Saturday, October 19, 2013

Imprisoned for suffering a miscarriage?


From Sister Tiberia:

Those regular communicants to His Grace's blog will know this isn't the first time I've written on the subject of abortion here. I'm a Roman Catholic woman and I believe that life is sacred from conception to death. Today I'm looking at the other side of the coin: a country where the abortion laws are so stringent that a woman can be imprisoned for having a miscarriage.

El Salvador is a country where abortion is illegal in all circumstances. Prior to 1998, there were some limited circumstances where it was permitted - if there was danger of death to the woman and termination of the pregnancy was the only way to preserve her life; if the pregnancy was the result of rape; or if a serious congenital abnormality was found in the unborn baby. These exemptions were removed in 1998.

According to Wikipedia, the situation is now as follows:
On April 20, 1998 the new Penal Code was enacted, removing the exceptions that had been instituted in 1973, including the provision for the pregnant woman's life. Under this Code, a person who performs an abortion with the woman's consent, or a woman who self-induces or consents to someone else inducing her abortion, can be imprisoned for two to eight years. A person who performs an abortion to which the woman has not consented can be sentenced to four to ten years in jail; if the person is a physician, pharmacist, or other health care worker, he or she is instead subject to between six to 12 years.
The results have been catastrophic. Unsafe abortion has become the second highest cause of maternal mortality in the country (and health care in general is poor because of the very limited funding available). If you can bear to, click on the Wikipedia article on abortion in El Salvador. It's heartbreaking reading.

An article in The Guardian on the El Salvador abortion controversy highlighted this situation several months ago. The BBC report quotes cases where women who suffered miscarriages were reported by medical staff to the authorities as having attempted abortions, and in one case a woman was imprisoned for eight years before being released on appeal. The predictable result is that women - especially poor women - are afraid to approach doctors if they fear they may be miscarrying because of the risk that they will be arrested and prosecuted.

An attempt was made to challenge the law with the assistance of Amnesty International - Voices from El Salvador - which ultimately resulted in failure.

The life of the woman involved was ultimately saved through a legal loophole. She was one of the lucky ones. Many more are not as lucky.

Esther Major, Amnesty International's El Salvador expert, describes the country's abortion law as "cruel and discriminatory": "Women and girls end up in prison for being unwilling, or simply tragically unable, to carry the pregnancy to term," she says."It makes seeking hospital treatment for complications during pregnancy, including a miscarriage, a dangerous lottery. It cannot be in the interests of society to criminalise women and girls in this way."

I'm a married woman. I have a child. In the years after my son was born, I suffered three consecutive miscarriages, all of them devastating, one of them life threatening. It was the most terrible time of my life, and the only thing that could possibly have made it worse would have been if I had been too afraid to seek medical help because of the possible consequences. That is the choice facing the women of El Salvador.

223 Comments:

Blogger David Hussell said...

Well, one wonders what political environment led to the present legal one.

19 October 2013 at 09:34  
Blogger David B said...

I saw this harrowing piece of news, too.

I would imagine, though, that the political environment is one in which the RCC has an awful (mot juste!) amount of power.

David

19 October 2013 at 09:51  
Blogger Roy said...

Is the Roman Catholic Church in El Salvador campaigning against the prosecution of women for suffering miscarriages? If not, why not?

19 October 2013 at 09:53  
Blogger Corrigan said...

Yes, it's all the fault of the evil Catholics, at least in the murderous anti-abortion regimes like El Salvador. So how do you account for the murderous pro-abortion regimes where the Catholics are a marginalized group - like the UK?

19 October 2013 at 10:04  
Blogger Albert said...

The details of this story are truly tragic. However, the story doesn't ring entirely true to me. I'm not saying the details are false, but it does not seem to me to be about what it seems to be about.

The first thing to notice is that when convicting someone, in a just legal system, a mother would be innocent until proven guilty. Thus if women are being convicted of abortions when they've actually had miscarriages, there is something wrong with the criminal justice system. That means, of course, not just that women are being wrongfully convicted for abortions, it means that all sorts of other people will be being convicted for crimes they did not commit. So people who are concerned about this ought to be complaining about the justice system in general - to do so, would help many more people. But they are not because it suits their political agenda to ignore this general injustice.

In case anybody doubts this interpretation, look at the original BBC post, it says:

Her lawyer, Dennis Munoz Estanley, says the legal system has an inbuilt "presumption of guilt" making it hard for women to prove their innocence.

So where's the campaign for all people, not just women who've had miscarriages, to have full and fair legal protection?

Secondly, women's maternal survival rates are not linked to whether abortion is available or not. They are linked to how good the general medical care is. So people concerned for women's health ought to be campaigning about that. If they did, they would be helping a lot more people. So why aren't they?

So why is this issue being presented as being about abortion, and not about the general state of medical and legal provision in the country? It's because, as we know abortion is sacred to a particular kind of mind. The kind of mind that keeps quiet over sex-selective abortions. The kind of mind that condemns Assad's troops for (wickedly) targeting pregnant women in Syria (as the papers report today) while supporting abortion.

Let's not be taken in here. Doubtless there is a real and terrible problem, but let us not allow the pro-death camp to dupe us, because it suits them, into turning a blind eye to real source of the problem - a source that, doubtless, will be causing huge suffering across the country. That what needs to be challenged and totally changed, not tinkered with to suit the political taboos of the liberal mind.

19 October 2013 at 10:27  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

Perhaps the only answer to that, Corrigan, is that two wrongs do not make and have never made a right. This article looks specifically at the other side of the coin, and you know I've criticised the pro-abortion legislation coming out of Ireland, and our own much abused abortion laws in this country, which have effectively given abortion on demand. I will doubtless write about them again. But this article focuses on the problems of the other side - and yes, the Roman Catholic Church has to take some of the blame since the religious right wing in El Salvador, not all of them Catholic but a large number who are, have been responsible for the greater part for this disastrous legislation and its consequences.

19 October 2013 at 10:31  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

And Albert, if a woman in an already dire health care system is too afraid to seek what medical help there is available for a miscarriage because of the fear of prosecution then something is disastrously wrong, over and above the terrible health care in general.

19 October 2013 at 10:32  
Blogger Albert said...

Indeed, Sr T, which is why I said it is the legal system that needs challenging. After all, what benefit would it be to anyone to change the abortion law, but leave the corrupt legal system in place? It would not be to deal with the real issue. Innocent until proven guilty, is the key, with guilt being established beyond reasonable doubt. If the legal system followed that very exacting standard, this story would not even arise. So here's my question to you: is it the legislation that is at fault here, or a wider problem?

19 October 2013 at 10:45  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

Both, Albert. This article focuses on the problems of a particular piece of legislation. If you would like to write a follow up piece on the wider legal abuses, I am sure His Grace would be helpful :)

19 October 2013 at 10:51  
Blogger Albert said...

Well what's not clear, Sr T, is which part of the legislation you want to be changed. How would you want this legislation to be different? As for a follow up piece, that's not necessary. The problem is clear: the country's legal system does not uphold the principle of innocent until proven guilty and guilt to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

Isn't that enough?!

19 October 2013 at 11:00  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

Frankly, Albert, what I personally would like to see is automatic presumption of innocence. Just like you. In the absence of that, I would like as an interim measure for a woman who is prosecuted for *having* an abortion to not face a custodial sentence - and throw the book at the abortion providers. That isn't a solution either but at least deals with these poor frightened women who won't go to the doctor when they're miscarrying. Then I'd like a wider look at the legislation by an independent body, possibly chaired by Amnesty International. I'm not going to get any of what I want. But it would be a start.

19 October 2013 at 11:04  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

And in the mean time, I am very glad that the BBC and others, whatever their motivation for it, are keeping this terrible injustice in the face of a lot of people who would rather it was ignored. And I'm not a fan of the BBC either, so make a note of the date and time, it'll probably be the last time I say something nice about them in a long time.

19 October 2013 at 11:06  
Blogger Thomas Keningley said...

I don't trust AI and its liberal tendencies.

Also, how can it be just or sensible not to imprison a woman who has had an abortion? How is putting the lives of the unborn in danger a solution to the problem of women's lives being in danger? Make no mistake, that's what such a measure would do. Weren't you, Sister Tiberia, the one who said "two wrongs don't make a right"? Why is the abortion provider worse than the one who solicits the abortion?

19 October 2013 at 11:11  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

I'm not saying either is innocent, but I do see the difference between a person who kills in self defence, and a person who is a killer for hire? Analogy is always suspect, but that one isn't far from the mark. It is not a country where I think there are many abortions for other reasons than the woman making a terrible decision in desperation.

19 October 2013 at 11:13  
Blogger Albert said...

Sr T,

Absolutely, and an automatic presumption of innocence would serve everyone in the country - except those who are unjust. So we can measure the justice and genuine concern of those complaining about this by whether they campaign about that presumption. But of course, for them to do so, would undo the story as it stands. So they don't want to do that, because they do not wish to establish justice for all people if it undermines the rhetoric of their own ideology.

I'm also inclined to agree with not giving women custodial sentences. In fact, my instinct would be to go further. I've never been happy about prosecuting women who have abortions. As we have heard on these pages before, women in such situations are often not acting freely. Women need protecting from abortionists, not prosecuting because as a society we have failed in that protection.

I suppose the problem with only prosecuting the abortion providers is that that means they won't provide the abortions, so the women do it by themselves, which may well be more dangerous (though in a country with poor health care that may not be true, as at least if a women self-administers the abortions, she is less likely to catch an infection than if she uses equipment and "care" from an unscrupulous provider). So again, I would support an independent review.

I wouldn't go along with Amnesty investigating this. Their position on abortion means they are morally corrupt as they do not believe in equality and the right to life. It would be interesting to know where they stand on sex-selective abortions, but whatever their view, their position it would involve self-contradiction, and confirm that we need a proper human rights organisation here, not AI.

19 October 2013 at 11:16  
Blogger Albert said...

St T,

a person who kills in self defence, and a person who is a killer for hire? Analogy is always suspect, but that one isn't far from the mark.

It looks well off to me. How is a woman killing her child, acting in self-defence?

19 October 2013 at 11:17  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

If the child is endangering her life, Albert, she is killing in defence of her life. That is one of the exceptions that were allowed for in the previous law which is now not permitted.

There are endless moral graduations between that woman, and the one who has an abortion of a child she thinks will damage her career, or destroy her figure, or stop her taking a new job, or...

This is where the Catholic Church and I will never manage to agree, because I do not think this is a moral absolute, and my confessor does get regular rants on this subject - luckily he is a patient and kind man.

19 October 2013 at 11:21  
Blogger Thomas Keningley said...

St T,

A better analogy would be someone who hires a contract killer, and the contract killer. My understanding is that conspiracy to commit murder carries the same penalty as murder itself.

Women who abort their children are killing a human being. Surely the law should reflect that, if we really believe that the foetus is fully human?

19 October 2013 at 11:24  
Blogger Thomas Keningley said...

Also, what is meant by "a child endangering a woman's life"? Surely any pregnancy does this to some extent? That is a very slippery way of wording things.

19 October 2013 at 11:26  
Blogger Albert said...

Sr T,

If the child is endangering her life, Albert, she is killing in defence of her life.

Well, hang on a minute, that needs unpacking. The issue is whether she is murdering he child, and that turns on whether the child is innocent. Even if the child is a threat to the mother's life, that does not mean the child is not innocent, and it doesn't give the mother the right to kill the child.

Take a couple of comparisona. Let us suppose the child has been born and grows up and attacks his mother with an axe. Can she kill him in self-defence? Yes, she can. But is your example like that?

Suppose instead, the child catches some terrifying contagious disease, and, instead of caring for the child, the mother kills the child. Now we might be sympathetic to the predicament of the mother, but she could hardly claim self-defence in this instance as in the last. On the contrary, the mother's duty, far from killing the child would have been to care for the child.

So I don't think there are endless moral graduations, if one is talking about these things being justified.

19 October 2013 at 11:27  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

But we have endless other legal graduations of the act of killing, Thomas. Murder, manslaughter, justifiable homicide, death by misadventure, there's about 40 in our penal code.

I would add that I would consider the woman who terminates the pregnancy of a child which cannot live outside the womb (another exception that has been removed from El Salvador law) to be morally in the same position as the woman who agrees to turning off the life support system on her living child who cannot recover. Another moral graduation.

Let's try to take this back to the original problem. If we are agreed that the situation in El Salvador is not acceptable, what would you suggest as a way forward if you do not like what I have said?

19 October 2013 at 11:28  
Blogger Albert said...

Sr T,

I do not think this is a moral absolute

What isn't a moral absolute? An innocent human being's right to life? A mother's duty to see that her child is cared for? A child's right not to be killed by her mother? What exactly are you saying is relative here, and to what is it relative? Do you really have such a strong case, that you can judge yourself right on this, and the Church which you believe to be the pillar and ground of truth is wrong?

19 October 2013 at 11:31  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

Albert, let me refer you to this case in America for what I mean.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excommunication_of_Margaret_McBride

And particularly to the words of the hospital director.

"If we are presented with a situation in which a pregnancy threatens a woman's life, our first priority is to save both patients. If that is not possible, we will always save the life we can save, and that is what we did in this case. Morally, ethically, and legally, we simply cannot stand by and let someone die whose life we might be able to save."

