by Fritz Baumgartner, M.D.
We can approach abortion from many perspectives: Biological, embryological, genetic, philosophical, social and economic, at the very least. As for the first three – my approach as a scientist, physician, surgeon, and simply someone who finished medical school, is factual. There is no more pivotal moment in the subsequent growth and development of a human being than when 23 chromosomes of the father join with 23 chromo- somes of the mother to form a unique, 46-chromo- somed individual, with a gender, who had previously simply not existed. Period. No debate.
There is no more appropriate moment to begin calling a human “human” than the moment of fertilization. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, because it would be a degradation of factual embryology to say it would be any other moment. For example, some pro-abortion zealots and even, shockingly, some disingenuous physi- cians claim it is the moment of primitive notochord formation (nonsense!) or, even more absurdly, the mo- ment of implantation. (It defies sanity to claim that the implantation of a developing blastocyst onto a uterine wall defines humanity more than does the comple-
tion of an entirely new DNA map, which defines a new organism’s existence).
And to say that “size” is a determinant of humanity, of course, is an unscientific reason to deny an embryo his or her human status. In any event, it is an embryologi- cal reality, which no embryology textbook on earth denies, that at the moment of fertilization a new human being is formed.
Following below is some information about some of the less noble ideologies of my colleagues in medicine as they pertain to defining humanity and defending abor- tion. I hope it helps you refute pro-abortion lies.
Abortion is Violence
The vocation of medicine and the vocation of mother- hood are both profoundly sacred and should teach us that human life is of immense value. Abortion hijacks the vocations of motherhood and medicine and distorts them into something unrecognizable. Abortion takes ordinary pregnant mothers and makes them accom- plices in – literally – murder. When human life is thus cheapened, we all lose. As I wrote in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology,
“Modern American society has a strange ambivalence to violence and death, on the one hand expressing horror at high school massacres yet on the other hand perhaps merely shrugging in discomfort at the willful termination of early human life to the tune of tens of millions. The roots of this ambivalence lie in convenience, self-centeredness, and our national confusion regarding legitimate versus illegitimate ‘choice.’ Teenagers intuitively sense phoniness and hypocrisy and may have more trouble than adults in reconciling this apparent paradox, which seems so unnatu- ral to the innocent mind yet on the other hand is almost taken for granted by society and, sadly, by medicine. As Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, ‘If we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill each other? Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want…’ “
Hippocratic Oath Was Anti-Abortion
When I graduated from the UCLA School of Medicine in 1984, we took the Hippocratic Oath, which states, “I will not give to a woman an instrument to produce abortion. With purity and holiness I will pass my life and practice my art.” The Hippocratic Oath, explicitly and implicitly, eliminates abortion as an option.
The Supreme Court justices in the majority opinion in 1973’s Roe v. Wade had a lot of trouble rationalizing around the revered 2,400-year-old oath of physicians. The justices hedged that the authority of Hippocrates did not prevent the committing of abortions in Greece and Rome. They continued that most Greek thinkers and physicians actually commended abortion and that only the Pythagorean School of philosophers frowned upon abortion and suicide. Only Hippocrates and the minority Pythagorean thinkers opposed abortion, and the future teachings of Christianity fit well with Pythagorean ethic. Thus, the justices concluded that the Hippocratic Oath is “a Pythagorean manifesto and not the expression of an absolute standard of medical conduct”.
There is no argument that the Oath was a minority opinion among Greek physicians, but it was certainly Hippocrates’ opinion and intention to distinguish his school of doctors who practiced in an ethical frame- work set apart from Greek mainstream medicine. If the status-quo medicine of the day satisfied Hippocrates, then he would not have needed to establish his new guidelines for medical ethics.
