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Excommunicating Intentions

For approving an abortion at an Arizona hospital late last year, Sr. Margaret McBride has incurred excommunication latae sententiae—meaning that her actions have caused her to excommunicate herself. Or so, at least, her bishop, Thomas Olmstead of Phoenix, has announced. And the bishop’s announcement has ignited something of a firestorm among Catholic commentators.

Read the rest of my piece at First Things' "On the Square."

Comments (241)

I'm sorry, but the reasoning here to try to use "double effect" has the wide-ranging effect that all abortions to save the life of the mother--or even where the life of the mother is _at risk_--are now justifiable as "indirect" under "double effect." That seems to me highly dubious as far as its relation to past Catholic teaching that I've encountered. I realize that many pro-lifers _do_ believe abortion should be allowed to save the life of the mother (though in this day and age and in America they should admit the practical irrelevance of the category), but it doesn't follow that the permissibility of abortion to stop risk to the life of the mother is permissible under Catholic moral teaching.

I'll have to research more about this nun. I think some bishops should be out there excommunicating some other nuns, like the one I recall reading about who is openly dissident on abortion and acts as an escort at Planned Parenthood! That might even have been a better place to start.

It is about D@#! time someone in the Catholic blogosphere posted about this issue - other than those in the lefty "hateosphere" who are persistently hammering away at Bishop Olmstead and Catholic healthcare for seemingly discounting the life of the mother. Apparently, the dictum "do no harm" holds no sway for those who wager the moral course is to sacrifice the life of the "fetus" (if you say "fetus" it doesn't hurt as much) through direct abortion to save the mother's life.

The heft of Michael's analysis, however, is on the Bishop's declaration of excommunication on the good Sister who - on behalf of the Catholic hospital - consented to the couples' (and the doctor's) decision. The notion that Sister McBride might be inculpable due to ignorance is an interesting consideration, and I would agree that the Bishop seemed precipitous in declaring the sister's excommunication publicly.

The lefty commentariat, on the other hand, seems particularly fixated on this textbook "hard case" (which many Catholic physicians seemed to promise didn't really exist) where the mother's pulmonary hypertension - plus the 11 week pregancy - was a death sentence for both mother and child. Sister McBride consented that the abortion was permissible to save - at least - the life of the mother. Bishop Olmstead, for his censure of the sister, reinforces for many the image of a Catholic Church disinterested in the well being of the mother ("think of St. Gianna" or "if you wanted an abortion you should have gone down the street to the death center") and unworthy of public health care dollars.

Anyone care to rebut the charges?

I had similar thoughts on the canonical question, but since I don't have a firm foundation there, I didn't publicly question the action. I'm not a fan of latae sententiae, thinking it causes more problems than it solves, but I wasn't going to use this case to discuss that. Thank you for writing on that question.

To the substance, I tend to come down on the objective side of the equation, e.g. the torturer should know what he is doing is torture, and abortion is still abortion. I'm more comfortable saying there is no happy solution to a problem and we have to live that, but as you point out, that is likely a more strict interpretation than what actual teaching is.

MarkC, you may find this interesting:

http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2010/may/10051712.html

In an interview with LifeSiteNews, Dr. Byrne said, “I don’t know of any [situation where abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother].

“I know that a lot of people talk about these things, but I don’t know of any. The principle always is preserve and protect the life of the mother and the baby.”

[snip]

Byrne emphasized that he was not commentating on what the woman’s particular treatment should have been under the circumstances, given that she is not his patient.

“But given just pulmonary hypertension, the answer is no” to abortion, said Byrne.

Byrne emphasized that the unborn child at 11 weeks gestation would have a negligible impact on the woman’s cardiovascular system. He said that pregnancy in the first and second trimesters would not expose a woman with even severe pulmonary hypertension – which puts stress on the heart and the lungs – to any serious danger.

A pregnant mother’s cardiovascular system does have “major increases,” but they only happen “in the last three months of pregnancy,” Byrne explained.

The point of fetal viability is estimated at anywhere between 21 - 24 weeks, at which point he speculated the baby could have been artificially be delivered and had a good shot at surviving. In the meantime the mother’s pulmonary hypertension could be treated, [snip]

“It’s not going to be any extra stress on the mother that she can’t stand,” said Byrne. “Eventually you get to where the baby gets big enough that the baby can live outside the uterus and you don’t have to do an abortion.”

“I am only aware of good things happening by doing that. I am not aware of anything bad happening to the mother because the baby was allowed to live.”

“The only reason to kill the baby at 11 weeks is because it is smaller,” which makes the abortion easier to perform, he said, not because the mother’s life is in immediate danger.

In any event, it does seem to me good that the bishop made it clear that Catholic teaching doesn't endorse a general life of the mother exception for abortion. If this abortion could be justified under Catholic teaching, then that's what that would amount to--a sheer life of the mother exception. While there are probably people who think there is such an exception, it was good for the bishop to teach clearly otherwise.

Thank you Lydia! That is the kind of information I was hoping would emerge. Amazing how often the "right" thing to do is also the medically viable thing as well ...

What I find the most interesting from the various articles on this case, the simple fact with all the medical advancements out there the board saw the abortion as the best case "treatment." Come on!!! They had this as their goal from the start and made their evidence fit their conclusion. All this is is an attempt to make abortion moral.

LSN finds trolls to find someone that agrees with their conclusion. Hardly shocking, particularly from them. Generally doctors (and lawyers) are reticent to discuss cases they haven't personally reviewed. Given that the details of this case aren't public, it was impossible for this doctor to do so. That should give you an idea of how considered his opinion is.

I think what Paul says is relevant: Look, especially in our litigious culture, doctors are always looking to cover their posteriors vis a vis the "gold standard" treatment for the patient. Now remember that, legally, the unborn child was not their patient. (Also, the unborn child can't sue!) It is certainly understandable that if you treat the unborn child as a nonentity in the medico-legal situation, you will say, "Hey, this woman's cardiovascular system already has problems; it's going to be under additional strain as the pregnancy progresses. The best medical thing to do _for her_, the gold standard of treatment for her qua patient, is to terminate the pregnancy now, while it's less physically and emotionally traumatic for her, before any problems might arise later." But what that _isn't_ is a situation, "Ahhh! She's slipping away! She's dying before our very eyes! We can save her only if we kill this baby now, now now!" [Baby is killed, mother consequently recovers suddenly from the brink of death.] To be very clear, I would not endorse the abortion even then. (Yep, you heard that here, folks.) But it seems pretty clear that that isn't what we're talking about. Thus is "life of the mother" now interpreted. And understandably so, once you really understand how the mind of a doctor works who sees only one patient in the case.

From what I've seen, this was a direct abortion. It was (intentionally) performed in order to save the life of the mother; in other words, as a means to an end. The principle of double effect does not apply.

I agree with George and Lydia: it is fairly clear from the evidence before us that the pregnancy was intentionally terminated because the pregnancy was causing the additional medical distress to the mother. That's direct abortion, regardless of any other intentions present or not present.

It may well be the case that McBride's culpability is diminished because of a faulty line of reasoning, a clouded mind due to seeing the distress of the mother and her family. But the bishop doesn't need to ascertain the level of her culpability to determine that she choose to approve a direct abortion.

By the way, Mike, the usual Catholic language about ectopic pregnancy and PDE is not (in my experience, anyway) focused on "direct vs indirect abortion", but rather that the object of the act of removing the fallopian tube is to remove an organ of the woman's body that is causing her a grave danger, and is virtually certain to kill her if left untreated. The "indirect abortion" language fails to talk about the positive act and its positive object.

And the old teaching about ectopic pregnancy is problematic anyway: there was, recently, a woman who gave birth to a baby following on an ectopic pregnancy, and she came through OK. And in any case, the blurring of the issue by calling the object of the act "removal of an organ that is causing her a grave danger" when the cause of it causing her grave danger is the presence of the baby makes it difficult to distinguish this from all the other "health of the mother" types of cases. I much prefer the doctor's suggested PDE example of the uterine cancer: the cancer condition is independent of the presence of the baby.

That said, I fail to understand why the Bishop thought that the sentence needed to be declared publicly.

Good for the Bishop. A long face and a moral theology degree are not a license to do objective evil.

The objective behavior chosen - the 'object' of the act - was in this case, to all appearances, not even a hard case abortion to save the life of the mother. It was an abortion to reduce risk to the mother: preventative murder as an insurance policy.

From Mike's column at FT:

Now if Olmstead had excommunicated McBride ferendae sententiae—by his own juridical act—this question would not arise. It would be a case of disagreement between two professionals, one of whom is in authority over the other; and the excommunication could be removed, in principle at least, by a pastoral resolution of the disagreement.

Isn't "a case of disagreement between two professionals" a somewhat strange way to express a sentence of excommunication? It just strikes me oddly.

Tony, can you provide a link on that ectopic case? The only thing I can imagine is that it was ectopic on top of the uterus or something of the sort--where I have heard of another ectopic child's surviving. "Ectopic," of course, merely means "located outside the uterus." It needn't mean "in the Fallopian tube."

I would very much like to see Catholic and other Christian scientists start engaging in vigorous animal research on transplanting ectopic pregnancies. I know the "animal research" part is a bit unpleasant, but if it could be done, it would be a huge thing. But perhaps I'm just ignorant and such research has already been pursued unsuccessfully.

The lefty commentariat, on the other hand, seems particularly fixated on this textbook "hard case" (which many Catholic physicians seemed to promise didn't really exist) where the mother's pulmonary hypertension - plus the 11 week pregancy - was a death sentence for both mother and child. Sister McBride consented that the abortion was permissible to save - at least - the life of the mother. Bishop Olmstead, for his censure of the sister, reinforces for many the image of a Catholic Church disinterested in the well being of the mother ("think of St. Gianna" or "if you wanted an abortion you should have gone down the street to the death center") and unworthy of public health care dollars.

Well, plainly, there IS no way to rebut the charges that the Catholic Church regards the death of both pregnant woman and fetus as strongly preferable to performing an abortion to save the woman's life: Bishop Olmsted and Father Ehrich, the medical ethics adviser for the Dioscese of Phoenix, both have explicitly, publicly declared that when the woman's life can only be saved by performing an abortion, a Catholic hospital must instead let the woman die - the fetus will die too, of course, but that seems to be OK.

Lydia cites a doctor Byrnes who appears to think that the woman couldn't have been dying because he's sure that at 11 weeks of pregnancy it's impossible. I have no notion what this is supposed to prove: why should anyone believe a doctor who wasn't in attendance on the dying woman, over doctors who were?

Jesurgislac, how do you figure that the Catholic Church prefers both to die? Let's say, hypothetically, that she absolutely needed to end the pregnancy at 11 weeks when the child obviously wasn't viable or else she would die. In that case the child should be removed from the womb, not murdered in it, and both the mother and child should be treated to the best of our abilities even though the death of the child is a certainty. There's a huge moral difference between lacking the capability to give the child the care it needs and intentionally killing it.

Brian: Jesurgislac, how do you figure that the Catholic Church prefers both to die?

Because that's what Bishop Olmsted, Father Ehrich (the medical ethics adviser to the Diocese of Phoenix) and indeed a Catholic theologican that NPR were quoting say: If the woman's life can only be saved by performing an abortion, then the woman has to die, because it can never be right to perform an abortion.

. In that case the child should be removed from the womb, not murdered in it

How do you know that's not what happened? This would be 11 weeks, give or take, so the normal method would be aspiration, which would also place the least strain on the woman's heart, as it is performed with only a local anaesthetic. A soft flexible tube and an aspirator are used to remove the pregnancy - fetus, placenta, and liquid - from the uterus. As the fetus is only 1.5 inches long at this point, s/he would be alive and whole when removed from the womb.

At 11 weeks, the fetus is not capable of surviving - there is absolutely no medical capacity on Earth that could keep a fetus alive at 11 weeks once removed from the womb - but presuming that the hospital performed the abortion in a way that would be usual in the first trimester, there's no reason to suppose but that the fetus was removed from the womb alive, and died outside the womb because the pregnant woman was the only capability to give the fetus the care it needed to stay alive, and doing so was killing her.

So, I repeat: did you read any account from the hospital of how they performed the abortion, and if not, why are you assuming that they did anything but the usual first-trimester aspiration?

Canon Lawyer Ed Peters weighs in on the legal aspects here, but what I found interesting was his link to a Q&A from the Diocese in pdf here. I've been having a little trouble figuring out what procedure was used and noted this:

What if the treatment provided to the mother results in the death of her unborn child?

Certainly a physician should try to protect both lives equally. If the child can grow past viability and
then can be delivered, that is always preferable. If, however, a necessary treatment brings about the death
of the child indirectly it may be allowable. A Dilation and Curettage (D&C) or Dilation and Extraction
(D&E), however, would never be such a treatment since it is the direct killing of the unborn child and is,
morally speaking, an abortion.

which suggests to me that it was either a D&E or D&C. That also makes sense because Mark Shea posted a Commonweal article that made the jaw-dropping assertion that it was not abortion, it's just surgically separating mother from child. That reminded me of a comment by Zippy that it is absurd to say "I didn't run that red light. I merely refrained from pressing on the brake which is a morally neutral act."

Lydia, here is a link.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7427907.stm

This was a case of ovarian pregnancy, not fallopian. So the medical risks were very different. Not that there was good prospects in this case either: apparently even for ovarian pregnancy, survival of the baby is essentially unheard of. This was an unusual case in every sense.

Jesurgislac, the correct description of what the Catholic Church teaches is that, if 2 people are at grave risk of death from natural causes, it is morally preferable that the 2 die by natural causes than to commit murder upon one to save the other. Do you think the reverse is true, that it is morally better to murder one to save the other?

Tony, 'natural causes' in this case is inaction from the hospital. It is the hospital's duty to do what they can to save her, and if they had simply stood there and let her die, we would be calling that murder. You're just trying to make it sound better by saying "letting them both die by natural causes". That's murder. If someone was attacking you and you knew they were going to kill you, and the only way you would live would be to kill them, wouldn't you? There was no way this fetus was even close to being viable, and the fetus was killing her. Saving one life is better than killing them both. Because, yes, inaction WOULD be murder in this situation.

Were you planning on telling her four orphaned children why their mother was dead, and why the hospital thought it was okay to murder her through inaction?

I always wonder where the foundations, charitable organizations are to investigate the huge number of pregnancies that end in miscarriage. If Catholics were truly "pro-life" they would be more concerned about reducing the number of miscarriages, not to mention they would care more about the countless children who have been sexually abused by men in powerful positions within the Church. This is about hatred of women and nothing else.

I disagree with Brian Walden. To deliberately remove an 11-week unborn child even intact from its mother is killing it. It's mere self-comfort to say otherwise or to pretend that one is doing anything other than the equivalent of throwing a man out of an airplane and saying, "Hey, it's not my fault we didn't have any parachutes."

Brian, it looks like (from the Catholic side) both Tony and Lydia are against you, and their interpretation is consistent with the Dioscesan response: the Catholic church prefers that both die rather than one live.

Scott W: If you can cite a reference from the hospital about the method used, that would be more convincing than a Q&A from the Dioscese.

I wonder how many of the commenters who think it is obligatory for the hospital to murder one person to save another would be willing to murder a mother in order to save her unborn child, should such a case present itself.

Interesting point, Zippy. Back in the bad old days before safe Caesarian sections, I believe that was sometimes even a possibility, though I don't know if it was actually done. A malpresented child might be delivered by deliberately cutting the cervix, resulting in the high probability of fatal hemorrhage for the mother. I suppose a more extreme but simpler version of the same might simply be a "field surgery" C-section without benefit of any medical facilities to save the mother's life.

Btw, Jsurg., I realize that my comments in this particular thread are confusing on this point, but I'm Protestant, not Catholic. My interest in there being clear Catholic teaching on these matters is that of a friendly, strongly pro-life bystander to intra-Catholic matters.

If I've misrepresented Catholic moral teaching on this matter, I apologize, it was my own misunderstanding. I defer to the Church concerning the moral principles involved.

Jesurgislac, the Church does not prefer both die rather than one live. Lydia summed it up well: "if 2 people are at grave risk of death from natural causes, it is morally preferable that the 2 die by natural causes than to commit murder upon one to save the other." There are acceptable courses of action where only one may live, but not where one is murdered.

That was Tony, but I totally agree with him.

Zippy: I wonder how many of the commenters who think it is obligatory for the hospital to murder one person to save another would be willing to murder a mother in order to save her unborn child, should such a case present itself.

My position is consistent: if action will save one, and inaction will let both die, then better act to save one life than have both die. There have been instances where a pregnant woman is dying and an early C-section could save the baby, where inaction would let both die. Obviously the pregnant woman must be consulted, but if she says "Yes, I consent to the c-section", fully aware that it will kill her earlier than her lethal illness, then I see nothing problematic in performing the operation that will kill her in order to birth her baby alive.

Presumably if the Church's position was consistent, they would argue that the woman could not be allowed to save the baby via a lethal C-section: the Catholic thing to do would be to deny the baby the life-saving operation that would kill the mother, and let both die.

(It would obviously be illegal to perform the operation on the woman if she had not consented, just as it would have been illegal to perform an abortion on the woman Sister McBride saved if the woman had not consented to it. We're not talking legal here.)

Brian: "Jesurgislac, the Church does not prefer both die rather than one live. "

I'm glad you at least oppose the doctrinal position set forth by Bishop Olmsted and Father Ehrich, and I hope other Catholics do too. (It also clarifies things that Lydia is actually presenting a Protestant position when she argues that it's better for both to die than for the woman to live.) But however humanely grassroots Catholics agree that Sister McBride was right to allow the abortion, everyone speaking with regard to Church doctrine has been in agreement: the Catholic Church wanted that woman to be left to die.

Scott W: If you can cite a reference from the hospital about the method used, that would be more convincing than a Q&A from the Dioscese.

Indeed it would and I would welcome the enlightenment, but if this was acceptably indirect people disagreeing with the bishop would be screaming it from the rooftops in plain language instead of the half-baked euphemisms. It's a bet, but a good one I think.

Jesurgislac, please don't put words in my mouth. Given the lack of details I think there's plenty of room for legitimate disagreement over the excommunication, but until proven otherwise I personally trust that the bishop used due prudence in coming to his decision. You really need to work on your reading comprehension. Lydia said she was a protestant but she wasn't presenting the protestant position. And even after she clearly stated the Church's stance and I quoted her exact statement, you still keep paraphrasing her as saying things she didn't say. What's up with that?

My position is consistent: if action will save one, and inaction will let both die, then better act to save one life than have both die. There have been instances where a pregnant woman is dying and an early C-section could save the baby, where inaction would let both die.
I accept that you think your position is consistent, but I don't think it is in fact consistent. For one thing, the consent you invoke as justification to do anything at all to the mother to save the child is entirely one-sided: you have no problem murdering the child without her (the child's) consent. So your position is predicated on the humanity of the mother and an assymetrical inhumanity of the child: a position the Church and right reason reject.

I will say though that even if your position were consistent, it would be morally monstrous. Any moral code which makes consent the sole criteria of the good is monstrous.

It is too bad the Canon Law does not include a host of other transgressions for which the excommunication was automatic as well.

Rather, the Catholic Church hides behind its role as simply being a gelded teacher rather than being a teacher who consciously allows those in the class who want to be there and, at least try to live it! The fruit of this silly "limited teacher" route is mass(total) confusion, which in my opinion stops at the doorstep of the bishops and in particularly, the Holy Father, who can, but never does, operate above and outside the Canon Law.

As a former Catholic with a huge axe to grind regarding the Catholic Church, which I love, I say it is simply absurd and, in fact evil, to imply, much less state, that the Catholic Church or anyone who holds to its teaching on this issue, would have wanted anyone left to die.

Jesurgislac,

You know none of the facts. Bishop Olmsted does. I will ignore your wrong-headed drivel until you do know the facts. It is not hard to recognize cooperation in abortion. Bishop Olmsted is not an idiot and automatic excommunication is based on straightforward principles.

Also, the mother is or can be baptized and should she die stands a better chance at heaven than an unbaptized infant. What mother worthy of the name would not give her own life to give her baby even five minutes of life so it may be baptized and enjoy eternal life? There are things more important than earthly life. I wish doctors would recognize this. As Fr. Maulkay said to Hawkeye: "When you lose a patient, you lose a life. When I lose a patient, I lose a soul."

The Chicken

Brian, if you feel I need to work on my reading comprehension, can you please point out to me where I've misunderstood, and Lydia is actually saying that Sister McBride was right, the abortion was correctly performed, because that way the woman's life was saved?