19 October 2013 at 11:31  
Blogger Albert said...

Sr T,

I would add that I would consider the woman who terminates the pregnancy of a child which cannot live outside the womb (another exception that has been removed from El Salvador law) to be morally in the same position as the woman who agrees to turning off the life support system on her living child who cannot recover. Another moral graduation.

They are not remotely analogous. In the latter, the person dies of their illness, in the former, the child is directly killed. That makes an infinite amount of moral difference.

19 October 2013 at 11:33  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

And there we will have to disagree, Albert. You will not convince me, I will not convince you. So let's return to the specific problem in El Salvador.

19 October 2013 at 11:34  
Blogger Albert said...

Sr T,

You cannot directly and deliberately take innocent human life. That to me, is the most basic and obvious moral belief. Deny that, and everything is possible. Exactly which procedures break that and which do not then turn on exactly what is done, but unless we believe human beings are means to other people's ends, unless we deny universal human rights, we will stick by that principle.

19 October 2013 at 11:35  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Reading this made Happy Jack feel very sad. He was sorry to read of the writers suffering and also the bad way this woman was treated. Nobody should be forced to do something they know is wrong because they are too poor or too scared. Something must be done about this.

The mother of one of Happy Jack's friends once told him that if abortion had been legal she would have got rid of him. We are both pleased she didn't.

Happy Jack is going for a walk now.

19 October 2013 at 11:36  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

*wanders in*

Woah!

*runs out again*

19 October 2013 at 11:41  
Blogger Albert said...

Interesting article in the papers just now. A child has been brought to Britain to have her organs harvested to save people who are desperate for transplants. I think we should protect children like that.

19 October 2013 at 11:41  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

DanJ0

Sensible decision :)

19 October 2013 at 11:41  
Blogger Thomas Keningley said...

St T

Albert has quite ably responded to you on the issue of killing a child who cannot survive long outside the womb. I notice that you use the euphemistic language of the pro-choice camp to avoid the horror of what you are actually suggesting.

And I'm fine with applying the law equally with respect to killing foetal humans as to post-natal ones. However, your applications of the law so far have been pretty... concerning.

Remember, the intentional, premeditated killing of any human being will almost always get you a murder charge. That is what abortion is.

As for El Salvador; I would permit abortion if and only if it is a medical necessity to save the mother's life. I would make sure that the law is properly enforced so that people are aware that they won't get away with backstreet abortions. I would have a presumption of innocence in court. However, none of these things are within my power to do. Your suggestions, like involving AI, can only lead to the kind of situation that we have in this country. I.e., a horrendous one.

19 October 2013 at 11:41  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

I don't disagree, Albert. Perhaps we will see you write a piece on it?

19 October 2013 at 11:42  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Not enough information on the type of woman being jailed. Could well be licentious types that sleep around. Are we obliged to weep over them ?

19 October 2013 at 11:43  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

Unfortunately, Thomas, none of it is currently in our power to change. But it is possible that the oxygen of public opinion sooner or later will effect some change, probably for all the wrong reasons. We can only live in hope.

19 October 2013 at 11:44  
Blogger Thomas Keningley said...

Also, St T, Albert argued to show why your analogy fails. Unless you can shore it up, I find it pretty weak for you to say "I disagree".

19 October 2013 at 11:44  
Blogger Albert said...

I don't disagree, Albert.

With what?

Perhaps we will see you write a piece on it?

I don't think that's going to happen. My opinions on this are entirely obvious!

19 October 2013 at 11:44  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

OIG, I won't dignify that with an answer.

19 October 2013 at 11:44  
Blogger Albert said...

Thomas,

I was right with you (obviously) until you said:

I would permit abortion if and only if it is a medical necessity to save the mother's life

And now I'm totally confused - that's just the position you were tackling Sr T on, I think. However, I've said enough already on this and I've got other things to do. Hopefully Carl will be along soon to deal with that sentence!

19 October 2013 at 11:46  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

Thomas, when two rational human beings reach an impasse where neither will budge, the only sensible thing to do is leave the argument there. Admittedly the usual Internet procedure is to start accusing each other of policies resembling the Third Reich and end up with a blog moderator banning all sides, but it would be nice to consider that Godwin's Law is not actually compulsory :)

19 October 2013 at 11:47  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Oh dear !

Suggest the country doesn’t want its women going ‘the western way’ and a fellow is shown the door...

19 October 2013 at 11:50  
Blogger Thomas Keningley said...

Well Albert perhaps you can convince me to change my mind. I have changed my mind several times on that exception. But it seems to me (for example) that removing an ectopically gestating child which will kill the mother through an internal haemorrhage, a removal which will probably result in the child's death but where an attempt is made to save the child's life if possible, but is the only way to prevent a woman bleeding to death, may not even be abortion at all. But perhaps you can convince me otherwise.

19 October 2013 at 11:50  
Blogger Thomas Keningley said...

Sure, Sister Tiberia, you don't have to agree. I'm merely pointing out that, so far as I could tell, Albert used an argument to show that your analogy was disanalogous. If his argument is sound, i.e. has true premises and valid logic, then you are simply incorrect. Unless you are now denying one of his premises, but I couldn't see you doing that before. Or are you saying his conclusion doesn't follow?

19 October 2013 at 11:53  
Blogger Thomas Keningley said...

Also, St T, you are, unfortunately, the one who has invoked the 3rd Reich there...

19 October 2013 at 11:54  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

Thomas, I'm saying that I am not continuing the argument, because no argument I make will convince him, and vice versa. That's where the conversation ends. Unlike Dodo (requiescat in pacem) I'm not easy to provoke into restarting the argument :)

19 October 2013 at 11:55  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

Interesting point though.

Does the mention of Godwin's Law automatically invoke Godwin's Law? How - circular. :)

19 October 2013 at 11:56  
Blogger Nick said...

Albert 10:27

I think you've hit nail right on the head Albert. While groups like AI are right to highlight this injustice, their selectiveness in highlighting a single issue betrays their political agenda. It shows how "telling lies" can simply be a matter of hiding the general context.

While I deplore the criminalisation of women who had a miscarriage, I do not deplore it as much as the unreported, quarter million, annual baby cull in the UK.

Do we perhaps have a plank/speck in eye situation here?

19 October 2013 at 11:57  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...


One wonders how much thought, if any, is given to how society will be when abortion is banned. How do we treat the women who procure them. Always tea and sympathy or prison ? What do we do with the abortionists, give them 18 months, or hang them as an example to others.

So let’s not get too hysterical over El Salvador...


19 October 2013 at 12:15  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

By the way, the Inspector offers his own belated introductory greetings to Happy Jack. However, if the fellow hangs around this goodly site and digests the serious missals of our time put out by our dear host and his team, it won’t be long before he’s posting as just Jack, what !

19 October 2013 at 13:05  
Blogger Julia Gasper said...

OIG you are clearly out of order. Calling Sister Tiberia's article "hysterical" is unjust and discourteous. A gentleman would apologize.
Regardless of whether a woman is a "licentious type" she may suffer a natural miscarriage and plainly these laws apply to all women, wives and godly matrons not excepted.
@ Corrigan. Why do you have to see everything in terms of Protestant v Catholic? Can't you see that any arguments to reduce access to late abortion or reliance on abortion instead of contraception is totally damned by these ghastly laws? If Christians want to achieve anything at all they must surely work together. Your Catholic Ireland is ruled by the aggressively secularist EU and that is not the fault of us mere Protestants.

19 October 2013 at 13:18  
Blogger Albert said...

Sr T,

when two rational human beings reach an impasse where neither will budge, the only sensible thing to do is leave the argument there

I'm happy to stand on this:

It is always wrong directly and deliberately to take innocent human life.

I might need to clarify some of that, but I think, that proposition expresses the fundamentals of morality. And I think the entirety of a position on abortion could be drawn from it. Do you disagree with that?

19 October 2013 at 13:19  
Blogger Albert said...

Thomas,

But it seems to me (for example) that removing an ectopically gestating child which will kill the mother through an internal haemorrhage, a removal which will probably result in the child's death but where an attempt is made to save the child's life if possible, but is the only way to prevent a woman bleeding to death, may not even be abortion at all.

Cases such as these are normally covered under double-effect. Depending on the procedure followed, it does not seem to require a violation of the moral principle I just gave.

19 October 2013 at 13:21  
Blogger Albert said...

Sr T,

Admittedly the usual Internet procedure is to start accusing each other of policies resembling the Third Reich

Were you fearing that that was about to happen? If so, presumably you think there is some analogy.

19 October 2013 at 13:23  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

No, Albert, merely pointing out that that is the customary Internet end of any argument where the participants cannot back off and agree that they will not convince each other. And if you want examples of that, the Internet is full of them - pick a forum of your choice at random.

19 October 2013 at 13:27  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

And I am happy to stand on this point.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excommunication_of_Margaret_McBride

"If we are presented with a situation in which a pregnancy threatens a woman's life, our first priority is to save both patients. If that is not possible, we will always save the life we can save, and that is what we did in this case. Morally, ethically, and legally, we simply cannot stand by and let someone die whose life we might be able to save."

19 October 2013 at 13:29  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Albert

Not much for me to say, really. You and Thomas Keningley did a fine job. Everything I thought to say as I read the post has already been said. In fact, that first series of posts was some of your best work on this blog.

As for the issue of aborting to save the mother's life, we have done that before. Your solution of 'Find some way to kill the child indirectly' is a moral shell game. Your intent is clear. You can't hide it behind a transparent cloak.

carl

19 October 2013 at 13:35  
Blogger Albert said...

Sr T,

Morally, ethically, and legally, we simply cannot stand by and let someone die whose life we might be able to save.

Except of course that that isn't what they do. They kill in order to save life. That's why I like to put up a general principle and argue from that.

19 October 2013 at 13:49  
Blogger Albert said...

Thank you Carl,

Your solution of 'Find some way to kill the child indirectly' is a moral shell game. Your intent is clear. You can't hide it behind a transparent cloak.

But double effect applies in lots of cases. We cannot control all the outcomes of our actions, and thus we cannot always be held responsible for them. But we can be held responsible for our actions themselves.

19 October 2013 at 13:50  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

Except that that is exactly what did happen in this case. What happens in other cases is not the subject of the conversation. You asked for the general principle and I gave it. That if it is possible, you save the mother and the child. That if it is not possible, you save the life that can be saved. That is my line in the sand.

19 October 2013 at 13:51  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

And I agree with Carl that double effect is a moral shell game. But yet again - that is not what this piece was written about.

19 October 2013 at 13:52  
Blogger Albert said...

Sr T,

That if it is possible, you save the mother and the child. That if it is not possible, you save the life that can be saved. That is my line in the sand.

I agree with that too. But your quotation comes from a situation going beyond that, to, you kill the one to save the other. Incidentally, would you kill the mother to save the child?

19 October 2013 at 13:57  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

If the situation was reversed? A mother with blood loss so severe that she was already unconscious, going into systemic organ failure? Where her death was inevitable within hours, and would be hastened by an emergency caesarean section to try to save her late term unborn child? Yes. I cannot imagine a doctor who would not attempt to save the child, even knowing that his actions would hasten the already inevitable death of the mother. The principle goes both ways. (And as a mother, I can't imagine a woman who knew she was dying who would not tell the doctor to do it.)

19 October 2013 at 13:59  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Albert

When you fault a fallopian tube for an ectopic pregnancy just so that you can remove it (and by happenstance of double effect the child within as well) you are playing a shell game. There is no medical reason to perform that procedure other than to kill the child. It is abortion by any other name.

carl

19 October 2013 at 14:13  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

Exactly, Carl. In that case, the result is the abortion of a child which (almost certainly) cannot live, to save the life of the mother who will potentially die of internal haemorrhage otherwise, unless she's lucky enough to have a spontaneous tubal abortion. The mental gymnastics that blame a faulty Fallopian tube for this and allow the removal of the tube and conceptus while not calling it abortion are beyond me. I don't mean that I don't understand them. I mean I don't agree with them. Almost none of the factors that predispose to ectopic pregnancy have anything to do with the tube itself. Half the ectopic pregnancies have no known cause. As you say, it's a moral shell game.

19 October 2013 at 14:20  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

I would add here that survival from ectopic pregnancy is excellent in the Western world where there is good health care if treated immediately - In the UK, between 2003 and 2005 there were 32,100 ectopic pregnancies resulting in 10 maternal deaths (meaning that 1 in 3,210 women with an ectopic pregnancy died).

In Africa and South America it remains a major statistical cause of death in women of childbearing age.

19 October 2013 at 14:24  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

All journalism is local. That's why people buy it. They want to read stories that confirm their presuppositions. This story is intended to resonate with pro-abortion readership in the West. It allows said readership to see their convictions about the pro-life cause displayed at a safe distance.

You see? This is where it leads! Anti-abortionists want to prosecute women for miscarriages! It's not about life. They obviously don't care about the lives of these women. It's all about control and keeping women in their place. I sure am glad we overcame those people and their antediluvian ideas. But we have to be ever vigilant or this will happen here again.

That is the not-so-subtle subtext.

carl

19 October 2013 at 14:27  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Happy Jack has been thinking on this.

If you believe in Jesus and what he said then you know murder is wrong. If you also believe what Jesus said about love and giving your life for someone else then you know it is good to die so someone else can live. That's what Christians believe he did. And if you do you will go to Heaven and so will your child if he dies too. If you trust in this God what can be better?

