Link to an item in the news you’ve been thinking about lately, and write the op-ed you’d like to see published on the topic.
This is the news item: Hospital Death in Ireland Renews Fight Over Abortion http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/15/world/europe/hospital-death-in-ireland-renews-fight-over-abortion.html?ref=todayspaper
I don’t even know where to begin with this. It doesn’t take a die-hard fan of Grey’s Anatomy to know that if it comes down to a choice between saving the mother’s life or that of the child, the mother takes precedence; unless the mother herself orders the doctors to save her baby’s life at the cost of her own. In cases where both mother and child have an equal chance at life, it is understandable that there would need to be some decision-making about whose life to save first. The maddening thing in this case is that the child, the fetus, was actually in the process of being miscarried even as the doctors told the mother that there was nothing they could do…because there was a heartbeat.
If you ask me, the only ones who managed to avoid termination simply by virtue of having a heartbeat were the doctors themselves.
Aside from the details of this specific story, however, what emerges is the whole idea of absolute moral rules, and blind adherence to them despite the circumstances. As social contracts go, there is nothing more sacred than the rule that “thou shalt not kill”. Assumption being that the object of the killing is another human being. But even for such a rule, we have exceptions. Self defense is one such exception. Temporary insanity another. Are both grossly abused? Absolutely. But in the case of a woman and the life growing inside her, there is no way to fake that. No woman, no matter how smart or ingenious, can pretend that the child inside her is killing her. No doctor, no matter how smart or ingenious, can pretend that the child inside the woman is killing her. Yet, in the face of such glaring life-and-death evidence, to stick blindly to the rule that “This is a Catholic country” – there’s temporary insanity for you. Excuse me if I express the hitherto-misguided belief that it was a “developed” country. When did religion become a free pass for overriding common sense? As the woman’s husband said “How can you let a young woman go to save a baby who will die anyway?” If I may be permitted to rephrase, How can you let your universal humanity go to stick to some man-made notion labeled Catholicism?
Interestingly, even though the Supreme Court of Ireland had previously passed a ruling acknowledging the necessity of abortion in cases where the mother’s life was in danger, corresponding law to that effect had yet to be passed by the Irish government. Their neglect of this issue apparently puts them in a position to even be accused of violating the European Convention of Human Rights. They’ve been sleeping on the issue, that’s the bottom line. And now that a woman is dead as more or less a direct result of this foot-dragging, there’s been a new report on the whole issue. Great. Another report. Exactly what the world needs.
Stop. In the middle of all this word-slinging, there a dead woman. A woman who loved life, who loved kids, and by all appearances was poised for a life of abundance. She is gone and, with her, all possibilities of a future for her widow. In the face of this, all agonizing over what is right or wrong, what is the Catholic thing to do or isn’t, what the government has approved of or hasn’t, seem but hollow screeches.
And is it just me, or does the phrase “This is a Catholic country” – which is what doctors told the woman after she requested the procedure that would save her life – carry a certain undertone, a flavor, that only an immigrant would notice? Perhaps this is not fair. I should not assume that all the health care professionals on the case were white. The woman herself, an East Indian, was a dentist. Not the picture that pops to mind when you think of an Irish dentist, right? So, let’s give the benefit of the doubt to her doctors. Let’s believe that, when they told her they could not perform the abortion until the heartbeat of the fetus had fully stopped, that they truly believed that the delay would not endanger the mother’s life whatsoever. Still, there is a risk involved. And I cannot help but wonder if they would not have been a lot more hesitant to take such a risk – no matter how minute – if the woman had not been the sort to whom they felt they had to explain “This is a Catholic country.”
There is no answer. Only conjecture, and its wiser cousin: silence.