or none, signed up as not being morally willing to perform an abortion.
How times have changed.
Abortion at any time in pregnancy leads to a killing for a limited time after it. That limited time inevitably extends to fit a new set of criteria.
It is sad that there seems to be little concern among Catholics for this issue. Try getting Mass attenders to take a free copy of Pro-life news and stand by for abuse from some. Leave the copies at the back of Church and see the same pile untouched for weeks afterwards.
None of this though should deter the church from holding firm to the core belief of creation in God’s image and ‘Thou shall not kill.’
If only one Catholic among all the millions stands firm on this matter then God’s will is shown in that one person and so does the Catholic faith survive.
Forgot to add that there is little appetite, evidenced from what I have seen and heard, among Catholic Clergy for speaking out on abortion. It is rarely mentioned and even when it is spoken of it is among a list of other evils and not given any special condemnation of its own.
Perhaps we should, like many Jews, refer to Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’ as the ‘Shoah’ . Holocaust has the primary meaning of a burnt offering which has connotations with Old Testament animal sacrifice. Are we implying that the Nazis murdered Jews to appease God? Another complication is that some use the term (capitalized) to include all victims of the Nazis. The Jewish Virtual Library refers to six million ‘non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust’, half of whom were Polish Christians.
The second meaning of holocaust (according to Chambers) is ‘a great slaughter or destruction of life’. This was the sense in which Quentin used it, and it has been used to mean this since about 1600. It is very apt to talk of ‘a nuclear holocaust’ since it suggests complete destruction by fire.
It would appear that once again John Candido has leapt to his keyboard without first ascertaining the facts.
Re: allowing abortion in certain “hard” cases: the Church already allows abortion in cases such as an ectopic pregnancy where continuation of the pregnancy will result in the death of both mother and foetus,
Poverty: what needs to be addressed is not the inconvenient pregnancy but the inconvenient poverty.
Similarly with pregnancy resulting from rape or incest: society needs to be looking at when and in what conditions these occur, and minimising them, not throwing up its hands and saying “never mind, we’ll get rid of the consequences”
As for pregnancy resulting from an extra-marital affair in consequence of which the woman may be subjected to violence from a jealous husband/partner: I have seen it argued very recently, by someone supportive of Cathy Warwick and Ann Furedi who want to promote abortion at the woman’s choice, for any reason, that it is justifiable for women to choose to abort female foetuses, since their husbands / in-laws may make their lives a misery if they don’t. For Heaven’s sake, what sort of society do they want us to live in? One in which violence and threats are winked at and connived with?
Iona, we need to be rather precise here. What the Church permits is the removal of the fallopian tube in which the foetus is developing. This is called ‘double effect’. We are entitled to take an action which is good in itself (removing pathological tube) even though there may be an unwanted side effect: the inevitable death of the foetus. The good effect and the bad, unintended, side effect must be proportionate.
The usual example is that we may bomb a lawful war target even though some civilians may in practice be killed. Again this must be proportionate, e.g. important target and few civilians. Much of the city bombing in WWII on both sides was evil.
(sorry – don’t know how that “b” crept in at the beginning)
I think what Iona says, is right, but idealistic for the perverse and wicked generation.
If we accept the moral stance she rightly takes, how is one to put into practice such a stance?
I am afraid the natural man, is in a bad way right now, and it is not only in the area of abortion, but practically every moral area one can think of.
Even the Christian Church, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, National Churches, if Quentin’s figure is correct, only 50% would be totally against Abortion.
It seems many are influenced by the spirit of this world and act accordingly.
As Christian, that is not an option, for we follow Him. We then need to ask, what is it to really follow Jesus our Lord faithfully? He will give the victory and how to avoid the pitfalls so many fall into these days and is a great sorrow to them.
Your thoughtful article about abortion underlines the feeling of sorrow that we, as a society, have strayed so far from the path of life. neither emotional nor rational arguments seem to make any difference to the prevailing orthodoxy..
But don’t let’s despair. Prayer and more prayer is by far our best response, and at the same time we should keep in mind the Pope’s advocacy of mercy. After all, we are all sinners.
I have received the following from St Joseph:
I came into hospital in emergency Monday I have been poorly for a week with high BP and high temperature ,after some tests they are going to look at my stents to see if there is a blockage ,but they are concerned about my heart as I ha ‘ve various problems with it.
I following secondsightblog but not commenting.my brain not working too well with drugs.
I know you will keep me in your prayers.
I have assured her that we are praying hard.
I’m sure we’ll keep this redoubtable woman in our prayers. One wishes her ‘ad multos annos’ but time is running out for a lot of us on this blog and my main anxiety is that I am, as a Catholic, not nearly the man that my father was.
Emendemus in melius, quae ignoranter peccavimus: ne subito praeoccupati die mortis, quaeramus spatium paenitentaie, et invenire non possimus. (Responsory for Ash Wednesday)
There is much to repent and repair.
St Joseph reports that her latest tests show infection in her stents. She is optimistic that antibiotics will cope with this over the next few days. Keep praying!