Because I've just re-read her comments, and I don't see anywhere Lydia is saying that it's a good thing that Sister McBride approved the abortion because that way at least the woman lived, instead of letting both die.

Karl: As a former Catholic with a huge axe to grind regarding the Catholic Church, which I love, I say it is simply absurd and, in fact evil, to imply, much less state, that the Catholic Church or anyone who holds to its teaching on this issue, would have wanted anyone left to die.

Well, that's great, but Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix explicitly disagrees with you: the Bishop and Father Ehrich have both directly and publicly upheld the "absurd and in fact evil" position that the woman should have been left to die.

The Chicken: Also, the mother is or can be baptized and should she die stands a better chance at heaven than an unbaptized infant.

Well, so, it appears another Catholic has shown up to explain to me that the right thing to do is to leave the woman to die pregnant.

It is simply rational, when faced with the exceedingly rare likelihood of having to make an instantaneous choice of life and/or death for two in the same circumstance, to chose to save the more vulnerable, on many levels, and the person with more life ahead of it.

In the case with an unborn child and a mother the child is more vulnerable and has more life ahead of it.

I seem to remember that when life boats, on a ship in the process of sinking, are populated the priority was, historically, given to women and children first and, the crew left last, with the Captain being the last. Their is a hierarchy of importance that has long been practiced. I had a video sent to me three days ago, quite appropriately for this discussion, by a very pro-choice women, who was moved by the actions of a father in this rapid sequence cause on a camera and which showed him turning his infant child away from an oncoming car as he CHOSE to absorb the impact with his body, as he attempted to shield the infant. What a man!

All of you who think otherwise should be ashamed.

... it appears another Catholic has shown up to explain to me that the right thing to do is to leave the woman to die pregnant.
Nothing tendentious in that "paraphrase" of the principle that it isn't OK to commit (among other things) murder, not even to save lives.

Remember, Jesurgislac, the more times you repeat your straw men the truthier they become.

Karl: It is simply rational, when faced with the exceedingly rare likelihood of having to make an instantaneous choice of life and/or death for two in the same circumstance, to chose to save the more vulnerable, on many levels, and the person with more life ahead of it.

But that wasn't the choice here. A pregnant woman was dying - pulmonary hypertension, heart failure caused by her pregnancy, that would shortly have killed her, if an abortion was not performed. She was 11 weeks pregnant.

It is impossible for a preemie to live at 11 weeks. There's a window at 20-24 weeks where you can argue possible/impossible, but there's no window at 11 weeks: when the pregnant woman died, the fetus was going to die too.

So the choice in this instance was: One death - that of the fetus, by performing an abortion: or two deaths, by leaving the pregnant woman to die.

The doctors, the mother - she had four children already, remember? - and Sister McBride, chose to preserve one life at least.

Bishop Olmsted, Father Ehrich, and several commenters in this thread, say it's better for both to die.

Where do you stand on this, Karl? Do you feel it would be better for a pregnant woman to be left to die, or is it better to perform an abortion so that one life at least is saved?

So the choice in this instance was: One death - that of the fetus, by performing an abortion: or two deaths, by leaving the pregnant woman to die.
No. The choice was to murder one in order to improve the survival odds of the other.

Zippy: Nothing tendentious in that "paraphrase" of the principle that it isn't OK to commit (among other things) murder, not even to save lives.

I'm just looking the facts in the face: either you perform the abortion, and the woman lives, or you refuse, and both the woman and the fetus she's carrying die.

Claiming this is a "straw man" is really wriggling away from this: two deaths or one? A real woman was really about to die, and a decision by Sister McBride allowed doctors in a Catholic hospital to save her life. This isn't some hypothetical: this was a real and horrible situation where doctors - and one brave nun - really did have to decide: two deaths, or one? I think it's to their credit that they chose for just one to die.

It's no straw man but plain on the Dioscesan website that Bishop Olmsted felt the right thing to do was leave the woman untreated and have two deaths not one.

You say that saving the woman's life was "to murder one in order to improve the survival odds of the other". But the survival odds for both were zero if the abortion were not performed. So again: one death, or two? This is not trivial to me: I value human life, I don't see how it could ever be right or compassionate to allow a patient in a hospital whose life could be saved simply to die, when the choice is just that - you can save one, or you can let two die.

I'm astonished and saddened to find that so many people on this thread argue that it's wrong to save one.

I would be broken by facing this choice but one cannot kill an innocent person in the hope of saving another.

This situation is a terrible tragedy but the only choice I could make would be to do all I could to save the child, if I had to make that choice.

I am comforted that I have not had to face this question. Since I live as a married, yet celibate man, I am likely not going to face it. I do, however, have a newly married daughter, who could die if she became pregnant, due to a medical condition that would, almost certainly, require very risky emergency neurological intervention in the even of pregnancy. There are two precious, quite young daughters(two of my five grandchildren) who could be left motherless in this circumstance. I could possibly lose all contact with them if their mother died.

I already know, that I would advise, God forbid, in the event that such a choice HAD TO BE MADE, to save the baby. I would be beyond agony but that is what I WILL DO if it happens, but that choice will not be mine, I am certain.

I pray, on occasion, that I am not placed in that position.

J:

I get it that you think it is morally obligatory to commit murder in a case where murdering one person who is expected to die eventually anyway is (the murder is) expected to save another person. (You seem to have left aside your earlier proposal that the person must consent to be murdered; but at any rate a person consenting to be murdered would not make murdering her morally acceptable).

I get all that.

It is just that (1) the moral code which leads you to that conclusion - a moral code which proposes that in some kinds of cases it is morally obligatory to do evil in order that good may come of it - is both monstrous and self-contradictory; and (2) it is far from clear that this particular case involved a choice to kill a definitely doomed baby in order to save an otherwise definitely doomed mother.

True, on a certain level (2) is irrelevant to the general point that it is never morally acceptable to do evil in order that good may come of it. And that - the fact that it is never morally acceptable to do evil in order that good may come of it, whatever the consequences of refraining to do evil in a particular case - seems to be what has you all outraged.

I'll affirm though that if you could stop the whole world from being destroyed by murdering (or raping, or torturing, etc) a small child, a child who will die anyway when the world is destroyed, you still shouldn't do it. If you shouldn't do it in order to save the whole world from utter destruction then you certainly shouldn't do it in order to save one person's life.

Sorry for being uncharitable in my last comment, Jesugislac. You do seem to be expending considerable electrons trying to defend a position that I do not think occurred in this case. In any case, where there is life, there is hope.

One may not kill a baby in the womb for any reason. Onemay sometimes kill adults for penal reasons. You seem to think that adults and unborn babies are the same moral object. They are not. Nor do they have the same relationship to people. People can be kind or cruel; a baby in the womb cannot be either. We are responsible for it; it can never be for us. Your reasoning is a subtle way to overlook these differences. It makes the mother and child equivalent pieces in some morbid game. They are not equivalent.

I object to your use of the word kill as either a synonym for murder or termination as if the Catholic position had never heard of the Seventh Commandment. Nature may ordain an end to a life without respect to the Commandment whereas men may not. You seem to be confused about what is doing the killing in your scenarios.

The Chicken

it is far from clear that this particular case involved a choice to kill a definitely doomed baby in order to save an otherwise definitely doomed mother.

Where do you find the lack of clarity? From all news reports, the situation was clear: the ethics board considered the medical testimony that the woman was going to die if an abortion was not performed, and that she was too ill to be moved into a surgical theater, let alone to another hospital. So the doctors who had examined the woman, and the nun who heard the evidence, were clear: this was a choice between two deaths or one, and they opted to perform the abortion so that the mother would live.

Dissenting opinions have been presented - but notably, as Michael Liccone points out in the main article, Bishop Olmsted avoided a pastoral resolution by declaring that Sister McBride had automatically excommunicated herself. Had he actually excommunicated her by his authority as her bishop, Church procedure would have allowed for her motives, the evidence on which her motives were based, and her belief that it is permissable for a Catholic hospital to perform an abortion to save the life of the mother, to be examined with Bishop Olmsted's belief that the hospital should have let the woman die rather than perform the abortion that saved her life. So Bishop Olmsted does not appear to have been willing to confront the evidence and allow a ruling based on the specific facts of this case.

To your first point: he moral code which leads you to that conclusion - a moral code which proposes that in some kinds of cases it is morally obligatory to do evil in order that good may come of it - is both monstrous and self-contradictory

But my moral code ends with the woman alive: your moral code ends with both the woman and her unborn child dead.

I'll affirm though that if you could stop the whole world from being destroyed by murdering ... a small child, a child who will die anyway when the world is destroyed, you still shouldn't do it.

Really? So you would rather kill seven billion than perform one abortion?

(or raping, or torturing, etc)

Forty-two priests from Arizona have been charged with raping or molesting children. Some have been laicized. Not one has been excommunicated. Indeed, in the whole sorry record of priests raping children, it's notable that never once has any Pope, Archbishop or Bishop declared that a priest who rapes or tortures a child is subject to automatic excommunication.

Sister McBride on the other hand...

Karl: I already know, that I would advise, God forbid, in the event that such a choice HAD TO BE MADE, to save the baby.

I appreciate your honesty, but I'm very glad - and I'm sure your daughter and those who love her are too - that you won't ever be allowed to decide that it's better to let her die and her unborn child die with her, than let doctors save her life.

Zippy's argument is that is better for everyone in the world to die than to perform one abortion. I'm glad he doesn't have his finger on the nuclear button. It is of course possible, if you were that way inclined, to end all abortion everywhere in the world all at once, by nuclear holocaust that kills everyone. I find that a monstrous moral code...

Jesurgislac you said,

Zippy's argument is that is better for everyone in the world to die than to perform one abortion. I'm glad he doesn't have his finger on the nuclear button. It is of course possible, if you were that way inclined, to end all abortion everywhere in the world all at once, by nuclear holocaust that kills everyone. I find that a monstrous moral code...

What are you talking about? Zippy's point is that to deliberately kill someone (without just cause, so self-defense doesn't count) is to commit an act of murder, which in all cases and utilitarian situations you can come up with, would be deplorable. So why would Zippy kill everyone in the world, if he thinks murder, in all possible situations, is wrong. Your completely distorting his arguments.

So what are you saying Jesurgislac that in certain situations killing the innocent is ok, as long as it is for the greater good.

PS...Oh yeah and stop distorting the specifics of this case to suit your arguments as well.

Zippy's argument is that is better for everyone in the world to die [from some other cause] than to perform one abortion.
Correct. It is never permissible to choose do evil in order that good may come of it, no matter how important a good you think it may be. If you think you are doing a good thing when you perform an intrinsically immoral act, you need to think again: no matter how important an end you have in mind, it cannot justify intrinsically immoral means.

This is moral theology 101.

I do think you make a reasonable point about the relative severity of juridical punishment for child rape versus abortion though, FWIW.

It seems that everyone had a choice in this affair - oh, except the baby. What a monsterous moral code God has, is that it? God had to suffer the death of one Innocent at the hand of man (and it was his son, his baby). You want us to condone another? Life, my dear Jesugislac is in God's hands. Your argument doesn't even come into consideration until you can say with certainty that God was not about to intervene and perform a miracle to save the mother and child. Opps...he can't, now.

Your position is not a rational postion to save the mother. It is, rather, a decision of despair. It is a sin against hope. I submit that it was that sin against hope manifesting itself as permission to abort that caused Sister to excommunicate herself.

The Chicken

So what are you saying Jesurgislac that in certain situations killing the innocent is ok, as long as it is for the greater good.

Apparently what Zippy, Lydia, and the others defending Bishop Olmsted's ruling are saying is that in certain situations washing your hands and letting a pregnant woman and unborn child die is ok as long as it is for the greater good.

I haven't seen anyone argue that it's especially ok for the pregnant woman to die because she's guilty, so it would appear that the lines drawn here are between two choices:

1. Letting two innocent lives end - doctors and nurses who know they could save the woman's life, simply allowing both pregnant woman and unborn child die.

2. Performing an abortion, so that one innocent life continues.

I think it's right to go for the choice that lets the woman live and that doesn't force medical personnel to stand by and watch her die. I don't know if that's a "greater good": I just value human life and I can't see that it can be right to decide it's better for two to die than one.

But I do think that Zippy and Lydia and the rest seem to be defending the principle that two should be let die rather than perform one abortion (or in Zippy's case that seven billion should die rather than perform one abortion) - which does suggest they have a concern for the "greater good" that overrides any value they might place on a human life.

Jesugislac,

Your "moral code" reminds me of the neo-cons who argue for torturing terrorists to uncover impending attacks and "save lives". So what of it - what if the mother (and her doctor) consented to the waterbording of her youngest child in order to possibly save the mother's life (that's the key to moral infallibility isn't it - "a woman's choice"). Would you be "on board" with that moral reasoning?

Jesurgislac, life isn't fair. It is only reasonable to save the mother by separating the baby from her womb after the baby is dead of natural causes. Otherwise, you become an executioner of the innocent. That is unjust and if it is unjust it is unreasonable. Saving the mother's life by killing the baby is an act of power, not reason. Why can't you see that?

The Chicken

"saying is that in certain situations washing your hands and letting a pregnant woman and unborn child die is ok as long as it is for the greater good."

There not saying it is for the greater good, there saying it is immoral to kill, and that means to say we should kill one to save another is wrong in principle. There saying letting someone die, although hugely unpleasant doesn't involve killing (or murder as they see it) so it is preferable.

And in this situation it wasn't a certainty that this women would die. So they killed the baby based on a probability.

"If you could bring about a universal and final beatitude for all beings by torturing one small child to death, would you think the price acceptable?"

MarkC, I first commented on this thread in response to your comment asserting that someone needed to "rebut the charges" that Bishop Olmstead and Catholic healthcare "seemingly discounting the life of the mother".

But apparently you now feel there's no need to "rebut the charges" - you're quite pleased and proud of the fact that I still find distasteful - that according to Catholic doctrine, the "right" thing to do was to let the pregnant woman die. You regard performing an abortion on an 11-week pregnant woman that let her live as the equivalent of torture.

I guess what I'm still interested in is: Why did you ever want to "rebut the charges" if you regard the death of a pregnant woman as a good thing?

If you think you can make the case that a deathly-ill pregnant woman carried to a Catholic hospital ought to be allowed to die, I am not really interested in debating that - I think it's clear that any hospital which isn't interested in saving the lives of its patients, ought to cease operation as a hospital: they may be able to continue to function as a clinic which takes no emergency cases, but if they're against saving people's lives, no one in their district or passing through should ever risk being left to die without treatment in their "care".

And I accept without understanding that you honestly think it's better for two to die than for one to be saved. I respect human life too much to think I'd eever actually understand such an attitude towards a living pregnant woman.

But I do wonder, still: why would you ever have wanted to "rebut the charges" when you have since made clear that you regard the "charges" as a moral standard: you feel, and defend as a principle, that it was proper and right for Bishop Olmsted and Catholic healthcare to regard the life of the pregnant woman and the fetus she was carrying with equal indifference.

I honestly do not see how anyone has even begun an authentic refutation of Jesurgislac. Indeed, I don't know that one is even possible. But I do know that calling evil actions by other, often merely euphemistic, names is not a refutation. To this point, nothing else has happened.

To say, for example, that aborting the child in order to save the mother's life is treating a human being as a means and not an end is just such a move. Apparently some think it's better to be dead and be classified as an "end" than to be alive and classified as a "means." Get it? Your rubric deals death to all concerned. Drop the rubric. Instead, save as much innocent life as you can. In such cases, one alive and one dead is more authentically pro-life than two dead every time. In other words, being against abortion isn't always the same as being pro-life, not when everyone involved ends up dead because of your allegedly pro-life principles. You judge a policy by its fruits, and yours, in this case, is pro-death, not pro-life. The two dead persons are proof.

I've read this site long enough to know that in response some will say "But that's mere consequentialism," as if by employing labels you like better it's actually pro-life to end up with two dead persons rather than with one person still alive.

It isn't.

You judge a policy by its fruits, and yours, in this case, is pro-death, not pro-life. The two dead persons are proof.
Well, that settles it then. The end justifies the means, and any defense of exceptionless moral norms is vacuous, because Mike Bauman says so.

OK, Michael, I won't call it consequentialism. But what I will say is that you appear to put being "pro-life" above being truly moral. The principles of morality are more fundamental than the question of whether one ought to be in favor of life in X situation or not. Indeed, figuring out whether being in favor of life in X situation cannot be rightly evaluated without relying on more fundamental principles.

Certainly there are cases where we OUGHT NOT be in favor of life as a practical choice, given the actual alternatives. For example, if a Roman proconsul tells me I must either worship Jupiter or be killed, my moral obligation is to choose to submit to death, not to save a life (i.e. my life). In that case, practically speaking I am being more pro-God than I am being pro-life. Likewise, if the proconsul tells me that I must either worship Jupiter or he will kill my daughter, again the answer is clearly not the one in favor of saving a life: I must not worship Zeus even though I fully expect that the result will be the death of my child. The mother in Maccabees shows us this 7 times over. It is better to accept the death God permits to come our way, or the way of our children, than to commit an intrinsically immoral act, even if that immoral act will prevent a death. So, being "pro-life" in those cases would be a funny kind of pro-life, one that puts this mortal, temporary, passing life above the life of the immortal soul.

Zippy, I fear that at least with some commentators, they simply don't believe that there are such things as "intrinsically immoral acts", and therefore they reject the notion that murdering an innocent baby has that character if the result is to save a life. And so I fear that arguing the point by showing that their position resolves to doing intrinsically immoral acts won't really get anywhere. Or, IOW, they don't really think that one should evaluate the worth of a human act by reference to its morality.

So, being "pro-life" in those cases would be a funny kind of pro-life, one that puts this mortal, temporary, passing life above the life of the immortal soul.

So essentially, the people who think Bishop Olmsted was right to assert that two deaths are better than one, are arguing this because neither the death of the fetus or of the mother actually mattered to them - the fetus's death at 11 weeks of development and the mother's death at 27 years of age would both have been just a "mortal, temporary, passing life" not nearly as important as saving their souls?

That's a valid religious position, I admit.

But no one who holds to that position, that it's simply not worthwhle saving a mortal, temporary, passing life, has any business at all working in a hospital. A hospital's entire concern is with saving those mortal, temporary, passing lives, and rightly so: you don't go to hospital to be told "Yes, you have appendicitis, and it will soon kill you, but that's just your mortal, temporary, passing life. Rather than direct you to a surgeon who will remove your appendix so that you can live, I will now pass you on to our spiritual director who will endeavor to save the life of your soul before your appendix bursts and you die."

Likewise, if the proconsul tells me that I must either worship Jupiter or he will kill my daughter, again the answer is clearly not the one in favor of saving a life: I must not worship Zeus even though I fully expect that the result will be the death of my child.

It is a very harsh but very consistent religious position you present, of a God who will not ever forgive a man who bows down to an idol in order to save someone else's life. Of course that does present Pope Benedict as someone who can't be forgiven because he chose to become a member of Hitler Youth rather than risk death. (Christian resisters did have a high mortality rate in Nazi Germany, but it wasn't quite certain - young Ratzinger might have lived if he had chosen the moral path of refusing to join an evil organization.) So I take it, Tony, that you feel Pope Benedict should have died as a teenager rather than join Hitler Youth - that the Ratzinger parents should have chosen for their children to be killed rather than allow them to become members of a Nazi organization?

Masked Chicken: Your argument doesn't even come into consideration until you can say with certainty that God was not about to intervene and perform a miracle to save the mother and child.

That seems to be the ultimate agreement with Jesurgislac's point. Why do anything but pray to God? Those dying of disease may be healed by God at any moment, those suffering of hunger may find manna falling from heaven, those who cry may be comforted by Him. In a world where God himself can take up such great works, isn't the greater glory to spend every waking moment in contemplation and supplication to Him?

To the majority on this thread, it seems appropriate that living a life devoted to God is best exemplified by lifting no hand for any cause except to praise God.

But no one who holds to that position, that it's simply not worthwhle saving a mortal, temporary, passing life, has any business at all working in a hospital.
Nobody involved in or discussing this case holds that position, though, obviously. If morally acceptable means are available to save innocent life, those means ought to be used.

The position of traditional morality and right reason is that there are some specific things one never ought to do: that there are some means which cannot be justified by any end. In short, that there are such things as universal moral norms prohibiting specific kinds of behavior as means, no matter what ends one invokes as justification for those means.

Furthermore, murder is one of those specific things one never ought to do, no matter what end one is pursuing; and abortion is a species of murder.

I don't really understand the satisfaction some folks seem to get from arguing with what everyone in the discussion knows is a straw man.

