The recent death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland who was 17 weeks pregnant has again brought the anti – abortion rules / regulations set by Catholic church to the fore. Savita and her husband were joyous like any other parent when they had come to know of her pregnancy. But with time, they realized that there were going to be complications and her life could be in danger. So when the doctor refused termination of pregnancy despite Savita and her husband’s pleas for the same, they were shocked. They were told that Ireland was a Catholic country and abortions weren’t allowed according to law. Unfortunately and sadly, Savita died because of septicemia. So why exactly does the Catholic church oppose all forms of abortion?
The Roman Catholic church believes that every human being has the right to life from the time of conception. It is against any procedure which destroys the blastocyst, zygote, embryo or foetus. For those who complete an abortion or are part of it, the Church imposes an automatic excommunication and gives statements on the illegalities of it. There are those who agree as well as disagree with the Church.
If we go back in time, we would see that Aristotle had said that the human soul was infused only after 40 days for a male foetus and after 60 days for a female foetus. So the Church raised the point that abortion could be allowed only until the soul had not been infused into the foetus. Now as weird as this sounds, this wasn’t practically possible to find and make sure of. So they amended the rule saying that abortion would be allowed only when the mother’s life in danger. And even then, it one shouldn’t be directly involved in saving the mother’s life by killing the foetus, but instead provide medical care to the mother to save her. Only in cases like ectopic pregnancy or uterine cancer, where there is no option but to remove the mother’s uterus or fallopian tubes, this is allowed as unintentional abortion.
The biggest problem with these set of rules is the fact that they are confusing, vague and not practical enough. A couple of years back there was an infamous X case in Ireland of a 14 year old girl who was raped and had to struggle to go to UK to get her pregnancy terminated. So even in that case they expected her to keep the baby? Ectopic pregnancy and uterine cancer are not the only two conditions which can put a mother’s life in danger. In Savita Halappanavar’s case, the doctors knew that the foetus was nonviable. But they still chose to wait because there was a foetal heartbeat. Sadly, in order to save the foetus, they couldn’t save both.
These rules are applied differently to different countries. And that’s where the biggest problem lies. Many Catholic countries have legalized abortion while many others are opposing it tooth and nail. As they say, its a matter of interpretation. But is the right to life of an unborn foetus more important than the right to life of a mother? Someone would ask as to why should this rules apply to people from all faiths. Since the Catholic church creates such rules, shouldn’t they apply only to Catholics? And that’s where another problem lies. Catholic doctors and other medical personnel who don’t believe in abortion or are scared from excommunication by the Church would almost always never agree to do an abortion at all.
Yes abortion stops a beating heart. But there are cases when a beating heart of a person who has not come in this world has to be stopped in order to save the beating heart of person who has been there in the world for a long time. Unless there is a standard set of rules and more regard for the mother’s life, many mothers in Catholic countries across the world will continue to suffer!
The last word would surely go to Todd Akin, a Missouri republican who was running for the senate in the 2012 USA elections. This is what he had to say when he was asked if the option of abortion should be present for women who become pregnant as a result of rape –
Well you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, well how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.