On the other hand no one can make another person die for someone else not even their child. They have to do this because they want to. We have to make our own decisions and sometimes people will make mistakes or do a bad thing and live to regret it. And some people may not believe in God and Jesus at all. How can they be forced to die for something they don't believe in?

This is very difficult.

19 October 2013 at 14:29  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

And the other thing about the double-effect thing with ectopic pregnancy is this. Even if you know - know beyond all doubt - that the cause of this ectopic pregnancy is the faulty tube, the reason that you are operating *at this moment in time* to remove that tube is not because the tube is faulty. It is to remove with the tube - abort - the non viable child which if left untreated will kill the mother. If that child was not there, you would not be doing this operation at this moment in time as an emergency. It's faulty logic.

19 October 2013 at 14:37  
Blogger Albert said...

Sr T,

A mother with blood loss so severe that she was already unconscious, going into systemic organ failure? Where her death was inevitable within hours, and would be hastened by an emergency caesarean section to try to save her late term unborn child?

The comparison with what I think you are defending regarding the child is faulty though. They are not killing the mother to save the child. They are saving the child and an indirect consequence is that the mother will die more quickly. It's an example of double-effect, not killing to save. As you accept this, it is hard to see why you worry about double-effect.

19 October 2013 at 15:08  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Oh Lord ! Upset the ladies again...

This man puts it to you all we just don’t know the full goings on at the moment in El Salvador. Consequently, he is loathe to come down on either side. But he will say this, the position would well be improved by the initial presumption of innocence than guilt, the British way.

But then, we can’t be over smug about that achievement in our law ourselves, as so long as we remain in the EU, the continental way of doing things will eventually triumph, and the mighty state will see us as the un-convicted guilty too...


19 October 2013 at 15:12  
Blogger Albert said...

This issue about double-effect turns on the definition of murder and morality I have given. I said:

It is always wrong directly and deliberately to take innocent human life.

This principle is not violated in the case of ectopic pregnancy. In fact, by definition, it is not violated in any case of double-effect. If it were, it wouldn't be double-effect.

There is no medical reason to perform that procedure other than to kill the child.

That's not true. In fact, it isn't even the reason. The reason is to stop the tube rupturing and the mother bleeding to death. The procedure would be carried out regardless of what was growing in the tube. Sure, it wouldn't be done unless there was something growing in there, but it would be done regardless of what. Indeed, if there was scaring in the tube, it might be done anyway, to prevent an ectopic pregnancy.

Almost none of the factors that predispose to ectopic pregnancy have anything to do with the tube itself. Half the ectopic pregnancies have no known cause.

That's just confused. The issue doesn't turn on the tube having a fault in it which caused the ectopic pregnancy. The issue turns on the fact that the tube has a fault in it. This cannot be denied for it has an embryo in it. Anything in the wrong place is a kind of fault, regardless of what the "anything" is.

19 October 2013 at 15:17  
Blogger ardenjm said...

@ Sister Tiberia
"If that child was not there, you would not be doing this operation at this moment in time as an emergency. It's faulty logic."

I'm not sure that it's that faulty if you're looking at the moral structure of the action. Consequences are not determinant of the morality of an action. They might be good or bad but they do not directly determine the moral structure of the action. That comes from the nature of the action and the intention with which it is done. Even the circumstances only attenuate or aggravate that moral gravity.

Accordingly - if a treatment is applied that does not directly abort the baby as the means to save the life of the Mother - if there is no intention to kill the baby as that means to that end then, if proportional effort has been made to preserve both lives, it is morally permissible to intervene even if one of the foreseen but unwilled and unintended consequences is the death of the child.

I fail to see how this can somehow be denigrated as a moral shell game. The action of directly aborting a baby no matter how it is dressed up as saving the life of the mother does NOT inhabit the same moral universe as the intended death of the baby in the course of a treatment that saves the endangered life of the Mother.

Afterall - it is NOT the baby that is killing the Mother. It is not even the pregnancy that is killing the Mother. It is the fact that the fallopian tube is defective for the purpose of supporting a pregnancy without killing the Mother (although, this is, clearly, a clinical question since in exceptional cases ectopic pregnancies have been seen through to viable births).
http://realchoice.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/another-baby-survives-ectopic-pregnancy.html

In treating the defective instrument there can be foreseen and yet unintended consequences.
Approaching the procedure with those moral intentions changes entirely the moral nature of the action. I'd rather that approach than the typical Anglo-Saxon pragmatic utilitarianism that decides:

"Enough of this hair-splitting - just get rid of it."

19 October 2013 at 15:18  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

All right, Albert, turn it round. The unborn child is dying in the womb, with major defects incompatible with life. The mother is gravely ill, with a high risk of death. The child is at 20 weeks gestation. Do you try to keep mother and child "alive" to 24 weeks so that you can deliver the non viable baby by C-section and put it in an incubator to die, or do you deliver the non-viable baby now and place it in an incubator to die, giving you a chance to save the mother? Either way, this child will not survive - but since the second scenario is definite termination of a non viable foetus (20 weeks is not viable under any circumstance) and the second is the removal of a baby that will still die anyway but because technically 24 weeks is viable, this is not an abortion? Because this is exactly the moral loophole that saved the life of the woman Beatriz in El Salvador who was the subject of the legal challenge that failed. She did live to have the baby removed - by luck. Many women in her situation would not have.

This is what I mean about reprehensible mental gymnastics.

19 October 2013 at 15:24  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

ardenjm

"Enough of this hair-splitting - just get rid of it."

I'm a veterinary surgeon, not a doctor. But I can't tell you how many times in a disaster in an operating theatre, the moral maze comes down to exactly those words, usually peppered with a large number of anglo-saxon expletives and the surgeon throwing a tray of instruments at someone. :)

19 October 2013 at 15:28  
Blogger Corrigan said...

I'm a veterinary surgeon, not a doctor.

Alas, the moral zeitgeist is currently such that no distinction is recognized by the majority.

19 October 2013 at 15:31  
Blogger Albert said...

Sr T,

I'm off out and can't read your scenarios with as much care as I would like, but it seems to me that both cases are wrong.

19 October 2013 at 16:09  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

@ Sister Tiberia.
Your article was written with balance, moderation, nuance, intelligence and an awareness of female gynaecology and the pains and pleasures, duties, rights and rigours of childbirth.

It is much easier for someone who will never conceive nor give birth to pontificate without ever needing to live through the difficulties of following their own position despite necessary self-sacrifice and pain sometimes in so doing. Occasionally they might acknowledge this as when I look around I see women bearing the vast % of self sacrifice. Indeed when severely disabled children are born marriages rarely survive, and usually the mother is after some years left alone to struggle with the situation. Even with more moderate disabilities such as sight or hearing loss the rate of marriage breakdown is much greater than in the general public.

You speak wisely and gently, both with care and tenderness for the child, and for the mother. Well done.

19 October 2013 at 16:19  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Just returned. Waoh, the fur flies !

I simply do not know enough about firstly, the legal, social and moral environment of El Salvador and secondly medicine, let alone the female reproductive system, to comment in a reasoned way. So I shall leave the debate to those more qualified than I.

However I lean towards Albert's moral axiom, as a general guide: - "That it is always wrong to directly and deliberately take innocent human life". Now as a general guideline that has considerable attractions, but awful complications and challenges to our judgement will and do I am sure arise in real life. I am glad that it is God, not I who judges these actions.

Also I think Carl Jacobs is on the button when he points out the not too subtle underlying purpose of recent articles as probably being to make western pro-abortionists feel justified, pointing to the "awful" primitive societies "over there". Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of the El Salvador situation, this is a self serving, self congratulatory, obfuscating sideswipe at all those who dare to question the western, industrial scale abortion industry. Just below the surface of this case, It shows that they are preparing the defenses of their lucrative killing machine.

19 October 2013 at 16:19  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

This is still bothering Happy Jack. He observes the men are talking theoretically and the women from experience.

Say we agree it is wrong to kill a baby so a mother can live. Jack wants to know if the final decision should be made by the state or the church or the woman who faces death?

19 October 2013 at 16:46  
Blogger non mouse said...

Oh please. I say leave San Salvador, its RCs, and their females to their own: I'm sure they have no interest whatsoever in Britain or anything the British think. They probably don't even know what or where we are.

Furthermore, in my book, sisterhood is a nasty business. It deserves everything it gets.

And I do mean " 'gets." Whether in 3rd World Caribbean islands, or in 5th World British ones, it's really a waste of time to treat the symptoms of a disease rather than the causes. And that's what's going on here.

In all these endless discussions, the females concerned are members of the world's most predatory species. If other creatures of the kind are forcing them to " 'get" then certainly that might be a cause for the larger group to address. Men who also object to that kind of force might then contribute to the battle.

On the other hand, if the " 'getting" is achieved purely at the whim and pleasure of the females, then they'd better form their minds and morals into better shape.

But men never seem to figure in these discussions about who "'gets" or should hold the baby. And if they actually care about either the foolish females, or their joint progeny, then it's time those boys stood up and took responsibility for their part in the production.

And if neither the females nor the males care about the products of their 'pleasurings' - then maybe the babies are better of out of this vile, filthy, despicable "humanists'" world.

God knows ... and He's not telling. Nor do we seem capable of interpreting. But none of this is happening without His permission.

Meanwhile ... back to the Jungle, and/or the Desert.

19 October 2013 at 16:49  
Blogger Frater minor said...

Happy Jack asks who should make the decision in case like these: surely every person has to take responsibility for their own actions, do they not? So any doctor who decides to perform some procedure is answerable for his actions. Any mother who seeks advice concerning whether to kill her baby has to take responsibility for her action, does she not?

Frater minor

19 October 2013 at 17:44  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

Hello Happy Jack,

It would be wrong to kill a mother who might have other children to care for and a husband to consider and if no husband then it would be the state having to care for the children if she were to die just to save the life of her developing baby. So it's obvious the decision should be made by the woman who faces death. And of course she will choose her own life.

19 October 2013 at 18:02  
Blogger non mouse said...

@16:46 Jack wants to know if the final decision should be made by the state or the church or the woman who faces death? This is a very old question; it had been argued long before youngsters at my girls' grammar carried on about it at the dinner tables.

The way you have set it, Jack, again leaves the father out of every part of the equation except the 'begetting.' Oh - and if the parents are married, then he has to contribute (probably as principal breadwinner) to the upkeep of the offspring and wife. But, oh no! He has no say?


Marie @ 18:02 - You present an interesting picture in setting the dilemma as being between self --and 'husband/offspring' or 'state' At earlier stages in our devolution, the choice would have included "church" --- but we now know why that didn't work.

Either way, we've clearly come a long way from the ideas of i)loving communication between man and woman ii) extended 'family' responsibility. Or, indeed, from the idea of family planning.

As the responsibility for the afterbirth of fornication falls more and more to the state, though --- the Brave New World scenario looms larger. Once it begins, all these aggressive, essentially irresponsible, females will once more prove themselves to have been nothing but thoroughly useful idiots.






19 October 2013 at 19:23  
Blogger Albert said...

Lucy,

It is much easier for someone who will never conceive nor give birth to pontificate without ever needing to live through the difficulties of following their own position.

It is much easier for someone who will never be aborted to pontificate on living with the difficulties of not having an abortion.

19 October 2013 at 19:32  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

All right, I was trying not to get this to the personal level but it is heading this way.

It is not possible for me to identify, other than on an intellectual level (and a sympathetic one!) with a man who has just been kicked in the balls. I do not have the anatomy. I can extrapolate from excruciating pain I have received in other circumstances but I cannot say I know how it feels. I don't.

Similarly, my husband who suffered with me and grieved with me through three miscarriages cannot and will not say he knows what it is like for a woman to lose a much wanted pregnancy. Because he has no frame of reference for it. He does not know what it is to feel the life that you wanted and welcomed and prayed for slipping away, while you howl your anguish to heaven and curl your body around it in a futile attempt to protect what cannot be saved. He only could say that he knew what it was like to hold me while I went through it.

On that basis, can we return this debate please to the original premise. That whatever the intent of the law to protect the unborn children of El Salvador, the result has been that women who face what I lived through dare not see a doctor for fear of the consequences. On any level, that is a wrong crying out. So how can this be changed? How can the well meaning people who wanted these laws be brought to see the unintended consequences? Or do we just allow the world to turn a blind eye because "it's a liberal agenda?"

19 October 2013 at 20:24  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Tibs, dear heart.

One reiterates that we do not know enough about the country’s doings to make a judgement. Can you offer us a case story ? Just the FULL facts, mind, and none of the emotive, if you please...

19 October 2013 at 20:45  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

Frankly, OIG, if you want Tibs without emotion on this subject, you will be waiting a long time. But in the BBC link, and on the Wikipedia link you will indeed find case studies. A trawl through Google will find a lot more. I could easily have put a dozen links on this story, not three.

19 October 2013 at 20:49  
Blogger Albert said...

Sr T,

Surely there are two quite different things here. There is the emotional pain of a mother who has a miscarriage. Yes, I will never know that, but please don't think that that means I have no experience of pain in this area. I am sorry about the terrible pain you have experienced.

