The topic under discussion? The increasingly horrific case of the nine year old in Brazil whose abortion of the twins conceived through rape by her stepfather was roundly censured by the Catholic Church.
Ladies and gents, I present Susan Peterson.
Now, I'm actually struck nearly wordless with rage on reading what she had to say, so I'll let her speak for herself (emphasis added in an attempt to point out the really astonishingly grotesque or irrational bits):
My understanding has always been that this is not permitted. A cancerous uterus may be removed even though it is pregnant, because this is the removal of a diseased organ and it is that which is desired, not the death of the baby. That is the usual application of the principle of double effect. A fallopian tube with an ectopic pregnancy can be removed because that is the removal of an organ in which an abnormal process is going on, but you can't flush the tube with methotrexate to kill the developing fertilized ovum.
Now, for those not familiar, the principle of double effect was first postulated by Thomas Aquinas and is best summed up thus: a non-evil act that results in a foreseen evil side-effect is permissible provided that the resultant good effect is of greater benefit than the detriment resulting from the evil effect. More importantly to this discussion, Aquinas postulated that an evil act is never permissible, regardless of the good it might do.
So, in Susan's example above, rather than preserving a woman's reproductive system by terminating an ectopic pregnancy through a chemical abortion, the only permissible action is surgery to remove the fallopian tube altogether. But she continues...
At that point in those days after several days of labor the chances of a woman surviving a C section were slim. The standard obstetric practice for such cases was the same procedure which is now called partial birth abortion, which involved collapsing the baby's skull so the head could deliver, allowing the woman to survive.
The church did not allow this, and required that a C section be done and an attempt made to save both mother and baby. Usually this resulted in the survival of the mother and not the baby.
Even though luckily this situation does not exist today, I think it makes it clear that it is not true that it is never wrong to save the mothers life. It is always wrong to kill an innocent child by crushing its skull, even if that is what is required for its mother to live.
Note, here, that she doesn't say "if that might improve its mother's health" or "if that improved its mother's chances". If it is required for the mother to live - if a c-section or natural birth will kill her - a c-section or a natural birth, killing both mother and child, is the only moral thing to do, according to her doctrine. This is nuts. And just in case there was any doubt:
This case would also have arisen in those days more frequently as without IV fluids women died from hyperemesis gravidarum, and it would be quite clear that only ending the pregnancy would save the woman's life. In that case, probably both would die. I am going to go back and read again, but I didn't see an exception even for this case.
So, tragic, of course, but if the doctrines of a bunch of men fifteen hundred years ago say a mother has to die, even if she could be saved, if the alternative is abortion, so she's a corpse. To borrow from her book - Jesus wept.
Now, she goes on to say that if the medical condition doesn't result in death, abortion is definitely off the table - even if, afterwards, the mother might not be able to walk. Or breathe without a ventilator.
But the capper is this:
If her uterus were overstretched and thinned and clearly about to rupture, I believe at that point it could be considered a diseased organ and removed even though this would kill the unborn children, under the principle of double effect.
I recognize that this would destroy her future fertility, whereas an earlier abortion most likely would not, and that this is something which might make her unhappy in the future. However, in Catholic moral theology, the right to life of the unborn is definitely a higher claim than either her suffering in carrying them longer, or her future fertility.
So, because her stepfather's been raping her since she was six (by the way, he was not excommunicated) a nine year old has to deal with pregnancy either until the third trimester, when they can cut her open to take out two barely viable fetuses, or until her uterus is in danger of rupturing, at which point they perform a hysterectomy. In the former case, I can't imagine the stresses on a nine-year-old's system, or the trauma associated with the C-section. In the latter, you have the trauma of pregnancy, surgery, and the permanent, irreversible destruction of her fertility. And both of these are preferable to aborting 15-week fetuses.
Words fail me. Asshat of the Day may be too kind a term for Susan.