Questions on Abortion
As an international organization dealing with the most
critical moral issue of the day, we get lots of mail
and lots of questions. On this page, I will begin sharing some of those
questions with you, along with
my answers. Feel free to
submit a question
Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question!
God bless you!
Question7: I am trying to help a Catholic woman who is not
pro-life because she feels the Church does not support the life of a mother when
carrying her baby would end her own life. I cited the example of St. Gianna, the
physician woman who refused chemotherapy because she wanted her fourth child to
Answer: There are two questions at issue
here. One is medical (Is there ever need for an abortion to save the mother's
life?) and the other is moral (Would an abortion in that case be justified?) The
answer to both questions is no. There is no medical situation whose only
solution is a direct abortion, as many doctors have testified. Morally speaking,
furthermore, it is never right to directly kill an innocent person, even if good
results are foreseen. We do not say that a baby's life is more important than
the mother's. We do say that they are equal. You may never directly kill either
one of them. If, in spite of the best medical efforts, one or both of them die,
nothing morally wrong has been done, because an effort has been made to save
life, but has failed. That is far different from killing.
Question 6: I am an oncology nurse and was asked to give
methotrexate for an ectopic pregnancy on another floor since only oncology
nurses can give chemotherapeutic drugs. I believe the pregnancy was tubal.
Needless to say I refused because I was unsure of the morality of it. I do not
know the entire patient situation since the patient was on another floor. Could
you please explain the morality of this act according to the church's teaching.
I do not think the mother's life was in danger at this particular time. Thanks
and God bless you. P.S. I work at a catholic hospital
Answer: There is more than one medical way of
handling an ectopic pregnancy. The relevant moral question is whether the method
or action is in fact a killing of the child. If so, that is a direct abortion,
which is never permissible for any reason. "Direct means that the destruction of
the child is willed as the end or the means to another end. Sometimes ectopic
pregnancies are handled this way, killing the child but leaving the tube intact.
Such an action is morally wrong.
However, if what is done is that the damaged portion of the
tube is removed because of the threat it poses to the mother, that is not a
direct abortion, even if the child dies. What is done is the same thing that
would be done if the tube were damaged from some other cause. The mother is not
saved by the death of the child but by the removal of the tube. Because the
death of the child in this case is a side effect which is not intended, and
because the saving of the mother's life is not brought about by the death of the
child, such a removal of the damaged portion of the tube is morally permissible.
The ethical rule that applies here is called the Principle of the Double Effect.
Question 5: What is the distinction between pro-choice and
pro-abortion? I have Christians I dialog with who say in utter dismay that
nobody is pro-abortion - how could they be?
Answer: An old axiom in psychiatry
says, "Believe behavior." People would rarely admit that they are for abortion,
but it is behavior that proves otherwise. Currently, the law allows abortion at
any time of pregnancy and for any reason. A person who is against abortion can
reasonably be expected to demonstrate that in action, by trying to prevent
abortion in some way.
If "pro-choice" people want us to believe they are not
pro-abortion, they need to show us what they are doing to stop it.
There are people in legislatures all around the country, and
in activist groups like NARAL, who actively oppose a ban even on partial-birth
abortion. In what sense, then, are they against abortion?
Question 4: I know that abortion is never merciful for the
baby and therefore could never be allowed, but can't it also be considered an
act of mercy to an unmarried mother, especially since the pregnancy never should
have happened in the first place?
Answer: Abortion is not merciful to a mother;
abortion hurts women, as evidenced by the post-abortion testimonies posted on
our web site:
Question 3: I have a good friend who believes abortion is
wrong, but would support it in the case of rape or incest. He has known some
girls who were raped and kept the child, and he argues that every time they look
at the child they remember the way they were taken advantage of.
Answer: "Well what about rape? Are you
saying that the woman can't have an abortion?" Normally, the primary
concern of this question, normally, is not Do you think abortion is OK in this
instance?, despite the fact that this is how the question may be expressed. The
concern which is uppermost for the questioner is, Don't you care about this
woman? Won't you have compassion and help her?
When we answer the question, therefore, let's start by
addressing this point head on. Before we even mention abortion, we should stress
that we agree totally that the woman who has been raped has undergone a terrible
trauma, which we can hardly begin to understand, and that her well-being is very
much our concern. Stress this point strongly, and go further by saying that we
in the pro-life movement are ready to reach out to such women, giving them
counsel, healing, and compassion.
