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"When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." Elizabeth Cady Stanton



Sunday, 24 July 2011

Abortion to Save the Mother?

These are two amazing photos taken by a med student in India. The mother of this baby was diagnosed with cancer in her cervix, and had a hysterectomy as treatment. The baby was also removed as a result, and here he or she is, completely whole and absolutely beautiful. I was reading over the comments on the image and I wanted to clarify a few things, specifically comments along this vein:

"Yes, I'm not convinced abortion is a crime because, unlike you, I realise that not everything is black and white. Is this abortion a crime? That's what this is - the fetus has been aborted to save the Mother's life (albeit it as a side-effect of having the womb removed) - do we consider this a crime, or is the greater crime to allow the mother to die?" - Yottskry

"Pope Ratzinger will condemn to hell the mother, doctor, and all who participated in this sad, but necessary surgery. Her other ix children will continue to have the love and nurturing of a healthy mother. Perhaps that doesn't matter to the anti-abortion fanatics?" - Sirman42

So I guess the first thing we have to do here is properly define abortion. Is it simply defined as the ending of a pregnancy, regardless of the circumstances? This definition would include miscarriages, and procedures such as this one which inadvertently cause the baby's death. So obviously, if this is how abortion is defined, there are some instances where abortion is a morally acceptable or, at the very least, a morally neutral act. If, however, you define abortion as an act which is performed with the singular purpose of intentionally causing the death of the baby, then our opposition to abortion is hopefully easier to understand. In this case, the procedure that the mother went through would only be considered a hysterectomy, not an abortion. This is because the intention was not to kill the baby, and the action did not directly cause the baby's death. The baby died because the entire womb was surgically removed, not because a doctor dismembered the baby or burned the baby with a saline solution. If this was an abortion as pro-life Catholics define it (since I am a Catholic, that is who I can speak for), then the pictures of this baby would not look beautiful at all.

So, to address the first comment. If you define abortion as the intentional killing of a baby, yes it is a black and white issue because it is always wrong to intentionally kill someone. That is not what happened here. The baby died as a side-affect of the mother's treatment, NOT because it was aborted. And anyway, a hysterectomy is not included as an abortion procedure on any abortion websites I've read.

To address the second comment, Pope Benedict would not condemn this woman, her doctor, or anyone involved in the procedure, to hell, because they did not intentionally kill a baby. They treated the mother's illness. And sadly and very regrettably, the baby died as a result. As long as the intention is not to kill the baby, this is allowed in Catholic teaching. We are against elective abortion. We are against abortions which tear apart the baby's body, or burn it until it dies ... we are not against performing standard, life-saving medical procedures, when the procedure is one that would be used in the case of both a pregnant or non-pregnant woman and when the procedure does not intentionally cause the death of the baby. We are for doing everything possible to save the mother AND the baby, but we recognize that sometimes, it isn't always possible to save both.

Hope that clarifies the issue for all the pro-choice people who might come across this. It is extremely frustrating when people misunderstand your position, and are against it without really knowing what the position is. It happens all the time with Catholic teachings, and it happens all the time to pro-lifers. That's where ignorant statements about the Pope condemning people to hell come from. Incidentally, the Pope cannot condemn people to hell anyways. In fact, the Catholic church has never decisively stated that anyone is in hell, because no one can know the state of someone's soul before they die. Only God does. :)

I'd like to end this post with another quote from the comments.

"what nobody notices is that the foetus we are looking at has just died, or is dying, from hypoxia. not a very pleasant way to go. i have no issue with the reason the abortion was performed, or the fact that it was, but just wish to point out that entities in situations that make them photographable, and that look pretty and fascinating may be suffering, unbeknownst to us because we can't recognise the signs" - restiform body

I don't agree with everything restiform body said, but it is important to remember that while the photos of this baby are beautiful, the baby is dying, and we should acknowledge that.

Update 29/03/2012:
Hi Everyone. I noticed that this is a really popular post, so I thought I'd make a small addition. I talk above about how this photo would not look beautiful if it had been a typical elective abortion procedure. To contrast the above photo, I thought I would show you all some pictures of babies who have been aborted, according to the definition I use above. Here is a video called Created Equal. I warn you, it is VERY graphic (and I have not checked if the images and videos have been verified by a doctor - but they seem consistent with images I have seen which have been medically verified - but of course I am not in the medical field so I cannot say with any certainty whether this is actually the case or not). So watch it if you feel you can (and take it with a tiny grain of salt). I burst into tears halfway through and probably won't ever see it again if I can help it.

Update 25/08/12:
Here is an excellent post by Abolitionist Society of Oklahoma that explores this issue in a very logical framework (I encourage you to read through the whole thing!):
Abortion and the Life of the Mother 


  1. Very sad, it's too bad a baby can't be saved in these situations or at least there was some way to incubate or freeze them like they do with embryos...Thanks for sharing;I may repost this to my site w/a link back if that's ok? Let me know via twitter @littlebytesnews :)

  2. My heart breaks looking at those photos. I wouldn't wish that on any heart goes out to her and her family!

  3. @littlebytesnews ... I'm new to twitter so I'm not sure if I sent you a message properly, but you're welcome to repost this :) Just send me a link.

    Faith ... its definitely terribly sad :( I really hope her and her family are doing ok now!!