Nobody involved in or discussing this case holds that position, though, obviously.

Well, hopefully no one who has argued that position - you, Tony, Lydia, The Anchoress, The Chicken, MarkC, etc - actually works in a hospital.

I don't really understand the satisfaction some folks seem to get from arguing with what everyone in the discussion knows is a straw man.

I'm still not seeing how it's a straw man. You hold the position that it's better to let seven billion people die than to perform one abortion: others have explicitly stated, if not going as far as you, that it's better to let two lives end than perform one abortion. Because causing death by inaction when you know that you could save at least one life, is apparently the Catholic morality.

That's what MarkC initially said he wanted to rebut - the idea that Catholics are indifferent to human life. But that is in fact the idea that has been defended and celebrated by both Catholics and Protestants through this thread - that human life is irrelevant and unimportant.

I think murder is bad because I think human life is important. That's why I think Sister McBride made the right call: save at least one life.

But Tony, and you, and Lydia, and all the others, have consistently argued that it would have been better to let the pregnant woman die. I can't understand how that disrespect for human life translates for you into a distaste for murder, as you identify abortion as murder: if preservation of life is unimportant, why is murder such a big deal for you?

... hopefully no one who has argued that position ... I'm still not seeing how it's a straw man.
To be clear, you stated "that position" as:
... it's simply not worthwhle saving a mortal, temporary, passing life, ...
"That position" is not a position held by anyone in the discussion. Thus, it is a straw man.

If you really can't see that after all that has been said, there probably isn't anything I can do to help improve your understanding. Just understand that every time you speak as if that was someone's position you aren't accomplishing anything other than to trumpet your lack of understanding.

"That position" is not a position held by anyone in the discussion.

You keep saying this, and yet this whole discussion has been directly caused by the assertion by Bishop Olmsted, supported by many others including you that it is not worthwhile saving a pregnant woman's life by performing an abortion: that it is better to have both woman and unborn child die together, than have the woman live.

You yourself asserted that it was not worthwhile saving seven billion people if you could do so by perfoming one abortion.

You keep claiming I'm not understanding you. And yet, the facts are: you are arguing for mass deaths over a single abortion. Others have simply argued for double deaths over a single abortion.

Claiming I "don't understand" when others keep joining the thread to restate the case that it's better for two to die than one to be saved, is rather futile, don't you find?

Zippy's point is that you can do everything up to the abortion to save the women's life (but you can't cross over that line into murder), so when you claim that they believe "it's simply not worthwhile saving a mortal, temporary, passing life," your creating a straw man, because its not that they don't care about her life, there willing to do everything possible as long as it doesn't cross over into murder, which they see as wrong in all possible contexts and situations, which means this one included.

Also, not everyone in this thread believes that, and there's Catholics who would find it acceptable to perform abortions to save the women's life, (unlike Zippy who wouldn't in any perceivable situation) they just don't think this specific case covers that point, since it wasn't a clear cut certainty in this case.

... it is not worthwhile saving a pregnant woman's life by performing an abortion...
That at least is a marginal improvement over the straw men you have been stating, since you include both the means and the end in the statement; though it still conflates distinct things, specifically by using the term "worthwhile", as if your opponents in the argument were making an evaluation of the value of the end being sought. That is, you still fail to clearly and separately consider means and ends, which is precisely what is at issue.

Evil means can never be justified by claiming that the outcome is worthwhile, even when in fact the outcome considered in itself is worthwhile. The fact that it is wrong to choose evil means to accomplish a worthwhile outcome does not imply that the outcome is not worthwhile considered separately from the evil means proposed to accomplish it.

The straw man consists in the ongoing insistence that rejecting evil means necessarily entails rejecting or discounting the importance of a worthwhile end. It is and has always been fundamental to morality though that ends and means are different, and that a good end cannot justify evil means. Again, this is truly basic to having any discussion of morality at all.

Now, you may well reject the idea that in this particular case the means chosen is evil: you may reject the idea that abortion is always murder and therefore always morally wrong, no matter what end it is directed toward. But that is quite different from what you have been doing, to wit, insisting that anyone in the discussion thinks that the end - saving the mother's life in this case - is not worthwhile, is unimportant, etc. You are just flatly wrong about the position of the people you are arguing against when you assert things like that; and as I said, all that accomplishes is to trumpet your misunderstanding.

Phantom Blogger: because its not that they don't care about her life, there willing to do everything possible

...except actually save her life.

This was not a hypothetical. This was a real woman, about to die before she reached her 28th birthday. If St Joseph's hadn't performed the abortion, the woman would have left the hospital in her coffin. Still technically pregnant, but dead. The fetus would have died with her.

Also, not everyone in this thread believes that

True: Lindsey, Michael Bauman, and Spherical Time have all argued in favor of saving the woman's life. Everyone else has strongly or mildly argued that it was wrong to do so.

and there's Catholics who would find it acceptable to perform abortions to save the women's life, (unlike Zippy who wouldn't in any perceivable situation) they just don't think this specific case covers that point, since it wasn't a clear cut certainty in this case.

No one's been able to show any evidence that the woman would have lived if the abortion had not been performed; all the evidence from the hospital, from the doctors who actually examined the woman, and from the Catholic ethicist on the spot, is that it was a clear cut certainty that either the abortion was performed or the woman died.

Zippy: But that is quite different from what you have been doing, to wit, insisting that anyone in the discussion thinks that the end - saving the mother's life in this case - is not worthwhile, is unimportant, etc. You are just flatly wrong about the position of the people you are arguing against when you assert things like that;

I don't see that I am. You are the one who has argued most strongly against the idea it's worth saving the woman's life, and most in favor of death. You have in fact argued in favor of mass death rather than performing a life-saving abortion. When you argue that it's better for seven billion to die rather than for one life to be saved, how can you expect anyone to believe that you think even one human life is important or has value?

I'm very disappointed in Michael Bauman's position here. I knew that there were mostly pro-life people out there who believe in an abortion to save the mother's life. But I didn't know that a) they would be so quick as one has to be to assume that that is the case as they have to be to accept that characterization here, and b) I didn't know that they were so doctrinaire about it as to be angry at their fellow pro-lifers for not allowing that exception.

Michael, I consider that it's those who _don't_ allow a life of the mother exception who are being broad-minded by making common cause with those, like you, who _do_ allow that exception. Things being what they are, I do in fact support coalitions between those who would allow a life of the mother exception and those who wouldn't. But for goodness' sake, please spare us the self-righteousness. That makes me more disappointed than anything else. I can still respect you if you make what you consider to be an agonizing decision that there must be a life of the mother exception, though I think you are clearly wrong to conclude that. But I can't respect your anger at your more consistent fellow pro-lifers because they believe that suctioning babies out of their mother's wombs, curetting them into pieces, etc., is just always wrong, period. Yes, some things are just always wrong. If that isn't sufficiently un-philosophical language for you, I don't know what is. I've managed to avoid not only "consequentialism" but also "utilitarianism," though why a highly intelligent and well-respected academic should dislike the use of well-known philosophical terminology for what is clearly his position is rather beyond me. But we can put it in simpler terms. You apparently don't think that there are certain things that are always wrong, period, if the consequences (there's that word again) of refusing to do them involve more lives lost. That's where you are wrong.

Yes, some things are just always wrong.

Well, we agree on that, even if we can't agree on what things.

I think it's always wrong to let someone die when you could save them.

You think it's always wrong to perform an abortion, even when doing so will save a life.

But given that you don't believe human life is important enough to be saved, what is your objection to abortion? You don't mind that the fetus dies - you just mind the woman's life being saved via an abortion.

It has to do with the small matter of deliberately killing an innocent human being. Consequentialists and utilitarians of all stripes believe that not doing x to save a human being--whatever heinous thing x might be--is tantamount to killing the human being who dies because one wouldn't do x. I don't believe that. It's pretty simple, really.

It has to do with the small matter of deliberately killing an innocent human being.

But this is what's puzzling me.

There are two innocent human beings concerned: the pregnant woman, and the fetus.

The fetus is going to die. The choice is only whether the fetus dies
- dies because of being removed from the uterus (at 11 weeks development, by aspiration: removed whole, dies because the woman's body is no longer keeping the fetus alive)
- dies because the Catholic church mandates that the doctors deliberately withhold life-saving care from the pregnant woman until she dies (at 11 weeks development, the fetus dies probably simultaneously with the pregnant woman, but certainly not long after)

You're okay with the doctors deliberately withholding life-saving care from a woman whom they know will die without that care. Apparently, you do not regard the withholding of care till a patient's death as murder. (I presume you did not regard the death of Terri Schiavo as murder either, since that too was just the withholding of life-saving care.)

You don't care that fetus dies - that's not part of your moral equation.

You don't care that the woman dies - that's not part of your moral equation.

So if you don't care about death, on what moral level can you disapprove of murder?

Has anyone yet addressed the fact that in this particular case it was the presence of the fetus in combination with the underlying medical condition that was literally killing the mother?

Remove the fetus, and the mother's chances of survival go from zero to significantly above zero.

In that case how can you reject the self-defense argument?

Carrying the fetus is indeed what's killing her.

In any case at 11 weeks the fetus can't survive outside the womb, even if removed alive from the mother (at least given current technology)

Has anyone yet addressed the fact that in this particular case it was the presence of the fetus in combination with the underlying medical condition that was literally killing the mother?

No. Because the medical details have not been disclosed for examination afaik. If they have, I'd like to see the source.

Of course, the self-defense argument has also been addressed in many-a publication and discussion. An unborn child is not an aggressor.

Lydia, Zippy, and others believe that the results of action should never be a part of the moral calculus. Consequently, they would quite comfortably see an entire town destroyed, and ever person in it dead than perform an act they deem immoral. This is, to quote someone they claim to respect, the letter killing. So long as their own nice little consciences are clear, the actual effects of their actions make no difference at all.

Lydia, Zippy, and others believe that the results of action should never be a part of the moral calculus.
Wrong. What I believe, what right reason and a very long tradition of moral thought affirms, and what the Catholic Church teaches, is that there are certain things (rape, murder, torture, adultery, fornication, blasphemy, etc) one ought never do; and that appealing to the putative consequences of refraining from doing those particular things cannot justify doing those things. It is never morally acceptable to commit rape, for example, even if a madman has promised to destroy the world if you refrain from committing rape. Ditto murder, of which abortion is a species.

That doesn't mean that the results of action or inaction should never be a part of moral calculus. It means that certain kinds of positive acts - intrinsically immoral acts - can not ever be morally justified, no matter what appeals are made to putative consequences of refraining from those kinds of acts.

It is (again) one thing to disagree that murder generally and abortion specifically are kinds of acts one ought not ever do, no matter what justification one thinks one has for doing them. It is another thing entirely for commenters to stamp their tiny little feet and engage in full frontal assaults on straw men.

And again (yet again), this is rudimentary moral theology. Someone who is unable to understand it enough to even be capable of paraphrasing the position accurately is like the average five year old trying to explain calculus. All the repeated strawmen are accomplishing is to erect a large billboard advertising the ignorance of certain commenters.

What I believe, what right reason and a very long tradition of moral thought affirms, and what the Catholic Church teaches, is that there are certain things (rape, murder, torture, adultery, fornication, blasphemy, etc) one ought never do; and that appealing to the putative consequences of refraining from doing those particular things cannot justify doing those things.

That's a weasel word you dropped in there, "putative". Supposed consequences.

We're discussing a situation where the consequences were known. You can't face that? You are perhaps not ready to have this discussion, and that may explain why you keep veering on to verbal abuse of me because I keep trying to have the discussion you don't want to have.

You and Lydia argue that it's not murder for doctors to deliberately withhold life-saving treatment from a pregnant woman knowing that she'll die without it and the fetus with her: that because the life-saving treatment is to abort the pregnancy, and abortion is always wrong, it's got to be preferable for both pregnant woman and fetus to die, because it's impossible for you to justify in your mind saving one life by performing an abortion.

You are taking the position that it is better for two to die than for one to die, because it is always wrong to perform an abortion.

What is wrong about abortion, in your moral view? If death is a nothing - if two deaths are better than one, if it's not possible to justify performing an abortion by the life thus saved - what exactly is wrong with abortion? You say abortion is a form of murder, as if that explained it, but what most people think is wrong with murder is that it involves taking a human life - and you and Lydia have made quite clear that you see nothing wrong with taking two human lives, providing you avoid performing an abortion.

So why do you feel that abortion is wrong?

Because it's active murder of an innocent baby. How hard is this?

... you and Lydia have made quite clear that you see nothing wrong with taking two human lives...
Keep on blowing that trumpet, J. If you never get around to actually understanding the positions of those you argue against, it won't be for lack attempts to explain it to you.

The "putative" applies in the actual case we are discussing, BTW, as several folks have pointed out to you several times. There isn't anything weaselly about it. In the abstract I have no problem dropping it though, and discussing a hypothetical case of moral certainty, which is different from the present actual case. It is not morally acceptable to murder, rape, torture, blaspheme, etc as a means to any end, including the end of saving one life, or all lives in the entire world, even in a hypothetical case where we are certain that everyone will die from some other cause if we don't perform the intrinsically immoral act. Morality is about things we choose to do, and there are some things we ought never choose to do, among them commit murder. As Pope John Paul II teaches in Veritatis Splendour, there are certain negative moral norms - prohibitions against certain kinds of behavior - which apply always and everywhere. The prohibition against murder is one of those universal norms.

That doesn't mean that saving physical lives is not very important. It just means that it isn't morally acceptable to actively do evil in the pursuit of any end, including those very important ends. (Indeed this is true by definition: an evil act by definition is something we ought not do).

You are taking the position that it is better for two to die than for one to die, because it is always wrong to perform an abortion.

Just chiming in to verify that your ignorance is showing. To translate something like "it is better that two people die without murdering one of them than for one to die by murdering him" into "it is better for two to die than for one to die" is either deliberate equivocation for the purpose of obfuscation and deception or a complete lack of awareness that you are misstating them. (And I'm not even sure I'm doing it justice.)

I mean, seriously, dude. Anyone with two brain cells has enough to triangulate the planet-sized gap in that equivocation.

Either a gross refinement of your understanding or a recognition that your deception doesn't wash here is necessary. I'm not sure which.

The "putative" applies in the actual case we are discussing

No, it doesn't. All the direct evidence we have from the doctors who actually attended the pregnant woman, and the ancillary evidence that Sister McBride believed that Directive 47 applied, is that in this actual case we are discussing, the consequence if you had the power to prevent the abortion was one dead pregnant woman, fetus dead inside her. The direct consequence of your choice is two deaths.

Several people have tried to claim that maybe she might have lived. But no one's pointed out any evidence whatsoever that changes what we actually know.

It is not morally acceptable to [perform an abortion], etc as a means to any end, including the end of saving one life

So again - if you have no problem with two people dying as a result of your refusal to perform an abortion, what is your moral problem with abortion?

Lydia: Because it's active murder of an innocent baby. How hard is this?

Because you have no problem letting the innocent baby die inside the innocent woman when you actively withhold treatment from her, knowing that she will die.

I find it very hard to understand why you think it's wrong to let an innocent baby die, but not wrong to let an innocent woman and an innocent baby die. How does the additional death of the woman make causing the death of the innocent baby magically OK?

So again - if you have no problem with two people dying as a result of your refusal to perform an abortion, what is your moral problem with abortion?
Care to restate the question in a way that accurately reflects my position? I'll answer it if you do, and you may find the attempt educational.

Why am I bothering to answer this? Because I'm not actively killing anyone, see?

I find it very hard to understand why you think it's wrong to let an innocent baby die, but not wrong to let an innocent woman and an innocent baby die.

It is very telling that your description completely avoids the fact that a baby would be deliberately killed in the scenario. You avoid the truth, and scoffing at those who don't. But what's a little murder have to do with anything?

How does the additional death of the woman make causing the death of the innocent baby magically OK?

Do you make no distinction at all between death and murder? Are you really that far gone?

Zippy: Care to restate the question in a way that accurately reflects my position?

I did. I'm sorry you can't face the reality of your position.

Lydia: Because I'm not actively killing anyone, see?

So when a doctor deliberately withholds healthcare from a patient, in the sure knowledge that the patient will die without that care, the doctor is not actively killing the patient? I'm just checking because a lot of pro-lifers got very het up about doctors actively withholding healthcare from Terri Schiavo, which eventually resulted in her death. You feel that simply stepping back and doing nothing, knowing that means the person you could help will die as a direct result of your inaction, is not "active killing"?

RUs: I'm delighted that both Zippy and Lydia, though we disagree profoundly, have managed for the most part to refrain from personal abuse.

But Jesurgislac's point is that the underlying problem with murder is that it results in a death. So if death is ultimately the thing to avoid, why is it better let both the woman and the fetus die, whereas if action was taken only the fetus would die?

Infact, deliberately letting the woman die when you have the ability to save her is just the same as murder.

As a thought problem:

Supposing that there were a form of extreme support which would keep the blood flowing round the body, the lungs pumping, etc, that is used for long-term organ donor maintenance (say six months) and that kills a living person within a hour or so of being hooked up to it. Suppose this could have been used to keep the corpse of the woman at St Joseph's sort of alive, at least for long enough that her uterus would remain viable and the fetus could be removed at 28 weeks. If that extreme support did exist so that a corpse could be used as an incubator, so that there genuinely were three choices:

1. The pregnant woman is left to die, and when she dies the fetus dies too.
2. Perform an abortion: 11-week fetus dies once removed from the uterus, but the woman lives.
3. Kill the pregnant woman and have the fetus incubate inside her corpse for four or five months, removing the live baby in the third trimester.

Suppose that the situation is as it was at St Joseph's: the pregnant woman, told she's dying unless she has an abortion, opts for the abortion.

Which of these three options do you think St Joseph's, and Sister McBride, should have chosen?

Me:

Care to restate the question in a way that accurately reflects my position?
Jesurgislac:
I did. I'm sorry you can't face the reality of your position.
You aren't even trying. As a bonus, if you restate your questions in a way that accurately reflects my position, I'll explain to you how the Shaivo case was a case of active murder not merely allowing someone to die of natural causes.

Sparky:

... the underlying problem with murder is that it results in a death...
No, it isn't. (I guess moral theology elementary school is truly in session in this thread).

There are a number of reasons why knifing someone to death is an immoral act of murder, yet when someone dies of old age or a heart attack or whatever it is not an immoral act of murder. (Hint: part of the problem - though only part of it - is with the "results in a ..." language, as if some abstracted physical outcome-state in the world were what constitutes a moral act).

Zippy: I'll explain to you how the Shaivo case was a case of active murder not merely allowing someone to die of natural causes.

That's interesting.

So, when a woman whose "cerebral cortex had been completely destroyed and replaced by cerebrospinal fluid" and who "no longer had any cognitive function" (quotes from Levels of Awareness and the Damaged Human Brain) is allowed to die without further treatment, this is "active murder", even though Terri Schiavo had been cognitively dead for years before the feeding tube was removed. (The videos purporting to show her eyes tracking a balloon were shown at the autopsy to have been faked - the vision centres of her brain were dead, she could not see).

But when a pregnant woman and her unborn child are allowed to die without further treatment, even though the woman is aware, conscious, able to consent to life-saving treatment, and asks for her life to be saved (since nothing can save the unborn child) this is not "active murder".

Why does it cease to be murder if a woman isn't brain-dead?

Or is it the pregnancy that makes it not murder when a woman is killed by withholding treatment?

Is it okay to murder pregnant women, or not-okay to murder brain-dead women?

Why is the Catholic Church okay with killing pregnant women?

Zippy,
When J re-states your position accurately, you reject the restatement because it does not employ your euphemisms. J's got the position correct, and is using accurate language by which to convey it. You are not.

The Orwell in you opts for a position that ends up with two dead persons rather than one, yet still wants to be called pro-life. J isn't buying the Zipspeak, and neither am I.

So when a doctor deliberately withholds healthcare from a patient, in the sure knowledge that the patient will die without that care, the doctor is not actively killing the patient? I'm just checking because a lot of pro-lifers got very het up about doctors actively withholding healthcare from Terri Schiavo, which eventually resulted in her death. You feel that simply stepping back and doing nothing, knowing that means the person you could help will die as a direct result of your inaction, is not "active killing"?

Dear Jerugislac,

Several things (and please, forgive me for sounding harsh - I am a bit too passionate, this morning - consider the arguments, not the tone):

First with regards to the Shaivo case, I assure you, you have no idea what you are talking about. I know more about the specifics of the case than anyone here (and for prudential reasons, I will avoid discussing why). Shaivo was stupidly, deliberately killed, with rationalization to avoid guilt. Period.

