Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Side Trip

I was raised Catholic, and while I don't practice I do pay attention to what is happening.  We can talk another day about what I believe and why.  Right now the issue in front of me is abortion.  Hard core right-to-lifers like to beat their collective breasts about the horror of abortion and that there is never a reason to terminate a pregnancy.  I beg to differ.

In Phoenix, AZ. Bishop Olmsted has just declared that St. Joseph's Hospital is not Catholic anymore.  This is due to an abortion that occurred in 2009.  The mother had pulmonary hypertension and both she and her fetus were at risk of death.  For the fetus the risk was 100%, for the mother it was about the same.  The hospital staff, after much consultation, including the Ethics Committee, determined that terminating the pregnancy was necessary and performed the procedure.  The Bishop learned of it later and there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth on his part about this breach of Catholic moral teaching and the hospital's failure to concede as much.  Not so fast Bishop.

The National Catholic Reporter has just published an article that lays out the medical and moral dimensions of the Phoenix case from an analysis by M. Therese Lysault, a moral theologian.  The Bishop, ever mindful of his authority, disagrees with her analysis, but does not say why, aside from the fact that he is in charge.  In my view, the Bishop is far more engaged with his attachment to authority than he is with the facts of this case.

The fetus was dying and could not be saved absent divine intervention, which was not forthcoming.  There was simply no medical intervention available to enable the pregnancy to go to term, or at least progress to the point where the fetus could be safely delivered via a C-section.  The mother was at risk of dying if the pregnancy was not terminated.  The hospital, faced with the certain death of the fetus and an opportunity to prevent the mother's death, chose to take an action to save a life.  As is customary, the usual breast beaters have appeared in the comments section of the article announcing the Bishop's decision, which preceded today's article.  Hopefully they will read the analysis before pontificating further on the fitness of the Bishop's decision and his upholding of Catholic moral teaching.

I challenge those who are so wedded to the notion of right-to-life (including the politicians who are ready to legally bar medical procedures they have issues with) to read Lysault's analysis and explain to me how it is that there is never a time when termination of a pregnancy is allowable.  One of the Bishop's associates is reputed to have said that sometimes both mother and child must die.  Is that what right-to-lifers really believe?  Are there truly no other options?

This was a tragic event for the family involved.  I wish the keepers of morality in this country would exercise a little more compassion for those who are confronted with such painful decisions.

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