Self defense and life threatening pregnancy

Hello everyone,

There is something I don’t understand about self defense.

Consider this situation: There are 10 doors in front of you, you know that 9 lead outside and 1 leads into a factory. You want to get outside, but are aware that you may end up in a factory (in which case you’ll go through the factory to get out). Well, you end up in the factory and find out that on the other side of the premises there is a man operating machinery that will kill you unless you find a way to stop him. This man is not malicious, he is doing what he does every ten years, you just got unlucky to end up in the factory at this time.

Well, suppose that the ONLY way to stop the man and save yourself from imminent death is to shoot the man.

Would it be morally permissible to defend yourself by shooting the man? It seems that it would be, but…

The answer should be no, because if a woman gets pregnant (having sex usually doesn’t lead to pregnancy, hence the 1/10 doors analogy), and then ends up in a situation where the pregnancy is life threatening (happens rarely, so the woman doesn’t expect it, just as the man in the factory doesn’t expect the guy to be there), she can do nothing that will directly harm the baby in order to save herself.

Right?

Right – but the anology is carried too far. There is a REWARD for opening the doors (sex is pleasurable.) And there are signs on each door saying “No unauthorized personnel.”

I do not think you are right and I also do not think that you used a good analogy. At least for me the analogy is difficult to follow.

First of all the person is not forced to go outside, she could presumably stay where she is; and secondly when she goes through the wrong door and finds herself in the factory, why couldn’t she just go back through the same door she cam in. Also I cannot imagine why the factory working is forced to kill someone just because he is doing something he does every 10 years…why 10 years?

A man operating a machine has the responsibility to operate the machine with extreme caution so that nobody gets hurt, his failure to do so would make him culpable for any such accident.

On the other hand a baby cannot be expected to keep the mother out of harms way. The baby cannot ever be held responsible or any harm that may come to the mother.

I appologize if I missed your point, but your analogy through me off a little! :slight_smile:

the taking of human life is always intrinsically evil. if one is forced to take the life of another, it may not be a mortal sin, but it is a sin.

self-defense against a person trying to take your life is always morally permissible. you have the right to your life and no one ever has the right to take it. this assumes we are talking about individuals. if in that defense, you take the life of the other, it is a sin, but not necessarily a mortal sin. we also assume the person wills the threat to your life. of course, a baby in a problem pregnancy doesn’t will harm toward the mother. the mother isn’t defending herself against her baby. she is selfishly sacrificing her baby for her own life.

in extreme cases, where the child will definitely die, and the mother will definitely die, she might be able to get a dispensation concerning abortion. these cases are so extreme and rare, that they need not be discussed in the hypothetical, except to acknowledge that they might exist at some time in reality. when dispensation is given, the act is still a sin, but culpability has been removed.

so self-defense is ok, measure for measure. if it’s really kill or be killed, probably a venial sin. abortion is always a mortal sin.

I’m sorry the analogy confused people! I assumed you can’t go back through the door, and your very being in the factory will get you killed (unless you shoot the man!).

The reason for 10 years is because it’s improbable for the man to be there, just as a life threatening pregnancy is improbable.

Essentially the man is an innocent person who will cause your death unless you kill him. So the baby is an innocent person who will cause your death unless you kill him.

your example is not an analogy to abortion, in your example, you did nothing to put the man on the machine doing the job that threatens your life. In the case of abortion, your direct action (or the action of the man who impregnated you if it was rape) resulted in the pregnancy.

A man operating a machine has the responsibility to operate the machine with extreme caution so that nobody gets hurt, his failure to do so would make him culpable for any such accident.

On the other hand a baby cannot be expected to keep the mother out of harms way. The baby cannot ever be held responsible or any harm that may come to the mother.

:thumbsup: So true. Good point.

Another problem with this analogy and the whole abortion as self-defence gambit, is that the man is doing something that will kill you in the analogy. In the case of a high risk pregnance, the baby isn’t doing anything at all. The mother’s *own body * is reacting in a way that is dangerous to her health.

