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Only a fraction of abortions carried out over ‘risk to life’ to mother

By on Friday, 20 July 2012

Only a tiny percentage of abortions performed since 1968 have been carried out on health grounds, it has been revealed.

A response to a Parliamentary question into abortion claimed that of the 6.4 million abortions carried out on residents of England and Wales, 143 (0.006 per cent) were vital in saving the life or preventing serious permanent harm to the health of the mother. Another 23,778, or 0.37 per cent, were performed under section 1(1)(c), whereby the “continuance of pregnancy would involve the risk to the life of the woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated”.

The figures were revealed by Earl Howe, parliamentary undersecretary at the Department of Health, following a question by Lord Alton of Liverpool.

The statistics will add weight to the argument, voiced by many pro-life campaigners, that society’s views on the sanctity of life has diminished due to the normalisation of the act and the vast number of abortions currently happening.

The Catholic Church has repeatedly declared that the unborn child can in no circumstances be called an aggressor against its mother.

Josephine Quintavalle, co-founder of Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE), commented: “The child has no rights at all. In abortion clinics the law is not respected; figures never seem to fall and people don’t realise.

“The pro-life movement should feel optimistic, there is no better moment than now to consider tackling the abortion act and making significant changes. It is time for pro-life to come together and work together strategies to turn public opinion into a positive impact.

  • JRMartyn

    I understood Roman Catholic teaching to be that abortion is wrong, even if done to save the life of the mother. See the case in Phoenix, Arizona, three or four years ago, which can be traced by searching the internet for “Sister McBride” or “Bishop Olmsted”.

  • Michael Petek

    A doctor who has the duty to preserve the life of two patients may be faced with a situation in which he has a duty to act for the sake of (1), in which case (2) will die. Simultaneously, he has a duty, for the sake of (2), to abstain from acting, in which case (1) will die.

    In such a conflict of duties the doctor has a duty to choose. In law and in conscience he is likely to have the benefit of a defence of necessity.

  • Lewispbuckingham

     I think JRM is referring to a case where if doctors did “nothing’, ie treated the mother and child to the best technical possibility, both would die despite this.Ie.[1] and [2] would die. The problem was that it is not licit to kill either or both just because they are going to die anyway.That part seems straightforward.
    The problem, as I understood it, came in that the mother’s respiration was failing and she alone had a chance of survival if the child were killed.
    Medical opinion from the most learned was obtained after the abortion, which applies today, that the child can never be seen as a parasite or capable of threatening the mother’s life despite the child’sdependancy and uniqueness.
    Personally I disagree with this as a medical statement because, from the published reports, the mother”s hypertension could not be controlled to allow both to survive.
    In this case then the child was a real and present threat to the life of the mother.
    As such the child could be removed and an attempt made for resuscitation, through caesarean section, but all accounts suggested that the chances for the child were grim.
    It all comes down to intention. If the intention is to preserve the mother’s life then a c section with likely death of the child is the consequence.
    The principle is that of self defense.
    If the intention is to preserve both lives this is not a choice open to mother or child, although it was aimed at.
    If the intention was to save the life of the child through the sacrifice of the mother, this was not a choice open to the mother, and was not aimed at.
    In this case I understand the child was simply aborted.I do not know if it had any chance of survival if a c section had been carried out, but I suspect that a C section would have killed both patients, and so would not have been attempted.

  • paulpriest

     a highly misleading and fallacious case – the mother would have required highly expensive treatment – specialist low-risk heart transplant surgery with more costly anti-rejection pregnancy-safe drugs and she would have required immediate and long-term hospitalisation with extensive intensive care and ante-natal provisions…both lives could have easily been saved with risks similar to the risk the mother subsequently took in the transplant operation she underwent after aborting her child’

    for simple utilitarian expediency ‘sister mcbride’ immediately recommended and authorised an abortion and presented it as the only viable option – thus authorising and conspiring with the direct killing of a healthy unborn child. – thus it was not a question of Bishop Olmsted excommunicating her – sister Mcbride excommunicated herself automatically -’laetae sententiae’.

    Don’t believe everything you read..there were alternate options rather than direct killing of one to reduce the risk to a mother.

  • JabbaPapa

    The Bishop of Phoenix is a hardline conservative — which is not the same as either traditionalist or orthodox BTW. His actions were not in line with the teachings in the Catechism.

    The excommunication latae sententiae is absolutely normal, the sister having comitted a mortal sin. The Catechism teaches however that in those particular circumstances the sin is reduced in gravity, and priests may forgive the sin with no great deal of fuss, which with penance, contrition, and Holy Communion is sufficient to lift the state of automatic excommunication.

    The Bishop took the very conservative stance that all abortion in all circumstances is wrongful, and he not only withheld absolution rather than granting it, but he also made public declarations about the sister’s sins, which is not only a grave act of detraction in itself, forbidden by the Catechism, but it’s arguably a direct breach of the seal of confession, and if so a very grave sin, which would incur automatic excommunication on the Bishop himself !!!

    As for paulpriest : both lives could have easily been saved with risks similar to the risk
    the mother subsequently took in the transplant operation she underwent
    after aborting her child’

    Are you a doctor, and are you aware of the medical particulars of the case ? Even if so, are the opinions of the Arizona medical team to be simply cast aside ?

    This *was* a life-threatening pregnancy.

  • Peace and Unity in our lives

    We really need to pray more for all the people who did abortion and are in the decision phase to do abortion. They need to understand more and more that God Loves them and also Love their unborn child.

    Through realizing of how much God Loves them, then it is possible that abortion will start to decrease.

    So we are to do our part to pry and evangelize.

    In Peace
    George Calleja – Malta

    ‘Peace and unity in our lives’ with the address
     is being updated nearly on a daily basis.

