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Nov 28 2012

The bishops really do mean it

Jen Gunter is also disturbed by what the Irish bishops said.

Terminating a pregnancy is “gravely immoral in all circumstances.” All circumstances includes 17 weeks and ruptured membranes. Unless I misunderstand the meaning of “all,” then Irish Catholic Bishops also view ending a pregnancy at 17 weeks with ruptured membranes and sepsis, either by induction of labor or the surgical dilation and evacuation (D & E), to be “gravely immoral.” They must also view ending a pregnancy for a woman who previously had postpartum cardiomyopathy and a 50% risk of death in her pregnancy as “gravely immoral.” So if you have a medical condition that is rapidly deteriorating because of your pregnancy, too bad for you if you live in Ireland. Because the mother and unborn baby have equal rights to life, Irish law spares women the anguish of choosing their own life. Neither can be first, so both must die.

Yes. That is also the position – the considered position, the insisted on, mandated, shoutingly ordered position – of all US bishops, because it is the position of their union, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. That is the position the bishop of Phoenix tried to force St Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix to promise in writing never to disobey again*.

posted about it last March.

Yes, Catholic bishops really do take the position that ending a pregnancy at 17 weeks with ruptured membranes and sepsis, either by induction of labor or the surgical dilation and evacuation (D & E), is gravely immoral. In Ireland they do and in the US they do.

They are scarier than almost anyone realizes. They really do try to compel Catholic hospitals to refuse to save women’s lives if they’re in situations like the one that Savita Halappanavar was in. It seems impossible but it’s true.

The statement from the Irish Catholic Bishops is medically nonsensical, contradictory, and immoral and as it represents a group of men who have never practiced medicine opining on an aspect of medical care that they clearly can’t understand.

The only thing this statement clarifies is how Irish physicians could easily be confused by an Irish abortion law steeped in religion, and thus reinforces the claim that Catholicism contributed to Dr. Halappanavar’s death.

Indeed. We desperately need separation of church and medicine.

*The hospital administration refused to obey the bishop

19 comments

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  1. 1
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    And these people think they’re good and kind to their “neighbours” ..?!

  2. 2
    moleatthecounter

    ‘Separation of church and medicine’ – Well said, what an excellent line.

  3. 3
    John Morales

    [meta]

    surgical dilation and evaluation (D & E)

    Unfortunate typo: it’s either ‘dilation and evacuation’ or ‘dilation and extraction’.

    (They’re perfectly fine with evaluation)

  4. 4
    Gordon Willis

    Terminating a pregnancy is “gravely immoral in all circumstances.”

    No it isn’t.

    Your serve.

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    Oops, yes. She’s a busy doctor so a bit typo-prone; I correct them silently but I missed that one.

  6. 6
    Bernard Hurley

    Roman Catholic theology has a sort of inner consistency that appeals to some people. It also assumes that the Church, as a whole, cannot possibly ever be wrong. The sort of people who subscribe to this view are the ones who tend to get into positions of authority. There are dissenters such as Hans Küng http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/05/catholic-revolution-nazi-dictatorship-pope?newsfeed=true but for the most part only the most the most loyal to the Vatican get anywhere.

    The result is that most lay Catholics, at least in developed countries, don’t agree with the more extreme official views. Many Catholic priests don’t either but will only tell you in private. As you go up the hierarchy views get more and more extreme. There are real problems with the Catholic Church and medicine, because on the whole it is these extremists who control Catholic charities and hospitals.

    In many parts of Africa the only medical care the locals can afford is from “faith-based health facilities” run by CRS, a Catholic charity. I have no problem with much of what they do, for instance they are committed to supplying free anti-retroviral drugs to over 30,000 Kenyans for life; they also provide drugs to help prevent HIV/AIDS being transmitted from mother to child. They will tell you all this and much more on their web site. But what they won’t tell you is that the mother they are treating now will more than likely be back in a couple of years because of the misinformation they have given her about contraception. And they won’t tell you that if her next pregnancy is not viable because of her illness, they will do f-all about it.

  7. 7
    Ophelia Benson

    That makes sense. It’s obvious that the bishops’ position is anathema to many Catholics, and I think surveys show that it’s anathema to most of them. It’s so much so that people won’t believe that that really is their position.

  8. 8
    geocatherder

    It really infuriates me that the church I grew up in is so f***ed up. It feels like a piece of my personal history is dirty. These damned bishops can all go fly kites on the freeway.

