Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Excommunication Of Nun For Allowing Abortion Sparks Debate

I've been reading about this story on Catholic blogs for the last week or so, but it has burst on to the national scene, now being heavily covered by the secular media. First, let's see what an actual Catholic news site had to say about the story. From Catholic News Service:

"A nun who concurred in an ethics committee's decision to abort the child of a gravely ill woman at a Phoenix hospital was "automatically excommunicated by that action," according to Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix.

Mercy Sister Margaret Mary McBride also was reassigned from her position as vice president of mission integration at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix after news surfaced about the abortion that took place late last year. The hospital did not say what her new job would be.

The patient, who has not been identified, was 11 weeks pregnant and suffering from pulmonary hypertension, a condition that the hospital said carried a near-certain risk of death for the mother if the pregnancy continued.

"If there had been a way to save the pregnancy and still prevent the death of the mother, we would have done it. We are convinced there was not," said a May 17 letter to Bishop Olmsted from top officials at Catholic Healthcare West, the San Francisco-based health system to which St. Joseph's belongs.

But the bishop said in a May 14 statement that "the direct killing of an unborn child is always immoral, no matter the circumstances, and it cannot be permitted in any institution that claims to be authentically Catholic."

"We always must remember that when a difficult medical situation involves a pregnant woman, there are two patients in need of treatment and care, not merely one," Bishop Olmsted said. "The unborn child's life is just as sacred as the mother's life, and neither life can be preferred over the other."

Sister Margaret, who has declined to comment on the controversy, was on an ethics committee that was called to decide whether doctors could perform an abortion to save the mother's life. Catholic institutions are guided in making such decisions by the "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services."

Bishop Olmsted cited a section of the directives that reads: "Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted. Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion."

But the Catholic Healthcare West officials, in their letter, asked Bishop Olmsted to clarify the directives, citing another section that reads: "Operations, treatments and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child." To read the whole story,
click here.

In light of that last paragraph, there does seem to be a need for clarification. Is it okay to terminate a pregnancy if the mother's life is at stake or not? This morning, the story appeared on "The Today Show".

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Meanwhile at Catholic site Commonweal, a writer questions if in this situation, an "abortion", in its truest form and definition was actually even performed.

"... We do not, however, intend every consequence caused by our action–even if we foresee they will occur. So, to take a homey example, if I take NyQuil, I intend to quell my cough, not to get buzzed. It’s the quelling that is a means to my future plans–a good night’s sleep–not the buzz. I accept getting buzzed as a foreseen but unintended side effect of taking medicine that is quelling my cough.

In most cases, the medical procedure called “abortion” involves the intent to kill the baby–that’s its purpose. There are some rare situations, however, where that is not the case. The immediate aim (object) of the procedure is simply to separate the baby from its dependence on the mother’s system, not to kill the baby, either as an end in itself or as a means to another end. The baby’s death does not contribute to the saving of the mother–only the separation does. If the baby lived after separation, everyone would rejoice. The baby’s death is not intended as either an ends or a means, but is accepted as a terrible side effect of the separation procedure. Is causing the baby’s death as a foreseen but unintended side effect fair? In some cases, this might be a difficult question. In a situation where both mother and baby otherwise would die, I think one could make a strong case that it is fair to go ahead with the procedure..." To read the whole story, click here.

What do you think?


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