Thursday, May 20, 2010

Abortion Rights in the News: Health of Mother Not a Justification and Laws in Response to Healthcare Bill

This week in Phoenix, Arizona, a bishop excommunicated a nun for approving an abortion. The only catch is that it was a LIFESAVING abortion. The woman was 11 weeks pregnant and developed pulmonary hypertension, and the abortion was needed to save her life. The nun only approved the abortion after speaking with the family and healthcare providers, and for her service was promptly expelled from the church.

According to the bishop who declared the nun excommunicated:
We always must remember that when a difficult medical situation involves a pregnant woman, there are two patients in need of treatment and care; not merely one. The unborn child's life is just as sacred as the mother's life, and neither life can be preferred over the other.
We all need to recognize that an 11-week fetus is not able to survive on its own. So in this case, if the abortion were not performed... both mother and child would have been likely to die.

In other news, Obama's healthcare bill has created some opportunities for abortion opponents to restrict access. Arizona and Tennessee, are two states that have enacted new laws that would restrict access for people who receive their insurance through exchanges (which is estimated to be about 30 million people). So this would extend beyond federal plans if private plans operated in the exchange. You can read more about this and other laws attempting to take away women's rights from an AP article.


  1. Ah, the Catholic church. Where a priest can rape a little boy and expect the full support of the institution, while doctors making prudent (standard protocol!) medical choices to save a life are kicked to the curb. There is no redemption for such leaders.

  2. A few points:

    1) The bishop did not excommunicate that nun. He merely acknowledged that she had been excommunicated. She received her excommunication automatically when she authorized the abortion. There's a law throughout the entire Catholic Church that anyone who participates in an abortion is automatically excommunicated. Many of those excommunications simply are not publicly acknowledged. But just because your excommunication is not announced, that does not mean that it did not happen. In many cases, the church doesn't even know that someone has been excommunicated in this manner unless they come forward and present themselves. So the bishop really had no say in this matter.

    2) It is the Catholic position on morality that evil means cannot be used to achieve a positive end. Thus, the good that could be attained by performing an abortion (in this case, saving the life of the mother) is not factored into the decision of whether that abortion is performed. This is one approach to morality. There are others. Each has merits and drawbacks. It is worth noting that we have similar provisions in place in our criminal justice system. There is a doctrine called "Fruit of the poisonous tree" that says that if any illegal means are used to obtain evidence against a person on trial, then all such evidence, as well as any derivative evidence that was obtained using that tainted evidence is inadmissible in court. I am not trying to defend the Catholic system of morality. I am merely saying that a system like theirs is not quite as ridiculous as you make it sound. I'm sure that if we are honest with ourselves, we will see that there are aspects of our own moral norms that are rather questionable, that is, if we even have morals at all.

  3. Furthermore, it's worth pointing out that excommunication (particularly in the case of abortions) really isn't that bad. That nun will probably lose her position at the hospital, though that's more of a side effect, and probably relates more to them not wanting her to have that position of authority any longer. The excommunication itself basically just means that you are forbidden from receiving the sacraments.

    But the Catholic Church recognizes that because abortions are so prevalent, there are a vast number of Catholic women who are excommunicated due to abortions. Thus, they make it really easy to get reinstated. In the particular case of excommunication due to having an abortion, any Catholic priest is able to reinstate you in the church. I was talking to a priest who once had to do this for a woman, and he implied it could be done on the spot, and in a matter of minutes.

  4. I thought Jill from Feministe had a good breakdown of the morality involved:


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