The baby in this case was also deliberately killed and your arguments are providing the rationalization for this one. Period.

In the Shaivo case, Terry was killed to provide her husband with a convenient out; in the case of the baby, it was killed to provide a convenient out for the mother. Let me put this in bold letters: UNLESS YOU, YOU PERSONALLY, HAVE ALL OF THE FACTS (and not just the one-sided facts presented by the pro-abort side, so far), YOU REALLY DO NOT KNOW WHY BISHOP OLMSTED FELT THE NEED TO PUBLICLY ANNOUNCE THE EXCOMMUNICATION OF SISTER McBRIDE. Quit pretending to facts you do not have.

That being said, let me calm down and try to explain a few points.

God created both mother and child. He has sovereign rights over both. He may give life or take away life. That is his to do.

He has placed certain restrictions on man so that man may not think of himself as equal to God. One of those restrictions is: though shalt not murder. If a man does, he puts himself not in God's position, but above God's position, because when God ordains a man to die, it is just and rational. When a man takes another man's life, without God's permission, he commits an act of injustice towards the man he kills as well as towards God, whose role he usurps. Injustice is always irrational. Thus, for a man to murder, especially the innocent, he commits an act that is both unjust and irrational. It is a violation of both the Seventh and First Commandments.

If the baby dies in the mother womb, God is the actor and it is his sovereign right to allow this to happen. If a man removes the baby and let's it dies, he is murdering the baby. He is not only playing God, he is playing a super-God, since even God, himself, would not remove the baby just to let it die. If the baby and mother are to die because we, as man, acknowledge God's laws, then what of it? That is a matter for God.

In the second temptation of Christ in the desert, Satan told Christ to throw himself off of the parapet of the Temple because surely God would save him. He refused because it would have put God to the test. It would be an attempt to make God act in a way this was inconsistent with his nature as the Sovereign. God is in charge. He is not at the beck and call of any old man who wants to presume on his mercy.

Likewise, the devil suggested that the doctors to throw the baby out from the womb of the mother so the mother could be rescued, presuming that God really didn't say, "Thou shalt not kill'" but rather, "If you think there is no other way, then, I didn't really mean it. Go ahead and kill."

The doctors are not God; they are not cooperating with God by killing the baby. If the baby dies, what is that to you. That is in God's hands. If the mother dies (ASSUMING - BIG IF) because we refused to kill her baby, what is that to you? That is in God's hands. If you think an injustice is being done, then your disagreement isn't with Bishop Olmsted, it is with God. Perhaps, you should take the matter up with him.

I suppose that Abraham wanted to spare his son and that he though God was being too harsh in demanding that he kill his son, but he went ahead with the attempt because that was what the Sovereign God demanded. You may suppose that God is being too harsh in requiring that the baby be allowed to live (even if only for a time) in this case, but that is what we must do because we are not God. We do not have the power of life and death nor the vision to see what is true. You assume the mother would have lived had the baby been removed, but neither you nor the doctors knew this at the time. Perhaps she would die during the extraction procedure. No one knew, except God. I cannot agree with your assessment because, for one additional reason beyond the moral ones, in the original decision to abort the baby the doctors were merely speculating that the mother would live. Basically, she got lucky.

What is worse, even if she had lived for a few more years because of the procedure, it is possible that she may (or the doctors) suffer a worse fate in the next life because of the abor. Perhaps it is better that the mother die, now, than suffer for all eternity for committing mortal sin.

Which would you prefer: a little more temporal life or life eternal? Which is the higher good? You either take God at his word or you put yourself in God's place.

I say, again, you simply do not know all of the facts. You see as man sees, not as God sees. No one can see as God sees, but we can do what he has said to do and let him take care of the rest.

To Spherical Time:

By all means pray to God. If man can morally act to aid in God's plan, then he must. If he cannot, then prayer is the first and last recourse. In this case, there is little man can do, morally. He must place things in God's hands. It is not I who am putting God to the test, it is you. You are testing whether or not God truly meant the Ten Commandments.

The Chicken

The Orwell in you opts for a position that ends up with two dead persons rather than one, yet still wants to be called pro-life. J isn't buying the Zipspeak, and neither am I.

The problem is that two dead persons by moral means is better than one live person by immoral means. If you can't believe that abortion is murder, just say so and be done with it.

The Chicken

Michael Bauman:

Perhaps if you stamp your tiny little feet even harder reality will bend, and your mischaracterizations of others' arguments will become true.

I'm delighted that both. . . .

Do you distinguish between death and murder, or not? And if you do, why do you keep avoiding the fact that your interlocutors are examining a case of murder? Sure, as they have already indicated to you, you can deny that it is murder, but to continuously restate their position as not seeing it as murder is just that ignorant, and I'm sorry if that comes off as insulting or abusive, but it's true.

A new definition of euphemism: A position stated in an inconvenient way to those who wish to avoid facing the implications of the position.

Hint: Neither one of you guys have even properly faced the premise. You try to build words without knowing what letters are. How do you expect to complete a sentence?

Let me just add that if (in some science fiction scenario) the only way to keep some helpless person--T.S. or anyone else--alive were to kill some other innocent person and (say) give the helpless person the dead person's blood to drink, this would of course be profoundly wrong, and it would be necessary to let the helpless person die rather than to set up the cannibalistic feeding. If, however, you have a helpless person dependent on you--an infant or anyone else incapable of eating and drinking on his own--and you can simply go on feeding him without killing anyone else, then it is evil not to do so, to neglect the person to death--e.g., to put your newborn infant in the closet and leave him to dehydrate to death.

This is a perfectly consistent position.

The trouble with a blanket life of the mother exception is that it treats as "neglect" of person A the refusal to kill person B for the sake of saving person A.

Lydia:

... were to kill some other innocent person and (say) give the helpless person the dead person's blood to drink, this would of course be profoundly wrong, and it would be necessary to let the helpless person die rather than to set up the cannibalistic feeding.

To be fair to Jerugislac's position, I think it is the classic "gonna die anyway" scenario: if A is gonna die anyway, and we can save B only by killing A "early", it isn't murder to kill A to save B. The expected outcome after all is said and done is what fully determines the morality of the act.

I think the position is wrong, though I don't think it is crazy. I think it is simply wrong to kill dying innocent man A in order to save dying innocent man B, ever: that this is a case of murder, pure and simple, though it is a "hard case".

But that isn't the problem.

The problem is that Jerugislac and Michael Bauman are simply stamping their feet and refusing to accurately characterize the positions of those who disagree with them. Whether this is out of willfulness or ignorance I can't say, but it has to be one of the two.

Zippy, then what is it about murder that is so wrong. Death IS the unwanted outcome. It's a sin because someone else is taking away your right to not die prematurely. It isn't a sin when someone dies from old age or a heart attack because no one is forcing another person to die, but death is still not a welcome outcome. That's why I assume Catholics have so many hospitals, in the hopes of helping sick people not die. Murder is wrong because someone is dying when they wouldn't have in the first place. Allowing a woman to die in a well-equipped hospital for the sake of religious dogma is just as big a sin as murder.

The Chicken asked a good question:

"The doctors are not God; they are not cooperating with God by allowing the woman to die. When the baby dies, what is that to you. That is in God's hands. When the mother dies because we refused to perform the abortion, what is that to you? "

What is that to me, these deaths of people I do not know?

The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

That's your answer, Chicken. You may be able to dismiss these deaths with the unkind words "What is that to me?"

But at the end of days, the sheep from the goats, the answer comes: You saw me sick, and near to death, and let me die: what you did to the least of my people, you did to me.

Sister McBride understood that. I don't think Lydia or Chicken or Skippy seem to...

Okay, so change my sci-fi scenario so the person you are asked to cannibalize to save the other helpless person is himself "going to die anyway." My point was merely to answer the attempted T.S. tu quoque--no, I wouldn't advocate killing some other innocent person (whether or not he was going to die anyway) to help T.S.

Sparky:

Murder is wrong because someone is dying when they wouldn't have in the first place.
Someone dying isn't what makes murder morally wrong, because death is not an action performed by a person, and moral wrongs are always actions performed by persons - or, yes, failures to act in a certain manner in certain circumstances. Murder is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being - the act of a human being, not a mere occurrence of the physical order.

To be sure there is often a positive duty to act, and in some circumstances it is a moral wrong not to perform that positive duty. But a positive duty to act can never - by definition, since we ought not do evil by definition - be a positive obligation to do evil.

So at bottom the moral dispute here (setting aside the matter of the juridical penalty of excommunication) is over whether abortion is always murder.

I don't expect everyone to agree on the answer to that question, of course. But civilized adults ought to at least be capable of agreeing that that is precisely what is in dispute.

Lydia:

My point was merely to answer the attempted T.S. tu quoque...
I get that; I was just clarifying that the scenario did not (prior to modification) match the main opposing argument, which seems to be that anything at all that we do with an outcome of one person dying rather than two is by definition morally acceptable.

The Masked Chicken: First with regards to the Shaivo case, I assure you, you have no idea what you are talking about. I know more about the specifics of the case than anyone here (and for prudential reasons, I will avoid discussing why). Shaivo was stupidly, deliberately killed, with rationalization to avoid guilt. Period.

You claim to "know more about the specifics of the case than anyone here" - but you don't know how to spell Terri Schiavo's surname? Sorry: I just plain don't believe you. I think - and I apologize for being blunt - that you are lying. I think this because someone who was well-acquainted with the case of a specific patient, would either know how to spell her surname automatically, or would be well aware that this was an orthographical weak point, and would know that they had to go check the spelling (quick enough using Google) before writing it down. You simply misspelled it, twice, indicating that you are not very familiar with the case at all. That's no crime - Terri Schiavo died over five years ago - but making a false claim that you have some secret authority which patently you do not, devalues anything you might say. I shall ignore your comments henceforth. I apologize to everyone else for taking up this time explaining why.

Lydia: Let me just add that if (in some science fiction scenario) the only way to keep some helpless person--T.S. or anyone else--alive were to kill some other innocent person and (say) give the helpless person the dead person's blood to drink, this would of course be profoundly wrong, and it would be necessary to let the helpless person die rather than to set up the cannibalistic feeding.

Okay. So of the thought experiment I presented, given the choice to abort the fetus so that the mother lives, or kill the mother so that the fetus can be born alive, you still choose option 1: let both die.

(You could just have used the numbers, if you were responding to my comment, but I presume this is your response: you still hold to the principle that two deaths are better than one.)

Zippy: Someone dying isn't what makes murder morally wrong

Okay, thanks. That does clarify why you are sticking up for the position that it's better for many to die rather than to save one woman by performing an abortion.

Honestly, though I do appreciate both Lydia and Zippy in staying polite to the end, we're really not anywhere changed from the first point: I still think that the right thing to do is to save one person rather than let both die, Lydia and Zippy are prepaed to argue consistently and politely that death doesn't matter, what matters is refraining from killing, which is sinful for some abstract reason that neither can explain, not because it means death.

Killing innocent human beings, but, yes. Basically right. That it's wrong deliberately to kill the innocent is a basic moral premise, as far as I'm concerned.

J:

...hold to the principle that two deaths are better than one...
That isn't the principle, though. It isn't that two deaths are better than one, as if the moral principle were about outcomes. (Indeed it is precisely the point that moral principles are not solely about evaluating outcomes, but that the means we choose to achieve our ends can also be morally dispositive).

The principle is that it is never acceptable to kill the innocent for any reason whatsoever, even when that reason is in fact a very, very good one. Nobody disputes that saving the mother's life is a very, very good motivation. But motivations in themselves are not sufficient to determine whether an act is or is not morally acceptable.

And in fact this is Catholic doctrine, the denial of which is in fact heresy. Even the nun in this case acknowledges as much: she just (apparently) disputes whether the specific procedure performed was or was not in fact an abortion. Since the precise facts of what was done in this case are not public I can't evaluate that contention for myself; though I strongly suspect I would side with the Bishop, since wanton misuse of the principle of double-effect is commonplace in my view even among otherwise orthodox Catholics.

But if, as in this discussion, we stipulate that what was done was an abortion, then it most certainly was - although a very difficult and agonizing case - morally wrong to perform it or to formally cooperate in its performance.

Lydia: . That it's wrong deliberately to kill the innocent is a basic moral premise, as far as I'm concerned.

Sure. And I suppose as a basic moral premise, you have never really tried to think why it's wrong to deliberately kill the innocent - as you have made clear that you do not think it is wrong because they die.

It bespeaks (forgive me for getting slightly personal) an emotional detachment from death - an inability to understand that for most people, we just don't want people we love to die, and so don't want anyone to die, if they can be saved. Far far upthread, MarkC asked how it was possible to rebut the charges that Bishop Olmsted and the Catholic Church were indifferent to the death of that woman: and really, we've come no further than his question and my initial response: there are people who are simply indifferent, and we've heard from a lot of them in this thread. It's not even that two deaths are better than one: it's just that death isn't real to them, they have no comprehension why a doctor will fight to save a life, why for most of us, we want the assurance that a hospital is not controlled by a religious body who may require the medical staff to let the patients die unhelped.

for most of us, we want the assurance that a hospital is not controlled by a religious body who [refrain from killing the innocent as a means to the end of saving patients].
Given that the original institution of hospitals (and universities for that matter) came from the Catholic Church, and that very large numbers of hospitals are still Catholic, you may be faced with the choice to either shut down a large portion of the health care system, particularly the part which disproportionately serves the poor and disadvantaged, or just deal with the fact that there are ethics involved in health care that you don't agree with.

Jesurgislac,

Far, far up the thread I posed another "end justifies the means scenario" and requested your response to it. As far as I can discern, you did not answer. I understand it is highly salted in a way to make it unpalatable to a secular humanist, but I think it would be illuminating to know whether you think desired outcome of "saved lives" is worth the cost in this example. If not, why not?

I've posed a similar query to Anne Rice who, in several FB threads expresses her exasperation that the Bishop could be so apparently unmoved by the mother's outcome and the prospects for Catholic healthcare in general (e.g. "The latest on Sr. Margaret McBride. I think this story shows the Church's position as very harsh indeed" and "The story of Sr. Margaret McBride continues. I think this may lead to a thorough investigation of Catholic hospitals nationwide. And perhaps it should. If critically ill pregnant women are expected to die with their unborn children in Catholic hospitals, if a life saving abortion is not an option for them, well, people should know.") but she hasn't yet responded either.


"Your "moral code" reminds me of the neo-cons who argue for torturing terrorists to uncover impending attacks and "save lives". So what of it - what if the mother (and her doctor) consented to the waterbording of her youngest child in order to possibly save the mother's life (that's the key to moral infallibility isn't it - "a woman's choice"). Would you be "on board" with that moral reasoning?"

or just deal with the fact that there are ethics involved in health care that you don't agree with.

But they get federal funding, and therefore shouldn't be allowed to withhold a life-saving, completely LEGAL procedure from citizens. Otherwise, they should privatize. Or they should advertise how they don't provide comprehensive care, so people can avoid them.

Catholic hospitals do make it very public that they will not do abortions. The threat to shut them down or refuse to pay bills under federal insurance programs or whatever because of it has been around for decades.

Welcome to the real world, where no institution has done as much as the Catholic Church to help the sick, the needy, and the oppressed.

I still think that the right thing to do is to save one person rather than let both die

But that's not what you would be doing. What you would actually be doing is killing, i.e., murdering, an innocent child - presumably because you think that letting the mother die would itself be an act of murderous negligence. So you must commit an act of murder in order to prevent one. (A vicious circle if I've ever seen one.)

What we need is a reworking of the commandment "Thou shalt not murder," which, as given, sounds fairly comprehensive. Something like: "Thou shalt not commit murder unless it will save someone else's life." I don't know how to get that into the Bible at this late date, but I hear there are quite a few scholars who specialize in reinterpretation. We just need to be patient.

Well if you look into the bible, the single reference made to a fetus only proves that it isn't considered a whole person. In fact, it directly compares doing harm to the motehr and the fetus, and the fetus is awarded no "personhood" and is considered a small loss compared to the loss of an actual breathing human being, the mother.

A careful reading will show that it doesn't specify the woman. Exodus 21 says that if any serious injury occurs (either the mother or the prematurely born child), then life for a life should be taken. It doesn't make sense to include the case of pregnancy unless the verse specifically intended to highlight the importance of the child. Otherwise it would simply discuss a woman that gets hit, pregnant or not pregnant. Interpreting this verse to devalue the fetus is simply carelessness and wishful thinking.

But that doesn't seem to prevent fundamentalists of convenience from pretending they know something.

MarkC: Far, far up the thread I posed another "end justifies the means scenario" and requested your response to it. As far as I can discern, you did not answer. I understand it is highly salted in a way to make it unpalatable to a secular humanist, but I think it would be illuminating to know whether you think desired outcome of "saved lives" is worth the cost in this example. If not, why not?

So what of it - what if the mother (and her doctor) consented to the waterbording of her youngest child in order to possibly save the mother's life (that's the key to moral infallibility isn't it - "a woman's choice"). Would you be "on board" with that moral reasoning?

This actually happened, of course, in a number of US prisons in Iraq - a man whom the Americans thought had "intelligence" being forced to see his sons threatened with murder to get him to "talk".

The difference between your scenario and the one in the St Joseph's hospital is this:

The fetus's presence in the woman's body is what was killing her. Unless the fetus was removed, both woman and fetus died. Because the fetus was removed, the woman lived. When the fetus was removed, the fetus died.

The neocon scenarios justifying torture are never as clearcut as that - they can't be. They're fantasies about the usefulness of torture, about claiming that if you put people enough pain they'll give you information that might possibly save a life. You're trying to blur the issue by associating a known evil - torture - with a straightforward decision involving clear medical facts: the doctors at St Joseph's hospital had a choice to let two innocent lives die when they could have saved one, or to save the innocent life they could save.

Now you can argue - and various people HAVE argued - that this was the wrong decision, that the Catholic Church's position is that two innocent lives lost are better than one life saved by perfoming an abortion.

But there is no way to make the Catholic Church's position look like anything other than callous indifference to the life and health of the mother - because that's what it is.

Zippy,
You can call stating facts clearly and plainly mere foot stomping, if you like. But if you do, it's just more Zipspeak. You hold a position that leads to two dead persons when one could have been saved. That you call pro-life. You oppose a position that saves one life when two would be lost. That you call murder. Then, when your inaccurate use of language is pointed out to you, that you call foot stomping.

You'll never extricate yourself from your error until you start to call things by their real names.

Michael Bauman:

You can call stating facts clearly and plainly mere foot stomping, if you like.
Whatever you want to call it, Mr. Bauman, the repeated and deliberate mischaracterization of the positions of others is contemptible. And, in your case, typical.

You claim to "know more about the specifics of the case than anyone here" - but you don't know how to spell Terri Schiavo's surname? Sorry: I just plain don't believe you. I think - and I apologize for being blunt - that you are lying. I think this because someone who was well-acquainted with the case of a specific patient, would either know how to spell her surname automatically, or would be well aware that this was an orthographical weak point, and would know that they had to go check the spelling (quick enough using Google) before writing it down. You simply misspelled it, twice, indicating that you are not very familiar with the case at all. That's no crime - Terri Schiavo died over five years ago - but making a false claim that you have some secret authority which patently you do not, devalues anything you might say. I shall ignore your comments henceforth. I apologize to everyone else for taking up this time explaining why.

First off, Jesurgislac, I apologize for not getting back sooner. I have spent 12 hours, yesterday, moving into a new apartment, so I've only had three hours of sleep. More than that, it has a new carpet and I am afraid that breathing the fumes from the adhesive solvent all night made me a bit wired, yesterday. I was yelling at students and basically biting people's heads off. Hopefully, I am better, today.

As for your comment: no, I was not lying, although I may have stated things imprecisely (hey, adhesive fumes). Yes, you have committed the sin of rash judgment. Yes, I did sin in stating that Schiavo's husband tried to get rid of her for convenience. I do not have the right to make such a judgment and I must leave that to God to decide. For that remark (a form of either detraction or calumny), I do apologize. Since the remark was made in public, I must apologize in public.

As for the spelling: I have always had a hard time remembering how to spell her name and I did not check on the spelling, but remembered reading someone else's comments from above and copied the spelling without thinking. I was not myself, yesterday. For what its worth, I can't spell Niels Bohr's name consistently, either, even though I passed the graduate Ph.d entrance exam in quantum mechanics while still a senior in college and got the highest grade in my graduate quantum mechanics class in graduate school. I suppose you want to see the transcripts?

