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Offered without editorial comment, just as a fact thing:

Where does it provide an exception for treatment of serious, life-threatening illness in the mother? I'm just not seeing it.

I don't know about catechism so much, but there's an explanation or exploration of the Catholic Church's position on such things here.  The relevant bit:

Now this authority [the Tribunal of the Holy Office] decreed, 28 May,
1884, and again, 18 August, 1889, that "it cannot be safely taught in
Catholic schools that it is lawful to perform...any surgical
operation which is directly destructive of the life
of the fetus or the mother." Abortion was condemned by name, 24 July,
1895, in answer to the question whether when the mother is in immediate
danger of death and there is no other means of saving her life,
a physician can with a safe conscience cause abortion not by destroying
the child in the womb (which was explicitly condemned in the former
decree), but by giving it a chance to be born alive, though not being
yet viable, it would soon expire. The answer was that he cannot. After
these and other similar decisions had been given, some moralists
thought they saw reasons to doubt whether an exception might not be
allowed in the case of ectopic gestations. Therefore the question was
submitted: "Is it ever allowed to extract from the body of the mother
ectopic embryos still immature, before the sixth month after conception
is completed?" The answer given, 20 March, 1902, was: "No; according to
the decree of 4 May, 1898; according to which, as far as possible,
earnest and opportune provision is to be made to safeguard the life
of the child and of the mother. As to the time, let the questioner
remember that no acceleration of birth is licit unless it be done at a
time, and in ways in which, according to the usual course of things,
the life of
the mother and the child be provided for". Ethics, then, and the Church
agree in teaching that no action is lawful which directly destroys
fetal life. It is also clear that extracting the living fetus before it is viable, is destroying its life
as directly as it would be killing a grown man directly to plunge him
into a medium in which he cannot live, and hold him there till he

However, if medical treatment or surgical operation, necessary to save a mother's life,
is applied to her organism (though the child's death would, or at least
might, follow as a regretted but unavoidable consequence), it should
not be maintained that the fetal life
is thereby directly attacked. Moralists agree that we are not always
prohibited from doing what is lawful in itself, though evil
consequences may follow which we do not desire. The good effects of our
acts are then directly intended, and the regretted evil consequences
are reluctantly permitted to follow because we cannot avoid them. The
evil thus permitted is said to be indirectly intended. It is not
imputed to us provided four conditions are verified, namely:

  • That we do not wish the evil effects, but make all reasonable efforts to avoid them;

  • That the immediate effect be good in itself;

  • That
    the evil is not made a means to obtain the good effect; for this would
    be to do evil that good might come of it -- a procedure never allowed;

  • That the good effect be as important at least as the evil effect.

All four conditions may be verified in treating or operating on a woman
with child. The death of the child is not intended, and every
reasonable precaution is taken to save its life; the immediate effect intended, the mother's life, is good -- no harm is done to the child in order to save the mother -- the saving of the mother's life is in itself as good as the saving of the child's life.

Hope that helps.


[this is good]

I think that agrees with my understanding, rotheche - in other words, according to Catholic doctrine, chemotherapy (even knowing that death or damage to the fetus is a likely - but provided that is not the intended or wanted result) would be licit, but terminating a pregnancy which, in itself, is causing deadly stress on the mother's organs, is not? (...That the evil is not made a means to obtain the good effect;)

I think, if that's what you believe, then that's what you must (or must not) do. But the right of religious freedom - at least in the U.S. - stops (or should stop) when it comes to imposing itself on others who don't share those beliefs. The freedom to choose, and having autonomy over my body, means that I can choose to follow religious doctrine and die for my beliefs, if need be. If my beliefs allow for abortion - under whatever circumstances present themselves - then it means I can terminate my pregnancy. Bottom line, it's not only autonomy over my body and privacy rights, but religious freedom that's at stake. And should I choose to act in opposition to my faith's doctrine, it's not the law that should step in, but G-d and the Church.

