The Irish parliament (or Dáil) has defeated an proposed interim measure concerning abortion, which (according to The Journal.ie)
would have provided an interim legislative arrangement as required by the Council of Europe, for termination of pregnancy where as a matter of probability a real and substantial risk to the life of the pregnant woman exists.
The measure was defeated 104 votes to 27! The Catholic bullies are in good heart today — which reminds me of the remark by Edmund Burke, in his Reflections on the Revolution in France:
He is not affected by the reality of distress touching his heart, but by the showy resemblance of it striking his imagination. He pities the plumage, but forgets the dying bird.
Sadly, the Irish parliament did not even try to imagine themselves into the lives of women faced with the prospect of dying, because they are pregnant. The flourishes of Roman Catholic ethics get the required genuflection; women are denied justice. This is what happens when the Roman Catholic Church gets control of a place. Remember this! For more on this visit Jerry Coyne’s website here. To the glue factory with them! Inhuman thoughtless bastards, the whole fucking lot of them!
The orignal post follows:
From the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Office:
The death of Mrs. Savita Halappanavar and her unborn child in University Hospital Galway on the 28 October last was a devastating personal tragedy for her husband and family. It has stunned our country. We share the anguish and sorrow expressed by so many at the tragic loss of a mother and her baby in these circumstances and we express our sympathy to the family of Mrs. Halappanavar and all those affected by these events.
In light of the widespread discussion following the tragic death of Mrs Halappanavar and her unborn baby, we wish to reaffirm some aspects of Catholic moral teaching. These were set out in our recently published Day for Life message on 7 October last, available on http://www.chooselife2012.ie.
- The Catholic Church has never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be preferred to that of a mother. By virtue of their common humanity, a mother and her unborn baby are both sacred with an equal right to life.
- Where a seriously ill pregnant woman needs medical treatment which may put the life of her baby at risk, such treatments are ethically permissible provided every effort has been made to save the life of both the mother and her baby.
- Whereas abortion is the direct and intentional destruction of an unborn baby and is gravely immoral in all circumstances, this is different from medical treatments which do not directly and intentionally seek to end the life of the unborn baby. Current law and medical guidelines in Ireland allow nurses and doctors in Irish hospitals to apply this vital distinction in practice while upholding the equal right to life of both a mother and her unborn baby.
- Some would claim that the unborn baby is less human or less deserving of life. Advances in genetics and technology make it clear that at fertilization a new, unique and genetically complete human being comes into existence. From that moment onwards each of us did not grow and develop into a human being, but grew and developed as a human being.
With many other religious and ethical traditions we believe in upholding the equal and inalienable right to life of a mother and her unborn child in our laws and medical practice. This helps to ensure that women and babies receive the highest standard of care and protection during pregnancy.
Indeed, international statistics confirm that Ireland, without abortion, remains one of the safest countries in the world in which to be pregnant and to give birth. This is a position that should continue to be cherished and strengthened in the interests of mothers and unborn children in Ireland.
Thus the Irish bishops as published in First Things. I had decided to put sanctity-of-life issues on the shelf for a while, and yet, here, in black and white, are several reasons for raising it once more. Indeed, the statement itself makes me very angry, and renews my sense that the church must be marginalised and kept far from the law. But the Catholic hierarchy will simply not be content until they see their principles applied everywhere, so that no one has any more control over their care than Savita Halappanavar was given by the paternalistic officialdom of the University Hospital in Galway.
These guys — the bishops, archbishops, cardinals et hoc genus omne, all apointed by the pope, to whom they owe their primary allegiance – actually think they have something worthwhile to say, and, for the life of me, I cannot understand why they think so. Here are a bunch of celibate men who dress up in frocks and all sorts of fancy finery, sometimes festooned with lace, telling people what they may or may not do when, as though they hold the keys of life and death. Well, they don’t and they even be allowed so much as to imagine that they do. Religions, in modern democratic society, should be strictly marginal pursuits, to be adopted or not, according to people’s preferences with respect to what they want to do with their free time, and kept out of the political and legal arena, where they have no right to speak generally for the law or for the way that countries should be governed. That they once again put in their oar where it inappropriately intrudes upon the ordinary lives of citizens is a scandal of disturbing proportions. No doubt they have a right to tell the people who participate in their churches what they ought to do, if they wish to live in accordance with Catholic moral principles, but they have should have no right to extend those principles so that they apply, willy-nilly, to just anyone. Whether in a minority or a majority within a society, they should have no right to do that, and they should be told firmly to mind their own business.
Before you read the following, may I suggest that you go over to The Philosophical Primate and read what he has to say about the value of life. He begins like this:
… Eric McDonald has been writing a series of blog posts (one, two, three so far) criticizing arguments against assisted dying on the basis of “the sanctity of human life,” and further criticizing the very idea that life is “sacred.” Inspired by his conversation, I’d like to go considerably further, and argue that not only is human life NOT sacred, human life as such is not even valuable, or deserving of respect.