Since you have been such an unkind commenter (you have committed the fallacy of the converse accident, to boot, since my laps in spelling Schiavo's name says nothing about the veracity of my remarks), I will e-mail Lydia, privately, under my real name and explain exactly (or close enough) what happened in 2005. My research paper is on-line as well as the paper of my colleagues. She may read them if she likes. I can send her the e-mails and my long-distance phone records as documentation of the events. After all of that, you really should publicly apologize to me. I do not deliberately try to mislead people. I have been commenting on blogs for a while now and my comments and the opinions of those people on the other blog I comment on (Jimmy Akin's) is a matter of public record. You may look them up.

There really were diagnostic criteria that were either overlooked, ignored, or possibly misinterpreted in making the diagnosis about Schiavo and I am an expert in that area. I will let Lydia decide, however.

Next time, assume charity.

The Chicken

But there is no way to make the Catholic Church's position look like anything other than callous indifference to the life and health of the mother - because that's what it is.

You have begged the question and applied ad hominem in the same sentence.

You can't even restate an argument correctly for many posts, and now you think you can put yourself in the place of God and judge the hearts of men? That would be laughable if it wasn't so perilous to your soul. Why isn't it surprising to me that you would equate the refusal to murder to "callous indifference?" I suppose you think you can tell us an officer of the military is callous and indifferent when he refuses to order the killing of innocent civilians to prevent the death of his men?

Jesurgislac said, "The fetus's presence in the woman's body is what was killing her."

No, what was putatively "killing" the mother was pulminary hypertension - not her unborn child (calling the child "fetus" does not lessen the baby's pain at dismemberment). Why do you need to fudge the facts? Furthermore, there appears to be at least some in the medical community, including a leading neonatologist, who opine the mother's condition could have been managed until the baby reached viability at between 21 and 25 weeks - so it is questionable whether the direct abortion at 11 weeks was merely an expediency. Does that concern you?

Finally, thank you for answering my query about "enhanced interrogation". I don't think you really addressed the moral inconsistency of why "torture" is never justified but "abortion" sometimes is. Instead, you question whether torture really "works". I don't want to know whether it would "work" on me but I suspect it would ...

Masked Chicken: In this case, there is little man can do, morally. He must place things in God's hands. It is not I who am putting God to the test, it is you. You are testing whether or not God truly meant the Ten Commandments.

My post was an incitement to action, to do what good you can without waiting for the hand of God.

If that is putting God to the test, then so be it. My conscience would let me make no other choice. However, I find myself amazed that laying back on one's heels is considered Godly.

Masked Chicken: I passed the graduate Ph.d entrance exam in quantum mechanics while still a senior in college and got the highest grade in my graduate quantum mechanics class in graduate school. [. . .] I will e-mail Lydia, privately, under my real name and explain exactly (or close enough) what happened in 2005. My research paper is on-line as well as the paper of my colleagues. She may read them if she likes. I can send her the e-mails and my long-distance phone records as documentation of the events. After all of that, you really should publicly apologize to me.

. . . no, I don't think Jesurgislac should. A certain amount of trust should be assumed on the internet: I feel that you can usually assume that someone on the internet is who and what they say they are.

But you've made a couple of grandiose claims: 1) that you have inside and heavily researched knowledge of the Schiavo case that happens to completely contradict Jesurgislac's argument and 2) that you are a precocious physics genius.

You say that you'll email your credentials to Lydia, who also happens to agree with you, but not Jesurgislac. And after you've emailed this third party your mysterious, convincing and revealable credentials, you expect Jesurgislac to publicly apologize?

That strains the bounds of credibility. If you want an apology from Jesurgislac, email him/her your credentials directly. In the meantime though, I have to say, your claims make me wary of having further discussion with you.

Spherical Time wrote:

My post was an incitement to action, to do what good you can without waiting for the hand of God.
If that is putting God to the test, then so be it. My conscience would let me make no other choice. However, I find myself amazed that laying back on one's heels is considered Godly.

Veritatis Splendour (by Pope John Paul II of happy memory):

In the case of the positive moral precepts, prudence always has the task of verifying that they apply in a specific situation, for example, in view of other duties which may be more important or urgent. But the negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behaviour as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception. They do not leave room, in any morally acceptable way, for the "creativity" of any contrary determination whatsoever. Once the moral species of an action prohibited by a universal rule is concretely recognized, the only morally good act is that of obeying the moral law and of refraining from the action which it forbids.

That strains the bounds of credibility. If you want an apology from Jesurgislac, email him/her your credentials directly. In the meantime though, I have to say, your claims make me wary of having further discussion with you.

Sir or Madam:

I made no such grandiose claims, nor will I sit for this nonsense. I have been on blogs (here, Jimmy Akin's, Fr. Z's) consistently commenting for about four years without anyone ever claiming that I have made grandiose claims of any sort. Suddenly, both you an Jesurgislac have interpreted my remarks in your own biased fashion to attempt an indictment. I did not say I was an physics genius. I did say that one cannot assert, without further proof, that merely misspelling a person's name is a sign of either being a liar (which Jesurgislac asserted) or that one is not informed on a topic. As evidence, I presented my difficulty with spelling Niels Bohr's name, although I do have a fair amount of knowledge of quantum mechanics. That my sir/madam, is called proof by counter example. That is not pride. That is simple logic. What he did is called the Fallacy of the Converse Accident. It is a fallacy and I called him on it. It is also a lack of charity.

As for the Shiavo case, I have contacted Lydia. She has seen the evidence. I contacted her, partially, because she does have knowledge of the case and I assume we can all trust that she is unbiased. I did not want to contact anyone, but she was a more logical candidate than Jerusgislac, who has not earned my trust as a charitable individual.

I adopted the handle, The Masked Chicken, in part to remind myself of the harm that inconsiderate remarks can cause people. I have always tried to keep that in mind when I post and have always apologized when I have violated charity. That does not mean that I should sit idly by and let someone call me a liar, in public. Yes, he does owe me an apology, in fact. Since, however, he does not know the facts of what I do or do not know about the Schiavo case (and has not stated how much it would take to convince him), I have no reason to assume that he did anything else but jump to a conclusion based on very limited and trivial data about spelling, but that is still rash judgment. For that, he does owe me an apology, even if I have not presented my credential to him in the specific matter at hand.

Spelling is not, generally, a good enough reason to call someone a liar. How does he know I don't have dyslexia or some such? There could be other explanations, you see, other than my being a liar. I was somewhat neurologically impaired when I wrote that post on Monday (as I explained). That, alone, could have been the explanation. Why assume I am a liar. In fact, I may have stated the situation with imprecision (I am amazed I could write, at all), but I think I have clarified more what I meant, today.

I am not going to give out my identity, any more than Zippy might. A really diligent person could find it out, any way. I have left enough clues. I simply wish for the anonymity that a handle provides. Essentially, you either assume people are acting in good faith unless you have real evidence to the contrary, or you stand guilty of rash judgment. That is moral theology 101 and rash judgment requires that the damage be corrected. I rashly judge, all of the time, so I've had a lot of practice.

I am not going to discuss this, further. This is a great way to distract from the real topic at hand. I was not the person who originally brought up Schiavo and my comments were supposed to be ancillary to the larger post I made. If there are any more comments on this matter, I will refer them to the blog owner for adjudication.

The Chicken

No, what was putatively "killing" the mother was pulminary hypertension

Weasel, weasel, Mark!

You still use "putatively" as if you somehow know more than the doctors at St Josephs who confirmed that the chance she would die of pulmonary hypertension was close to 100%. Pulmonary hypertension is one of the ways in which pregnancy can kill women. The cause of the pulmonary hypertension was the fetus she was carrying. Pregnancy isn't just a matter of a fetus in the uterus: making a baby from a fertilized egg is work that uses all of a woman's bodily resources, and if her body isn't strong enough to do the work, she can die of it. She was dying because of the fetus she was gestating: she did not die, because the fetus was removed. When the fetus was removed, because it was only 11 weeks developed, the fetus died. But if the fetus had not been removed from the woman, the woman would have died of pulmonary hypertension, and then the fetus would have died too.

Those are the medical facts. I invent nothing, I add nothing.

You choose not to look those facts in the face and prefer to weasel around them: it doesn't speak well for your honesty, and we have already dealt with one liar in this thread.

Furthermore, there appears to be at least some in the medical community, including a leading neonatologist, who opine the mother's condition could have been managed until the baby reached viability at between 21 and 25 weeks

There will always be doctors who are happy to offer a medical opinion as a hypothesis for a patient whose records they have never seen and about whom they know no more than they read in the papers. They opine that they could have kept her alive for another 10-14 weeks? That and two bucks will buy you a cup of coffee.

Monday morning football players always know THEY could have made the right play if only THEY had been on the field at the time. It's very easy to make grandiose claims about what you would have done in a tight spot when you weren't there and there's no risk you will be.

Does that concern you?

No more than it concerns me when a Monday morning footballer claims he could have scored IF ONLY..

My point: the woman is alive, after her doctors thought she might die. You began this conversation claiming you wanted someone to rebut the charges that the Catholic church was indifferent towards the woman's life and heatlh: yet all you have to say actually defends and strengthens those charges of indifference.

MC has indeed e-mailed me some interesting additional info. about the Schiavo case as well as about his own credentials which leads me to believe that he would have been a useful expert witness concerning her condition had the judge not drawn his hasty conclusions as early as 2000 before most people in the world were even aware of the situation. He is by no means ignorant, and people can have all sorts of reasons for misspellings. But for myself, if J-surg is going to give someone a hard time for a misspelling, I'd be inclined to consider that trollish behavior and ignore it as much as possible, as MC seems to be planning to do.

You oppose a position that saves one life when two would be lost. That you call murder. Then, when your inaccurate use of language is pointed out to you, that you call foot stomping.

Michael B., let's try to be totally accurate here: when you say "That you call murder", you are suggesting that the act isn't really murder, it is merely CALLED that by people who are excessively bound up in some odd way of looking at the picture. But that is not a reasonable suggestion.

The act that is called murder by anyone who doesn't have an axe to grind is any act of choosing to kill a person who is innocent and who is not fighting you in war. So choosing to kill an infant is murder. That's the act. That's what the word means to everyone who speaks English, until they try to dabble in moral theology without sufficient understanding. But if you would prefer to stick to the non-confrontational word "killing" to describe what goes on with the direct abortion, that's ok, because the moral reality can still be shown under that term as well.

The thing that Zippy (and Lydia, and I...) oppose is not the saving of one life. We applaud all reasonable measures taken to save either one of those lives. Indeed, we can go further: we would insist that it is immoral NOT to take reasonable measures to attempt to save BOTH of those lives, but some measures would be directed to saving the mother's life, while other measures would be directed more toward saving the child's life. OK, so it is not true that what we oppose is saving one of the lives, simply.

Second, what Zippy and others really oppose is the specific act of chosen abortion, and we do so on grounds that apply regardless of how many lives it is expected to assist in saving. Since the grounds apply even if it saves the mother's life, the objection HOLDS even if the abortion saves the mother's life - or if it doesn't. So what we object to is NOT saving the mother's life, we object to the specific act of direct abortion.

Thirdly, the specific chosen act of direct abortion is either (a) always moral, or (b) always immoral, or (c) sometimes moral and sometimes not, depending on circumstances. Nobody argues that it is (a). The only argument is whether it is (b) or (c). You seem to be saying that it is (c), while Lydia and I and Michael Liccione and Zippy say it is (b). OK, but please do not mis-characterize what (b) stands for. It does not stand for the notion that (b) is better because it is more pro-life than (c) . So telling us that (c) saves more lives doesn't tell us what is critical about whether (b) or (c) represents the truth about morality and the good. We are saying that (b) is true based on something much more fundamental about the good than how many lives are saved. Because there are goods more fundamental than this mortal life. Christ demonstrated this, as did each and every martyr.

Likewise, there are evils of a more fundamental order than the evil of loosing a life. Saint Dominic Savio made this point explicit: "Death before sin". There are acts that are sins even if your death is on the line, and you ought to prefer to submit to and suffer death than to go ahead and sin to avoid death. We think that the 5th Commandment shows us one such act: the act of specifically choosing to kill an innocent human person. There are a number of other such acts: acts that are intrinsically wrong to choose to do, no matter what the OTHER circumstances, once you know the nature of the act itself. You seem to think that specifically choosing to kill an innocent person is not such an act. Which leads me to wonder: are there ANY acts that you view as intrinsically immoral? Or do you simply deny the Dominic Savio motto "death before sin" altogether?

We think that the 5th Commandment shows us one such act: the act of specifically choosing to kill an innocent human person.

I dispute the word innocent as mistaken in this case. Primarily because the fetus certainly was not harmless in its effect, which is one of the definitions. Secondly, it has no capacity for agency at 11 weeks. If it did have such a capacity, it would be blameworthy of endangering its mother's body. To say that innocence involves personal knowledge, motive or awareness also means it has the capacity to be guilty.

Righto, Step2.

I propose that instead of calling the baby in the womb "innocent," we should instead describe him as "just too damn stupid to be guilty."

"Innocent" in a proposed self-defense case means "not choosing to engage in an attacking behaviour". Any danger posed to the mother by the presence of the baby is not a result of the baby's chosen behavior. Therefore self-defense doesn't apply.

A person wielding a knife and lacking mens rea would be innocent in the legal sense. His putative state doesn't provide clarity on the question of self-defense. See also, little children pointing imitation guns at officers and being shot.

The argument in the Phoenix case was that the act by its very nature could not be defensive in character. A parallel legal analogy would be the law in Wisconsin that lethal force (shooting someone) is not a defense against theft.

George,
The word innocent is supposed to provide a relevant description upon which the decision is based, and I don't think it does in this case. I am not proposing an alternative, only to stop using a word that inaccurately reflects the situation.

Zippy,
The harm caused by the baby, including the extreme likelihood of its own death, wasn't based on any its actions, none of which have been shown to be chosen in any event. That doesn't mean it is protected from forceful intervention, especially if it was going to cause another death in conjunction with its own.

Behavior is presumptively voluntary. Sure, if the attacker's mind was being controlled by aliens he wouldn't be choosing his behavior; but even a madman is choosing his behavior on some level. To act contrary to that presumption is to treat him as less than human.

Of course this is moot to the Phoenix case, since 11-week unborn babies are incapable of endangering anyone by their behaviors.

Step2: you are using the terms "it" and "cause" equivocally. One meaning is the child as an acting subject; the other doesn't refer to the child at all, but rather to a disease condition in the mother. It is the latter which poses. the threat, not the former; thus any use of violence against the former cannot be justified as self defense.

Of course this is moot to the Phoenix case, since 11-week unborn babies are incapable of endangering anyone by their behaviors.

Nonsense. They lack agency. So do meteors. That doesn't mean they can't be a cause of death.

Masked Chicken: I made no such grandiose claims, nor will I sit for this nonsense. I have been on blogs (here, Jimmy Akin's, Fr. Z's) consistently commenting for about four years without anyone ever claiming that I have made grandiose claims of any sort.

Previous behavior is not always a perfect indicator of future action.

It doesn't really matter though, as you say:

I did not want to contact anyone, but she was a more logical candidate than Jerusgislac, who has not earned my trust as a charitable individual.

Jesurgislac is the person that you're trying to convince. You're just not trying very hard, apparently.

Have a good day, cheers.


Sr McBride acted foolishly; she should have put Bishop Olmsted in the loop and let him take the heat.

What life-threatening behaviour can an 11-week unborn child engage in, MZ? You do know what "behaviour" means, don't you?

That doesn't mean it [the baby] is protected from forceful intervention, especially if it was going to cause another death in conjunction with its own.

This seems horribly inaccurate. Wouldn't it be truer to say that the baby is trapped by circumstances as much as the mother is, which circumstances threaten his life as well, and thus to see him as a victim too? The only way to justify attacking the baby is to see him as a cause of the problem rather than as its victim, even though he is in fact causing nothing. "Forceful intervention", btw, is just euphemism for 'intentionally killing an innocent baby,' that is, one who is through no fault of his own where nature put him and means harm to no one. Malevolent babies in utero are things that simply do not exist, as far as I know, outside of Hollywood horror movies.

MC, I hope you didn't let the charge of a spelling error get to you. It's easy to misspell Schiavo if you're typing fast. But in a comment further up, Jesurgislac spelled "prepared" "prepaed." So he's disqualified himself.

A careful reading will show that it doesn't specify the woman. Exodus 21 says that if any serious injury occurs (either the mother or the prematurely born child), then life for a life should be taken. It doesn't make sense to include the case of pregnancy unless the verse specifically intended to highlight the importance of the child. Otherwise it would simply discuss a woman that gets hit, pregnant or not pregnant. Interpreting this verse to devalue the fetus is simply carelessness and wishful thinking.

No, it clearly says "if her fruit depart from her", or, as my catholic bible says, "so that there is a miscarriage," and then proceeds to say that a fine shall be collected from the offender. But if other harm is caused (to the mother) the "life for life" rule is imposed.

William Luce: "The only way to justify attacking the baby is to see him as a cause of the problem rather than as its victim, even though he is in fact causing nothing."

Since the reason the woman was dying was pulmonary hypertension, caused by the pregnancy, the fetus (the baby if you like, but biologically an 11-week-developed fetus) was in fact the cause of the problem.

The choice for the hospital was to let both the mother and the fetus die, or to remove the fetus (nonsense about "dismemberment" can be ignored: aspiration is the most usual method used for first-trimester abortion) and let the mother live.

Pregnancy can kill women, and does, even more often than illegal abortion kills women. Whatever the requirements of the Catholic Church to treat a woman whose pregnancy is killing her as a broken machine to be discarded since she cannot save the fetus, still: the humane and sensible thing to do is to save the life that can be saved.

Step2,

If you are serious in maintaining that a baby in the mother’s womb cannot be properly described as “innocent,” then you’ve really stepped through the looking glass, and there’s no point in trying to communicate with you further.

... the baby ... was in fact the cause of the problem.
Equivocation again. The baby's chosen behaviour was not the cause of the problem; so the baby was innocent in the morally pertinent sense, and the moral rubrics of self-defense do not apply. Whatever justification there may or may not be for acting, it doesn't fall under self defense. Self-defense only justifies violence directed at thwarting the attacking behaviours of others. If those others are not engaged in attacking behaviours, there is no self-defense justification specifically, though in general there might be other justifications.

On the right side of politics people object to this because they want a moral license to bomb innocent civilians when they are in the way, "human shields" if you will. We discussed a "hard case" of this sort -- shooting down terrorist-controlled airliners with innocent civilians on board -- here. On the left side of politics people object because they want to kill innocent children in cases related to this one. Whatever else may be said about such cases, in neither kind of case is the invocation of "self-defense" valid.

The current line of discussion is addressing Step2's specific objection to the contention that the child is innocent in the morally pertinent sense. One is innocent of attacking another when one is not choosing an attacking behaviour. Surely not even the most rabid supporter of the abortion in this case contends that the child was choosing to attack her mother?

George,
I am serious in saying that a baby in the mother's womb can only be described as innocent if you reject all implications that innocence requires agency. Which is at best a highly contorted and atypical definition.

William,
Wouldn't it be truer to say that the baby is trapped by circumstances as much as the mother is, which circumstances threaten his life as well, and thus to see him as a victim too?

I see a lot of parallels to the arguments for and against shooting down United Airlines Flight 93. My intuition is that circumstances should not be a defeater for the instinct of self-defense against preventable harm. To paraphrase Shakespeare, "Needs must when the devil drives."

Zippy,
I didn't see your comment before I posted mine. Sorry to repeat your line of thought.

Zippy: Self-defense only justifies violence directed at thwarting the attacking behaviours of others.

I see. So, if I'm walking down the street and I see Wile E. Coyote about to deliberately drop a piano on Road Runner, I am justified in violence - either to knock Road Runner out of the way of the piano, or to stop the Coyote from dropping it.

But, if I'm walking down the street and I see that a piano is about to accidentally fall on to someone and kill them, I am not justified in preventing this by violence, since there is no attacking behavior on the part of the piano and no motive for it falling and killing that person apart from gravity.

In the one case I'm allowed to save Road Runner from certain death because Coyote has a motive: in the other case, I must stand back and let Road Runner die because the piano is falling by accident.

I'm sorry, that's just absurd. The fetus doesn't intend to kill itself by causing pulmonary hypertension in the mother - the Catholic Church is not justified in excommunicating the fetus for suicide. But nonetheless, pulmonary hypertension is killing the mother, the fetus is the direct cause, and the fetus is going to die as a direct result. There's no way to save the fetus: whether the fetus dies a slow death in the dead uterus or a swift death by being removed from the uterus, the end is the same.

