Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Woman's death prompts abortion discussion in Ireland

Recently, a woman, who was 17 weeks pregnant, died from a blood infection called septicemia. I am not a doctor and do not know all the details. What I do know is that this incident is renewing calls to legalize abortion in Ireland. However, I am unclear how this incident is related to abortion.

I heard somewhere that septicemia can often be caused by prolonged labor. It seems the woman in question was in the process of miscarrying her baby, but the baby's heart was still beating and it was illegal for her to abort. It is implied that her labor and inability to have an abortion caused the infection to continue and ultimately kill her.

This however has not officially been the verdict. As I said, this case is causing renewed calls for abortion to be legalized in this country. So what are the Catholic principles at play? First of all, you cannot do evil so that good may result. In other words, you cannot kill one person so that another might live. However, it becomes somewhat more nuanced when it comes to unborn children. If, for example, something is happening within a woman, say uterine cancer, and the uterus has to be removed, this can be licit even if the resultant death of the fetus is foreseeable. This is called the law of double effect, and involves unintended consequences. There are specific Catholic guidelines as to when this would apply. The main thing is that the Church is not opposed to saving the life of the mother, even if that can end up killing the fetus, as long as certain conditions are met.

It seems like this woman was not given proper treatment but it seems unlikely that the only way to treat a blood infection would be to abort her baby. It seems more plausible that there are medications and procedures which can be done to alleviate the blood infection and it appears these steps were not taken. Like I mentioned earlier, even if these treatments could foreseeably kill the fetus, they may still be licit in the eyes of the Church.

Is this a side-door attempt by the pro-abortion lobby to make abortion legal in Ireland? CBC Radio was quick to cover this incident on "As It Happens". Of course, they interviewed a Pro-Choice advocate in Ireland. She did not stick to this topic, but went off on tangents about how a certain number of Irish women travel to the UK to receive abortions each year and how it should be legalized in Ireland. Of course, there was no counter-balance from someone in Ireland's pro-life movement.

This is a terrible and sad tragedy, but people should not use it for the purpose of creating many more tragedies with legalized abortion.

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