Phoenix abortion case: medical facts

over at Vox Nova, M.Z. Forrest takes issue with Bishop Olmsted’s assessment of the medical facts. M.Z. quotes the Bishop:

It also was clear that the exceptional cases, mentioned in ERD #47, were not met, that is, that there was not a cancerous uterus or other grave malady that might justify an indirect and unintended termination of the life of the baby to treat the grave illness. In this case, the baby was healthy and there were no problems with the pregnancy; rather, the mother had a disease that needed to be treated. But instead of treating the disease, St. Joseph’s medical staff and ethics committee decided that the healthy, 11-week-old baby should be directly killed.

M.Z. adds this contemptuous remark: “Well isn’t that special? Bishop Olmsted believes that medical professionals are incompetent to diagnose medical situations.” Such contempt for a Bishop is a sin, even if one believes that a Bishop has erred in some way; and it is also the sin of scandal when the remark is deliberately put on display before others, without remorse. M.Z. then goes on to characterize the Bishop’s statement as a ‘bald faced assertion’ using a play on the common expression ‘bald-faced lie’ in order to insinuate that the Bishop is deliberately misrepresenting the facts. Again, such an accusation, even though veiled, is a sin. M.Z. has no basis for his veiled assertion that the Bishop has lied.

But as for the question of medical assessment, Bishop Olmsted is only assessing the morally-relevant medical facts. Abortion is only indirect when the chosen act directly treats the illness of the mother, and does not directly kill the prenatal. His assertion is correct: “there was not a cancerous uterus or other grave malady that might justify an indirect and unintended termination of the life of the baby to treat the grave illness.” He did not assert that there was no grave malady, but rather no grave malady that would, when treated, constitute an indirect abortion.

His assertion that “the baby was healthy and there were no problems with the pregnancy” must also be understood in terms of the distinction between direct and indirect abortion. He is not implying that the pregnancy had no effect on the mother’s health, nor was he implying that the mother’s health problem had no effect on the health of the baby. Rather, his assertion is based on the moral distinction between direct and indirect abortion. The medical procedure used was the direct taking of the prenatal’s life — that medical procedure was not directly aimed at treating a health problem with the baby, nor with the pregnancy, nor with the mother. Instead, the procedure had, as its proximate moral end (the moral object) the deprivation of life from an innocent person. Good consequences and good intentions have no effect on the moral object.

So Bishop Olmsted correctly concludes that the prodecure was that of direct abortion, not indirect abortion. An official statement from the USCCB Committee on Doctrine is in agreement with Olmsted’s assessment. Direct abortion is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral.

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