That seems to me to be about right. Human life, as in the phrase ‘living human tissue’ does not have any particular value, and is not, in itself, deserving of respect. What gives a life value are things like intentions, plans, projects, hopes, fears, anxieties, values, experiences of pleasure, future hopes and expectations, happiness, and even grief and loss. Just because something possesses human tissue and human metabolism does not, in itself, say anything about the value of such a life. The bishops think they have scientific grounding for their moral principles, simply because they can say that advances in science tell us that “at fertilization a new, unique and genetically complete human being comes into existence.” But so what? The idea that this fact, in itself, should be prescriptive for us is entirely unwarranted. Hume was right. He says that often when reading he notices that authors begin by speaking about facts about the world, when suddenly, without justification, they start speaking in terms of what we ought to do, as though there were some necessary connexion between the two. Well, there isn’t.
What is wrong with the Irish bishops’ attempt to give an explanation of how and why Catholics ascribe value to living human tissue, just on the strength of its being living and human, is that they seem to be unaware of the reasons for valuing life at all. From their standpoint, we could have a world of comatose or nearly comatose “people”, and such a world would have infinite value, because composed of masses of human life in this fairly marginal sense. This seems to me, on the face of it, completely dotty, and yet this is a clear implication of their statement.
The question is, in a competition between the woman and the foetus growing within her, which has greater value? The bishops’ answer is that their value is equal.
Some would claim that the unborn baby is less human or less deserving of life. Advances in genetics and technology make it clear that at fertilization a new, unique and genetically complete human being comes into existence.
Well, yes, some would claim that. I would. This is the supposed scientific basis for their claim that the foetus is of equal value to the woman (I refuse to call her a mother until a child is born), but this ignores entirely the fact that the woman, in whom the foetus is growing, has either planned or has not planned to be pregnant, has plans and projects that are related to it, and can be harmed or not by the foetus growing inside her. What she chooses to do with respect to that pregnancy is amongst those plans and projects, hopes and fears, and therefore the decision whether a pregnancy at this time accords with her plans and purposes is hers alone, and should remain hers alone to make. This may not make the tissue growing within her less human, for it is, after all, developing human tissue, but it does make it dependent upon the woman’s life plans, and if pregnancy is not something that is consistent with the woman’s plans for her life, then (without making any judgements whatever about the appropriateness or inappropriateness of her decision) a termination is clearly in order, before the woman’s life plans and hopes are simply dashed because of the need to care for and pay for the care of a baby. This is her business, not the business of the Irish bishops. As I say, they may lay down the law for their members, if they wish, and if their members will tolerate this, but whether those members choose to act in accordance with rules so laid down is an entirely different question. But as for others, the bishops have no jurisdiction and should be given none.
This is the reason I say, with respect to the Church of Scotland’s acceptance of abortion where the woman’s life is in danger, that this also is an intrusion into the life of individuals, an intrusion which is unwarranted and unacceptable in a democratic polity. Certainly, the Church of Scotland should have the right to speak to its members about what it considers morally legitimate in the light of its understanding of “God’s word,” but to try to extend such prescriptions beyond the bounds of its membership is an unwarranted intrusion into the lives of people who may not, and need not, accept those moral limits. There is no reason at all to accord clergy the status of moral experts. They are not.
If you read the Irish bishops’ statement closely, you can see that the principle of double effect is alive and well and living in Dublin. Notice how the terms ‘direct’ and ‘intentional’ function in this quote:
Whereas abortion is the direct and intentional destruction of an unborn baby and is gravely immoral in all circumstances, this is different from medical treatments which do not directly and intentionally seek to end the life of the unborn baby.
Notice how they carefully separate intentions here. The “direct and intentional destruction of an unborn baby” is carefully distinguished from “treatments which do not directly and intentionally seek to end the life of the unborn baby.” Quite aside from the emotive use of the word ‘baby’ in this context, when there is as yet no baby in existence, there is no clear reason for making this sort of distinction. It is difficult to see how the words ‘direct and intentional’ are doing any genuine work here. And, indeed, if you followed my discussion in my last post, in which I quoted Aquinas’ use of the principle of double effect, what makes an act direct and intentional is not any particular feature of the case in question, but the way in which that case is described, a fact which has very alarming consequences, for it can be used to justify practically anything. The precise problem here is that the bishops cannot give an unambiguous account of what constitutes the direct and intentional destruction of a foetus from one which is not. This is not only ambiguous, but it is also duplicitous, because they think they are making a distinction when they plainly are not; and this duplicity results in the kind of tragedy that occurred when the medical experts and administrative and ethical staff at the Galway University Hospital could not determine whether or not what they would be doing would amount to the intentional destruction of an unborn “baby.” If you must use morally loaded language, this distinction will be, for some people, almost impossible to make. And it is this kind of ambiguity that the Irish bishops have simply failed adequately to explain, and this is a fault of Roman Catholic ethics generally. If Helga Kuhse is right in her book The Sanctity of Life Doctrine in Medicine, there is no way to do this, in any event. There will always be a nimbus of vagueness over what is being done and why it is being done. The Irish bishops can’t give it up, because it’s written into the title deeds of their church, but it is this, precisely, which causes all the problems, and similar tragedies to the one which befell Savita Halappanavar will doubtless follow, since the bishops simply have not made it clear how such distinctions are to be made in clinical situations. I do not think that they can. It is a bankrupt proceeding which distorts moral decision making over which the church should have no control in the first place.