This approach, of course, differs in that it does not start
where most people would start in answering this challenge: namely, with the
rights of the child. It starts with concern for the woman, which is where the
Then, having agreed that the woman has been victimized and
needs our help, you can frame the question of abortion in this manner: Will an
abortion help her? By asking this, you are now questioning what is normally an
unspoken, unchallenged assumption, namely, that the abortion is somehow a
solution to the rape, and somehow helps alleviate the pain and trauma of the
Having questioned this assumption, therefore, bring in the
evidence that not only does the abortion not alleviate the trauma of the rape,
but it brings a trauma of its own. Countless women suffer for years and decades
after abortion.. I know of women who have been raped and then had abortions, and
are in counseling not for the rape but for the abortion! In rape, the trauma is
"Someone hurt me." In abortion, the trauma is "I hurt and killed someone else:
my child." That brings even more grief.
We therefore help the questioner to see that our reason for
denying the rape victim an abortion is not based on insensitivity but rather on
compassion, that is, the same basis on which the questioner is challenging us to
allow the abortion.
The next step of the process is to show that our compassion
actually is more inclusive than that of those who would allow abortion. Having
established that we care about the rape victim, we then ask the powerful
question, Why can't we love them both? Why can't we extend to the child the same
practical compassion which we both agree belongs to the woman? Why can't we
expand the boundaries of those we welcome and care for? Why should helping and
loving one (the mom) mean destroying the other (the child)? In reality, you
cannot help one without helping the other and you cannot hurt one without
hurting the other.
A key study on this topic is the book Victims and Victors:
Speaking out about their Pregnancies, Abortions, and Children Resulting from
Sexual Assault, By David C. Reardon. In this book, read the testimonies of 192
women who reveal that most pregnant sexual assault victims don't want abortion,
and those who do abort only suffer more. This is the most comprehensive study
published on this theme. (ISBN Number 0-9648957-1-4; Published in 2000 by Acorn
Books/Elliot Institute, PO Box 7348, Springfield, IL 62791-7348; Phone
1-888-412-2676, 217-525-8202; Website
Dr. Theresa Burke also addresses this topic in her book
Forbidden Grief. One
example from that book is this testimony: "The rape was bad, but I could have
gotten over it. The abortion is something I will never get over. No one realizes
how much that event damaged my life. I hate my rapist, but I hate the
abortionist too. I can’t believe I paid to be raped again. This will affect the
rest of my life."
Please also see the following testimony from Jenni Speltz, who
was conceived in rape:
Question 2: What makes more money, pornography or abortion
industry? This question came up in a faith formation class in our diocese.
Answer: Both of these industries generate a
massive amount of revenue.
The abortion industry has a revenue of about half a billion
dollars a year.
Robert Peters, the president of Morality in Media
(www.moralityinmedia.org) , states, “I don’t think anyone could give you an
accurate figure of how much money the ‘adult entertainment industry’ brings in,”
he said. “Estimates in the
typically range from $10 to $15 billion per year. Two or three years ago,
however, an article in Forbes magazine questioned those estimates, making the
case that the true figure was much lower. Clearly, the “industry” has every
reason to overestimate the money it makes, because in the eyes of many people,
financial success equals acceptability.”
Of course, the amount of money each industry brings in does
not determine which is morally worse. Abortion, because it is the direct taking
of innocent life, is a worse form of evil than pornography, although both are
Question 1: Someone told me the Bible is silent about
abortion. Is it?
Answer: The Bible is silent about abortion in
the same way it is silent about the Trinity.
In other words, the word itself is not there, but the teaching
First of all, Scripture is clear from beginning to end about
the fact that human life is created by God, is in God's image, belongs to God,
and has a destiny with God. The obligation to respect human life is illustrated
in a thousand ways. Our obligations to each other are crystal clear. See our
Scripture's Teaching Against Abortion
as well as our
of Scriptural themes for more details.
But there is another consideration here.
Suppose those who criticize us by claiming the Bible is silent
on abortion were right. Suppose there were nothing in it to indicate that
abortion is wrong.
Am I then to consent to the killing of little children?
Many of those who make this argument do not believe in the
Bible anyway. They make all sorts of judgments about what to do and not to do in
life independently of what is in the Bible.
Are they then to say we cannot do the same?
I believe in the Bible. And it condemns the killing of the
innocent, which abortion is.
But even if the Bible were silent about abortion, I have
enough decency and good sense to see that abortion is an evil that neither I nor
anyone else should tolerate.