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Hard cases and bad law.

Talk about hard cases making bad law! As the world watched, the tragic death of a pregnant Indian woman in a Galway hospital turned into an instant excuse for striking down Ireland's legal protection of the unborn. Reasonable Catholics rightly asked: What's the truth in this case? What actually happened?

Can the natural law, as defined by Catholic teaching, be wrong? Is it possible that the Lord would allow circumstances to develop within the body of a pregnant woman that actually demand the defiance of His own law?

The answer is obvious: no. Which is why the facts of this difficult case demand closer examination and why such typical pro-abort "spin" must be separated from the actual case.

Pro-lifers confused by the initial story of Savita Halappanavar--a thirty-one-year-old dentist alleged to have died because she was refused an abortion--were right to ask: "What's wrong with this story?"

As it turns out, plenty!

At 17 weeks into her pregnancy, Savita was told she was suffering a miscarriage. She requested an abortion--but, as doctors had diagnosed, the termination had already begun spontaneously.

Under Irish law and the Irish Constitution, which prohibit the abortion of unborn babies, the surgical evacuation of the womb when a miscarriage is underway or where the baby has already died is allowed. Such procedures are regularly carried out in Irish hospitals.

In Savita's case, however, it appears that a surgical intervention that should have happened did not. She experienced back pain for another three days and died of septicaemia, prompting two investigations--one by the hospital itself and another by the Irish health authority.

At the time of her death on 28 October 2012, it was widely reported that doctors denied her request "for an abortion" because they detected a foetal heartbeat and Irish law ruled out a termination because "Ireland is a Catholic country."

Using this reason to delay surgical evacuation, however, is considered extraordinary by both medical and non-medical Irish citizens. Equally troubling was the pro-abort propagandizing of the situation before the most basic investigation was carried out.

While many of the facts surrounding the case remain unclear, this much is certain: Savita's death was not the result of Ireland's law protecting the unborn child. The real issue is medical practice in a particular Irish hospital and whether or not the medical team involved did all they could to save Savita's life, as they were obliged to do by Irish law and the ethics of their profession.

"Neither the ethos of the Catholic Church nor the pro-life laws of Ireland would prevent any woman from receiving all the treatment she requires in order to preserve her life," said Niamh Ui Bhriain of Ireland's Life Institute, adding that "abortion doesn't cure septicaemia and isn't a treatment for miscarriage."

Calling the claim that Catholic teaching would prevent proper treatment of a pregnant woman "outrageous," she told that Irish law already prioritizes the life of the mother, emphasizing that doctors who rail to intervene to save a woman's life are subject to disciplinary action for negligence.

"Far from ... the pro-life laws putting undue pressure to save the life of the unborn child, they put additional measures to protect the life of the mother," she said. "The Irish Medical Council guidelines are incredibly clear, that the doctors must intervene to save a woman's life. If they don't, they're guilty of misconduct."

The media failed to reveal some key facts.

Not only did an international group of 140 obstetricians and other doctors meeting in Dublin issue a statement last year denying that abortion is ever "medically necessary" for women, the facts speak for themselves: the maternal death rate in Ireland without abortion is among the lowest in the world with 6 per 100,000 live births registered, a far better rate than in the UK where abortion is legal and where the maternal death rate is 12 per 100,000.

The 20 November statement of the Irish bishops reaffirming Catholic teaching was also widely ignored: "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."

Abortion is always a violation of God's natural law for the simple reason that sin can never save a life.

Paula Adamick is the founding editor of The Canada Post, established in 1997, for Canadian expatriates living in Britain.
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Author:Adamick, Paula
Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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