Abortion in the Case of the Mother's Life
by Abercius24

Information Letter Addressed to a Well-known Television Personality

June 20, 2001

Dear Dorothy,

     Though I know you have not always agreed with the teachings of the Rabbis, I was disappointed to see your TV show regarding the Jewish teaching on abortion in the case of the motherís life.

     I do believe the Rabbis are very wrong in their teaching that a mother is obligated toward abortion when continuing her pregnancy would threaten her life.  I believe that such a teaching ascribes to ďthe end justifies the means?philosophy, which I believe is contrary to the teachings of the Torah and the Natural Law.  All abortions directly intend the violent death of a child.  How can killing an innocent baby to save oneís life be justified?  We should not do evil to obtain good.

     This teaching against doing evil to obtain good is founded in Godís own perfect attributes.  God himself is our greatest example of morality and virtue.  Because God is all-good, He could never do evil, even if His actions did obtain good.  At most, He can tolerate evil, as it has been created by the free-will of men and fallen angels, if a greater good may come from it.  In that case, though, God is not the active participant in the evil.  He may have created those who caused evil, but being an indirect cause gives Him enough distance to keep from the stain of evil and allow his eternal plan to bring about a greater good.  It is a biblical teaching to follow God in this great example because we are created in His image.

     The Catholic Church teaches that we may never do evil to obtain good.  Therefore, we believe that abortion in all cases is intrinsically evil.  Murder of another innocent individual cannot be justified to save oneís life.  Self-defense and defense of others is justified because it is not the killing of an innocent person.  Abortion can never qualify as self-defense, though.  Self-defense requires that the other party be the cause for oneís peril.  In the case of a life-threatening pregnancy, the cause solely rests with the mother.  It was the motherís actions that brought about the pregnancy, and in all medically-known cases, it is the motherís own physiology that makes the pregnancy dangerous to her.  The child is completely innocent; merely existing in the natural state her parents placed her.

     Consider the allegory of a female skydiver.  Seeking to share a special part of her life, she decides to take her young son on a jump.  She straps both of them into a dual harness attached to one parachute.  As they jump, the chute malfunctions and becomes torn.  The tear is just enough that the weight of both mother and child is too much for the chute.  The mother knows that she can only survive the landing if the chute carries her weight alone.  She also knows that the child would not survive the landing on his own since he is untrained.  She tries to unstrap the child, but the child holds tight to the harness, terrified of the situation.  The mother then beats the child, forcing him to let go and fall to his death.  Sure, the mother has saved one life where two would have died, but at what cost to the dignity of herself, her child, and the love they have for each other?  Is survival really greater than respecting the dignity of the human person, especially when we consider that all of us must die someday?  True, this allegory makes some strict assumptions, but consider this:  Abortion is a significantly more violent way for a woman to kill her son.

In His Service,

Steve S.
Editor of www.CatholicQandA.com

P.S.  The Catholic Church also teaches the concept of ďdouble-effect,?which is sometimes confused with the aforementioned teaching.  This teaching comes from Godís example to tolerate an unintended evil when a greater good may come from it and one is not a direct participant in the evil.
The classic case is that of a pregnant woman who has uteran cancer.  If her uterus is not removed in time, she will die from the toxins and her baby will die with her.  Some would say that abortion should be part of the solution.  The Church teaches that the only moral answer would be to perform a hysterectomy.  In this case, the doctor performs a procedure that is meant for saving the motherís life.  The same procedure would normally be done if the woman were not pregnant, classifying it as a virtuous action.  The child dies as an indirect and unintended result of the procedure.  The doctor, thereby, tolerates the death of the child, but has not participated nor intended the death.  All parties maintain their dignity in the situation.  Double effect also requires that any solution that would completely eliminate the effects of evil be followed first.  The Church also recommends that anyone in such a situation consult their priest before making such an important decision.

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     This philosophy is the only way one may save the motherís life and still stay free from the stain of evilóto truly reflect the great image of God in which we were created.  It is also the only way one may stay consistent with the teachings of the Torah and the Natural Law.
 



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Copyright 2001 CatholicQandA.com.  All rights reserved. The original letter was altered by Abercius24 to improve legibility and protect the identity of the participants.