Hippocrates, in a real sense, was counteracting the erroneous and relativistic values of his own time and
culture. By acting as a beacon of light in a sea of dark- ness, he exemplified what Christianity would do 400 years later, and what true Christianity must do even today. The core and spirit of the Hippocratic Oath is indeed the expression of an absolute standard of medi- cal conduct. It does not alter with the passing societal customs and fads of two and a half millennia. Is this an Oath that we can dismiss as casually as the majority seven U.S. Supreme Court justices did in 1973?
A.C. Ivy, M.D., the expert medical advisor at the Nuremberg Medical Trials, wrote in 1949,
“I realized for the first time at the Nuremberg trials, the full meaning and importance of the contributions of Hippocrates and his school to medicine and human welfare. He apparently realized that a scientific and technical philosophy of medicine could not survive through the ages unless it was associated with a sound moral philosophy. One cannot conceive of a sound society with medicine that does not have a sound moral philosophy”
And if any question remains, one should consider the Geneva Declaration of Physicians, written as a direct result of the Nazi medical atrocities soundly con- demned at the Nuremberg Medical Trials. This univer- sal Declaration of Physicians states: “I will maintain
the utmost respect for human life, from the time of its conception, even under threat. I will not use my medi- cal knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity” (4).
Of course, if we take seriously the words of the Geneva Declaration of Physicians, “from the time of its concep- tion,” then we preclude not only what we commonly consider as “abortion” (i.e., surgical), but also all the major ramifications on the full gamut of reproductive issues and technologies, ranging from contraceptives, therapeutic and reproductive cloning, human embry- onic stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, and “thera- peutic” and reproductive cloning.
Is Catholic Teaching a Sound Guide?
It is precisely these issues that demonstrate the value of the Catholic Church in guiding her flock definitively and responsibly in issues of faith and morals. It is here, also, where the inestimable value of critical, rigorous thinking is evident, because it seeks the truth despite the outcome.
The Roman Catholic Church has already spoken defini- tively on every single one of these issues, in documents ranging from Humanae Vitae to Donum Vitae to more recent declarations of the Vatican. As a physician and layman, I am personally in awe of the supernatural ability of the Roman Catholic Church to speak with authority and answer these difficult questions to any- one willing to hear and obey. It eliminates confusion in a consistent and definitive way. If people would know and obey the official teachings of the Roman Catho-
lic Church, they will be amazingly well equipped to answer the vast majority of the moral issues of the day. In the incredible wisdom of God and His Church, it al- lows a faithful common man, even if he be an uneducat- ed illiterate, to maintain the same (or better) freedom from error as the most learned theologian. But that requires faithful teaching from the Catholic shepherds; they must feed their flocks.
Before addressing the issues directly, those who do not agree with these views need to consider the more basic question of whether it is ever morally acceptable to do evil so that good supposedly may arise from it. Huma- nae Vitae once again definitively demonstrates Church teaching, stating: “It is not licit, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil so that good may follow therefrom.” The end does not justify the means.
But in certain instances, cannot the end justify the means? Or, as the Nazi defense attorney in cross exami- nation posed to Dr. Ivy at the 1947 Nuremberg Trials (3), “If you were ordered by a high political or military leader to perform an experiment which you knew in advance would cause the death of three persons and the results of which would save the life of twenty thousand, would you perform the experiment?” Dr. Ivy’s reply was startlingly devoid of moral relativism: “There is no political and military leader under the sun who could order or otherwise compel me to perform an experi- ment contrary to my moral convictions.” The Nazi attorney asked, “So, then, you would be shot?” And Dr. Ivy said, “Yes.”
Now, half a century later, the moral quandary is: “If we were asked by a woman to commit a legally sanctioned abortion which we knew in advance would cause the death of a developing human being, but would improve the convenience, financial state, and overall well-being of the woman and society based on her choice, would we commit the abortion?” Oh, that our reply would echo the same lack of moral relativism as Dr. Ivy’s! And in America, circa 2012, our reply would be in the absence of the threatening milieu implied by the ques- tion, “So, then, you would be shot?”w
(Part 2 coming in Spring 2012 issue)