But Zippy, why do you want the mother to die too?

if I'm walking down the street and I see that a piano is about to accidentally fall on to someone and kill them, I am not justified in preventing this by violence, since there is no attacking behavior on the part of the piano and no motive for it falling and killing that person apart from gravity.
As far as I am aware, you don't even need a self-defense justification for using violence against a piano.

Step2:

One thing you and I probably agree about is that the Flight 93 example is very closely analogous to the pulmonary hypertension example. One difference is that in the PH case there is no aggressor-agent at all, whereas one of the "moves" in the flight 93 case was to try to pin responsibility for our chosen actions on the terrorists. Needless to say I don't buy that: the terrorists are responsible for creating the circumstances within which we face our choices, and they are fully responsible for the outcome whatever choice we make. But the concrete choices we make, the means we choose to achieve our ends, are still fully our own responsibility.

In general I think many of the attempts to distinguish the two cases morally are tendentious. It is morally licit and even obligatory to do whatever we can without engaging in an intrinsically immoral behaviour as the means to our end. It is morally obligatory to refrain from intrinsically immoral behaviours, however, whatever the consequences of such restraint.

As a practical matter these are very difficult cases, and I am very reluctant to be too hard on the people who faced them, even when they made morally wrong choices. Nevertheless, a morally wrong choice remains a morally wrong choice however sympathetic I may be to the chooser.

For whatever reason you have chosen rational behavior as a meaning of behavior. An aggressor-agent is not required for self defense. What is required for self defense is a threat. Whether that defense is licit is a question of proportionality. There are some actions that can never be licit defenses. The determination of that is not the circumstance of whether there is a rational agent bringing forth the threat.

You have no ordinary right to smash pianos. In the case of the falling piano, any violence you did against the piano would be destruction to someone else's property.

MZ:

What is required for self defense is a threat. Whether that defense is licit is a question of proportionality. There are some actions that can never be licit defenses.
Agreed, agreed, and agreed. Killing the innocent is one of those things which can never be a licit defense; and "the innocent" are those persons who are not choosing to engage in attacking behaviours.

No, it clearly says. . . .

I'm sure it "clearly" says whatever you want it to say, but a fair reading from someone who isn't trying to will it to mean what he wants it to mean will at best be ambiguous. (Hint: scrutinizing the various translations and the decisions behind them only goes so far.) A contest of interpretations and counter-interpretations is always an endless exercise, and Christian tradition (the context of scripture) does not back you. And since I firmly reject fundamentalist individuals such as yourself setting themselves up as the scripture Pope to authoritatively pronounce correct interpretation of scripture to their personal whims, I categorize your lame attempt at scripturally devaluing the fetus with all the rest of the wacko claims from fundamentalists I deal with.

None of this even addresses the fact that consequences are not the same thing as value.

Zippy: Killing the innocent is one of those things which can never be a licit defense

And yet you guys keep trying to come up with a licit defense for killing this pregnant woman - who lived despite the Catholic Church ruling she should have been allowed to die!

As far as I am aware, you don't even need a self-defense justification for using violence against a piano.

That's all you got? You've no real answer to the point that under one circumstance I'd be allowed to use violence to save Road Runner, but under the other, you think the morally correct thing to do would be to let RR die?

And Road Runner isn't even a pregnant woman: you've got no particular reason for wanting that bird dead...

So again, Zippy: why do you want that mother to be dead? What's your motivation for something for which you claim there can never be a licit defense?

Jesurgislac:

Zippy: why do you want that mother to be dead?
That "clueless troll" tattoo on your forehead is starting to glow. You might want to have it looked at, though the odds are good that you'll have to go to a Catholic-affiliated medical facility.

Zippy,
Placing that much emphasis on the baby "not choosing" an attacking behavior implies that it could have chosen otherwise, does it not? If not, what is the point of calling it a choice?

Let me go back to my original dispute with Tony and see what his statement currently looks like. My rewording: It is intrinsically immoral to specifically choose to kill a human being without agency that is helplessly trapped by circumstances, even when those circumstances will likely cause serious or lethal harm to others.

How can A cause C if A does not act? And, please, remember that we are here spaeking of a moral person..not of a meteor.

Hi Zippy!

No, Jesurgislac may be a pregnant woman who shouldn’t risk going to a Catholic-affiliated medical facility.

You made a fair comment at 9:03. I guess you wouldn’t want to be in charge of the US Armed Forces which might have to down a plane with innocents on board; neither would I. But would you want the Catholic bishop of Phoenix to be put in charge of the US Airforce? Why should this Bishop be in charge of hospitals in Phoenix?

I'm just exasperated at this point, Zippy - this was a real woman whose life was saved, and you and others are arguing she should have been left to die because that would have been the morally correct thing to do.

I think there is a slight confusion regarding self-defense. A has a right use force against B because A has a right to be free from aggression. Likewise, B , by wilfully attacking A forfeits his right to be free from aggression and is thus exposed to the use of force against him.
However, it is clear that if B does not act, then in no way does he forfeit his right to be free from aggression and the iniatiation of force against him, even to remedy a situation that he has not caused and can't control, is an unjustifiable act of aggression.

and no, pulmonary hypertension is not caused by pregnancy: http://bja.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/87/2/295

and yes, problems starts to arise only near the end of the 2nd semester. so go figure...

I'm just looking the facts in the face: either you perform the abortion, and the woman lives, or you refuse, and both the woman and the fetus she's carrying die.

This is simply inaccurate. Studies show that the mother can survive with treatment at least until the unborn child is viable, and delivery can result in a healthy baby. If you refuse the abortion, it is not true that both will die. The facts in the face are choosing one life over the other.

iPhone, so I'll be lazy about quoting people here.

Step2, yes, a sleeping or comatose person who did nothing to choose the life threatening circumstances is similarly innocent. Offhand I agree with your restatement of the principle.

Overseas, there is more to military leadership than a correct understanding of the morality which determines what means are acceptable. But definitely a correct understanding of the morality which determines what means are objectively licit is a critical element. I am not going to say that military leaders should be the sort of people who will make incorrect moral judgments in difficult circumstances, even though there will alway be cases where outcomes considered apart from means would be better.

The basic principle at work is that outcomes considered apart from means are incapable of justifying intrinsically immoral means. And yes, ideally we would have leadership in all areas who understand this and make real decisions based on it. That is what "morally good" means: the concrete choices which we ought to make.

C'mon Jersulag, you can do beeter than a lame appendicitis example. An apendectomy does not require killing another innocent life.

How about this: should a hospital harvest the heart of one living patient in order to transplant it in another? Is that part of your "pro-life" treatment?

it's simply not worthwhle saving a mortal, temporary, passing life, ...

and

it is not worthwhile saving a pregnant woman's life by performing an abortion

Are two very different positions. It is very worthwhile saving a mortal life; it is not worth saving a mortal life by doing something that will cost you your immortal soul. Can you not see the difference? If you cannot, then I do not believe there is much left to be discussed.

it's better for two to die than one to be saved

Again, you are misstating (intentionally or unintentionally) everyone's position.

The correct position is: it is better for two (or a billion) to die rather than intentionally murder one innocent to save the rest.

It is very worthwhile saving a mortal life; it is not worth saving a mortal life by doing something that will cost you your immortal soul. Can you not see the difference?

Sure. But a God who would damn a nun to hell because she decided that woman's life was worth saving, is not a God that I think is worth anyone's worship.

If you believe that saving that woman's life isn't worth it because you believe your immortal soul is worth more than her mortal life, you will always be one of the people who walks by on the other side. I would rather be the Samaritan who acts to save a life, than the Pharisee who fails to act because he believes his immortal soul is too precious to risked to save a mere mortal dying woman.

Thought I'd throw this in on the self-defense I found on a search:

A popular justification for intentionally destroying a human being is self-defense, and the principle of self-defense is widey advanced on behalf of abortion. But it doesn't justify abortion. A claim of self-defense doesn't defend against a criminal charge when it comes from the party who brought about the conflict. For example, parents can't invoke self-defense and treat their (minor) children as trespassers, because parents bring it about that there are children needing shelter. Parents also bring about pregnancy, so self-defense can't justify ending pregnancy in ways that are normally criminal, such as killing a human being. An occasional rebuttal here is that parents aren't responsible for the pregnancy if they didn't intend it. But, responsibility for the consequences of one's actions isn't limited to intended consequences. Causing accidents and gambling are two examples of how we can be responsible for unintended consequences. Unintended, unwanted pregnancy due to consensual sex is merely a lost gamble (or maybe an accident, if the possibility of pregnancy was poorly understood). So in general, when liberties are in conflict the rights of the party that brought about the conflict--intentionally or not--give way. If it is granted that fetuses have the "basic human rights", then the rights of the mother must defer to those of the fetus, and the principle of self-defense doesn't justify abortion.

Source: http://www.efn.org/~bsharvy/abortion.html

C.matt: How about this: should a hospital harvest the heart of one living patient in order to transplant it in another? Is that part of your "pro-life" treatment?

No,it's part of yours.

It is the pro-life position that one human being has the absolute and unchallengable right to make use of the organs of another human being's body, against her will, and even if she will die of that use.

Lydia and Zippy and others have been arguing for that specific right - the fetus's right to use this woman's heart until she died of that use - all the way down this thread. I have been arguing against it.

I still think that the right thing to do is to save one person rather than let both die,

But that does not answer the whole question - is it right to save one person by any means possible rather than let both die? You are leaving out the all important question of how, of the means, to saving the one life.

J, I don't know if you have any absolute, never cross the line, won't ever do action. Perhaps that is the problem - you do not believe in a moral absolute, whereas others of us do.

But if there is something (whatever it is you would never do, we will call "Nd"), would it be the right thing to do Nd to save one person rather than let both die?

RUs,

It isn't an ambiguos scripture. Its not difficult to read, unless you make it that way. Maybe if you don't want to beleive it says that, then it won't, and then you can just argue that its just too hard to translate. But then why do people us any other part of the Bible to support their arguement? Why use the ten comandments as an example for "thou shalt not murder?" That phrase isn't ambiguous at all, yet people like to add in "oh except in self-defense or war becasue those are ok ways to kill people." Isn't it all just too amibiguous? What's the point of even reading the Bible if you are just going to reject the things it says that you don't like?

The problem that it seems most people argueing against abortion have is that someone in this situation was murdered. But according to the Bible and that scripture, a fetus isn't valued to the point of personhood. It seems to be valued as a potential person.

To try to disregard scripture in an arguement involving catholic values is ridiculous.

It is very worthwhile saving a mortal life; it is not worth saving a mortal life by doing something that will cost you your immortal soul. Can you not see the difference? If you cannot, then I do not believe there is much left to be discussed.

While I agree (and made the argument, above), this will only carry the ball so far. A strict Calvinist who believes in, "Once saved, always saved," would argue that there would be no loss of an immortal soul, since the soul is already preserved for immortality, regardless of its moral actions after it is saved.

The issue goes more to justice: is a baby in the womb to be accorded any recognition as a life that has a right to justice? If so, than pitting one life against another is simply tyranny. Remember the argument from the original Star Trek series episode, The Conscience of the King, about Kodos the executioner? The transcript records an argument that seems appropriate, here (my bolding):

[Start Transcript]

[Karidian's quarters]

KIRK: (barging in without knocking) We're overdue for our talk, aren't we?
KARIDIAN: I hoped you would have respected my privacy, Captain.
KIRK: A moment ago, we narrowly averted an explosion which would have destroyed several decks of this ship. Before that, someone tried to poison one of my crewmen.
KARIDIAN: I am sorry to hear that.
KIRK: I'm sure you are. Are you Kodos? I asked you a question.
KARIDIAN: Do you believe that I am?
KIRK: I do.
KARIDIAN: Then I am Kodos, if it pleases you to believe so. I am an actor. I play many parts.
KIRK: You're an actor now. What were you twenty years ago?
KARIDIAN: Younger, Captain. Much younger.
KIRK: So was I. But I remember. Let's see if you do. Read this into that communicator on the wall. It will be recorded and compared to a piece of Kodos' voice film we have in our files. The test is virtually infallible. It will tell us whether you're Karidian, or Kodos the Executioner. (switches on comm.) Ready for voice test. Disguising your voice will make no difference.
KARIDIAN: (reading) The revolution is successful, but survival depends on drastic measures. Your continued existence represents a threat to the well-being of society. (stops looking at the paper) Your lives means slow death to the more valued members of the colony. Therefore I have no alternative but to sentence you to death. Your execution is so ordered. Signed, Kodos, governor of Tarsus Four.
KIRK: I remember the words. I wrote them down. You said them like you knew them. You hardly glanced at the paper.
KARIDIAN: I learn my parts very quickly.
KIRK: Are you sure? Are you sure you didn't act this role out in front of a captive audience whom you blasted out of existence without mercy?
KARIDIAN: I find your use of the word mercy strangely inappropriate, Captain. Here you stand, the perfect symbol of our technical society. Mechanised, electronicised, and not very human. You've done away with humanity, the striving of man to achieve greatness through his own resources.
KIRK: We've armed man with tools. The striving for greatness continues. But Kodos
KARIDIAN: Kodos, whoever he was
KIRK: Or is.
KARIDIAN: Or is. Kodos made a decision of life and death. Some had to die that others might live. You're a man of decision, Captain. You ought to understand that.
KIRK: All I understand is that four thousand people were needlessly butchered.
KARIDIAN: In order to save four thousand others. And if the supply ships hadn't come earlier than expected, this Kodos of yours might have gone down in history as a great hero.
KIRK: But he didn't. And history has made its judgment.

[End Transcript]

Suppose the baby had been at risk because of the mother (suppose she were a crack fiend). Could we kill the mother? No. This transaction is hardly symmetric. As such, the baby should have more rights to protection than the mother, not less, since it is the weaker of the two parties.

What is the price of a human life? While it may be possible that the baby would die, anyway - until that should actually happen - the mother must fend for herself, since if man intervenes, he makes the baby a mere commodity rather than a sacred human life. It is unnatural, it is unreasonable, it is unjust, to take an innocent life, even to save another's. It is not human. More than that, it violates the most sacred principle of medicine: primum, non nocere: First, do no harm. There is nothing heroic about the mother surviving. There is nothing to commend her to honor. Indeed, there is nothing motherly about the situation at all (most mothers would be begging to find a way to save the baby, even at the expense of their own lives). This is plain and simple maximizing profit in terms of humanity-as-commodity. There will be no songs sung about this woman's bravery or courage, nothing to inspire others to elevation in living. This is simply power lording itself over the weak. It is an old, sad story that hardly needs to be resung.

Be glad that the baby did not have a knife, otherwise we could see the whole play, instead of one side of it. Apparently, for some who favor abortion, the situation here is a play entitled: Kill or be Killed.

The Chicken

But according to the Bible and that scripture, a fetus isn't valued to the point of personhood.

You're just blatantly begging the question now. It does not say that. And there's no point for me to argue with someone who continues to look at a stone and call it a skunk. Have a nice day.

All I can say is that the idea that a piano can be guilty of attacking or trying to kill someone is pretty funny.

You're just blatantly begging the question now. It does not say that. And there's no point for me to argue with someone who continues to look at a stone and call it a skunk. Have a nice day.

Same to you dear. It does say that. Also, if you're going to call something too ambiguous to read, don't then state that it doesn't say something that it, if nothing else, COULD say. Plugging your ears and chanting "lalala I can't hear you" isn't a good defense. Ignorance is bliss I suppose.

Pulmonary hypertension is not caused by pregnancy, it is caused by an underlying condition of the mother's circulatory and respiratory systems that makes pregnancy (and other activities requiring high exertion) riskier.

If Step2 wants to remove innocence because the fetus "causes" this increased risk, then the blame should really go to the mother and father, who placed the fetus there - that is the voluntary act, so to speak, that "caused" the increased risk. The fetus remains innocent.

Placing that much emphasis on the baby "not choosing" an attacking behavior implies that it could have chosen otherwise, does it not? If not, what is the point of calling it a choice?

It seems there are two implications to "not choosing" - the implication it could have chosen otherwise, or the implication it is incapable of choosing. I am guessing Z meant the latter.

c matt: But that does not answer the whole question - is it right to save one person by any means possible rather than let both die?

Let me use that pesky example of Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner again, except that it's an elephant.

Elephants are an endangered species. I think it wrong to kill elephants: I support the international ban on ivory trading: I'm for not killing elephants.

Zippy's argument that it's not okay to perform the abortion because the fetus is not actively intending the death of the mother - "self-defense" doesn't apply.

Road Runner is about to die at last because an African elephant weighing several tons is about to land on him. Or her. I can prevent Road Runner from dying, but only if I fire an ACME missile at the elephant, which will knock it off course, and land yards away from Road Runner

Firing a missile at the elephant will kill it instantly. But when the elephant hits the ground, whether or not Road Runner is underneath, that's also going to kill it instantly. The elephant is seconds from death, whatever I do.

Am I justified in firing at that elephant in order to save Road Runner's life?

I've made this a cartoon argument because frankly that's how most of the people arguing that Sister McBride was wrong and the woman should have been left to die, seem to me: people who have no real concept of death, playing with ideas. Which is fun in Saturday morning cartoons, but when real people's lives are at stake, you have no business in a serious matter - when real people's lives are at stake, arguing that it's better to let two die than to save one is reducing real people to the status of counters on a game board.

The elephant is the fetus: the elephant in the room is that the fetus is going to die. Whether the fetus dies because the doctor decided his Catholic morality wouldn't permit him to perform an abortion, or the fetus dies because the doctor decided his ethical obligations as a doctor required him to perfom the abortion, the fetus is dead either way.

Zippy feels that I can fire my ACME missile at the elephant, and save Road Runner's life, if and only if the elephant had been purposefully thrown off the cliff to kill Road Runner. Then it's okay because it's "self-defense".

But I must let the elephant fall and kill Road Runner, if the elephant just fell off the cliff by accident, because then it's not "self-defense" - no one MEANT the elephant to kill Road Runner, it just happened...

I wouldn't ordinarily kill an elephant. But the elephant is dead whatever I do. So do I kill the elephant to save Road Runner, or let Road Runner die because killing the elephant imperils my immortal soul? (I firmly believe that God loves elephants.)

If you believe that saving that woman's life isn't worth it because you believe your immortal soul is worth more than her mortal life, you will always be one of the people who walks by on the other side. I would rather be the Samaritan who acts to save a life, than the Pharisee who fails to act because he believes his immortal soul is too precious to risked to save a mere mortal dying woman.

Well, putting aside the Pharisee/Samaritan labels, then I will have to stand with St. Thomas More (and Christ): what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?
The point is not that my mortal soul is worth more than her mortal life, but anyone's mortal soul is worth more than anyone's mortal life.

We will just have to agree to disagree.

To try to disregard scripture in an arguement involving catholic values is ridiculous.

Sparky, don't know if you are Catholic, but Scripture is only part of the equation for Catholics. There is also Tradition and the Magisterium which, for 2,000 years, has unequivocally assigned the unborn child the full worth of human persons. These, in turn, enlighten our interpretation of Scripture.

J:

Zippy's argument that it's not okay to perform the abortion because the fetus is not actively intending the death of the mother - "self-defense" doesn't apply.
Not quite accurate, though close, to one part of my position: the part defining what is meant by "innocent" in the universal norm against deliberately killing the innocent. Once again though you are fixated on intentions and outcomes - in this case the intentions of the child - rather than chosen behaviour as something considered separately from intended outcomes. That fixation leads you to make mistakes in characterizing the position you oppose, in addition to leaving out essential elements of the position you oppose.

Given your track record though - you don't even make an effort to understand the position of the person you are talking to, as far as I can tell - there is little point in going into more detail.

I think if you view a fetus as comparable to a piano or an elephant, then the choice is easy. The problem is that the anti-abortion side views the fetus as a human with full moral value. So killing a person, who possesses moral value, is wrong except in circumstances like self defense, and consequentialist arguments aren't going to work.

Is the mother acting in self defense? that hinges on whether a fetus can be truly guilty of attacking and intending to kill her. It seems obvious to me that a fetus can't attack or try to kill someone, since these are intentional behaviors and a fetus has no intentions of any kind.

You could argue that although the fetus doesn't intend to kill the mother, it is still killing her as a matter of fact. This is a much murkier situation though, despite the moral posturing. For starters, no one would make such an argument for any other situation. If a toddler was depriving an impoverished mother of needed sustenance simply by being another mouth to feed, then who would say she has a right to kill it? Clearly, if she dies, the toddler will soon follow, so it appears to be a trade of one life for two. However, such consequential arguments rings pretty hollow in this hypothetical.

So in the end we're back to the moral status of the fetus, which is where these things always end.