  9. 9
    iknklast

    I have met very few Catholics that will even acknowledge that this is the position of the church. They will say abortion is wrong, and always wrong, but that this wrong can be mitigated if the mother’s life is at risk. Then they inform me that there are no hospitals that will let a woman die rather than abort, and that the Catholic church will not penalize a hospital that aborts a fetus to save the mother’s life. I mention St. Joseph’s. Their eyes glaze over; they don’t hear me. As soon as my voice ceases, they begin to repeat that there are no hospitals that will let a woman die rather than abort, etc. Cognitive dissonance, anyone?

  10. 10
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    I mention St. Joseph’s. Their eyes glaze over; they don’t hear me. As soon as my voice ceases, they begin to repeat that there are no hospitals that will let a woman die rather than abort, etc.

    This would be another classic example of Morton’s Demon, so recently discussed around FTB in light of Morton’s behavior.

  11. 11
    chakolate

    About 15 years ago I worked in a large metropolitan hospital, a trauma center, which meant that we accepted transfers of critically ill patients from area hospitals.

    The Catholic hospitals had just one criterion for ‘critically ill’: the patient couldn’t pay. No insurance? Why, you need to be transferred immediately. You have insurance? Okay, we can fix whatever is wrong with you, we promise.

    The high moral ground, indeed. I could tell you stories that would curl your hair.

  12. 12
    gratch

    I’m always a little stunned at the arrogance inherent of a person who believes reading a 2000 year old book of Jewish fairy tales makes their views on a technical subject as valuable as those of a professional who has studied the topic for years.

    What do you know about geology?
    Not much.

    Radiometric dating?
    What’s that?

    Carbon dating?
    I think I saw an episode of CSI…

    Tectonic plates?
    Practically nothing.

    But you think you’re qualified to estimate the age of the planet. The arrogance is breathtaking.

  13. 13
    Timon for Tea

    The church’s statements on this are confusing but I don’t think the interpretation given here is the most natural one. I think it is the case (this is more in keeping with most statements on this question) that an abortion is only forbidden when it is chosen for the express purpose of killing the foetus rather than to save the life of the mother. Where it is medically indicated it is permitted. I think the reason that this isn’t spelled out though is that the church wants the prohibition on abortion to be very much before everyone’s eyes, so the bar to approving abortion is very high which encourages risks to the mother, so they are still culpable, but not as much as some are claiming. And don’t the stats bear this up? Ireland does not have a particularly bad record for maternal death in labour, does it?

  14. 14
    Timon for Tea

    I’m always a little stunned at the arrogance inherent of a person who believes reading a 2000 year old book of Jewish fairy tales makes their views on a technical subject as valuable as those of a professional who has studied the topic for years.

    The trouble is that the technicians are often no better at deciding the moral parameters: ‘If it goes up who cares where it comes down, “it’s not my department”, says Werner von Braun’.

  15. 15
    Didaktylos

    @#13 – as has been mentioned, the Republic of Ireland’s good record in this matter is inflated because women who know in advance they are likely to undergo complications go to the UK for their confinement.

  16. 16
    Ian MacDougall

    Various feminist writers have pointed out the RC Church’s own inconsistency on this, since they do not accord miscarried fetuses a full funeral ceremony: church, organ, incense, hymns, prayers for the departed (or should that be non-arrived?). Then solemn burial to await Judgement Day.

    If they were really consistent, they would do this ceremonial stuff also for tampons etc containing menstrual blood, in case a zygote or an embryo a few days old which has failed to implant is in there somewhere.

    Though I am no theologian, to my mind no excuse based on theology, as distinct from expediency, is possible here. But expediency does not sit well with the presumed belief that a fetus has an immortal soul capable of salvation and thus in need of being prayed for.

  17. 17
    Hamilton Jacobi

    What does Werner von Braun have to do with it? The bishops aren’t (yet) launching missiles at women; they’re just telling doctors that a woman carrying a fetus counts for about 3/5 of a person, while a barely multicellular fetus counts as a whole person. Fortunately the technicians (i.e., doctors) in this case have mostly figured out there’s something morally wrong with that.

  18. 18
    gratch

    @#14 – My point isn’t about morality. It’s about the presumption that reading the bible makes you qualified to give advice about topics you don’t fully understand. To use your Werner Von Braun example. It would be like me insisting my input on rocketry was as valuable as an engineer’s because I had read the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Why would that claim be any more ridiculous than claiming reading the bible cover to cover makes me qualified to give medical pronouncements?

  19. 19
    Paul Neubauer

    @Hamilton Jacobi #17:
    What does Werner von Braun have to do with it?

    Answer: This

    Paul

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