Obviously, the law can and does legislate morals, but it's a balancing act. When it comes to causing the death of another person being defined as a crime, there are exceptions under law. I can't stand here and say "Oh, that collection of cells isn't 'life' - abortion is not 'causing the death of another person,'" but I can say that I believe until that "person" is capable of sustaining its own life, independent of the mother's body, the mother's rights should supercede. Other family members' needs should be considered. (One argument against suicide has always been the negative impact on family and society.) Again, I can legally cut off my own healthy arm. I'm not sure that any church would find that a moral, G-dly act (though I could argue it "offended me" and the Bible told me to do it). For a while, that severed arm consists of living cells and is a part of me - a sacred part of me, if you will, if you accept that we were created in G-d's image. Many would argue that I was wrong to cut off my arm, but I'm not sure anyone would say that I had no legal right to do it. (I can just imagine Judgement Day. G-d, staring in horror at the stump where my arm used to be: "What were you thinking?" Me: "Well, I was trying to prove a point. You didn't have to create me to be such a stickler for matters of principle.")


[this is good] Women should look to what they think is best rather than what an octegarian male or council of males has to say about what they can or cannot do with their bodies and occasionally the lives they contain IMO.

Just throwing in my 2¢


Your 2¢ is always welcome - helps pay for my Starbucks addiction, but not so fast I get the caffeine jitters! Thanks!

I think you're right; ironically, it's not just "octegenarian males" or a "council of males" who try to limit what women can and cannot do with their bodies. All too often, it is other women trying to impose their beliefs and morals on women.


CC's at work on break from an all day meeting.

My 2 cents:  It is the role of government to impose the majority view of beliefs and morals on society.  There are people out there (in other cultures) who believe it is okay, even honorable, to eat other people.  Our society has deemed that practice to be immoral.  We have thus legislated our beliefs and morals views.  It is the majority view that women after the second trimester should not be allowed to have an abortion.  However, due to imperfections in the democratic system, that is not law.  I work to make our government more democratic.

Besides, at least octegenarian males have more experience and less selfish motives than politicians - they should be enjoying their retirement and being a priest don't pay well.


I'm willing to stipulate that this accurately reflects the majority view. I'm not sure that's a fact, but I'm not going to refute it.

I don't disagree. After the second trimester (that's "after six months" for those who can't count or may be inclined to quibble), the fetus may be able to live on its own. There's certainly precedent for it. It's also true that a full-term baby may die at the moment of birth or shortly thereafter, through no one's "fault." Would it be okay to hasten birth? To perform a C-section at this point and say "If the child lives, it lives?" (I'm asking this, not to be argumentative or gross, but say my friend with kidney disease could have carried the pregnancy to six months - at that point, would it have been acceptable to attempt a C-section, arguing that the child ought to be viable given appropriate medical care? If the motive was the good of the mother, and NOT the demise of the infant - even knowing that early birth might bring the risk of death?)

Setting that aside, for the moment, I don't agree that "majority rule" is always a proper or actual basis for a determination of what constitutes our basic human rights, or which rights outweigh other rights. And this is why they're referred to as "inalienable" rights. A fetus is not legally recognized as a person protected under law in all states. And I contend that until it's capable of survival outside the womb, it may indeed be "human life" but does not yet stand on an equal footing with the mother, if the rights of one have to come before the rights of the other.

You're right - in some cultures, it's perfectly acceptable to eat people. I can even make an argument in favor of that, provided we're not out hunting them down as food (or raising them as food). I mean, really - if I crashed in the Andes and I died, and other survivors could live by eating me, what do you think I'd want them to do? Die? For what? It's going to be a whole lot harder on them than on me, but I'll say right here and now: "Get over it. Live." I don't eat my dead ancestors to "honor" them (and I'm not at all sure I could choke them down even if we agreed it was a good thing to do), but I can see it as a moral act within a different cultural and religious context. It's hardly harming the dead, nor is it dishonoring them, when done with the specific intention of honoring them. I've heard of eating one's enemies, for similar reasons - to acquire their strengths and their honor. Ooookay... well. Again, in another time and place, this could be seen as a moral act. (I can imagine a conquered hero, insulted, saying "What, am I not good enough for you to eat? You want to do what? BURY me? Under dirt?")

On the other hand... if you read that bit about Armin Miewes and his "willing victim, Bernd-Juergen Brandes," I'm not sure which was the sicker puppy. Makes me want to toss my cookies just thinking about it. Immoral? I'm inclined to say yes, though perhaps not - in another context, another time, another place, another culture. In our society, the next "entree" is not likely to be so willing.