Abortion in these circumstances may be self-preservation but it is NOT self-defence.

[quote=JustSomeGuy]in extreme cases, where the child will definitely die, and the mother will definitely die, she might be able to get a dispensation concerning abortion. these cases are so extreme and rare, that they need not be discussed in the hypothetical, except to acknowledge that they might exist at some time in reality. when dispensation is given, the act is still a sin, but culpability has been removed.
[/quote]

Well, I don’t know…

Ectopic pregnancies aren’t all that rare. They are essentially always situations wherein the child will die; the only question is whether, in growing to the point of a tubal rupture, which renders the fetus non-viable, the child will also jeopardize the life of the mother.

It is relevant for any married couple to discuss the moral implications of an ectopic pregnancy…because this situation can arise. Now, most of the time, the parents won’t be aware of the ectopic, and won’t have to make a moral choice – they’ll just have to try to get through the rupture and emergency surgery. But in those cases where there is a diagnosis (for example where there was a previous ectopic, and a woman’s obstetrician is specifically concerned about a repeat), it would be valuable to have visited this scenario in the abstract – because in the situation, it can be very hard to be rational…

The man operating the machine has got to be a liberal!

just kidding!! :smiley:

[quote=dreater]It is relevant for any married couple to discuss the moral implications of an ectopic pregnancy…because this situation can arise. Now, most of the time, the parents won’t be aware of the ectopic, and won’t have to make a moral choice – they’ll just have to try to get through the rupture and emergency surgery. But in those cases where there is a diagnosis (for example where there was a previous ectopic, and a woman’s obstetrician is specifically concerned about a repeat), it would be valuable to have visited this scenario in the abstract – because in the situation, it can be very hard to be rational…
[/quote]

In the case of an ectopic pregnancy AS YOU DESCRIBE IT (not all ectopic pregnancies are life-threatening), the Church accepts that removal of the fallopian tube and the developing child is morally acceptable. There are two principles at work here:

  1. The principle of intent. The intent is NOT to kill and discard an unwanted child, but to save a human life. The death of the child is accepted as enivitable.

  2. The principle of alternate outcomes. If the fallopian tube is NOT removed, both mother and child die.

It is relevant for any married couple to discuss the moral implications of an ectopic pregnancy…because this situation can arise.

I wasn’t aware that there are moral implications of a tubal pregnancy. Even in the situation of there being no threat of an impending rupture, the pregnancy has to be ended because of the inevitability of rupture sometime in the future with absolutely no chance of viability.

[quote=Hermione]Hello everyone,

There is something I don’t understand about self defense.

Consider this situation: There are 10 doors in front of you, you know that 9 lead outside and 1 leads into a factory. You want to get outside, but are aware that you may end up in a factory (in which case you’ll go through the factory to get out). Well, you end up in the factory and find out that on the other side of the premises there is a man operating machinery that will kill you unless you find a way to stop him. This man is not malicious, he is doing what he does every ten years, you just got unlucky to end up in the factory at this time.

Well, suppose that the ONLY way to stop the man and save yourself from imminent death is to shoot the man.

Would it be morally permissible to defend yourself by shooting the man? It seems that it would be, but…

The answer should be no, because if a woman gets pregnant (having sex usually doesn’t lead to pregnancy, hence the 1/10 doors analogy), and then ends up in a situation where the pregnancy is life threatening (happens rarely, so the woman doesn’t expect it, just as the man in the factory doesn’t expect the guy to be there), she can do nothing that will directly harm the baby in order to save herself.

Right?
[/quote]

As Vern said, there are incentives for choosing the door, you also know that by choosing the door you have the chance of meating the man on the other side that will cause your death. It is your choice to enter knowingly into that factory.

I would also say, in the analogy of the factory, it would be immoral to kill the man, because he is innocent of all crime and his intention is not to kill you. You chose the wrong door, the one that he happened to be doing his work in.

