As reported in the Catholic Herald, academic Catholic theologian Tina Beattie has signed a letter to the Polish Bishops’ Conference supporting ‘early, safe and legal’ abortion.
Joseph Shaw has demolished her ethical and theological arguments on his philosophy blog here – Mrs Beattie’s position is an indefensible one from a Catholic point of view.
But there is an another important element to Tina Beattie’s letter which is so far being overlooked. She says that in” those situations where abortion is deemed necessary – such as those currently permitted under Polish law, we believe that access to early, safe and legal abortion is necessary”.
Dr Shaw reminds us of the conclusions of the 2012 Dublin Declaration on Maternal health, which was signed by over one thousand medical practitioners, which explicitly stated that ‘the purposeful destruction of the unborn child – is not medically necessary to save the life of the woman.’
On those rare occasions that medical treatment needs to be carried out to preserve the life of the mother which could endanger the baby’s life, the timing is only important in as much as the treatment is performed at a stage when it is going to be efficacious. Sometimes life threatening complications do not occur until a later stage in pregnancy, at which point it is often possible to treat them, while at the same time preserving the life of the infant.
Tina Beattie seems to be propagating the point of view that the earlier an abortion is carried out, the easier and safer it is for the woman. This confirms the sales propaganda of the abortion clinics, who use this to pressure women to make swift decisions, ones which they may later regret.
I speak from bitter experience here as I bought the very same line, opting to take the swift ‘medical abortion’ route under pressure and thus avoid the need for surgery. If, as the letter suggests, women very often face an agonising decision in terms of what to do about their pregnancies, then suggesting that they need to make the decision as quickly as possible in order maximise health outcomes, only puts further pressure on them. The question is whether or not we ought to be ending the lives of unwanted unborn babies, not at what stage this ought to be carried out. The idea of swift early safe abortion for disabled children, is a red herring to justify the lie of abortion being the only compassionate and responsible option in certain circumstances.
The UK abortion industry justify their existence by noting that the majority of abortions performed in the UK are done so in the first trimester. For the last year that statistics are available (2014) the number of medical abortions performed, accounted for 51% of the total and 92% of all abortions were in the first trimester. Of the 184, 571 abortions carried out in this year, 2%, (3099 babies) were aborted on the grounds of foetal disability.
Mrs Beattie’s push for early, safe and legal abortion for situations of disability, rape and danger to the mother’s life as well as being morally and ethically unsound is based on a dodgy grasp of the physical reality and one that could potentially mislead women into making an irreversible decision, on mistaken health grounds.
The idea of an early, safe abortion for babies with disabilities is dangerous myth. The first screening test for abnormalities occurs at the end of the first trimester. Most women going for a 12 week scan will have already made the decision that they are keeping their baby. Women are now able to discover that they are pregnant even a few days before their period is due. The nuchal fold combined screening test, which is a specific test for chromosomal abnormalities such as Downs Syndrome, is performed somewhere between the 11th and 14th week of pregnancy. The results of an ultrasound are combined with the results of a blood test in order to give women a result which tells them the probability that their baby has Downs Syndrome or another chromosomal disorder. If the result is higher than a 1 in 150 chance, then you will be offered counselling and a further diagnostic test, either an amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling which will confirm any diagnosis. Sometimes, a nuchal fold screening may not be able to be performed, if for example the baby is in the wrong position, in which case a quadruple serum test would be carried out after 14 weeks, but like the nuchal fold test, this will only give you a probability score.
The earliest that one is therefore likely to receive a confirmed diagnosis, will be around the 14 week mark, taking into account the timing of lab result tests and appointments. Should you decide that you want to have an abortion, then it would not be performed for at least another 24-48 hours.
Realistically, an abortion for a chromosomal abnormality will take place at around 15 weeks at the earliest, at which point the procedure is already more risky due to the rapidly growing foetus. The option of a medical abortion will be long gone and the suction method to evacuate the baby from the womb, is no longer possible either. You are already looking at a more complicated D&E procedure, which carries more risks. At 15 weeks many women will be experiencing foetal movements.
That’s not to promote any method of abortion as being the more desirable, but if Tina Beattie is going to cite medical facts, then she needs to be aware that swift, early stage abortion, is off the table for women who find that their babies have a physical abnormality. And there are many other non-chromosomal disorders which are not discovered until the 20 week scan, which if the mother decided that she didn’t want to keep the baby, would necessitate a traumatic late-stage abortion.
It’s therefore deeply problematic to cite or advocate early stage abortion as a solution for disabled children, not just on the eugenic or moral grounds, but because it is not a physical reality. A brief look at the current ante-natal support threads on Mumsnet, will tell stories of mothers being given false diagnoses of disability, along with women really agonising over what to do and not wanting to take the decision to abort their baby, until they really do have every last piece of information regarding their condition and have sought second opinions, advice, counselling and so on. Nobody is rushing to abort, even though many report feeling under pressure from the medics.
It’s a disservice to women who find themselves in this heartbreaking situation, to present them with an option of early abortion, that they do not actually have. It displays a profoundly disturbing obstetric ignorance from someone who ought to have done more basic research. It is disingenuous in the extreme to use disability as a justification for early-stage abortion.
If I were to claim to be a card-carrying member of the Labour party and yet propagate Tory views, claiming them as legtimate Labour views and actually use my membership to gain myself a platform and employment as a representative of the Labour party, then they would be well within their rights to have my membership withdrawn and to be clear that I did not represent the party’s political views.
This isn’t about the Polish Church attempting to impose theological views on the rest of the country, but merely making their doctrinal position clear, as they are entitled to do so. Poland is a functioning democracy; any measures to protect the right to life of the unborn child are in full accordance with Article 3 of the UN Charter for Human Rights which specifically lays out the right to life, are being enacted by an elected and accountable government.
The attempt to tell the Polish bishops they are wrong seems to be about imposing a feminist agenda onto Catholicism, more than a little presumptious as well as ethically, theologically and morally incorrect, as Father Alexander Lucie-Smith has also made clear. Hence the resulting outrage.This is not the Catholic position; to present it as such could cause confusion and worst still, cost lives.