The second thing here is the moral issue. It is evident that one does not have to have been in the exact same shoes of someone, to be able to comment on the rightness and wrongness involved. To try to blunt reasonable argument on such grounds is intellectually untenable and morally repugnant. Lucy's point seemed to me to be trivially, offensively bad - it would also, if applied, undermine any argument for abortion (even bad arguments have good elements!).

Now, as far as I can see, we are agreed on the key issues:

1. El Salvador needs better health care.
2. El Salvador needs a fair legal system.
3. The present law needs to be reviewed, to ensure that unwanted, unintended consequences are minimized.

Agreement on that seems easier to come by when arguments which are designed to exclude on irrational grounds, are themselves excluded.

19 October 2013 at 21:03  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

Those three points I can agree with you wholeheartedly on. I don't think however that Lucy's point was intended in any way to be offensive, or at least that wasn't how I read it. Lucy is correct in saying that someone who has no direct or indirect experience of miscarriage will have different priorities when aiming legislation at the protection of the unborn child, and may have no reason to foresee the terrible unintended consequences of the law. I cannot believe that this was what the Church or the law makers intended to happen - but it happened none the less.

19 October 2013 at 21:15  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

I am reminded a little of the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem "No worst" though I have always believed he was speaking about depression.

"O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne'er hung there."

19 October 2013 at 21:18  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Tibs, do forgive the Inspector’s apparent insensitivity, but he has reason to ensure what is happening there be fully understood.

You see, in a UK where abortion is not available, we are going to see women sent to prison. Of that there can be no doubt. Hence the need to establish the facts...

19 October 2013 at 21:23  
Blogger Albert said...

Sr T,

I cannot believe that this was what the Church or the law makers intended to happen - but it happened none the less.

But that's because, as it would appear, the legal system is corrupt. If the system were not corrupt, there would be no story.

How do you protect the innocent in a corrupt legal system? You do your best, and hope that the untended harm of your actions is less than the harm of doing nothing.

Of course, all this is assuming there is good reason to suppose the women really did miscarry, rather than were convicted justly. As I say, I'm troubled by that anyway, but it seems hard to me to be able to get at the fact here. Without facts, there can be no conclusion.

19 October 2013 at 22:03  
Blogger non mouse said...

Well, as I intimated before --- El Salvador is an independent country, responsible for its own RCism and its own laws. At least any children who do survive will be free to change their own laws.

In contrast, we British aren't even independent. We presently exhibit neither the guts, the brains, nor the means to defend ourselves or the future of our unborn.

We therefore have no business dictating anything to another country, especially about its domestic affairs. And I include females among "we."

As to whom the euSSR should condemn to earthly "life" (for their voice pre-empts 'ours') ... why is survival supposed to be so wonderful? However, Mrs. T's line of argument rests on the assumption that everybody wants to live.

It apparently never occurs to this person that some of us wouldn't want to be born anywhere on this planet - but especially not under female, euro, or RC domination. Nor would we choose to be resuscitated from any form of surgery.

In fact, I promise to come back and haunt the next person who forces me to live!

So, Mrs. T - in response to your authoritarian moderation - I say "we" should mind our own business and let other people mind theirs.

19 October 2013 at 22:09  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Sister T

A couple of things.

A woman who gets an abortion is not a victim. She is a co-conspirator in the death of her child. It is true that different motivations might mitigate the punishment but they do not remove the necessity of punishment. Desparation is not a valid reason for murder. It would certainly never be so credited once the child is born.

There seems to be an assumption on your part that a law which criminalized self-induced abortion will inevitably lead to women being prosecuted for miscarriages. The conclusion does not follow. The law is capable of recognizing the difference between death by intentional poisoning and death by accident. Certainly it can recognize the difference between death by fetal poisoning and death by fetal abnormality. The law in question is not inherently flawed. If there are unintended consequences they do not exist because of the law.

Women have been aborting their children for centuries by (say) ingestion of just enough poison to kill the child. That is a despicable act. It should be criminalized and punished harshly. I grant it would be hard to prove. But that is no reason to simply refuse to try.

carl

19 October 2013 at 22:17  
Blogger Albert said...

Carl,

The law is capable of recognizing the difference between death by intentional poisoning and death by accident.

Exactly, and we protect children who have been born by prohibiting the former. Of course, there may be very tragic cases where the two causes or death become confused. There may be tragic cases where a mother loses her child in an accident for which she was not responsible - even at the level of neglect - and is then prosecuted and punished for it. Clearly, the risk of wrongful punishment is greater if the law does not presume innocence.

But that is no reason to remove laws protecting children from being murdered by their parents. It means you do all in your power to sort out the legal system.

19 October 2013 at 22:22  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

I think that it comes down to priorities.

If your priority is that the guilty should be punished, and the conviction of the innocent is collateral damage, then your law and legal system will be organised in that direction.

If your priority is that the innocent should not suffer unjustly, and as a result some guilty parties walk free, then your law and legal system will be organised in that direction.

Medically it is not easy at all to tell whether a miscarriage is natural or induced under most circumstances. And I maintain that if as is reported, the law in El Salvador is leaning in the first direction then that is a grave injustice to a very large number of vulnerable women.

19 October 2013 at 22:29  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Sister T

If the law is biased as you say, then you are correct. A grave injustice is being done. But that doesn't mean we make the perfect the enemy of the good. We are limited finite creatures. Any law enforcement we perform will carry the risk that innocent parties will suffer. Do we therefore abandon the concept of law because we cannot enforce it perfectly?

carl

19 October 2013 at 22:40  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

No Carl, but we make sure that the imperfect law is strongly biased in the direction of mercy. Then we leave the rest of the imperfections in the hands of God. :)

19 October 2013 at 23:29  
Blogger Julia Gasper said...

Dear Sister Tiberia, While I don't doubt that this law causes grief, I would be happier if you could find some evidence that is not from Wikipedia. One cannot take evidence in Wikipedia at face value. It started as a ramshackle affair with anybody being able to put any twaddle on it. Now it is a tightly-controlled leftwing propaganda machine with an extreme secular, green etc PC agenda.

20 October 2013 at 01:25  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Sister T

Given your post at 23:29 above, I'm not sure why you ever disagreed with Albert. You have articulated his original position.

carl

20 October 2013 at 02:17  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Sister T

One other thing. The Law does not show mercy. The Law judges rightly. The Law is not supposed to be a respecter of persons. That is why it is metaphorically represented as blindfolded. It is the judge who might show mercy. And the judge can only show mercy to one who is undeserving. The Law must first condemn before the judge can show mercy. If by saying the law should be strongly biased in the direction of mercy you mean 'The law should not condemn in the first place' then you have not advocated mercy but license.

carl

20 October 2013 at 02:29  
Blogger Albert said...

Sr T,

Medically it is not easy at all to tell whether a miscarriage is natural or induced under most circumstances.

Quite. So if one is innocent until proven guilty, and if the burden of proof has to be beyond reasonable doubt, there would be no story here. The issue surely, is not the law, but unjust legal system. That's what needs to be challenged and changed, not just ignored and side-lined because it suits abortionists here to do so.

So for the third (four if you include Carl) time: surely we are agreed on this.

20 October 2013 at 10:08  
Blogger IanCad said...

A perceptive and sensitive post Sister Tibs,

I am assuming that the last paragraph refers to yourself. If that is so then what awful travails you have suffered.
Such as we men will never know.

Thanks for trying to right this wrong.

"--Then gently scan your brother man, Still gentler sister woman; Tho' they may gang a kennin wrang, To step aside is human:---"

Rabbie Burns: "Address To The Unco Guid"

20 October 2013 at 13:43  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

The human rights situation in El Salvador is dismal: extra-judicial murders, rampant child labour, missing children, using anti-terrorism laws to persecute political opposition, killings and jailings of union activist, corrupt police and judiciary...and the persecution of women for miscartiages, among a scote of other harrowing violations women can face in that country.

In other words, El Salvador is a Third World shit-hole run by corrupt, stupid savages in the government and the courts, and an upper class that treats its poor, be it workers, women and children like animals. El Salvador's abortion laws and the manner of their enforcement are congruent with everything else it does and short of dictating and imposing a deep, systemic change...perhaps by lining up its cops, judges, government and what goes for its "upper class" against a firing wall...or waiting a century or two until the country progresses, not much can be done.

Nevertheless, I sympathize with Sister Tibs' outrage and find no problem with her focus on this one issue; at times all we can do is choose one issue and hope that by ameliorating one injustice, a domino effect will set. And I also understand her point about where strict anti-abortion policies can lead, especially in a failing society. So, I'm thankful for living in a democratic nation with a fair, answerable system of justice. I'm also glad to be a Jew, whose tradition treats abortion as either a medical necessity or a sin against one's body to be be judged by the Almighty and the All-Merciful, rather than as a crime by the religiously exercised, the corrupt and the savage. Amen.

20 October 2013 at 14:31  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

In the last bit of my run-on sentence which is the first paragraph of my diatribe, I said, "....among a scote of other harrowing violations women can face in that country. "

I have no idea why I wrote "scote" and what I meant by that word. Suggestions are welcome.

20 October 2013 at 14:43  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Happy Jack has been to the big church on the hill today to think more about this. He likes to talk to himself and this is a good place to do it as he can hear himself there.

He has read all the views above. He agrees killing babies is wrong and should not be allowed. But he is troubled by El Salvador where even if a woman is to die giving birth she is forced to have her baby. He thinks nobody should be able to say someone else must die for something they believe in but the person dying may not agree or may be too frightened to die. She might be scared about other children or her husband or looking after her old folk. Jack thinks it can only be insisted on by someone else in the name of religion and God. But Jack thinks God wants us and lets us make our minds up. She might die hating the people who made her do this and hating the God they say insisted on this. That would be a bad thing. Not everyone has the courage to die for God or for their baby. No. Jack thinks she should be allowed to make her own mind up even if she knows what she is doing is wrong. If she goes on and has her baby at least she is dying in peace with her God. If she lives she has a chance to put it right too.

Sorry this has been so long but these things have been on my mind.

20 October 2013 at 14:52  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Hello Avi. I didn't see you there. Greetings, friend.

20 October 2013 at 14:53  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Greetings, friend Happy Jack! Glad to know you have found a sanctuary for your worship and reflections and also companionship and friendship, I would hope; I would be at loss in this world without my synagogue, its services and the characters therein. Not to mention the occasional single malts and herring at the sponsored luncheons after services.

I am impressed at your reflexive humane concern over the fate of women facing the choice of their life or their future baby's. How horrible such a choice. It might interest you to know, at least academically, that in Jewish law, no woman, husband or family has to choose or face pressure; the life of the mother always comes first and to choose the life of the foetus over hers is to commit the sin of suicide or manslaughter, if not murder.

20 October 2013 at 15:16  
Blogger non mouse said...

Avi @ 14:43 ... funny :)

Suggestion: "score"?
That would be a common typo

20 October 2013 at 15:29  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

You are a Jew. I wondered about all the Shaloms. Happy Jack did not this about your faith and will think about it. This also takes away choice from the woman. Can the mother decide herself without coming a cropper?

Yes Jack enjoys his visits to the church on the hill but does not go there often and has just one or two friends who know him well. He is interested in this idea of malt though. All he gets is warm coffee and a ham or cheese sandwich. He will investigate this part of your religion more in his manor.

20 October 2013 at 15:45  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Nonmouse, of course! Didn't think of it, closest I thought of is "scope", which makes no sense.

Happy Jack, yes, the rule takes away from the mother's choice. However, it guarantees that a culture of pressure and coercion will not develop to force a mother to sacrice her life and it establishes a hierarchy of personhood. In real life, flexibility occurs; I personally I know of a case where a religious counsel justified a terminally ill woman's choice to endanger her life on behalf of the foetus.

As for your church activity, my casual advice is to make one's visits regular. I think that regular worship works better for us in drawing us nearer to the Creator, our fellow humanoids and our culture and its traditions. It also sets a "metronome," rhythm to our lives, a dividion between the sacred and the worldly, a salubrious ingluence on our hectic lives.

20 October 2013 at 16:38  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

To allow both mother and baby to die is a far greater 'evil' than to abort the non-viable foetus and for what purpose? This is totally inhumane if not a crime against humanity. It appears to me that this is simply to permit wealthy and/or powerful religious fundamentalists to impose their imperious will upon others. I see no difference between them and the Taliban or the mad mullahs of Islam.
From what I have read, ES is only one of two countries where abortion for whatever reason, is a criminal offence and brought about relatively recently by the direct intervention of the RC Church in 1998.
The El Salvador law as outlined is a matter for the wider world; it is simply a manifestation of the unchallenged danger of religio-fascist abuse of power and rallying call for secular government if ever one was needed. The Church and Opus Dei participants in particular, opted for stale dogma over reason or regard, to the plight or rights of impoverished women, made pregnant in a male dominated society devoid of equality and open debate or any representative democratic involvement because they are of the poor majority. The fact that women are largely without access to contraception (also denied them by the same Church), or that the men they consort with prefer to ride bare-back, they alone are the destined to be the ‘guilty’ ones if they abort before term. Yet despite the obvious total involvement of the dominant male in the sexual act, the women here would not have become pregnant in the first place; but still the man who instigates these unwanted or unsustainable pregnancies can simply walk away if he is so inclined.
The RC Church (as presumably the Vatican was aware of the campaign to amend the law) has to hold itself responsible for this miserable travesty of involvement in a woman’s right to her own body: this is not so much a matter of bad or corrupt law but more a matter of pig-insensitive religious Cheauvanism.

http://reproductiverights.org/sites/crr.civicactions.net/files/documents/persecuted1.pdf

20 October 2013 at 16:47  
Blogger Albert said...

Dreadnaught,

Thank you for demonstrating so completely the argument I have been defending throughout this thread.