  • paulpriest

     Untrue – there was a significant risk to the mother in going to full term with her heart condition – BUT there were many various options regarding treatment which could have significantly raised the chances of mother and child.

    Instead the child was judicially murdered with Sr McBride wearing the black cap.

    Absolution is withheld where there is no recognition of sin, declaration of repentance or a firm desire for amendmen; nor is it detraction to denounce and condemn outright already publicly-known crimes [and those defended by both secular and misguided Catholic comentators - think our own Mgr Loftus in the Catholic Times]

    This was wilful murder – it was not self-defence.

  • JabbaPapa

    To call it “willful murder” is a straightforward slander — the doctors who were there at the time gave their considered opinion on the medical state of affairs, and the sister obviously made her decision on the basis of that opinion — and I have NEVER seen any description of the medical details other than that the pregnancy was life-threatening.

    Even IF the diagnostic was faulty, a faulty diagnostic proceeds from Original not Particular Sin.

    But you seem to be acting as if I were claiming that the abortion weren’t sinful ? Rubbish !!! The Catechism clearly instructs on the particular cases where the sin is lessened in degree, and the sister, having acted on the professional advice that was given her, cannot in good conscience be blamed for any of this, particularly given the fact that she has in fact made her penance and received absolution for her actions.

    You are judging her on the basis of nothing other than this Bishop’s scandalous actions of publicising the sister’s state of sin, contrary to the obligation of discretion, humility, and charity ; contrary to the grave respect that is given to the secret of the confessional.

    And you are accusing a sister who is in Communion with the Church and who has been absolved of her sins, so that I find your continued accusations to be pretty despicable.

    This is a local affair that the Bishop of Phoenix turned into an international media circus because of his spectacular failure to fulfill his ordinary pastoral duties, including his duties of humility, compassion, charity, and discretion.

  • paulpriest

     No – and yet again I am utterly bemused at your revisionism and ignorance of the facts of the case…there was public outrage for ages before Olmsted made any comment – you can see my contemporaneous intense , lengthy online fight with the author Anne Rice on the issue

    …sorry but there is no lessening of a sin in regard to judicial murder [already an excommunicable act] let alone conspiracy with the procuring of an abortion [canon 1329#1] and that’s before we get to the abortion itself…and direct abortion is absolutely prohibited by Catholic teaching since the Didache & even before…

    You blatantly don’t understand the moral arguments, the canonical stipulations, the nature of excommunication and the actions of either Sr McBride or Bishop Olmsted…

    maybe you should stop digging until you start researching?

    funny how there’s a shredded baby in a basket and you’re talking about a Bishop’s lack of compassion?!!!

    you repulse me….

  • JabbaPapa

    You falsely imagine that I have not already researched the case — unlike yourself though, I do not take ignorance in medical matters to be magically more informed than the professional doctors who examined the lady’s medical condition with their own eyes, and who otherwise had direct, hands-on knowledge of the case.

    It seems clear to me that they were medically convinced that the continuation of the pregnancy was directly life-threatening. Now, you can write whatever What If? scenarios you like, but this does not alter the FACT that this is the information that the sister was given, and that formed the basis of her decision, as well as the decisio of the doctors in charge of the case.

    It is CLEAR from the circumstances of the case that this hospital does NOT perform abortions without medical necessity, and that the decision to perform this one was an extremely difficult one, and that the only purpose of it was the desire to save the patient’s life on the basis of the diagnostic that was made.

    Otherwise I can see from your latest comments that I was right, that you are in fact falsely imagining me as suggesting that abortion is not inherently sinful, whereas in fact, it is, and the sister and the medical team committed a grave sin.

    Here’s a tip for you — next time try to read and understand what has been written down *before* attempting to discuss it.

  • Lewispbuckingham

     ‘Magically more informed…’
    You’ve hit the nail on the head JP.
    When some tough decision is taken there is always someone who talks about the ‘gold standard’, or suggests that if the patient were properly treated, all would be well.
    It is notable that the few medical practitioners that use this board are not in any way foreward in even discussing hard cases.
     If the mother had a heart or heart/lung transplant while pregnant, as a distant , non medical observer, there would have been two outcomes.
     The first is that both the mother and child would have died in the attempt.
    The second is that the mother would have survived, but the antirejection drugs used on her would have aborted the child and possibly triggered a potential fatal septicaemia, the situation in parallel animal models.
     Here I am not trying to canvass the probity of each potential action, except to say that each would be extraordinary.
     I have already outlined the principal that I think applies, above.
     However the medical team and the Sister, within what was available to them medically, still had to make a practical judgement of the intellect.
     And this is all that may be expected of us all.

  • Jeannine

    Please do not accuse the American bishop of turning this very sad situation into an international media circus. When it comes to scandalous sins by individuals, the American bishops are very private about these matters. They approach the individual confidentially. They go public only after information about Church events have been been incorrectly reported by the press. (Obviously, anything said in the confessional stays private.)

    Most likely what happened in Phoenix was that the media got a lead from someone who disliked the Church’s views on abortion & was given incorrect information.

    BTW, I am very familar with this case. This particular bishop is not derelict of his pastoral duties. He’s actually a very charitable & kind individual.

  • EdinburghEye

     And by excommunicating the nun,, the Catholic Church proved that they see it as the better option to have the pregnant woman die, and the fetus die inside her, than perform an abortion and have the woman live.

  • EdinburghEye

    So in your view, doctors should let a pregnant woman die, and the fetus die inside her, rather than allow a life-saving abortion to be performed? And this doesn’t matter, because in your view not that many women will die in this horrible way?

    Always sickening, by the way, given the attitude of hardline prolifers that raped children have no rights, to hear them talking as if they care about the rights of children.