Monday, July 19, 2010

Between a rock and a hard place

Margo's comments on my post "Whenever you find yourself" got me to thinking. How can someone consider themselves pro-life and say on a poll that they think abortion should be legal in some circumstances? Believe it or not I can see it. In fact I've been there.

It happens because of false choices and false information. For instance, what if the mother's life was in danger and the choice was either abort the baby to save her life, or both would die. This is a false choice, because it doesn't actually happen. Certainly women are faced with medical problems during pregnancy, but do any of them require abortion? Let's look at some cases.

Consider St. Margaret McBride, who was excommunicated for approving of an abortion at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix. A number of articles, in places from NPR to the National Catholic Distorter Reporter trounced on the issue of the big mean Catholic church condemning a woman to death. But these stories (and others) overlook the facts of the case. First, off, the mean old Catholic church did not excommunicate Sr. McBride, she did so herself, when she participated in the abortion decision. But was it moral? Wikipedia, of all places, quotes:
In explanation of how McBride excommunicated herself through her actions, Father John Ehrich, medical ethics director for the diocese, issued a statement that stated "The unborn child can never be thought of as a pathology or an illness. That is, the child is not that which threatens the life of the mother, rather it is the pathology or illness (cancer, premature rupture of membranes, hypertension, preeclampsia, etc.) which threatens the mother's life." Since "no physician can predict what will happen with 100 percent accuracy," Ehrich wrote, "What we should not do ... is lower risks associated with pregnancy by aborting children."
And that's really what this case is about. The mother's life was not in immediate danger in this case, she merely had an "increased risk of complications" as the pregnancy continued. Additionally, her life was not being threatened by the child, but by the disease. From what I have read there was no attempt to treat the disease before recommending abortion. From LifeSite News:
...Dr. Paul A. Byrne, Director of Neonatology and Pediatrics at St. Charles Mercy Hospital in Toledo, Ohio, disputes the claim that an abortion is ever a procedure necessary to save the life of the mother, or carries less risk than birth.
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.”
Byrne has the distinction of being a pioneer in the field of neonatology, beginning his work in the field in 1963 and becoming a board-certified neonatologist in 1975. He invented one of the first oxygen masks for babies, an incubator monitor, and a blood-pressure tester for premature babies, which he and a colleague adapted from the finger blood pressure checkers used for astronauts.
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, even by such simple things as eliminating salt from her diet, exercising, or losing weight.
...“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.
Without being involved in the pro-life movement, just from reading news sources like the Huffington Post, ABC News, NPR, or as noted, even NCR, I would get false information about the events (c'mon, the Nation Catholic Reporter doesn't even know how excommunication works!) as well as false information about the decision made. I could easily reach the opinion that abortion should be kept legal for cases like this.

I have pro-abort friends who scoff at stories like this saying that they refuse to read news from places like LifeSite News because of their pro-life bias. But in refusing to read multiple sources they are accepting the pro-abortion bias of the one source they do read. And while I will gladly read Scientific American for new discoveries, or CNN for headline stories, I'm certainly not going to trust them for information about ethics and morality.

And in this case the LifeSite News article is spot on. If you read the original statement from the hospital (which I read at the time but can't seem to find online now) it states that the mother would have a serious risk of complications if the pregnancy were carried to term, not that the mother was in immediate danger. All the statements about "certain death" were added by reporters or other health agencies. I can accept that the mother had less risk after the abortion, but abortion wasn't the only option.

In fact, according to the paper "Perinatal management and pregnancy outcome in pregnant women with pulmonary hypertension complicating cardiac disease" from the National Institute of Health (hardy a pro-life source of information), the mortality rate for pregnant women who carry to term with this condition is 2%, even in severe cases. The mortality rate for children of women who undergo abortion is close to 100%. What was the less risky decision, considering both patients?

I have several other cases and an interesting question, but since this post is getting long I'm going to split it up into several parts. Part II is posted here. Part III is here.


Post a Comment