J,

your Road Runner example just confuses me. Why not stick with the current case: mom and baby, mom and baby will die (putting aside the uncertainties of whether she could have been treated until viability of the fetus) w/o the abortion.

The abortion is the murder of the baby, no other way about it (whether it was going to die anyway is irrelevant - we are all going to die eventually).

It comes down to a simple thing, J: Do you agree that it is licit to chhose evil means to reach a good end? If we disagree on that fundamental premise, then there is really no ground to be made.

My intuition is that circumstances should not be a defeater for the instinct of self-defense against preventable harm.

You didn't answer the question, again use euphemism to dance around it, and to justify a direct attack upon the innocent. The baby is either a victim of the circumstances of the pregnancy or an attacker. Which is it?

Zippy, a primary tactic of Jesujerkilac's mode of argument requires attributing ill-will to his opponents: "Why do you want the mother dead?" But I think you want the mother dead to a much lesser degree than he wants the baby dead. More than one can play.

Zippy: the part defining what is meant by "innocent" in the universal norm against deliberately killing the innocent.

You have no problem violating that universal norm with Catholic doctrine that an innocent woman must be left to die, in a hospital emergency room when the doctors know what to do to save her life. So your "universal norm" isn't universal - you exempt pregnant women from it. You don't have a problem when they are deliberately killed...

you don't even make an effort to understand the position of the person you are talking to

I find your position extremely distasteful, but I understand it, and I have made clear that I understand it. That I don't use your weasel words to describe your position is clearly a problem for you, but if you can't bear to see your position described in plain English, that is very much your own self-created problem.

c.matt: The abortion is the murder of the baby, no other way about it (whether it was going to die anyway is irrelevant - we are all going to die eventually).

And refraining from aborting the baby is the murder of the mother. You see it as OK to deliberately kill the mother, knowing that this will ensure that the fetus also dies.

I don't see it as OK to abort a wanted pregnancy, but I see it as better than deliberately killing both mother and fetus. The Catholics on this thread think the reverse.

If you think it's licit to do evil - kill an innocent woman - that good may come (an abortion will not be performed, which absence of action you seem to see as a positve good) we'll never agree.

I think the example of the falling elephant confuses you because you are not ready to accept that the fetus was going to die either when aborted or when the woman died - a difference perhaps of hours.

The big difference to me is that I see saving the woman's life as a positive good, and I see letting both woman and fetus die - killing them, since the doctors could have saved the woman - as an active evil. You apparently see no active good in saving the woman's life, and no active evil in letting both woman and fetus die.

c.matt: then I will have to stand with St. Thomas More (and Christ): what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?

If you think you are standing with Christ when you look at a dying woman, move over to the other side of the road, wash your hands, and go on your way rejoicing over the purity of your own soul becaause you decided your soul was worth more than an innocent woman's life - then I think you need to check your assumptions about Christ. If you recall, it wasn't the Pharisees who passed by in purity on the other side whom Jesus considered the good example: it certainly wasn't the people who thought a great deal of their own souls and were content to look on at the unshared suffering of others.

The baby is either a victim of the circumstances of the pregnancy or an attacker. Which is it?

Uh, okay. I think the baby is a victim of the circumstances. The circumstances may warrant killing all by themselves, and in the United Flight 93 example they certainly did. Since my comments on this thread are challenging the notion of "innocent" for a human without agency, perhaps you should not expect me to agree with your conclusions.

I think if you view a fetus as comparable to a piano or an elephant, then the choice is easy. The problem is that the anti-abortion side views the fetus as a human with full moral value.

Analogies have specific purposes. In this case, the purpose was to establish that agency isn't a prerequisite for cause. Dare I say well over 90% of occurring phenomena have causes not originating in agency.

That said, there are obligations owed to the innocent. The 5-year-old holding the loaded gun is treated differently than the 40-year-old postal worker. Zippy above elides this by claiming that there is some agency at play, no matter how little with the 5-year-old. I don't buy it myself, but it is at least intellectually consistent. Personally I think it is more fruitful to focus on the procedure itself than to make up stories about a fetus not being able to cause death.

Not killing the baby is not the same thing as willing the death of the mother. That seems to be one of the core disagreements.

Discuss.

The Chicken

J is confused. He lacks a clear understanding of what murder is because he keeps equating a mother dying in pregnancy with murder. Simply because a particular circumstance results in a death does not mean a murder occurred. Directly killing the baby in an abortion is murder. Not murdering the baby is not equivalent to murdering the mother. In J's world the only option was whom should have been murdered. This stems from his misunderstanding of what murder is.

He also keeps saying phrases like "it is better to have two people die than one" and attributing it to those who disagree with him, as if that is a general principle. In reality the principle being argued for is simple: though shall not murder.

This is from the NPR report:

" Last November, a 27-year-old woman was admitted to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. She was 11 weeks pregnant with her fifth child, and she was gravely ill. According to a hospital document, she had "right heart failure," and her doctors told her that if she continued with the pregnancy, her risk of mortality was close to 100 percent.'

"The patient, who was too ill to be moved to the operating room much less another hospital, agreed to an abortion."

Note well the last sentence in my excerpt. If this is accurate then we may disregard all the folks quoting 'experts" who prescribe treatment until the fetus is viable.

That leaves us with the "let God sort things out contingent".

C matt is closest and is a good summary, "the abortion is the murder of the baby, no other way about it (whether it was going to die anyway is irrelevant - we are all going to die eventually)". Tony's suggestion that we run things on the idealistic musings of a seven year old, "death before sin", does deserve mention as as it seems to me that one of the functions the good Sister was to perfotm was to accommodate ideology to the actual circumstances faced by flesh and blood human beings.

The discussion so far has seemed to revolve around things like "innocence", 'baby", and all sorts of theological folderol (from the standpoint of public policy). There are perhaps other considerations that go well beyond the internal workings of a Catholic hospital and the trials faced by serious folks like Sister McBride who have to navigate policies set by old men whose chosen vocations have isolated them from real people with real problems.

We start with a dead mother of four and a dead 11 week old fetus which is what we would have in a world run by Zippy, Lydia, Tony, etc. This is America and they are free to believe and assert pretty much anything they wish. The serious question is, do we wish to live in the world as they would have it? The end result of all the philosophizing about "innocence" and "guilt" and all the emoting about "babies" would be a dead 27 year old mother of four and a dead fetus multiplied by some whole number.

There are no perfect solutions in this world. The choice in this case is that we leave it as a private and personal decision made by the woman who is pregnant in full knowledge that some women will make poor choices or we pass laws that will result in the deaths of women like this whose social class or circumstances put them under the thumbs of ideologues.

It seems the 20th century is still with us. For those who vote "pro-life" this should be a 'screams in the night" moment. When you vote ask yourselves if you would want your wife, daughter, sister, best friend to be in the circumstances this poor woman found herself in and not have the option of an abortion.

Two other matters:

1. I'm sure just what being a physics prodigy has to do with neurology is somewhat of a puzzle to at least some of us. As the Schiavo case has relevance to these matters more information is always useful. If a paper is already public what is the harm in sharing?

2. Careful readers of this and its sister thread above have no doubt noticed that the projection problem is again with us. To start, note that the Catholic Church's abortion policy has compelled Catholic Hospitals to have "death panels". Sister McBride was excommunicated because her panel came to the "wrong" decision (yes, yes, I know the fine distinctions possible here, but I consider them irrelevant).

In another comment one of our culturally conservative friends opined that she could see women in similar circumstances being "forced" to have abortions. This is interesting (and an excellent example of projection) as her position (if I understand correctly) would be that these women would be prevented by law from having abortion as an option.

If you think it's licit to do evil - kill an innocent woman - that good may come (an abortion will not be performed, which absence of action you seem to see as a positve good) we'll never agree.

J: It is obvious you do not understand. "Letting" the woman die by not murdering her baby is not doing evil. The circumstance of pulmonary hypertension is not of our making. That is what kills her in this scenario, not me. If there was a way to save her without having to murder her child (or perform other intrinsic evil), I would gladly endorse that option. Would Christ have condoned the Samaritan saving the person attacked by the robbers by the Samaritan butchering an innocent baby lying next to the Samaritan? That is closer to the situation than your Pharisee.

It is you who thinks it is licit to do evil (murder the innocent child) to do good (save the mother). Just admit it already so we can move on.

c. matt, another aphorism I was thinking of: "the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath" (Mark 2:27).

The people here arguing that it is better to let two die than to save one, because saving one means performing an abortion, and performing an abortion is wrong, even though it is the choice between one death and two deaths - the fetus will die because the doctors decide not to save the mother, or the fetus will die because the doctors decide to save the mother by removing the fetus that is killing her.

The Catholic interpretation of Jesus's words and actions with regard to the Sabbath were that Jesus intended to "set himself in word and act against this absurd rigorism which made man a slave of the day. He reproved the scribes and Pharisees for putting an intolerable burden on men's shoulders" (The Sabbath in the New Testament, Catholic Encyclopedia)

The reason I understood why some people believe abortion is wrong is because they argue that once conceived, a fetus is a humam being, and has the same right to life as the mother. Therefore, it is wrong to abort because death is wrong - the human once conceived should be given its chance to live.

But you, along with Lydia and Zippy and too many others to mention, have declared that abortion is wrong with an absurd rigorism that makes no exception even for instances like this one where denying a woman an abortion is not giving the fetus a chance to live: it is only ensuring that the woman will die, and the fetus with her. You do not believe abortion is wrong because you believe death is wrong: you believe abortion is wrong because such is the Law, and you will apply the Law regardless of what burden it places on people's shoulders - on the doctors whom you wish to force to stand by and watch a woman die when they know they could save her: on the woman's family, who have to endure losing someone they loved and knowing she could have been saved if the Catholic Church had valued her life: on the woman herself, dying against her will as a sacrifice to an inhuman Law.

Golly, Al, and I was just telling someone that you are one of the more civil of the liberal commentators. But "baby" is "theological folderol?"


Okay, I was wroooooonnnnnnnggggg!

Do you also call the word "baby" "theological folderol" when applying it to, say, a three-month-old?

By the way, I saw my eldest at 12 weeks' gestation on an ultrasound sucking her thumb. Looked remarkably like a baby to me.

old men whose chosen vocations have isolated them from real people with real problems.

Are you saying priests don't have sisters or mothers or other relatives, or that they somehow are immune from the human condition? This is not even a serious argument.

The question we are examining is the moral one. The correct moral course of conduct is often very hard to follow for "flesh and blood" human beings (are there other kinds?), but we are called to follow it nonetheless.

J:

We believe abortion is wrong because it is the deliberate taking of an innocent life. We believe in the scenario under discussion, the nun's approval was wrong because evil means may not be used to bring about a good end.

Point to one instance of Christ instructing His followers to do an intrinsically evil act so that good may come from it.

We believe abortion is wrong because it is the deliberate taking of an innocent life.

But you don't believe it is wrong to deliberately take two innocent lives. Which is what not performing the abortion meant in this case.

So why is it intrinsically evil to take one life, but not intrinsically evil to take two?

No one seems to be able to explain why it's OK for the doctors to kill the unborn baby by deliberately allowing the mother to die in the sure knowledge that when she dies the unborn baby also dies. Why does the mother's death make it OK to kill the unborn baby?

And I suspect the reason none of the Pharisees can answer that question is that applying the Law has become an end in itself for them: they have no feeling for any higher purpose which would let them understand that two deaths are not better than one.

Jesurgislac, are all intrinsic evils mere "rigorisms?"

In Zippy's quote of Veritatis Splendor, it's clear from a Catholic perspective that intrinsic evils cannot be compromised, ever. So the questions are:
1) Do you believe in intrinsic evil at all?
2) Do you disagree with Catholicism's stand against compromise for intrinsic evils (which would included killing the innocent, rape, torture, and other things).
3) If you do disagree, does that mean you think that "rape" can fall into rigorism as well?
4) Do you believe murdering an unborn child falls into the category of intrinsic evil?

If you simply categorize murdering the unborn as "not intrinsically evil," then that is the crux of the disagreement, and you should just realize we see it as evil in the way rape would be, and get on with your life.

Scolding us for not killing the unborn child to save the woman because the child was going to die anyway is like scolding us for not raping someone to save someone's life because that person was going to be raped whether we participated, or not. It's just purely insane for you to suggest such a thing, and that is the nature of the thing you are suggesting to us. Berating us for rigorism is just one form of pressure comparable to a rapist pressuring the rest of his mob to participate. It's quite sickening, really, when you realize you are talking about an intrinsic evil.

If, on the other hand, you do recognize the intrinsic evil of killing the baby, then I presume there is a price high enough to get you to approve of other intrinsic evils, like raping someone. It would then seem to me that you are like the proverbial whore who has established that there is a price you are willing to pay, and all that is left is the price negotiation.

MZ :

Analogies have specific purposes. In this case, the purpose was to establish that agency isn't a prerequisite for cause. Dare I say well over 90% of occurring phenomena have causes not originating in agency.
This is very confused. Nobody anywhere in the discussion claimed that agency is the only sort of cause. Quite the contrary.

Agency is prerequisite to a choice to engage in an attacking behavior; and innocence of the pertinent kind obtains unless the person has chosen to engage in an attacking behavior.

But you don't believe it is wrong to deliberately take two innocent lives.

You keep saying this, and it is the stupidest thing (I think) you keep saying. If I refuse to shoot through an innocent hostage to prevent a terrorist from killing yet another, I don't kill the other--the terrorist does. By refusing to kill the baby, I don't deliberately kill anyone. This is so completely obvious that when you say it, it evokes the warning: Everyone stop talking and walk slowly away from the crazy man.

It would be nice if you would demonstrate that you are not crazy. But I won't hang anything critical on that expectation. I mean, seriously, dude--you should at least figure that fundamental thing out before going further.

Unless the crazy man shows he ain't crazy, I think I'm done here. There's only so much you can do for a man who thinks a rock is a squirrel.

Sigh,
Jes isn't a man, so could everyone please stop saying she is, like crazy people?

Step2, I seriously find it a lot less worrying that they think I'm a guy, than their fixed idea that it's OK to kill (as they put it) an unborn baby - providing they do so by killing the mother. Their persistent argument that it's intrinsically evil to save the mother's life by performing an abortion, that it's better for two to die than to save one life - that is disturbing and crazy. Merely assuming I'm a different gender is just... well, the Internet is the Internet.

Hi Lydia, note the comma. i consider the use of the term "baby" in the abortion debate to be too often an attempt to emotionally manipulate. That is separate from an individual's considerations to their own situation (mazel tov!); the woman in question may well have seen the fetus as her baby also; she had to balance the welfare of the child she was carrying with her own as well as her four other children and her husband. I find it hard to believe that your calculus has no place for these considerations.

In the present example the term informs us not at all and the whole "innocence", "guilt", "murder" attachments are childish and unserious.. I see the central issue as being a 27 year old woman, in dire circumstances, needing a procedure in a timely fashion if she is to survive. My point is that this is her call. She has the right to be properly informed and to have all possible procedures available to her. She should have the right to risk her life and put the fetus first or to put herself and the rest of her family first and have an abortion. The Sister did her job and gets punished.

Your use of the three month old is what I mean. A three month old is likely causing a good deal of sleep deprivation, her presence is endangering no ones life unless one happens to trip over her. A three month old baby and an 11 week old fetus, in terms of their ability to effect the health of the mother, have nothing in common.

I used the term "theological folderol" (separate from the term "baby") because we have a secular society and there are limits to the usefulness of theology and theologians. Since there seems to be an internal debate within the Church on this matter, I see no useful information for the society as a whole by one (internal) side seeking to inflict its notions on the rest of us.

I would remind you of the Bishops getting snookered on health care by outsiders. At this point with the Church and on many issues, Gresham's Law rules.

"The question we are examining is the moral one. The correct moral course of conduct is often very hard to follow for "flesh and blood" human beings (are there other kinds?), but we are called to follow it nonetheless."

All I see from your side is the exact same discussion that we would be having if the woman had found the pregnancy inconvenient because of a pre-existing social event at which she wished to appear slim and trim. If your moral calculus can't differentiate between serious and trivial, I don't see much use for it.

"Are you saying priests don't have sisters or mothers or other relatives, or that they somehow are immune from the human condition? This is not even a serious argument."

We have been seeing for a number of years the effects of a celibate clergy that is out of touch with regular folks on many issues. The good Sister had a regular job along with her vocation, one that required her to be able to actually help people. The Bishop is part of a bureaucracy that has too often been inwardly focused. My impression is that there are too few like Sister McBride as you go up the hierarchical food chain.

J has no understanding of what "killing" means. To use an example, do I liter when I do not pick up other peoples trash?

Kurt, we'reattempting to discuss a woman - a real,living human person - who was dying in an emergency room last year. Her life was saved because doctors performed an abortion. The Catholic Church is of the opinion that that she should have been left to die. Trying to compare this to picking up trash? That's trashy.

Hi Lydia!

You may be wrong about al, but what if you’re wrong about a metaphysics-drenched moral position?

We may have a right to put our own lives at risk whenever we feel like it; but mountain hikers sometimes cut that rope.

The question is whether patients rushed to US hospitals in an emergency are safe from the metaphysics-drenched moral positions of those who run them. Are there any laws, regulations, a code of conduct for the medical profession or are there also emergency units run by people who oppose transfusions?

The position that there are no ethical limits - only physical limits - on what doctors ought to do is itself a metaphysics-drenched position.

Zippy: The position that there are no ethical limits - only physical limits - on what doctors ought to do is itself a metaphysics-drenched position.

That doctors should follow their patients wishes and should act to maximise life and health, is an ethical limit.

The Catholic Church requires doctors who work in Catholic hospitals - who may not even be Catholic themselves - to ignore the ethical limits mandated by their profession in favor of a spiritual idea that it's better to let two people die than save the one who can be saved.

There are two wills involved in any moral decision: God's and Man's. To say that by not killing the baby two people are murdered confuses the two wills. God cannot murder. If the woman dies because we let the child live the amount of time it naturally has, there is no murder since the death of the mother is accidental to keeping the baby alive. Man is required not to murder, but death and murder are two different things. The mother may die by an act of God as an accidental to following God's will. She is not, then, murdered. The same thing happened to Christ. He, too, could have saved himself, you know, but he chose to unite his will to the Father's even though it cost him his life.

Two dead people from following God's will is more noble than murdering (an act of man, alone) one to save one. That divorces man's will from God's.

The Chicken

However it is framed, the position is as metaphysics-drenched as any other.

And that forehead tatoo is getting so bright it must be causing third degree burns by now.

Right Zippy, I can and I will!

If the case in question is not a reductio of a moral position I don’t know what is. (I’m not clear if the ‘pro-life’ position is presented here as a species of moral egoism, where the pro-lifer’s preoccupation is with the fate of one’s own eternal life; in which case I can’t see why a pro-lifer cannot be pro-choice also.)

But I asked about the law, which may only be a convention; in a democracy we have established mechanisms for making/changing laws. The Phoenix story just sounds absurd. I wonder if the Medical Association or the courts would have something to say about predictable results next time a similar case is treated in accordance with the Bishop’s views.

I can't answer the legal question, though I suspect that the big issue, this being modern America and all - a country which has slaughtered tens of millions of it's own children in the name of "freedom" - would be lawsuits rather than criminality.

Dear Jesurgislac,

May God bless you and if I have unfairly judged you in any way, I apologize and ask your forgiveness. In the heat of battle, we never seem to say that, enough, either in person or on the Internet. Nowadays, it's always win, win, win. This topic of life and death will be debated until the end of time. We may disagree on the topic of this post, but how can either of us claim to be defending life if we are busy clubbing each other to death?

Again, may we argue well, but forgive even better.


The Chicken

J

I was not comparing killing to littering, but simply pointing out that not picking up other peoples trash is not itself an act of littering. Likewise "letting someone die" is not an act of killing. When you say people think it is alright to kill the pregnant women you just don't know what you are talking about.

than their fixed idea that it's OK to kill (as they put it) an unborn baby - providing they do so by killing the mother. Their persistent argument that it's intrinsically evil to save the mother's life by performing an abortion, that it's better for two to die than to save one life - that is disturbing and crazy.

J, it appears to be the case that you equate not acting in a way that could save a life with acting in a way that will take a life. But this manifestly wrong: Not acting is not a moral act in and of itself. You personally didn't act to save the mother. Are you therefore equated with acting to kill her? Of course not. Nor am I, or Zippy, or Step2, etc. None of us acted to save her, yet none of us are to be equated with acting to kill her.