But then for them to say, after an entirely useless death was compassed by Roman Catholic moral incompetence, that
Indeed, international statistics confirm that Ireland, without abortion, remains one of the safest countries in the world in which to be pregnant and to give birth.
Rubbish! A woman was deliberately killed because Roman Catholic doctrine is incoherent. Were I an Irish woman — which, thankfully, I am not — I would want to see the law changed in such a way that the Roman Catholic Church has no say in what is contained within it. Allowing churches to play this kind of predominant role in a society is a guarantee that situations like this will crop up again whenever there is a question as to how doctrine gets applied in individual situations. Since there is no clarity in the doctrine, it will be applied idiosyncratically, with, in some cases, tragic results. But it should be remembered that there are going to be tragic results that will never come to public notice, simply because they pertain to the lives of women ruined by an untimely pregnancy and birth, or by the birth of babies whose brief lives will be filled with misery and will never have the chance to have a life at all.
I will end this post by making a brief comment on the underlying assumptions that are being made by the bishops regarding the humanity of the foetus. The foetus does not have a human life in a relevant moral sense. It may have the potentiality for developing and being born, and then, with care and education, achieving the status of such a life, with all the rights of respect that are due to human beings. What makes a human life valuable is not the mere existence of living tissue. A biological entity with human genomic properties is not, in itself, a human being. Indeed, other animals may have lifes of great value, and it is speciesist in the worst way to suppose otherwise. What makes our lives valuable is that we have a life to live, with values, life-projects, plans, hopes, expectations and perhaps even some comprehensive idea of what makes one’s life of value. The foetus, has none of these. It is a human being in the process of development, and, as such, does not, and should not be granted, the full status of human being, for the very simple reason that there is another human being, in the full sense, involved, and her life plans, projects and values take precedence over the life growing within her. To suggest that she should subordinate all her plans and hopes to that life is simply ridiculous. Pregnancies happen for all sorts of reason. They can be the result of rape, pace some Republicans. They can result simply because the means of contraception are either unknown or unavailable. And there can be complications of all sorts in the course of a pregnancy which may require its termination. Defects in the foetus may be detected which would mean that a human life of no value at all might be brought to birth. It is astounding that a bunch of celibate men should get to make up myths and stories about the value of the foetus without taking the value or the rights of women into account at all!
To remove the decision from the woman as to whether to continue with a pregnancy or not, regardless of the consequences, is an unjustified interference in her life, and to give equal weight to the life growing within her is nothing more than a desperate attempt to keep women under control. There is no warrant for it, and this should be acknowledged. The claim that the bishops make, that
[w]ith many other religious and ethical traditions we believe in upholding the equal and inalienable right to life of a mother and her unborn child in our laws and medical practice. This helps to ensure that women and babies receive the highest standard of care and protection during pregnancy.
Fine, just so long as they acknowledge — which they in fact do not — that it is just one religious tradition among many, and that there is no reason that people must give their attention to religious beliefs, and therefore should have no prescriptive bearing on what values and purposes women are free to adopt with respect to their reproductive decisions, this would be fine. But to go on to say that “[t]his helps to ensure that women and babies receive the highest standard of care and protection during pregnancy,” especially after a woman has just died simply because of the ambiguity of this ethical tradition, is an egregious piece of self-justifying nonsense. Who do the bishops think they are kidding? Really, it does make the blood boil when these idiots come out with their half-baked justifications for a legal regimen over which they should have no influence in the first place. It’s high time that the Irish put these antediluvian men out to pasture, and told them to speak to the members of their churches, and even prescribe for them, if they like — that at least gives them the option of escaping medieval prohibitions if they disagree – but to keep their hands off the law, which applies, not only to Roman Catholics, but to those who do not share Catholic beliefs, and to many Catholics who do not share the peculiar ethical priorities of their leaders. The Irish bishops’ statement is not only an inadequate explanation; it is a clear demonstration of what is wrong, and provides sufficient reason to remove such things from the purview of religion, no matter how heavily that religion is represented in the population. Ireland is supposedly a democracy, but the bishops’ statement suggests that it is a theocracy. There is no place for theocracy in democratic governance, and it is high time bishops and other religious leaders were given the old heave-ho, and told to keep their sticky fingers out of matters that do not concern them.