20 October 2013 at 16:49  
Blogger Albert said...

Avi,

rather than as a crime by the religiously exercised, the corrupt and the savage. Amen.

You appear by this, to be criticising those who, contrary to the prevailing culture, wish to defend innocent human life from being deliberately killed.

Is that where you are?

20 October 2013 at 16:51  
Blogger Roy said...

carl jacobs said...

Sister T

One other thing. The Law does not show mercy. The Law judges rightly. The Law is not supposed to be a respecter of persons. That is why it is metaphorically represented as blindfolded. It is the judge who might show mercy.


The law certainly does not judge rightly if it convicts the innocent on the basis of suspicions.

If somebody who looked somewhat like you committed grievous bodily harm and you happened to be in the same area at that time and did not have a watertight alibi would you be so sanguine about the possibility of serving time in gaol for a crime you did not commit?

20 October 2013 at 18:03  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Happy Jack is going out now so will say no more tonight.

He wants to say to Avi that if a woman wants her baby to live and she wants to risk dying for this, Jack does not see how this is murder or manslaughter. Suicide so that her baby has a chance of life is a sacrifice. If this is suicide then everyone who gives their life for another person commits suicide. How can this be a sin?

Be in touch again soon.

20 October 2013 at 18:13  
Blogger Denis said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

20 October 2013 at 18:23  
Blogger Albert said...

Roy,

When Carl was talking about the law and mercy, he was talking about people who are guilty. How that is established is an altogether different matter, and one we have looked at in several places on this thread.

20 October 2013 at 18:23  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Albert, I don't know about appearances, but in my sector, which does not deem abortion a crime, and does not grant equal personhood status to the foetus, incidents of abortion are probably among the lowest in the world. This condition is achieved by a set of religious laws and rulings, customs and outlooks which do not directly relate to abortion and do not require prohibition. I don't know what solutions other cultures can employ to avoid the shocking rates of abortion or cruel penalties against women who abort. I donate to an organization which strives to convince women to have their baby and succeeds with thousands by offering meaningful communal and financial assistance; perhaps that's one way of dealing with the issue.

20 October 2013 at 18:35  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Roy

I was not being sanguine about someone serving time for a crime he did not commit. I was making a general point about the limited nature of man and his concomitant inability to judge perfectly. Every man sent to prison is dispatched without benefit of perfect knowledge. We are by nature incapable of escaping the possibility of incorrect judgment. That reality does not lead us to abandon the justice system.

So to bring the point home. Any law - be it against murder or rape or theft or assault or (in this case) self-induced abortion - contains the possibilty of unjust conviction due to the imperfect knowledge of limited creatures. This possibility will always exist despite our best efforts to minimize it. We do not react to this possibility by refusing to prosecute crime.

carl

20 October 2013 at 19:01  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Happy Jack, I understand your logic and accept its validity in your own life. Fortunately nowadays such choices are rare. I do prefer the prohibition of sacrificing the mother's life knowing that pain, fear, exhaustion or duress from insensitive husbands or family members can easily pressure a woman into "heroism". Your other examples of sacrifice are not applicable to this, as there is a whole range of circumstances where it is allowed. This specific prohibition is based on a hierarchy of personhood and primacy in right to life in Jewish law. It is binding only on Jews, btw, and you and others should seek guidance from a priest, minister or you conscience.

20 October 2013 at 19:12  
Blogger IanCad said...

Avi,

Do you perhaps mean "Skosh"?
As in "Smidgen or Smidge" or "Hair" The latter further refined as regards its width by referring to it as a female pubic hair. At least if it somewhat wider than a normal hair.

These terms are part of carpentry vernacular, particularly in the USA.

In descending order, the terms roughly correspond to the following fractions of an inch:

Skosh = 1/8"
Smidgen = 1/16"
Smidge = A little less
C/Hair + A strong 1/32"
Hair = A shy 1/32"

I hope this helps.
Ian

20 October 2013 at 19:48  
Blogger Albert said...

Avi,

I do prefer the prohibition of sacrificing the mother's life

Do you mean to say that in certain circumstances abortion must be forced on the mother?

20 October 2013 at 20:12  
Blogger Denis said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

20 October 2013 at 20:20  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

Avi

I read your comments with interest (and thank you very much for your sympathy). It does make one wonder just exactly what the Rabbi Yehoshua bar Miriam would have had to say about the plight of the women of El Salvador - I have little doubt that it would have been significantly kinder than some of what has been posted here :)

20 October 2013 at 20:34  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Albert, yes, in cases where the foetus is certain to cause her death, the priority in Jewish law is to protect the mother's life and just like she cannot accept euthanasia, she cannot choose her death over that of her foetus.

I don't expect you to agree as a Catholic, Albert, and lest you begin drawing all sorts of imaginary nightmare scenarios of pregnant church ladies being dragged off for an abortion at someone's mere suspicion that her life might be in danger, this is a Rabbinic regulation applicable to Jews only, respected by the Orthodox, applied judiciously in extreme cases and accepted as right, just and normative by them. Once upon a time it saved the lives of many a mother, nowadays such extreme incidents are extremely rare; none of my physician friends have had to deal with or have even heard of such in their career.

20 October 2013 at 20:37  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

IanCad, there you have it: Skosh! And I will recommend to the Rabbinic courts that they apply it to mean 1/60th, the allowable amount of milk that can drop into a meat pot without making the contents and the pot unkosher. As in, "Oy, Rabbi, I spilled my coffee into the bathtub full of lip-smacking stew, so vot, oy, vot shall Ido?" "Dont vurry dear Lady, by the wise decrees of Rav Moish, t'vas oinly a bissle of skoyish."

Thank you, Sister Tibs. As for your Rav Yossi, on the basis of his other opinions, I would suspect he would have held by the House of Hillel, rather than Shammai, meaning upholding the primacy of the mother's life. But I'm only guessing, of course.

20 October 2013 at 20:56  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

In many ways I would agree, Avi, though it could be argued that his teachings on divorce were significantly closer to the House of Shammai :)

20 October 2013 at 21:00  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Ha, perhaps so, Sister. It appears you may know more about the last decades of the Second Temple period than I do. To me it was a jumble of factions, Romanists and Hellenists, sectarians, mystics and desert-dwelling locust-eaters.

20 October 2013 at 21:09  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

I have to say that every argument I have read so far places him firmly in the Hillel camp - and explains a lot about his dealings with the Pharisees. On the other hand, given how often in a debate I may consider my opponent has a point, even if I don't agree with him on many things- perhaps he did too :)

20 October 2013 at 21:12  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Hmm, I have read reasonable arguments that Yoshua was in firmly in the camp of Pharisees, keeping in mind that it was a divided camp with many factions with accusations against one another which were later on jumbled and conflated to imply an anti-Pharisaic position. Given the factions and disagreements within Rabbinic Judaism today, even within Orthodoxy itself, I can see how this could be the case.

20 October 2013 at 21:32  
Blogger Albert said...

Avi,

I'm just wondering what the biblical basis is for the case you give.

lest you begin drawing all sorts of imaginary nightmare scenarios of pregnant church ladies being dragged off for an abortion at someone's mere suspicion that her life might be in danger, this is a Rabbinic regulation applicable to Jews only

Actually, the implications for church laides didn't occur to me. Human rights are universal, so it seems to me that, regardless of the woman's identity, Jewish or Christian or Muslim or nothing, it's not up to someone else to impose an abortion on her. In fact, I find that quite shocking.

just like she cannot accept euthanasia, she cannot choose her death over that of her foetus

But the two cases are not alike. In euthanasia someone directly causes the death by a moral act. A woman who dies in childbirth (say) is not the victim of a direct moral act of anyone.

Once upon a time it saved the lives of many a mother

By taking the lives of many children.

20 October 2013 at 22:14  
Blogger Albert said...

Sr T,

I have little doubt that it would have been significantly kinder than some of what has been posted here

I'm just wondering which comments you have mind. Those defending the lives of the unborn, or those wishing to kill them?

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

and

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?

20 October 2013 at 22:19  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

Albert, we have already worked out what the impasse is that you and I will not get beyond, I'm not going to start the argument again. Our lines in the sand haven't changed. And unless your conscience is pricking you about something you've said that I haven't noticed, my comment was actually directed at another blog poster, and His Grace appears to have removed the post. :)

20 October 2013 at 22:44  
Blogger Denis said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

20 October 2013 at 22:56  
Blogger Albert said...

Sr T,

No, my conscience isn't pricking me. But I am used on this kind of topic to people trying to use "compassion" or "kindness" as a weapon against the unborn child (with or without irony).

But I'm a bit surprised that you think we have an impasse. I thought we were agreed. Where's the impasse?

20 October 2013 at 23:00  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Albert: I'm just wondering what the biblical basis is for the case you give.

I'm not an expert on these things, Albert, but off the top of my head, a lack of a specific and repeated prohibition is a good start and also by inference, where someone harming a woman and killing her foetus is not guilty of murder. For an excellent and very short treatment on the issue, a lecturer, a top radiologist, a Talmudic scholar specializing in Jewish medical ethics, and an acquaintance of mine, Dr. Daniel Eisenberg, has an article at http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48954946.html.

Then, Human rights are universal... Which "human rights" are universal and who says so? Even the ones which allow for abortion on demand for any reason?

...so it seems to me that, regardless of the woman's identity, Jewish or Christian or Muslim or nothing, it's not up to someone else to impose an abortion on her. In fact, I find that quite shocking. And it seems to me that regardless of anyone's identity allowing a woman in extremis to be told, cajoled, advised, pressured or forced to die on behalf of her foetus is even more shocking.

The euthanasia example is germane in that in Jewish religious law one is required to accept all treatment necessary to maintain life and cannot choose euthanasia or death through inaction. A Jewish physician is required to save her life, regardless of her "choice," even if it leads to the death of her foetus who has a protected status, but one inferior to hers. Obviously, you shouldn't consider a Jewish conversion if this approach offends you.

A woman who dies in childbirth (say) is not the victim of a direct moral act of anyone. A woman who dies in childbirth because all measures were not taken to save her life by those wo could was murdered.

Me: "Once upon a time it saved the lives of many a mother..." You: By taking the lives of many children. Me: No, by removing and in most cases killing the threat to the woman's life, her foetus. You see, the word foetus, as offensive as it may sound to you, has a specific meaning. It is not meant to be interchangeable with the words "baby" and "child."

The difference between you and I, Albert, is that I'm not interested in converting you to my beliefs. Sure, to me, it's sheer ideological lunacy, not to mention a horror to allow a woman...a mother, a daughter, a wife...to die in order to possibly save a foetus. Still, I recognize that on a fundamental level, our differences are religious and therefore irreconcilable. You however will readily pretend that your position is not primarily a religious one, that's it's somehow universally logical and ethical and rationally preferable as you mumble piffle about "universal human rights," and pretend that letting a woman die and not saving her life because your beliefs erase the difference between a foetus, a baby, a child and even a mother. And while I may shake my head at your logic and ethics, I will respect the gravity and importance of your beliefs and wouldn't dream of imposing mine on you, whereas you, given half a chance, would impose your way on me and everyone else in the world.

21 October 2013 at 01:15  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

It's nice to see a religious position that's pragmatic.

21 October 2013 at 05:29  
Blogger Denis said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

21 October 2013 at 07:35  
Blogger Denis said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

21 October 2013 at 08:00  
Blogger Denis said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

21 October 2013 at 09:12  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Avi

What an excellent, fully encompassing explanation.

21 October 2013 at 11:32  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Hmmm, <>pragmatic,<> not sure whether that's a good thing in this debate...and a super-sized package of Rheeses peanut butter cups with a Coke slushie from the next truck stop to see what this Denis character says that keeps on getting him blown away.

21 October 2013 at 11:47  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

It isn't what "Denis" is saying; it's who "Denis" is.

21 October 2013 at 11:50  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Thanks, Dreadnaught, but better to check with Doc Eisenberg's article I've sited, for a mote accurate description of halakhah on this. The Orthodox Jewish position somehow manages to piss off both sides of this issue...not very pragmatic, come to think of it.

21 October 2013 at 11:57  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Aaah! Eureka! I see, thank Your Grace. Not sure whether your answer technically qualifies you for the Rheeses and the slushie prize, but an answer I got. I can see if I can slip them by your Customs. Slushie might not handle the trip too well though....

21 October 2013 at 12:06  
Blogger Hannah said...

I don't know why there is such an issue with what Sister Tibs posted. I can't see that this is about abortion verses pro-life, but common sense, compassion and justice verses an idiotic and inhumane law. From what I can understand in Ecuador, women who are miscarrying are being accused of abortion (whereas I always thought abortion to be about an external act done to the women to terminate a pregnancy). How is it just or right for women, already grieving from the loss of a baby, to be put into gaol and be put into the same category as a serial killer? Should there be a law to criminalize and accuse those who have lung or liver cancer of 'murdering' themselves?.