Of course, there are situations where a person has an opportunity to act, and an

obligation to act, and refuses to act. In those cases, his refusal to act is a moral act. But in that case his moral act is the positive choice: refusal, an actual movement of his will. When YOU and I didn't act to save the mother, there was no operation of our wills, because of course we had no opportunity to so act.

But what you must not do, in a discussion of this sort, is to equate even the refusal to act, when the opportunity and obligation is present, as being precisely identical with the acting. If I have the opportunity to save a life by pushing someone out of the way of a falling piano, and I simply walk the other way, then I may be guilty of a great evil, but the evil I am guilty of is that of an omission, , not of commission. The evil choice I make is that of refusing to act, not of acting. The person's blood is on my hands in terms of guilt, not because I killed them - no, the piano killed them - but because I had their saving in my hands and I threw that opportunity away.

Now, with the baby, the doctor killed him or her. The doctor clearly had the opportunity to kill the baby, and took it. If the doctor's obligation was to kill the baby, then a refusal by him to kill the baby would have been a great evil, and by that evil guilt of the mother's death would be on his hands - but he would STILL not be guilty of the act of killing the mother. Hypertension is what would have killed the mother, not the doctor. If the doctor's obligation was to kill the baby, his failure to do so would have been an evil of omission, not that of commission. PLEASE KEEP THIS DISTINCTION STRAIGHT in the name of clarity. Calling a potential refusal to act killing the mother and child is simply not precise enough language for this discussion.

Needless to say, I don't think that the doctor's obligation was to kill the baby. But that's a separate issue from whether the doctor's refusal to take that act would rightly called killing the baby and mother. It isn't. You may think that the difference is stupid and inconsequential to understanding the issues, but your opponents don't think so. If you continue to ignore a distinction that your opponents insist is critical, you cannot actually advance the argument. An advance in the debate can only come with actually recognizing the distinction, and then defeating it through argument by proving that it has no important weight in the discussion, not by ignoring it or pretending that it is meaningless.


Step2,
Uh, okay. I think the baby is a victim of the circumstances.

Hey, thanks for that. And thanks for calling the fetus a baby.

The circumstances may warrant killing all by themselves...

This is incompatible with the above admission.

...and in the United Flight 93 example they certainly did.

Well you know what I'd say about that.

Since my comments on this thread are challenging the notion of "innocent" for a human without agency, perhaps you should not expect me to agree with your conclusions.

As long as you cannot see that nothing could be more innocent than "a human without agency," no, I certainly don't expect that.

Kurt, we're attempting to discuss a woman - a real,living human person - who was dying in an emergency room last year. Her life was saved because doctors performed an abortion. The Catholic Church is of the opinion that that [?] she should have been left to die.

Let's try this:

Kurt, we're attempting to discuss a mother and her baby - two real,living human persons - who were dying in an emergency room last year. The mother's life was saved because doctors attacked and killed the baby. The Catholic Church is of the opinion that every possible effort should have been made to save both lives, short of murdering one to save the other.

Perhaps, an interesting article for the discussion?

The Chicken

All I see from your side is the exact same discussion that we would be having if the woman had found the pregnancy inconvenient because of a pre-existing social event at which she wished to appear slim and trim. If your moral calculus can't differentiate between serious and trivial, I don't see much use for it.

The moral calculus is straightforward and quite true: You cannot do evil to cause good.

Whether the end is seriously good, or merely trivial, does not change it. In fact, the whole point is that especially when a good end is being sought, it does not change it, because that is when we are most tempted to rationalize it away. Even a good reason cannot turn an evil act into a good one.

I take it, al, you would then be in favor of nuking a civilian populated city in order to bring a war to an end?

J:

The first ethical directive of physicians (for millenia, although ignored as of late) is: First, do no harm. Aborting the baby is doing harm.

although al, your comment I quoted does bring an intersting thought to mind. It seems the pro-choice and the pro-life side are both consistent (depending upon the underlying philosophy of each). A pro-choicer who sees the unborn as a non-entity, nothing more than a clump of cells with no moral worth, and therefore killing or terminating it has no moral significance, would (or should) approve of the abortion both to save the pulmonary hypertensive mom or in the case of the woman who does not want to ruin her figure. I therefore assume you would disdain such a person's moral calculus that does not distinguish between the serious and the trivial?

The pro-lifer is consistent in that the fetus has moral worth, is in fact a human being and has the moral worth of one, and therefore a decision to kill or terminate one is NEVER a trivial one regardless of the circumstances. So whose moral calculus cannot differentiate between the trivial and the serious? Is it the circumstances that therefore give the moral worth to the fetus? It is a human being when you want to terminate it for trivial reasons (maintaining your figure) but not a human being when the mother's life is at risk? I don't have much use for a moral calculus that cannot differentiate between the ontological and the contingent.

Tony,
Very well said.

MC,
Not really that relevant to this case. Your linked article is talking about the mother possibly dying of pulmonary hypertension after delivery, not at 11 weeks.

William,
As far as I can tell, what is supposed to make the prohibition against killing intrinsically immoral is a strong definition of innocence. When that criteria is weakened, so is the moral gravity. On top of that, I think the point mentioned above about the mountain hiker cutting the rope is based on a healthy instinct for self-preservation. A multitude of things, most likely including many decisions the climber made, have gone horribly awry if someone he is tethered to is in dire trouble and is furthermore placing them both in jeopardy of serious injury or death. Yet there comes a critical point of the choice between him and his climbing partner falling, or just his climbing partner. As close as that analogy is, it still is inaccurate because there simply is no way to cut the tether without killing the baby, unlike a climbing partner who could survive a fall.

True story, if you're interested:
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/how-we-met-joe-simpson-and-simon-yates-1280331.html

As far as I can tell, what is supposed to make the prohibition against killing intrinsically immoral is a strong definition of innocence. When that criteria is weakened, so is the moral gravity.

You're losing me, Step2. How is the criterion weakened in the case of an unborn child?

Re the article you link: it's a fascinating story. If Simon had not cut the line, it might have been heroic but it's not obvious to me that it would have been obligatory. That slight disanalogy you note is really quite huge because it makes all the difference in the world. There is also the exigency of circumstances in which, finding one's own life at stake, one hardly has time to think. This would not make a wrong right (if it was wrong) but would diminish culpability. Such moment-of-crisis decision making would not apply to Sister McBride, but might conceivably to the mother, depending on what medical advice she was being given. I'd be very curious to know exactly what the doctors told her.

As far as I can tell, the unborn child did not choose to be there, unlike the two mountain climbers. The climbers both chose to engage in a dangerous activity aware of potential risks, thus an argument can be made that "innocence" is somewhat diminished. Not so for the unborn child.

the unborn child did not choose to be there, unlike the two mountain climbers.

That's true, c matt; it is part of what establishes the baby's innocence. But, re The climbers both chose to engage in a dangerous activity aware of potential risks; thus an argument can be made that "innocence" is somewhat diminished, the question is: what kind of moral obligation does that tether holding the two climbers together create? I don't think 'innocence', as you're using it, applies here, because the fact that both climbers consented to the activity doesn't mean that one can attack the other, as the doctors attacked the baby. You don't surrender your status as an innocent simply because you chose to put yourself in a dangerous situation. The crucuial distinction remains that Simon was not trying to kill his fellow climber, and had good reason to believe he could survive the fall.

c matt: The first ethical directive of physicians (for millenia, although ignored as of late) is: First, do no harm. Aborting the baby is doing harm.

"First, do no harm". Yes - the key ethical directive of physicians, although the Catholic Church it appears wishes to override it.

To refrain from performing that abortion would have killed the mother.

Killing your patient is "doing harm", too, you know. Or perhaps you don't? You do realise the woman is a human being, with a human life worth living, that the physicians at St Joseph's are now being told by Bishop Olmsted that they have an obligation enforced on them by the Catholic Church to ignore the first ethical directive of physicians for millennia?

This woman whose life was saved by that abortion, may know that not only does her local Bishop think she should have been left to die, but that hundreds of Catholics like you think she should be dead.

That too is "doing harm".

If you truly believe "You cannot do evil to cause good" - how can wishing that abortion was not performed be good? It is evil to wish that a woman who did you no harm is dead.

you think she should be dead...It is evil to wish that a woman who did you no harm is dead...

Ad nauseum. One definition of insanity is saying the same thing over and over in the belief that repetition will render it true.

Mile Petrik, posting a comment on Jimmy Akin's blog at NCRegister has this to say (in part):

Recent reports state that Sister McBride now also agrees that she made a moral error, and that her excommunication has now been lifted. That is exceedingly happy news.

The Chicken

WL wrote,

"The crucuial distinction remains that Simon was not trying to kill his fellow climber, and had good reason to believe he could survive the fall."

But Joe (the cuttee) said,

"In order to stop himself plummeting over the edge, the only thing he could do was cut the rope and let me go - to prevent us both being dragged to our deaths. He obviously knew that this could kill me, but he had no choice."

And Simon (the cutter) said,

"Cutting the rope was the only choice I had, even though it was obvious that it was likely to kill Joe. There wasn't much time to think; it was just something which had to be done quickly or I `d have been dragged to my death."

Then, after the sun was up he related that he,

"I shouted across the crevasse but I didn't think of looking in it - it seemed impossible he could have survived."

One of the drawbacks in succumbing to ideological thinking is that it leads us to selectively editing inputs.

The general rule is we shouldn't kill wantonly or needlessly. "Innocence" and "guilt" are categories used to define exceptions to the general rule as are concepts like "assumption of risk" and "acceptable collateral damage". There are likely other categories that we file things under in order to allow us to accept the deaths of others - industrial "accidents"? - move on, nothing to see here.

Perhaps, in a situation where the deaths of one or some are unavoidable and other(s) need not die "innocence" alone is not dispositive. In any event, starting at an inapplicable place on the decision tree will likely result in an unsatisfactory ending.

I still don't understand pinning "incivility" on a mere quibble with terminology. To moi, words should make things clear. Based on some of the comments above, it would be reasonable to summarize what happened as, "some doctors attacked an eleven week old baby and killed it." Clarity demands the use of "unborn" as a qualifier. I prefer using one word instead of two and I would further assert that adding the appropriate qualifier dilutes the emotional impact of "baby" which would be counterproductive to the whole point of using the word in the first place. "Attacked" is so obvious as to need no comment.

Matt, I would need more information on the nuclear weapons, but I am sure President Lincoln, had he had them, would have made the right decision.

Also there is no inconsistency in judging individual motives while opposing legislation that by its nature can only be class based and incompatible with a free society.

He obviously knew that this could kill me

With the emphasis on "could", whereas with the baby it was a definite "would."

And from the cutter: "that it was likely to kill Joe", with the emphasis on "likely," whereas with the baby...

"There wasn't much time to think..," whereas with the doctor and the Sister...

"Innocence" and "guilt" are categories used to define exceptions to the general rule

No they are not, else you don't have a rule.

Based on some of the comments above, it would be reasonable to summarize what happened as, "some doctors attacked an eleven week old baby and killed it." Clarity demands the use of "unborn" as a qualifier.

If there were people reading the thread who didn't understand that the baby was unborn, they shouldn't be here. The qualifier "unborn" alters the quality of being a baby not one whit.

"Attacked" is so obvious as to need no comment.

Yes, this is often the case with descriptions that are obviously true.

I would need more information on the nuclear weapons, but I am sure President Lincoln, had he had them, would have made the right decision.

Haha, you're such a bigot. It's amazing people still treat you as a sensible person with good intentions.

WL: One definition of insanity is saying the same thing over and over in the belief that repetition will render it true.

I'm sorry, did you at any point in this thread assert that you were glad the abortion had been performed because that saved this woman's life? Or have you, like all the other pro-lifers on this thread, been repeatedly condemnning the abortion of an 11-week fetus, on the grounds that it would have been so much more moral to kill the woman and the fetus together by deliberately withholding lifesaving treatment from the woman?

on the grounds that it would have been so much more moral to kill the woman and the fetus together

See? You're still doing it. Get help.

William,
You'll notice that J. isn't the only one practicing repetition. But at least she has the advantage of repeating a fact, not an evasion.

And you're her echo chamber. Unlike Lydia, I'm not disappointed because it's just what I expected.

William Luce: You're still doing it. Get help.

I'm planning to - It will be necessary for collective action to get the state of Arizona inform all Catholic hospitals that either they reject Bishop Olmsted's teaching that it's better for emergency rooms to let pregnant women die rather than perform abortions - or they lose all state funding. Doctors working in Catholic hospitals must be allowed to do their job and fulfil their professional and ethical responsibilities: a religious body mustn't be allowed to mandate death over life.

"I'm planning to - It will be necessary for collective action to get the state of Arizona inform all Catholic hospitals that either they reject Bishop Olmsted's teaching that it's better for emergency rooms to let pregnant women die rather than perform abortions - or they lose all state funding."

Good luck, the protection Arizona's conscience law affords hospitals is extensive. Elections have consequences there as everywhere and this is what happens when folks vote for conservatives.

I've also been following this on MOJ as well as here. Now we see this, "And you're her echo chamber. Unlike Lydia, I'm not disappointed because it's just what I expected", which seems rather harsh given the conservative orientation of the person to whom it is directed.

I just don't get it; what makes this particular matter a litmus test? Whatever ones position on abortion in general, those of us one the "wrong" side of this matter can't get past the facts as they appear on their face. A critically ill woman with a fetus way over two months from viability presented with an underlying condition that was incompatible with being pregnant. The Chicken posted a reference that pointed out that protocols exist that can allow such pregnancies to continue successfully if effected in time. The NPR article indicated that the woman was near death; if she couldn't have been moved to an OR, how could she have made it to an ICU? The bare facts (so far not contradicted) seem to be that absent the abortion we would have had an dead woman and a dead fetus.

All of the arguments seem to depend on the innocence of the fetus making any action that would directly terminate it unacceptable. It has been pointed out that innocence is less than dispositive in many cases involving the loss of human life. These have been unanswered.

Since I assume none of you would advocate just letting the woman die under any other likely circumstances, why not stretch a bit and try to understand that many, likely most, of us are simply baffled by your passion in advocating for policies that would result in an unnecessary death.

From a practical standpoint, this seems like the worst possible case on which to take an absolutist stand. This does however provide some clarity which makes it worthwhile. In the end the woman lived and, as with the Schiavo case, we get an insight into the world some social conservatives would would make for us.


which seems rather harsh given the conservative orientation of the person to whom it is directed.

That's rich. On this issue, he's in the same camp with an anti-Catholic pro-abortion fanatic.

It has been pointed out that innocence is less than dispositive in many cases involving the loss of human life. These have been unanswered.

Then you haven't read the thread or, if you have, you just didn't like the answers.

I assume none of you would advocate just letting the woman die under any other likely circumstances

If those likely circumstances do not require murdering one human being to save another, then yes. Let it go, al. You know that I consider the child's life, whether unborn or no, to be of equal value and dignity as that of any other on the planet, and that the moral law prohibits me ever intentionally killing one to save the other. We will never agree on that.

Hi al!

Legally, do hospitals have a conscience? I don't think the doctors who performed the abortion alleged they were forced by the nun to do it against their will.

It may not be necessary to withhold all public funding from hospitals which prohibit certain operations on their premises(e.g.abortions or blood transfusions) on religious grounds. It seems sufficient to make public funding conditional on shutting down any Accident & Emergency facilities.

William Luce: "You know that I consider the child's life, whether unborn or no, to be of equal value and dignity as that of any other on the planet, and that the moral law prohibits me ever intentionally killing one to save the other. "

While your moral law allows you to intentionally kill both. Odd, that.

I guess, however, that when you consider the fetus's life to be of equal value and dignity to the pregnant woman's, as soon as it's clear the fetus is going to die, to make things equal, you have to ensure the woman dies too.

Overseas: "It seems sufficient to make public funding conditional on shutting down any Accident & Emergency facilities."

That works for a start. Then of course that hospital would cease to receive any funding dependent on A&E facilities, and another hospital which was willing to fulfil its ethical obligations would receive it.

The idea that "voting conservative" in a FPTP system means that everyone can be denied medical treatment is a form of collective punishment, though.

While your moral law allows you to intentionally kill both. Odd, that.

I stubbed my toe on a squirrel today. It hurt, and that squirrel was nuts, but then I picked up a rock to throw at it, and the doggone rock bit me! If that wasn't enough, it climbed a tree and threw walnuts at me.

And, by the way, William, you are obviously a murderer. I asked a trained psychologist about you, and he is the most ethical man I've ever known. His name was Charles Manson. (He's doing some kind of undercover psychological study in a prison.) He says you're a murderer, so it must be true--and he's right on board with Jurassicslacker in this thread in saying that you want to kill both of those people. But he also clarified for me that the woman was actually an apple pie, and the baby was really a licorice stick. *Obviously* you have to choose the apple pie over the licorice stick, and refusing to melt the licorice stick for the sake of the apple pie is just loony, and it make you a murderer. Charles Manson says so.

Oh, and he says to tell J "Hi."

So, in conclusion, the most important thing to take away from this is that it is very, very, very important for Jesurgsilac to avoid picking up any rocks she observes. Leave them alone! They bight!

That's some real mojo. It naturally leads to the question - why do conservatives hate baseball?

While your moral law allows you to intentionally kill both. Odd, that.

The doctors killed them.

This whole episode has some questions I want to see answered:

a) If a woman showed up in the emergency room, too unstable to be put in ICU, where did they find the time to assemble a committee to decide her fate? Tempus fugit. She would have been dead by the time they found everyone.

b) If the doctors on the committee had been Catholic, they, too, would have incurred automatic excommunication and, yet, this was never pronounced on them. I conclude that none of them were Catholic.

c) Doctors are trained in medical school to accept the idea of "theraputic" abortion. Who argued against it? Anyone? How is this not an example of Groupthink?

d) What the heck was the woman doing in the ER to start with? Didn't her doctor know she was a candidate for pul. hypertension? If so, he should have been monitoring her much more closely. He should have researched the literature (even the Internet) to find treatments that would keep her stable. It seems that she was in the ER because of a failure of imagination in her treatment plan.

e) Where the heck was the woman's husband?

The Chicken

MC,
Say that this patient was in distress but not as bad as we've been led to believe. Let's say she was stable enough to be transported to a different hospital. Would the nun incur any penalty from authorizing the patient to transfer to another hospital knowing that she would obtain an abortion there? From various stories I've read, doctors and nurses who work at Catholic hospitals sometimes do unofficially tell patients in similar life-threatening situations that they should go somewhere else to get an abortion. I was wondering if that was an official policy if it would cause excommunication. If it is such an offense, it would look like the hospital is holding the patient hostage.

I was wondering if that was an official policy if it would cause excommunication.

One cannot excommunicate a hospital - perhaps the administrator who proposed it.

If it is not an offcial policy, one can always usggest another hospital. This is not near occasion of sin, only proximate. They are not telling the patient to have an abortion at another hospital, nor telling the other hospital to abort the baby. These are decisions of the patient and the other hospital.

The Chicken

Step2: Say that this patient was in distress but not as bad as we've been led to believe. Let's say she was stable enough to be transported to a different hospital. Would the nun incur any penalty from authorizing the patient to transfer to another hospital knowing that she would obtain an abortion there? From various stories I've read, doctors and nurses who work at Catholic hospitals sometimes do unofficially tell patients in similar life-threatening situations that they should go somewhere else to get an abortion. I was wondering if that was an official policy if it would cause excommunication. If it is such an offense, it would look like the hospital is holding the patient hostage.

From all I've read by people who need abortions for health-related reasons, and found too late their hospital would not provide them, it's really dependent on the goodwill of the person you speak to. Some simply tell the woman she can't have an abortion at this hospital, and leave her - usually in considerable distress, since she has just been told she has lost or must lose a wanted baby - to find out for herself where she can have a physician remove the dead or dying fetus from her uterus - hopefully, before irrecoverable damage is done to her future fertility. Others will direct her to a hospital or a specialist who will help her.

The situation described, where the woman is dying right now if an abortion is not performed immediately, is one where I would have assumed any hospital would know they had an obligation to act at once - either to move the woman to a hospital where they had the expertise to save her life, or to act at once (since a first-trimester abortion is a simple and easy treatment) to save her life there and then. Like Sister McBride, I assumed that even if a Catholic hospital feels no obligation to care for a woman who is about to lose a much-wanted baby late in pregnancy, they would at least acknowledge a responsibility to keep her from dying in their emergency room.

For women, treatment at Catholic hospitals really does seem to come down to a toss of the coin: are the people treating her devout and thus required by their religion to take no care for her health, welfare, or even her life: or sufficiently undevout to regard her health, welfare, life - and her future fertility! - as a matter of concern, even if their immediate employer will not allow them to express that concern in any way but verbally.

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