Unlike many other ethical issues raised in the public’s consciousness more than one or two generations ago, disagreement over abortion shows no signs of waning. Indeed, though Gallup recently found that record low numbers of people describe themselves as pro-choice, a solid majority nevertheless wish to keep abortion legal. During the recent election cycle, Democrats were at pains to raise the specter of a “war on women” being waged by their opponents, and even went “all in” during their convention giving air time to some of the most extreme supporters of abortion rights–including the head of NARAL. This strategy appears to have worked. The GOP has been rocked by their election losses, and the reaction of many of their members and supporters is the first of two major abortion FAILS that I want to consider.
Though it is at least an odd place to find the home of energetic, big-government, privacy-invading solutions to abortion, the Republican party has nevertheless managed to convince most of its supporters (and detractors) that it supports equal protection of the laws for our prenatal children. But that appears to have been changing for some time–and this was perhaps most evident when Mitt Romney, a recent pro-choice governor of Massachusetts, was selected as the GOP presidential candidate. Many recognized that pro-choice politician when, late in the recent campaign, he told the Des Moines Register, “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.”
CNN’s Alex Castellanos, in an election postmortem, chided his fellow conservatives for foolishly embracing big government on “social issues.” Also asked for his post-election analysis, John McCain said that conservatives should “leave [abortion] alone.” In a recent Washington Op-Ed, a former member of the Regan administration official said, “As for morality, our party should live it, not legislate it.” But it just isn’t the talking heads that are trying to pull the GOP away from pro-life concerns, the sentiment is picking up momentum such that groups like “GOP Choice” are getting more attention. In applying conservative principles to abortion-related issues, they make the following claims:
- Individuals and families have the right to unfettered access to reproductive choices, from education to abstinence, contraception, motherhood, adoption and safe legal abortion.
- There is nothing more fiscally conservative than the proven cost-savings of preventative health policies and initiatives.
- Choice is not a political issue and the government should not be in the business of legislating private behavior or personal medical decisions.
So, just as the country is moving energetically in a pro-life direction–especially among those who will determine this country’s future (young people and Hispanics)–the Republicans appear to be moving away from fighting for equal protection of the law for our prenatal children. First Abortion FAIL.
The second involves the coverage of and response to the tragic death of Ireland’s Savita Halappanavar, who recently died from complications of her pregnancy. Most of the coverage and response–without understanding the medical facts or the situation of Irish women more generally–has used her death to question and attack Ireland’s pro-life laws.The Nation’s Jessica Valentini wrote, “It’s not just our lives and health that are in danger, but our human dignity. Consider the women in Ireland who suffered as Savita did but lived—put through needless torture in the name of “life.””
Honest reporting and commentary on this horrible story should have discovered and then considered two essential facts. First, it is perfectly legal under Irish law to induce labor, even on a preterm child, to save the life of the mother. That Savita’s doctors did not do this is medical malpractice on their part, not a result of Ireland’s admirable and courageous insistence that their prenatal children have equal protection of the law. Second, despite their consistent stand on civil rights for all, Ireland remains one of the safest places in the world for pregnant women–significantly safer than even the UK and the United States, for instance, both of which allow broad access to abortion.
Any claim that Irish law causes “women to needlessly die in the name of religion” is a shameful attempt to use this woman’s death to promote a political agenda. And, especially because it is ignorant of the relevant medical and legal facts, it is a major abortion FAIL.
It may be that Irish law permits induced labor prior to viability to save the life of the mother. But I don’t understand that to be the position of the Catholic Church. I think there are perhaps a small number of Catholic ethicists who might argue that the intention in such a case would not be to kill the unborn child, but rather to save the life of the mother, and consequently inducing labor would be an indirect abortion. However, everything I have read leads me to believe that in refusing to abort the baby until its heartbeat had stopped, the doctors were adhering to the majority view of Catholic ethicists. As I understand it, if the woman’s life is in danger and there is some medical treatment that will, as a foreseen but unintended side effect, result in the death of the baby, then that would be permissible. However, it is my understanding that inducing labor prior to viability is simply a direct abortion. It is a direct abortion with good intentions, but performing a direct abortion with good intentions doesn’t transform it into an indirect abortion.
I think Grisez might argue that since the woman was in the process of having a miscarriage, expelling the baby before it is dead is essentially the same act as expelling it after it is dead. If you are going to perform exactly the same procedure whether or not the baby is dead, it does not make sense to say you are intending the death of the baby. He uses that reasoning to justify craniotomy. But august a figure as he is, it’s my impression his view is not widely shared. Otherwise I don’t think Bishop Olmsted would have declared Sister Margaret McBride to have excommunicated herself in the case of the “Phoenix abortion”