There has been reference to human rights, surely it is in everyone's interests- if not right- to have access to proper medical facilities,options and choices (which was the final argument in this article)?

As for the law, that is national law, I believe in English common law you are innocent until proven guilty. I suspect if this law was on the statue book here they'd never be able to convict anyone (and rightly so).

As for Jewish law, to add to Avi's excellent summary, there isn't specific discussions on abortion in the written Torah, so one has to infer from the texts regarding this subject and there is a huge amount of ethical literature of the subject by Rabbinical authorities, both past and present.

I'd say that what our religion does say is that we believe in life and preserving life(e.g. Mishnah, Sanhedrin, 4:5),and we don't agree with 'abortion on demand', there are rulings to support the idea of breaking Sabbath rules to save a foetus, so it is only in rare and exceptional circumstances that abortion should be considered, such as the mother's health,as Avi has noted.

Avi, in respect of the 'pragmatism', I'd suggest the very fact that it upsets both extremes makes it a good position to hold
(I think).

21 October 2013 at 12:20  
Blogger IanCad said...

Avi,

I'm sure I speak for many on this blog when I say that you are one of the brighter lights who prowl these pages.

That said, your last post is profoundly disturbing. You quite simply cannot continue with such a dreadful snack habit.

I have pictured you as a true North American Knight of The Road. Courteous, professional, delighting in the magnificence of the continent.

Perhaps with a full beard and a yarmulka, maybe even puffing on a cheroot. Always to hand a box of matzos, maybe a jar of Vita Sour Cream and Herring. A little Manischewitz in an old Coke bottle to wash it all down with even.

You disappoint me; are you just another denizen of the Iron Skillet?

One of those guys who, when they get out of their cab it rises a couple of inches?

Water, Ryvita and chicken soup for a month.

We need you here.

21 October 2013 at 12:29  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Welcome back, Miss Hannah! Trusting your vacation was everything a vacation should be.

Why, thank you, Ian, no one's ever called me a "bright light" before (blushing)...but my wife, who calls me all sorts of things every day, usually managing to cover the entire alphabet. by nightfall, would be very amused, for such would never leave her lips.

Rheeses have the OU-D (Orthodox Union Dairy certification) and are a rare treat. No Iron Skillet; I stay kosher at home and on the road, quickly scrambling lean Chinese or Thai dishes with noodles or jasmine rice in my sleeper's kitchenette, run laps around my tractor trailer during breaks, exercise my arms with 30 lb dumbells in the morning and annoy the warehouse brothers by helping to load or unload. I keep my own rule of no alcohol 24 hours before driving, and never play music or chat on the phone or radio needlessly and devote all my attention to the road, traffic and instruments. My recipe for a perfect driving and safety record.

21 October 2013 at 13:18  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Avi

It's not a good sign when the resident atheists are lining up to congratulate you on your 'excellent' and 'pragmatic' position. And why should they think such? Because you hand them the high ground in the underlying debate.

1. You admitted an ontological differentiation between born and unborn ..

You see, the word foetus, as offensive as it may sound to you, has a specific meaning. It is not meant to be interchangeable with the words "baby" and "child."

... and in so doing admitted the (formal, at least) basis for the entire pro-abortionist argument. In fact pro-abortion arguments take no notice of the humanity of the child at all. They are instead founded upon the primacy of autonomy of the adult. But here you have granted them the legitimacy of the fig leaf behind which they hide.

2. You have located the moral scope of your understanding within the community itself and not the larger society.

I will respect the gravity and importance of your beliefs and wouldn't dream of imposing mine on you, whereas you, given half a chance, would impose your way on me and everyone else in the world.

In so doing, you have rendered it inert and impotent in the Public Square which - not uncoincidentally - is exactly what atheists want. Law by definition is imposed. It is supposed to coerce the will. There are in fact many moral understandings derived from Judaism that you would be quite happy to impose on the wider world. Your unwillingness to address this issue on a larger scale indicates not your pragmatism but your judgment that it is not all that morally significant to begin with. Otherwise you would be willing to compel with law.

3. You have located the source of the disagreement in nothing more than a disagreement stemming from a difference in theistic religion.

Still, I recognize that on a fundamental level, our differences are religious and therefore irreconcilable.

To the atheist, this is juxtaposed with reason and enlightenment and rationality (and whatever other self-serving terms they might choose.) By dismissing the spiritual context, you allow them to dismiss the underlying moral concern. "It is just a religious argument" transmogrifies into "angels on a pin." This dove-tails perfectly with 2 above. It explains why they don't want the influence in the public square. They are happy to allow religious believers to organize themselves - just so long as they don't bring any ("irrational" read "religious") ideas into the Public Square.

In truth all arguments like this are religious in nature. The atheist likes to hide his religious presuppositions behind claims of rationality. By dismissing the argument as "religious" you have allowed them the ability to claim the mantle of 'reason' to justify the primacy of their particular faith claims in the Public square.

I have no truck with Albert's argument about the immorality aborting the child to save the life of the mother. I have opposed it before. I opposed it on this thread. I will oppose it again in the future should the need arise. But I won't oppose it in such a way that I hand the field to the atheist adversary. I am not surprised that atheists fell all over themselves congratulating you on your position.

As I said. Not a good sign.

carl

21 October 2013 at 13:22  
Blogger Albert said...

Avi

a lack of a specific and repeated prohibition is a good start and also by inference, where someone harming a woman and killing her foetus is not guilty of murder

Well there’s this from Ex 21:

When men fight, and one of them pushes a pregnant woman so that her children depart, but no other damage ensues, the one responsible shall be fined according as the woman's husband may exact from him, the payment to be based on reckoning. But if other damage ensues, the penalty shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

The only way out of that one is to say that “life for life” only includes the mother. But of course, that’s not what it says and it makes no sense of the passage, for she is covered by that law anyway. It says “life for life” without qualification for a reason.

Which "human rights" are universal and who says so?

I was talking in the abstract. A human right, if it is a genuine human right, will be universal. Thus there will be no conflict over human rights, and therefore the “right” to an abortion is only a supposed human right, because it conflicts with the right to life. (Obviously, the way around this is to deny the unborn child has that right, but then I would refer back to Ex 21 if I am arguing biblically.)

And it seems to me that regardless of anyone's identity allowing a woman in extremis to be told, cajoled, advised, pressured or forced to die on behalf of her foetus is even more shocking… to me, it's sheer ideological lunacy, not to mention a horror to allow a woman...a mother, a daughter, a wife...to die in order to possibly save a foetus

Which is not, of course, the point I have been defending.

You see, the word foetus, as offensive as it may sound to you, has a specific meaning. It is not meant to be interchangeable with the words "baby" and "child."

It’s good to have that set out so clearly. Normally, pro-abortionists use the language of foetus with less honesty – as if it is neutral ground. But you have the honesty to make it clear the language is used precisely to deny the equal status of the unborn. I salute your honesty.

is that I'm not interested in converting you to my beliefs

But that simply isn’t true is it? To me you are killing babies. That is surely a matter of moral primacy. For me not to protest about that, for me not to try to convert you to my position is for me to be converted to yours or else to give up on morality completely. This is not the kind of question about which there can be a live and let live neutrality. To me your position defends killing babies, to you, my position defends murdering mothers (I think that’s muddled by the way, because on my position the mother dies of the tragic medical circumstances of no one’s choosing, on yours the child dies because someone kills them). But if you seriously think that my position represents murdering mothers, then aren’t you immoral not to protest about it, as much as I would be immoral not to protest about your position?

21 October 2013 at 13:23  
Blogger Albert said...

Avi (continued)

And while I may shake my head at your logic and ethics, I will respect the gravity and importance of your beliefs and wouldn't dream of imposing mine on you, whereas you, given half a chance, would impose your way on me and everyone else in the world.

There’s a kind of irony here that you are appealing to some kind of live and let live attitude. Your position is that a mother must submit to treatment, even if it kills her baby, even if it is against her will. My position is that she and her child should be defended against you. Moreover, your position, as I have said, depends on denying the fundamental status of the unborn in the first place. What kind of world would we live in if that principle were taken to be universal? “I know it looks to you like I’m murdering this person, but to me they are not a person because they exhibit characteristic X. So you carry on believing they are a human person if you like, I won’t stop you, but don’t you dare be so illiberal as to impose your view on me when I want to kill them.”

So I do not see that your position is consistent either morally or with your own scripture.

You however will readily pretend that your position is not primarily a religious one, that's it's somehow universally logical and ethical and rationally preferable as you mumble piffle about "universal human rights,"

I do not see the distinction here because I am not a divine command theorist. However, I think it is pretty evident that I can defend my position without reference to a religious authority – and note, the only scripture I have referred to here is one we hold in common.

21 October 2013 at 13:23  
Blogger Albert said...

Interestingly, Carl posted at the same moment as me. It's interesting that, excepting his reference to double-effect at the end, our posts dove-tail rather nicely.

21 October 2013 at 13:28  
Blogger Albert said...

Hannah,

I can't see that this is about abortion verses pro-life, but common sense, compassion and justice verses an idiotic and inhumane law.

The problem is not with the law itself, but with the fact that people do not seem to be innocent until proven guilty in this El Salvador. Sort that out and the story goes away. This story isn't really about women's health in El Salvador, it is about pro-death people here using a general injustice in El Salvador to support their own position here.

21 October 2013 at 13:31  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Happy Jack does not like the word foetus. It sounds like that creature in Alien that jumps out of people's tummies and kills them. That was a scary film. The lady who wrote this story on here did not cry because she had lost a foetus. She cried because she lost her babies. And that is very sad.

Jack still thinks it is up to the mother to make her own mind up about if the christian god or the jewish god wants her to live or die or her baby to live or die. What a horrible thing to have to do.

Jack will not say any more now as people seem to be getting cross about it.

21 October 2013 at 13:34  
Blogger Denis said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

21 October 2013 at 14:01  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Hi Carl,

On we go with this one.

You say, It's not a good sign when the resident atheists are lining up to congratulate you on your 'excellent' and 'pragmatic' position....because you hand them the high ground in the underlying debate.

It's neither a good sign, nor a bad sign. Theists and atheists agree on many points and the idea that one might "hand" them the high-ground in a debate is ultimately irrelevant to the substance in any given position. I'm sure many atheists would find the halakhic position on abortion offensive, as it’s nearly indistinguishable from the most restrictive ones out there, differing almost exclusively on the a “leniency” under discussion which, to make matters even more frustrating, rarely presents a challenge in the modern world medicine anyway.

You admitted an ontological differentiation between born and unborn .. Yes. And so do you, by talking about abortion, rather than infanticide. Reality imposes differences and differences have ontological consequences.

There are in fact many moral understandings derived from Judaism that you would be quite happy to impose on the wider world. Yes, the Noahide Laws, which are binding on all of humanity. I wouldn’t describe them as “many,” but they do generate many implications. And there are many specifically Jewish understandings I would be glad to see adopted...but not imposed, as this would violate Jewish law.

....[I]admitted the (formal, at least) basis for the entire pro-abortionist argument. In fact pro-abortion arguments take no notice of the humanity of the child at all. I defend the Jewish position on abortion based on my understanding of mainstream Orthodox halakhic positions. This, as Miss Hannah mentioned and as Dr Eisenberg elaborates, grants the foetus a protected, human status which, however, is inferior to that of the mother under the severe and thankfully rare condition of choosing one life over another. This is not a failure to acknowledge the "humanity of the child," nor does it imply a "primacy of autonomy of the adult." I thought I was clear on that.

/2

21 October 2013 at 15:42  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

...2

You have located the moral scope of your understanding within the community itself... Yes, I draw my religious and moral understanding from the Jewish religion and my interactions and conduct with the “larger society” from the laws of the land I live in, in accordance with dinah malkhuta dinah "...[A]nd not the larger society...you have rendered it inert and impotent in the Public Square which - not uncoincidentally - is exactly what atheists want. Huh? Are you claiming the “public square”? Because the “public square” in all democratic Western societies, by history and self-identification Christian (as many Christian here have argue), allow for abortion for almost almost any reason.

Your unwillingness to address this issue on a larger scale indicates not your pragmatism but your judgment that it is not all that morally significant to begin with. Nonsense, Carl. It is of a great significance whether a mother’s life comes before that of her foetus or not. On a personal level, I....and if you ask any Orthodox person as well...would hope that this ethos is adapted by all and that all societies from resorting to abortion as they seem to do. However, the lack of a direct prohibition in Noahide Laws prevents me from demanding that laws binding only to Jews, including dietary and many other laws, be adapted by all. It is not a position which Christianity and Islam, with their notion of universal validity...often backed by the rhetorical device of the point of a sword... understand easily.

You also charge that I "dismiss the spiritual context." That is not so: Halakhah is spiritual in its totality as it reflects the will of God. Neither do I dismiss all Christian interpretations, acknowledging their validity to Christians and in some cases even their wisdom and acceptance to God, but not necessarily to Jews and other non-Christians. I understand the problem my position, and perhaps the Jewish approach, presents to you. It appears to be morally relativistic and may easily be interpreted as a surrender to atheism and the moral malaise which bedevils our civilization. That is unfortunate. This appearance, though, stems from a lack of understanding of the complexity and seemingly contradictory claims to both the universality of the Laws from Sinai and to the separation of Jews and Judaism from other Nations. But I am curious about what rationale you hold to in your disagreement with Albert’s (and possibly the Roman Catholic) position.