So, of course you can turn all that around and say that the unborn child is also not willing. And that's where I say you have to make a tough call. Does one person have the right to demand sustenance of another's body, even for survival? Say I need blood - and you are a type match - do I have the right to demand you give me your blood, so that I might live? Perhaps I need a kidney. You have two; you can live with one. You're a perfect tissue match. Do I have a right to demand your kidney of you, that I might live? Why are your rights more important than mine? Giving blood won't hurt you at all. At worst, it will cause you about twenty minutes' inconvenience. Giving a kidney is a little riskier, but the donor usually does survive and goes on to live a long and healthy life. Bone marrow - should there not be a law that all healthy, potential donors be screened and added to the bone marrow registry, and compelled to help their fellow man when they are able to save a life? Why not? And assuming you have one willing donor, how do you choose between two equally sick recipients?

Such relationships between people should be entered into freely, voluntarily - and gladly - in my opinion. I'd rather die than have you be compelled to save my life by giving up a part of yourself unwillingly or at risk to your health and life. And yet that's what you'd demand of these women.

I'm of the "don't play if you're not prepared to pay" camp, to be honest. But then, as a non-Catholic, I also believe the contraceptive use is a good thing, if you don't want to have babies. I have no moral struggle whatsoever on that issue. The more clear-cut debate between us would arise in the case of rape, I suspect. There, you have two innocent human beings: the mother and the fetus. You have to choose. Well, I'm sorry - blessing from G-d that child may be, but I don't think it's morally wrong at all for the woman to opt for an abortion. She didn't choose to have sex. She didn't consent to turn over her body to the use of another human life for nine months. And the only argument I can make for her right to terminate the pregnancy, given that both are utterly innocent, is that I put her right to choose whether to host that life within her body or not - as a fully-formed human being and citizen of this society - ahead of the rights of a human life that's not yet fully formed and capable of sustaining itself outside the womb. Period. That, as Redzilla would say, means I can't say "Right for her, but wrong for that other woman..."

MY CHOICE might be very different from another woman's, and you might agree or disagree with it, but it's rightfully mine.


I have never been in more agreement with another person on the issue of abortion...  Thank you for taking the time to write such thought-out and eloquently stated posts...  I wish more people would think things through for themselves instead of falling back on what some religious leader or elected official believes...  I have known women for whom abortion was the "right" choice, and I have known women who have gone through with an unplanned pregnancy...  I am just glad that they all had the right to make the choices that were right for them...


Folks, truth is not relative.  Sorry.  You talk about abortion as if it were the latest skin cream.  Right and wrong do not change based on who you are.  If a fetus is a person, it is immoral to kill it.  There is no significant biological difference between a fetus and an adult, and therefore a fetus is a person.  Therefore it is immoral to kill a fetus.  Framing the discussion in terms of "choices" focuses the debate away from an intellectually rigorous discourse to personal, emotional anecdotes.  It does not solve the root problem.  It is the implications of the conclusion which are solved by analyzing the emotional aspect of the debate.  Implementation of illegal abortion necessitates societies increased support for women, children, and families.  The struggle women considering abortion face does not mitigate the immorality of the act of abortion.

The wealth of knowledge of the Church span's two centuries and is the stable institution to do so.  Her scholarship has given rise to some of the most brilliant minds of history - St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Thomas More, John Henry Cardinal Newman, etc. etc.  I do not condescend to compete with these intellectual giants and I do not dismiss them.  Their writings have been preserved, reiterated, and expounded upon through the ages by other, lesser brilliant minds.  This is the body of knowledge we call the Magisterium, and it is great.  I don't understand why people are so quick to dismiss the wealth of intellectual history in the Church for modern, anti-Catholic pop-philosophy.

I posted my response on my blog.  Thanks again for keeping our discussion cordial.


This sounds like a very compelling argument.  When you distill the events, it becomes obvious that we are comparing apples to oranges.

By neglecting to donate whatever organ to save another's life, a person is not causing his death by inaction.  The cause of death is the disease itself.  There are an infinite number of outcomes in this situation - the person may live through their disease (miraculously or otherwise), someone else may chose to donate, the person might die of something completely unrelated.  And the donors lack of action is not directly causing the death, even if the recipient's death is somehow consequential to his lack of action.  There is no guarantee that his action will save the person.  So long as the donor does not withhold his organs with the express purpose of causing the person's death, the donor has no moral obligation to donate.  Because there is no way for a governing body to unequivocally discern a person's purpose, forced donation can not be legislated.

Abortion is a very different circumstance.  Even people who wish to die do not in fact have the right to it, so as long as the fetus is alive, it has a right to continue living.  Abortion directly impedes this right, and unless another's life (again, not health) is at stack, is not morally justified.

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