[quote=Hermione]Hello everyone,

There is something I don’t understand about self defense.

Consider this situation: There are 10 doors in front of you, you know that 9 lead outside and 1 leads into a factory. You want to get outside, but are aware that you may end up in a factory (in which case you’ll go through the factory to get out). Well, you end up in the factory and find out that on the other side of the premises there is a man operating machinery that will kill you unless you find a way to stop him. This man is not malicious, he is doing what he does every ten years, you just got unlucky to end up in the factory at this time.

Well, suppose that the ONLY way to stop the man and save yourself from imminent death is to shoot the man.

Would it be morally permissible to defend yourself by shooting the man? It seems that it would be, but…

The answer should be no, because if a woman gets pregnant (having sex usually doesn’t lead to pregnancy, hence the 1/10 doors analogy), and then ends up in a situation where the pregnancy is life threatening (happens rarely, so the woman doesn’t expect it, just as the man in the factory doesn’t expect the guy to be there), she can do nothing that will directly harm the baby in order to save herself.

Right?
[/quote]

I would also like to add, in pregnancy, it is the fault of the person that got pregnant, that the baby is there. In the analogy it would mean that it is the fault of the door chooser that the man is doing his work. The man doing his work would have to be the direct result of the choice for it to be a good analogy.

[quote=dreater]Well, I don’t know…

Ectopic pregnancies aren’t all that rare. They are essentially always situations wherein the child will die; the only question is whether, in growing to the point of a tubal rupture, which renders the fetus non-viable, the child will also jeopardize the life of the mother.

It is relevant for any married couple to discuss the moral implications of an ectopic pregnancy…because this situation can arise. Now, most of the time, the parents won’t be aware of the ectopic, and won’t have to make a moral choice – they’ll just have to try to get through the rupture and emergency surgery. But in those cases where there is a diagnosis (for example where there was a previous ectopic, and a woman’s obstetrician is specifically concerned about a repeat), it would be valuable to have visited this scenario in the abstract – because in the situation, it can be very hard to be rational…
[/quote]

as vern describes below, there are principles that govern these situations. if the woman were explicitly concerned about the law, she should consult her priest prior to the procedure and seek a dispensation. the death of the child is inevitable, but it is not inconsequential.

that determination of it being morally acceptable to allow the medical procedure to end the life of the child is still between the priest and the woman (and her husband.) the particulars don’t need to be in the public forum because it gives the impression that the moral determination can be made in the public forum, which it cannot. the wife and husband cannot just say, ‘these are the circumstances, these are the principles, so it is ok.’ we cannot absolve ourselves from sin. the Church teaches that abortion is a mortal sin in all cases. without dispensation, the parents would be guilty, despite the private determination. as far as i know, that’s how it is handled, when it is handled right.

that’s why i said just acknowledge the possibility and move on. we can’t give the impression that people can handle these cases without the Church.

[quote=JustSomeGuy]the taking of human life is always intrinsically evil. if one is forced to take the life of another, it may not be a mortal sin, but it is a sin.
[/quote]

I disagree. Please show me where exactly the Church teaches this. I think everyone who has ever killed in self-defense, and soldiers that have had to kill the enemy, would be interested in knowing the Catechism reference as well.

[quote=JustSomeGuy]the taking of human life is always intrinsically evil. if one is forced to take the life of another, it may not be a mortal sin, but it is a sin.
[/quote]

No. Murder, the unjust taking of an innocent human life, is always intrinsically evil.

[quote=JustSomeGuy]self-defense against a person trying to take your life is always morally permissible.
[/quote]

Yes. And if it’s met all the conditions to be morally permissible, then by definition it obviously can’t be intrinsically evil. Defending your own innocent life from an unjust attack is a perfectly moral reason to kill the unjust agressor. Killing someone is not intrinsically evil…but murder, by it’s very definition, always is. There’s a crucial difference that exists between the two. :rolleyes:

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