21 October 2013 at 15:44  
Blogger Hannah said...

Hi/Bonjour Avi,

Thanks for the welcome back.

'Trusting your vacation was everything a vacation should be.'

Thanks for that but the answer is no, I'm afraid. But as several people don't like 'emotional' stuff that's all I'll say; I'm not going to be posting as much, but this one piqued me.

21 October 2013 at 16:34  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Albert first of all, neither your translation from Exodus, nor your interpretation of it are reflective of the original Hebrew, nor the Jewish interpretations in the Oral Laws which we, but not you, consider to be indivisible from what you would call the “Old Testament.” As an aside, and perhaps as an illustration of the differences, the passage, “….the penalty shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise” which Christians tend to interpret literally, with its gory implications, is in Jewish Law explained quite a bit differently. It means that anyone guilty of causing injury to another must make equal value restitution in payment, regardless of the status of the victim orh is own ability to pay. This is in contradistinction to the universal (even in modern tort laws) practice of exacting higher payments for injuries to higher status or wealthier individuals, or adjusting the fines to one’s perceived ability to pay them off. You see, I hope, how hopeless a discussion based on our different religious traditions and positions can be.

"Normally, pro-abortionists use the language of foetus with less honesty – as if it is neutral ground. But you have the honesty to make it clear the language is used precisely to deny the equal status of the unborn. I salute your honesty. And I salute your perception...up to this point. It is unfortunate that English has no single native word for an “unborn child” or “child within the wound,” and that “foetus” is such a loaded term, used to dehumize the….well, foetus/unborn child. I doubt that “embryo” would satisfy my friend Happy Jack who also dislikes the two. I didn’t think resorting to the Hebrew עובר would be helpful. But yes, although the foetus is not on a "neutral ground" in Judaism...e.g., it is a person and it’s killing can be deemed as murder, while penalties for murder are not applied…it does not enjoy the same status as a born person.

"To me you are killing babies. That is surely a matter of moral primacy."

Ex-fucking-cuse me? Are you equating my justification of abortion in the case of preferring the life of a mother to that of her foetus with infanticide.... by me? Not only are our theological an ethical difference irreconcilable, but your inability to make basic linguistic and real-world distinctions renders further discussion rhetorically pointless and personally naseating to me.

21 October 2013 at 16:36  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Miss Hannah, I'm very sorry to hear this and I hope all will be well soon, and that you won't be a stranger here.

21 October 2013 at 16:42  
Blogger Hannah said...

Hello Albert,

I would disagree. I think that there is a problem with a law that equates miscarriages with abortions or automatically assumes that a women who miscarriages is guilty of murder or being pro-death. This is no difference between that and witch hunts of yesteryear; poor people being treated like dirt and being treated as of 'the devil' to suite a superstition. Furthermore that doesn't mean that because one disapproves of this situation, that makes one automatically either 'pro-death' or getting onto a bandwagon. Sure I guess there are people on bandwagons here, but that is irrelevant when asking the question is what is going on in Ecuador right or wrong?

21 October 2013 at 16:42  
Blogger Hannah said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

21 October 2013 at 16:52  
Blogger Hannah said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

21 October 2013 at 16:54  
Blogger Hannah said...

Hi Avi,

We're OK, just been an emotional month, various things happening. I don't really want to discuss it,that is my absence from here, but I guess you'll understand the words if I said 'sitting Shiva'? (:

21 October 2013 at 16:57  
Blogger Hannah said...

There's been a bit more posted on this issue I see. I'll reflect and re-read and might respond later on (things to do at the moment).

21 October 2013 at 16:59  
Blogger Albert said...

Hannah,

As far as I can see, the point you are making is the point I am making. The law itself does not equate miscarriage with abortion. It is the legal system that assumes guilt until proven innocent that is the issue here.

If you read the above posts by me, you will see I think more similarities between our positions.

21 October 2013 at 17:18  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Miss Hannah, oh no, I'm so terribly sorry. From my heart to you and yours:

המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים / ha-makom yenakhemem et khem betokh sha'ar aveylei Tziyon v'Yerushalayim

and

מן השמים תנוחמו /min ha-shamayim tenukhamu.

21 October 2013 at 17:34  
Blogger Albert said...

Avi,

your inability to make basic linguistic and real-world distinctions renders further discussion rhetorically pointless and personally naseating to me.

That is rather ironic, as I have already pointed out that the position you have attributed to me is not the position I take, nor is it the Catholic position or the traditional Christian position. In fact, it is not even remotely the position I defend. The position I defend abhors the position you seem to attribute to me. Moreover, in this post you have made similar, false assumptions:

As an aside, and perhaps as an illustration of the differences, the passage, “….the penalty shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise” which Christians tend to interpret literally, with its gory implications, is in Jewish Law explained quite a bit differently. It means that anyone guilty of causing injury to another must make equal value restitution in payment, regardless of the status of the victim orh is own ability to pay.

Except that, I am aware of all that - I don't know what your evidence is for thinking that I am not - except of course for your assumptions about what Christians think, again, ironically:

You see, I hope, how hopeless a discussion based on our different religious traditions and positions can be.

Thus, my position on those laws would be exactly as you have described here (with one tweak which would be picky to mention). It is you that is rushing to conclusions that evidence and logic will not accept.

neither your translation from Exodus, nor your interpretation of it are reflective of the original Hebrew, nor the Jewish interpretations in the Oral Laws which we, but not you, consider to be indivisible from what you would call the “Old Testament.”

It is difficult to answer the first part of your comment as it is only an assertion. How does my position differ from the Hebrew? As to the second, of course I do not regard the tradition with the same reverence as you. Nevertheless, as a Catholic, I am not opposed to tradition at all, however, I do like to see how it springs from the scripture. At present, I have no reason to see that that the tradition you are depending on springs from scripture, and I have every reason to think it is in conflict with it. Yes, that's a different understanding of scripture, but unless one has some such position as I have described, scripture itself will be lost behind traditions which may (or may not) be consistent with scripture. In which case it is hard to see what role scripture has to play.

It is unfortunate that English has no single native word for an “unborn child”

Well that's why I simply use the word "unborn".

Are you equating my justification of abortion in the case of preferring the life of a mother to that of her foetus with infanticide.... by me?

I am saying that is the position you are defending, from my point of view (remember, in the same argument I have admitted I understand how my position looks to you). So, from my point of view you are defending murdering to save life. You are defending murdering, even against the wishes of the mother, whose body must be violated by the procedure.

No amount of the use of the "F" word is going to hide the fact that you are defending an act imposed upon mother and child to take the child's life. On your scenario, someone acts to kill, on mine the tragedy of the situation takes the life because there is nothing that can be done. In both cases someone dies. The point here is about acting or not acting, it is about the efficient and formal causes of death, which on both scenarios cannot be avoided.

21 October 2013 at 17:41  
Blogger Albert said...

Hannah,

I'm sorry you've had a bad month. I hope things improve.

21 October 2013 at 17:43  
Blogger Hannah said...

Hello Avi and Albert,

Thank you both for your kind words. I am in actual fact more Shalom, than I've ever been. Sometimes during the darkest moments of pain, that's when you see the glimmer of hope and light (:

21 October 2013 at 17:56  
Blogger Albert said...

I'm glad to hear that Hannah, but yes, what you say is true in my experience.

21 October 2013 at 17:59  
Blogger Hannah said...

As for the discussion. I think to Albert I'd say that if we are at cross purposes over the specifics of ecuador then I apologise.

I think we will, sadly, hold differing views on the general issue of abortion. But, passions aside, that does NOT make either myself or Avi pro-abortion or pro-death. If I can think of a Christian analogy it is like Jesus telling people off for him being accused of curing people on the Sabbath, in other words there is law and then the spirit of that law. To me the issue of abortion re Judaism is similar; the Jewish law doesn't necessarily like or agree with abortion, except in limited and specific circumstances. Hence, I don't suggest for a minute it is a 'woman's right' to automatically have an abortion or agree with the abortions of China under the one child policy (which is, even if one dismisses religious ideas on the subject as 'bollocks',on purely rational grounds, loony tune land, for a country which wants to usurp America as the Super Power -try that with an ageing demographic worse than Europe or with a chronic ratio of male to females, because of said state imposed policy...).

21 October 2013 at 17:59  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Carl

By dismissing the argument as "religious" you have allowed them the ability to claim the mantle of 'reason' to justify the primacy of their particular faith claims in the Public square.

May be you too will realise the impact of unopposed religious tampering with your culture and laws when your population reaches 10% Wahabbist Muslim. They also, claim divine cause moral legitimacy.

Don't be at all surprised if you find that atheists quite often agree with Jews and Christians on many points they call sacred, which naturally fit the human capacity for reason.

21 October 2013 at 18:10  
Blogger IanCad said...

Rather than add more fuel to this thread I think my safest course is to offer Hannah my condolences and wish her sadness to become a but a touching memory.

And "Hello There" to Happy Jack. Quite a style you have there.

Let me just repeat that we men can never know the heartache that can befall women.

21 October 2013 at 18:11  
Blogger Albert said...

Hannah,

But, passions aside, that does NOT make either myself or Avi pro-abortion or pro-death.

I entirely see that. But, as Carl has drawn out, a position half-way on this one leaves the field to the pro-abortionist (quite apart from the fact that I just don't see the morality of killing the unborn to save the mother).

21 October 2013 at 18:13  
Blogger Albert said...

Dreadnaught,

Don't be at all surprised if you find that atheists quite often agree with Jews and Christians on many points they call sacred, which naturally fit the human capacity for reason.

Indeed, but in the light of your first paragraph, I would say that, if Islam is a threat to the West it is because "atheism" (however you are defining it) has spent so much time attacking Christian (and by association, Jewish) culture, that the country is now morally and spiritually weak before Islam. That attack may have served atheism in the short-term, but its long-term consequences may be rather bad for atheism.

21 October 2013 at 18:16  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Avi

I only have a few minutes at lunch today, and I want to think about this.

It appears to be morally relativistic and may easily be interpreted as a surrender to atheism and the moral malaise which bedevils our civilization. That is unfortunate. This appearance, though, stems from a lack of understanding of the complexity and seemingly contradictory claims to both the universality of the Laws from Sinai and to the separation of Jews and Judaism from other Nations.

Because you are right. I don't understand what you are saying.

But I did want to answer this question.

But I am curious about what rationale you hold to in your disagreement with Albert’s (and possibly the Roman Catholic) position.

If the pregnancy is going to kill the mother, then the child is already doomed. There is no way to save him. If the choice then is between killing the child and letting both child and mother die, then you save the mother at the expense of the child. Albert understands this. He just wants to find some way to kill the child while still claiming credible deniability. I don't like such obfuscation. Life can impose harsh decisions. We should face them squarely.

It falls under the general category of "Let your 'Yes' be 'Yes.'"

carl

21 October 2013 at 18:57  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

21 October 2013 at 18:58  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Albert

As long as you stick to the illusion that there exists such a body called 'Atheism' as a tight doctrinal entity such as a recognised religion, you will have created for yourself the scapegoat you crave for the decline of Christianity in the West. And there I was believing that it was all because of Protestantism, Martin Luther, Henry 8th and all that, but lets not get mired into who what to whom in the muddy waters of history.

As far as I am aware no one has tried to ban religion in any western country; on the contrary, the great mistake was affording all of them equal status and legitimacy under the law.

21 October 2013 at 19:01  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Hello to you Ian. Jack is happy you have welcomed him here.

21 October 2013 at 19:13  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

21 October 2013 at 19:40  
Blogger Albert said...

Dreadnaught,

As long as you stick to the illusion that there exists such a body called 'Atheism' as a tight doctrinal entity such as a recognised religion

I was using the word "atheism" because you had in your post to Carl:

Don't be at all surprised if you find that atheists quite often agree with Jews and Christians on many points they call sacred, which naturally fit the human capacity for reason.

I put "atheism" in quotes precisely because I know the word is difficult, and I wished to emphasise that I was using your terminology.

As far as I am aware no one has tried to ban religion in any western country

You're kidding, surely? Do you want a list?

21 October 2013 at 19:44  
Blogger Albert said...

Carl,

If the choice then is between killing the child and letting both child and mother die, then you save the mother at the expense of the child. Albert understands this. He just wants to find some way to kill the child while still claiming credible deniability. I don't like such obfuscation. Life can impose harsh decisions. We should face them squarely.

That is not true. If there is no double-effect option available then I do not think anything can morally be done. I accept double-effect, because I understand the nature of "act" differently from you. I also don't think you are accurately describing the medical procedure that would be covered by double-effect, as I pointed out earlier (19 October 2013 15:17). You have not shown how I am guilty of what you say I am guilty of. I think the principle of double-effect applies in many cases, for example in war.

21 October 2013 at 19:52  
Blogger Wry Comment said...

I quite agree. There seems to be, hyperbole colonial aside, commentators here who are nothing other than wild-eyed crazy Teeeeeea-Party, 'baccy-chewin', cousin-marryin', fire-breathin', Gun-lovin', shoot 'em, your with us or against us',North Am'rican Neanderthal loons...

[Cheshire cat grin]

21 October 2013 at 20:48  
Blogger OldJim said...

I too believe in double effect. You can bomb a munitions factory during a war in order to deprive the enemy of weapons, foreknowing but not willing that civilians will die as a result.

