Often, I hear people say (incorrectly) that it is OK to abort a fetus in order to save the life of the mother. Even some misinformed Catholics believe this is to be true.
Now, I also hear people say something to the effect of “but if you don’t abort the child and the mother ends up dying the child is also going to die too, so why not at least save the mother’s life?” (I’m talking about early-stage pregnancies where it is not possible to have a fetus survive outside the womb).
So when someone says this, I’d like to reply with something better than “Oh, well. Tough noogies.” or “It is God’s will.” etc.
There ARE times (very rare) when it is necessary to remove the fetus from the womb in order to give each (mother and child) the best chance at survival. This is not an abortion…the intent is not to end the pregnancy - and if another option were available that option would be taken.
Every effort should be made to save both.
We can never do something evil so that something good may come about. I can’t kill my neighbor so that I can steal his food and feed my kids for example. Is feeding my kids a good thing? Yes, but good ends never justify evil means. The same is true for abortion. We can’t deliberately kill the baby so that the mother may live, even if both would die otherwise. Human life can’t be measured in a utilitarian way like that. You can’t kill one person to save 1,000 others.
But, no woman actually dies of pregnancy. Pregnancy isn’t a disease. What could kill the mother is some disease she has. We can treat the disease (even if it would kill the baby) to save the mother. Killing the baby can’t be the purpose of the operation/ treatment, but it can be a very unfortunate and regrettable side effect.
Example. A pregnant woman has cancer which is killing her. She can’t have an abortion and then get chemo. She could, however, get chemo treatments to save her life, even if that meant the baby would likely (or even certainly) die as a side effect of the treatment.
We can treat any disease, but can’t treat the human life inside the woman as if it were a disease.
Then suppose (in this highly contrived scenario) that a pregnant woman is injured in a car accident. The ER doctor says “She has internal injuries to her abdomen and in order to perform surgery to fix those injuries, I must abort the fetus because it is in the way of what I need to do.”
My understanding is that this would not be permitted because there is deliberate intent to kill the child; the noble cause of saving the woman notwithstanding.
So how would I explain to someone why the child must not be aborted even if it means the mother dies?
I don’t see Catholics as misinformed as you say , but I see them as ignoring homosexuality , abortion and divorce as it is taught within the RCC. I will avoid obvious names of famous catholic politicians
Right, you can’t deliberately kill the child. How can you explain why it isn’t okay to kill an innocent person to save the life of another person? Maybe by analogy. Ask them if it would be okay to kill a healthy neighbor so that you can have their heart transplanted into your body to save your life. Of course the answer is no. Or ask them if it would be okay for a mother to have her child killed for their organs to save her life. Again, they should say no. The same is true here. Whether or not the child will die anyhow is entirely beside the point. We could posit the neighbor in our first example to have a healthy heart, but also terminal brain cancer which is killing him. But he won’t die until after you also die without the transplant. Is it okay to put a revolver to his head and pull the trigger to take his heart? Of course not, even though you both will die rather than just him dying. It really just comes down to the immorality of killing innocent people - “thou shall not kill” and all.
You can also go another way entirely. Ask them if they’d support a ban on all abortions except for those where both the mother and baby will certainly die and only the mother can possibly be saved. In my experience the “tough cases” (which make up an incredibly small percentage of abortions) are a smoke screen for pro-aborts. They don’t really support abortion for these small, unlikely cases. They support it for other reasons.
A police officer sees a mother and child are clinging to each other and both are drowning. He knows he can only save one. He pulls out his firearm and shoots the child in the head then pulls the mother out of the water. Moral? According to those who say it’s ok to intentionally kill the unborn child in order to save the mother it is.
The Catholic Church teaches the “Double Effect” principle. I’ve been a pro-life activist and writer for many years. I won’t give you my own words on the subject because, for me, it’s a brain twister. Rather, I prefer to provide you with places on the Internet to study the subject. I have a page on my website that is a summary and provides links to the best Catholic minds on the subject. Here is my page:
Great example. Is it moral for the officer to just save the mother? Sure. Is it moral for him to intentionally kill the child? Nope. Or even taken a bit further, we could have a police officer who sees a mother and child entwined in seaweed drowning. He can only save one and only by cutting the seaweed. But cutting the seaweed will cause the other to immediately drown. It is moral for him to save either one. It would, however, still be immoral for him to blast one in the head to save the other.
The real question in abortion always is one of the humanity of the unborn, which is usually downplayed or rejected by the pro-aborts. OP, make the conversation about whether the unborn are people rather than about the hard cases and you’ll find you’ll have more success.