Page 8, 26th August 1938

26th August 1938
Page 8
Page 8, 26th August 1938 — ETHICS OF ABORTION

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The Essential Difference Between Man And Animals

By Lt.-Colonel F. W. O'GORMAN, C.M.G., M.D., M.R.C.P., D.P.H. (Twelve Years Editor of The Catholic Medical Guardian).

NOW that the immediate perturbation associated with the recent abortion case, which has been reported fully in the press, has subsided, it is time to examine calmly the implications involved in the verdict. First: What is the fundamental difference between animals and human beings?—Man has a rational said: a thinking, reasoning mind; endowed with personal moral responsibility and subject to a juridical conscience, which necessarily indicates a supreme being as final judge. His capacity for abstract and universal thought (which may be said to be manifested in such attributes as language, humour, artistry, invention, science, and religion) proves the soul's independence of matter; for, since the effect cannot be greater than its cause, matter cannot impart what it has not got. Consequently the soul of man cannot be generated from the matter of the parents, and must be a special creation by God. The human soul, then, is not a material substance, but is a spiritual entity, simple and undecompbsable, and therefore immortal,

" What is man that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? Thou hast made him a little less than the angels, thou hast crowned himn with glory and honour: and hast set him over the works of thy hands."—Ps. viii. 5-7.

Secondly: What is the meaning of an Abortion?—To put it broadly, it is the expulsion from the mother before its due time, by operation or other means, of the human foetus in any of its stages or deve lopment, the result of sexual union. If this occur before it is viable and capable of independent existence, it means the death of the embryo. Now, this embryo from the earliest moment of its existence is a human being. And as a human being he or she has all the rights of a human being, and consequently the right to be protected by the laws of the community. Thus, it should have equality in the eyes of the Civil Law as it has in moral law. For all authority is primarily derived from the Creator (see Prov. viii, 15, 16; Rom. xiii. 1-4), and if it be contrary to that authority it is essentially invalid.

THE NATURAL MORAL LAW Now, the Natural Moral Law is the law of reason applied to moral acts and is implanted in all rational humanity, savage or civilised. If any action is intrinsically evil—in and by itself against reason and unnatural, apart from all other considerations—that action is self-condemned and cannot be right And it is evil in all circumstances and in all places.

To steal is wrong because it is intrinsically evil a.s against justice, the deprivation

unjustly of another's property. To blaspheme against the Creator is intrinsically evil, and so are adultery and murder : they are all contrary to the Natural Moral Law. Furthermore, they are condemned by the Divine Positive Law of God—the Ten Commandments, which arc a summation of the Natural law. These two laws are also called the Divine Eternal Law. The Secular or Civil Law, which owes its authority to the Eternal Law and is derived from it, also forbids these acts as crimes. If any such legislative law opposes the Supreme Eternal Law, it is in its essence invalid and can never be right.

The Parliamentary law which allows abortion of an unviable infant therefore killing it, in order to save the life of the

mother when in a dangerous condition, is directly contrary to the Eternal Law and is therefore ipso facto invalid and can never be right. It is the slaying of an innocent human being. " The innocent and just person thou shalt not put to death." (Exod. xxiii. 7.) And Our Lord's own words in Matt. xix. 18: " Thou shalt do no murder— or thou shalt not murder."

An aggressor threatening another's life may he resisted even by killing, if there be no safer way of prevention. But the unborn infant is not an unjust aggressor; its location in situ is owing to no act of its own; it was placed there independently by its parents. It is therefore innocent. By what just law, therefore, is it to be deprived of life?

THE TWO LIVES AT STAKE Let us admit that, in the above-named condition, there are two lives at stake, the mother's and the infant's Both are human beings, and they are in this respect equally entitled to existence, and no one more than the other. Why should one he sacrificed to death to save the other? It may be said that the mother is the most important in a certain case; yet in another case, as in one in need of an heir, the infant would be considered the more important. Or, as Fr. Vincent McNabb, 0.P., points out, in the case where the mother is middle-aged and (say, incurably) diseased and therefore on genetic grounds her life might be consid ered less precious than the child's. By what law of justice and of right and wrong, should either of them be saved at the expense of the other or sacrificed in the interests of the survivor? By what authority is the Natural Moral Law and the Law of God, which hold both lives equally sacred, to be superseded against the eternal Law of the Supreme being? We cannot do evil in order that good may result. (Rom. iii. 8.) The end does not justify the means.