Equally, you can bomb an enemy city during a war with the intention of killing citizens, in order to lower the morale of the enemy and force a surrender.

These two acts could lead to exactly the same number of civilian deaths (imagine that in the first case the weapons in the factory exploded, harming more civilians in the vicinity than anticipated, in the latter, that you missed, hitting only the outskirts of the city)

Even though the bombings had equivalent outcomes, I don't think that the attacks are morally equivalent. In one, you intended to licitly deprive the enemy of material with which to conduct a war, merely foreseeing that, because your method was not sufficiently surgical, attempts to do so would likely involve the deaths of civilians.

In the latter case, deaths of civilians are not only the foreseen outcomes of the action, but their intended result. You are bombing cities precisely in order to kill non-combatants.

So even though your outcomes (in terms of civilian deaths) are the same, and your ultimate goals are the same (to win the war, thereby bringing an end to the deaths and restoring orderly peace), the intentions of the acts which are proximate means to bringing about these ultimate intentions differ wildly: in one, you deliberately intend to take civilian lives, which is immoral.

If you accept that, it should equally be clear that there is a difference between taking an action to save the life of the mother which you foresee will gravely impair the child's chances of survival, and deliberately killing the child with the goal of saving the mother's life.

The outcomes may be the same (the unborn chldren die), the ultimate goals might be the same (that the mother might live), but the intentions of the acts differ. One is to restore the mother's body to a state in which she might survive, which it is foreseen will be gravely prejudicial to the child's health; the other is to take the action to kill the child as a means to the end of the mother's health.

They seem to me to be legitimately distinguishable, and not a moral evasion.

21 October 2013 at 21:13  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...


One hates to state the obvious, but shouldn’t you gang be concentrating to ban abortion BEFORE analysing complications arising from childbirth...

21 October 2013 at 21:25  
Blogger non mouse said...

Mr. IanCad @ 18:11 says:we men can never know the heartache that can befall women.

How very sensitive and good of you, sir. But then, I generally find men are. Except: they also often tend to be poor judges of female character.

Of course, women's perceptions of the masculine experience are likewise limited. Females, however, are more frequently insensitive to others. Perhaps those types are all wrapped up in their own pain and whingeing - but they never know as much as they think they do, and they understand less.

One hastens to add, however, that when wimmin are good, they are 'very, very, good." Perhaps one characteristic that helps identify such types is their lack of self-pity.

21 October 2013 at 21:36  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Albert

If there is no double-effect option available then I do not think anything can morally be done.

If a woman requires chemotherapy to survive, but that chemotherapy would kill her unborn child, then you have a legitimate double effect. But you can't simply manufacture one out of whole cloth to achieve a desired outcome. In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, you have no legitimate medical reason to remove an otherwise healthy Fallopian tube. Doctors don't perform radical mastectomies when confronted with a small cyst. No doctor would recommend removal of an entire organ when the underlying condition can be treated with a much less radical and destructive procedure.

You have manufactured a double effect in order to achieve a necessary outcome. You have arrived at it this way. "We can't abort the child. We can't let the woman die in this way. Let's cut out the Fallopian tube. That way we can say we are treating a medical condition and the pregnancy is terminated as an unfortunate side-effect." Except the side-effect is a side-effect in name only. It is the only known treatment. And the Fallopian tube isn't at fault for the ectopic pregnancy anymore than the brain is at fault for a brain tumor.

It is obvious that this is what you are doing. Semantics cannot cover this up.

carl

22 October 2013 at 00:26  
Blogger OldJim said...

I do have sympathy and respect for Carl's position, though. I can see why it might appear that in ectopic pregnancy it is the death of the unborn child that saves the life of the mother, because a)the positioning of the unborn child is the direct cause of the mother's endangered health (by threatening the integrity of the fallopian tube) b)the removal of the cause of the mother's endangered health (the fallopian tube containing the child) necessarily involves the removal and consequently death of the unborn child, practically speaking.

Equally, if this were not an instance of double effect, as Carl feels it is not, I am not sure how I would feel.

I am quite sure that I would not push a fat man off a bridge to cushion the crash of an out-of-control bus of schoolkids. Even if I knew for sure that that would save each and every schoolkid's life.

On the other hand, were I to be absolutely sure that the fat man would die in that accident, and that I couldn't pull him out of the way, would I feel morally permitted to reposition him in order to maximally cushion the crash? I actually think that I might.

In that case, it does come down to the certainty of the foreknowledge of the child's death, and the question of how closely intent and act are paired.

If I know the fat man is going to die, and move him, does the action involve an impermissible intention of his death? I am, after all, using his death as a means to the end of saving the kids. On the other hand, I know that he will die in that particular incident; all that the act does is alter his placing, which is a contingent, not a necessary part of the fact of his death. So I suppose that that one could go either way, I'm not sure.

Surgically removing an unborn child certainly necessitates the intention to kill them if it is not covered by double effect, because I am presumably aware that even moving them from the site of their implantation risks destroying their bodily integrity. Nonetheless, I equally clearly foresee their death in all circumstances, and am merely engineering the manner of the inevitable to reduce foreseen harm.
That sounds analogical to the first case; the problem is that the act of removing them is in this second case not contingent to the manner of their death. I am the ethical agent killing them. Without me, and my act, they might die, but they would certainly not die in the same way. I am certain, after all, that everyone will die eventually and in some manner. That doesn't permit me to kill them now, and in my own chosen manner; even if I am convinced that that maximizes the desirable consequences of their death.

I fear that I may have answered my own question, and not in the way that I should have liked to. I'm curious for thoughts on this, though. This may be ethically thin ground, but even if double effect weren't to apply, this seems to me to be a very extraordinary situation, because of course the child is for a long time absolutely dependent on the health of the mother for their survival.

22 October 2013 at 02:23  
Blogger OldJim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

22 October 2013 at 02:36  
Blogger OldJim said...

The reason why the child's dependence on the health of their mother makes this an extraordinary situation, incidentally, is because it means that at the same time it is clear both that:

a) each life has the same metaphysical priority (by virtue of being a life)

b) The mother's life has a logical priority (i.e. it is a necessary condition of the child's life; without it, there is no child's life to speak of)

In all other consequentialist cases that spring to mind, the material evil proposed to the will as a means isn't also a necessary condition of the failure to bring about the ends.

For example, failing to kill a few more political dissidents and by that act bring about a communist utopia won't necessarily lead directly to the deaths of those dissidents. Failing to kill Japanese civilians and end a war won't of necessity lead to the deaths of those Japanese civilians. In this case, failing to kill the child might well necessarily lead to the death of the child through the death of the mother. That might not make the circumstance so exceptional that it merits breaching the moral law; and in fact I strongly suspect that it doesn't. But if nothing else, if the death of the child is foreseen as an absolute certainty, it lends a particular poignancy, because the material evil results in exactly the same manner in both circumstances; the individual is simply forbidden to bring about the material evil in a manner that will circumscribe the harm done.

22 October 2013 at 02:49  
Blogger OldJim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

22 October 2013 at 07:56  
Blogger OldJim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

22 October 2013 at 08:39  
Blogger Albert said...

Carl,

I think I'm beginning to see where the disagreement is. In order to help me be sure (and assuming you want to continue the discussion), would you mind answering the following questions:

1. Is it that you accept the principle of double-effect, but don't think it applies in the ectopic pregnancy situation?
2. Let us suppose a pregnant woman has cancer and (for whatever reason) this can only be dealt with by removing the womb, would you accept that? Why/why not? If you do, please explain how the case is different in your view from the ectopic one.
3. Let us suppose a woman as an ectopic pregnancy. Let us suppose further that (for whatever reason) this can only be dealt with by removing the fallopian tube (i.e. removing the foetus and leaving the tube isn't possible), would you accept that?

I think your answers to these questions will bring out the precise focus of your disagreement.

22 October 2013 at 10:30  
Blogger Albert said...

Well off topic, Dr C, but I've just seen this on the IN Our Time Website, and I thought of you:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/iot

In case the page changes, the first item is a discussion about the BCP. Apologies if you have already noticed it.

22 October 2013 at 10:31  
Blogger Len said...

This whole comments section illustrates the problem man embarked upon when he chose 'the tree of knowledge of good and evil' above the 'tree of life.'.

When we choose from our own 'discernment' what is' good 'and what is 'evil' we enter a virtual minefield where all have their own opinions regarding what is right and what is wrong.(this discussion could go on forever with each twist and turn and new responses to each situation being discussed and pondered over.)
God`s intention is that each person should be indwelt and empowered by His Spirit which would direct them unto the paths of righteousness.(This obviously has only happened in a[ so far] limited way)
Imagine if the' instinctive drive' in animals were suddenly removed ...there would be utter chaos....This is exactly what the problem is of man without the Holy Spirit.. a chaos of ideas and opinions without direction or form.
This can only get worse until God`s original intention for man is initiated.

22 October 2013 at 12:38  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Avi

Yes. And so do you, by talking about abortion, rather than infanticide.

The terms referenced describe the nature of the action and not the nature of the victim. It is analogous to the difference between extortion and blackmail. In fact, I consider abortion and infanticide almost interchangeable terms, but use them conventionally for the sake of clarity.

Reality imposes differences and differences have ontological consequences.

The reality is that human life is a continuum. There is no sharp ontological boundary in human existence at any point after conception. 'Fetus' is in fact a description of human development and not a reference to some lesser human existence. Fetus is to infant as infant is to toddler as toddler is to child as child is to adult. The word does not relate unborn to born as animal relates to human.

Yes, the Noahide Laws, which are binding on all of humanity. I wouldn’t describe them as “many,” but they do generate many implications. And there are many specifically Jewish understandings I would be glad to see adopted...but not imposed, as this would violate Jewish law.

And this is where you start to lose me. Canaan was destroyed witout mercy. What law did Canaan violate? Was it optional for the Canaanites to obey those laws? How do the recorded sins for which Canaan was judged relate to the Noahide law? If these laws are binding on all humanity, then how can they be optional? It would be rebellion to reject them, would it not?

carl

22 October 2013 at 12:41  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Albert

Is it that you accept the principle of double-effect, but don't think it applies in the ectopic pregnancy situation?

Yes. Although I don't think my chemo example was the best example. High blood pressure caused by pregnancy would probably be better. In that case you would have a woman whose life was directly threatened by the pregnancy itself. The doctor must treat the high blood pressure. He could:

1. Give here medicine that would kill the child.

2. Abort the child to remove the threatening condition.

Given the precondition, those two actions are morally indistinguishable.

Perhaps there is a third possibility. I know a woman who was almost killed by her fourth pregnancy. She assumed the risk and spent a good portion of that pregnancy in bed. She eventually gave birth to a daughter who was recently married. However, for the sake of this argument, I am stipulating that there are only the two options. Given that only those two options are available then abortion is a moral choice because the child is dead either way.

2. Let us suppose a pregnant woman has cancer and (for whatever reason) this can only be dealt with by removing the womb, would you accept that? Why/why not? If you do, please explain how the case is different in your view from the ectopic one.

The threat to the woman in this case would be the cancerous uterus. In this circumstance, you have a valid medical reason to remove the organ. The child will die as a result. In this case, you have a legitimate instance of double effect. Say however, that an abortion would increase the probability of success of the subsequent treatment. Then abortion would be a moral choice. The child is dead either way.

But consider this. Say (for the sake of argument) that the mother was allergic to her own child, and that this allergy was killing her. Would you then advocate removing the uterus? On what medical grounds? That to me is the proper analogy for an ectopic pregnancy.

3. Let us suppose a woman as an ectopic pregnancy. Let us suppose further that (for whatever reason) this can only be dealt with by removing the fallopian tube (i.e. removing the foetus and leaving the tube isn't possible), would you accept that?

Given that the only possible treatment was removal of the tube, then, yes. The life of the mother is the paramount interest. She may lose a tube but she will still be alive. The child is dead either way.

carl

22 October 2013 at 13:02  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Just to be clear.

If a woman is at substantial risk of death because she is pregnant, then she can abort. You can't force someone to assume the risk.

carl

22 October 2013 at 13:20  
Blogger Albert said...

Carl,

As answers to my questions, your answers are as I expected. What I wasn't expect was your view that a woman can abort if there is a substantial risk of death. I don't see where you have justified this.

Take this, for example:

Given that only those two options are available then abortion is a moral choice because the child is dead either way.

Now maybe it is by accident that you have made a grammatical error here, but it is surely morally significant to be precise: the child is dead either way. Don't you mean the child will die either way? The issue here, is not just whether the child is already dead (if the fallopian tube has already ruptured, I take it neither of us has any problem in it being removed, because we can be morally sure the foetus is dead anyway), but whether the foreseen death of the foetus has any moral significance, while the foetus is alive.

So is this your position:

It is permissible to take innocent human life, when that life will die anyway.

Perhaps you could see whether you agree with that or tweak it to suit your position.

As to double effect, my question now becomes whether you think removing the tube in scenario 3 is a legitimate use of double-effect:

3'. A woman as an ectopic pregnancy. Let us suppose further that (for whatever reason) this can only be dealt with by removing the fallopian tube (i.e. removing the foetus and leaving the tube isn't possible), would you accept this as a legitimate use of double-effect?

22 October 2013 at 14:39  

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