The question then arises: What should be done?—the answer is: Every means must be exercised to preserve the lives of both infant and mother—including, of course, consultation with a morally conscientious, expert obstetrician—and then, should all efforts fail, leave the termination to the divine Providence of the Creator of both. , Modern science has proved that many cases where lives would have been formerly sacrificed by operation were due to exaggerated fear of consequences or to ignorance of the treatment of conditions that have since been overcome; and that, as the further investigation of preventive measures proceeds, the avenues which lead to safe maternal delivery and the security of both lives have opened wider and wider. Censult Thou Shalt Not Kill, by G. Clement, M.D., E. and S., Livingstone,

Medical Publishers, Edinburgh, which I was the means of bringing to notice here

some years ago, both in the French and English editions. " Respect for the life of the child," says Dr. Clement, " stimulates progress."

THE CHRISTIAN ASPECT Stern warning by the Creator of man; " And God blessed Noe (Noah) and his sons. And he said to them: Increase and multiply and fill the earth. . . I will require the blood of your lives at the hand of every beast, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man and of his brother will I require the life of man. Whosoever shall shed man's blood, his blood shall he shed; for man was made to the image of God. But increase you and multiply, and go upon the earth and fill it." -Gen. ix. 1, 5-7. See also Ps. viii. 5-7.

The Redemption of mankind from the eternity of Hell and the companionship of the Devil were accomplished by the Atonement of our Divine Saviour cm. Calvary, and all humanity has assumed a special and infinite value in the eyes of God. All souls are therefore equal and are destined for eternal salvation. As already stated, the rational soul of man is a direct creation by God. Neither age or bulk (size) therefore is a criterion of the existence of a human being, although the body is in a state of development. The soul in fact is the active determinating principle which " evolves " or develops the human being. It may further be noted that the embryo is not as it were an anatomical and physiological organ of the maternal body, and, as some contend. disposable at will. But it is a separate entity residing temporarily in utero, normally placed there by Nature, and deriving its legitimate protection and nourishment through it. Premature termination of the pregnancy, as above explained, ending in the death of the progeny, is the killing of a human being for whom Christ died. Christianity therefore holds this as murder, and the murderer, ipso facto. puts himself outside the Church. The heinousness of this crime is thus obvious.


In the Bourne case the moral law is plain. Evil by the rape of the victim has

been done. We cannot destroy or neutralise evil by committing another evil. Two evils never yet made one good, nor two wrongs one right: this simply adds to the evil committed. The end here cannot justify the means. Pity, indignation, denunciation, avengement on the criminal by the law—yes; but passion, emotion and sentiment cannot justify the killing of the unborn child. To elevate " Heetene " into a godship and criterion of right and wrong is to bring justice into profound contempt. And especially probable or prospective ill-health—the possibility of ill-health. It is making law, moral and civil, ridiculous, and opening wide to terrible abuses and the multiplication of crimes.

We do not intend nor are we competent to enter into the legal complications of this case, but as the CATHOLIC HERALD leader says: " There can be no distinction between putting an end to this life (the infant's) and

putting an unjust end to any other. In other words, there can be no distinction between (direct) abortion under any circumstances and committing (ordinary) murder." (My brackets.)

Moreover, in the words of one of the greatest moralists, Rev. Arthur Vermeersch, S.J., Professor in the Gregorian University, Rome, " The physician has no right to set himself up as judge to pronounce a sentence of death. No diploma confers such a power, which would exceed that of the most absolute monarch."


And here let me quote Fr. Bernard Delany, OP., in his sermon at the Westminster Cathedral on July 24: " At the very

(Continued on page 11)

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