Tuesday, 25 October 2011

"Beneficence towards the fetus"

I have been away from my blog on account of being mired in a lengthy discussion online about abortion.
One commenter argues that the fetus is a 'proto human' whose sole worth is in the eyes of parents as the "potential person" it will become. It has no intrinsic worth of it's own.

Because the conversation has had many twists and turns I didn't want to get too bogged down with the question of fetal pain, since, although horrendous this is not the crucial "wrong" of abortion.
Nonetheless, this commenter challenged me further on a reference I had made to the fetal awareness in utero.
I think it is safe to assume that abortion, for the sensate fetus, is a horrendous death.
He disagrees.
He linked to this paper here:
Fetal Pain: A Systematic Multidisciplinary Review of the Evidence
The conclusion of the report is as follows:

 "Evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates
that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester. Little or no evidence
addresses the effectiveness of direct fetal anesthetic or analgesic techniques. Similarly,
limited or no data exist on the safety of such techniques for pregnant women in
the context of abortion. Anesthetic techniques currently used during fetal surgery are
not directly applicable to abortion procedures".
I was struck when reading the report that the language is ambivalent. Phrases like "pain is unlikely", "little or no evidence", "little or no data" are not the language of certainty.
And yet my interlocutor is confident that this report supports his contention that fetal pain is impossible.
If we were talking about any other human being than the unwanted unborn, wouldn't we be giving them the benefit of the doubt?
Wouldn't we be horrified at the merest possibility that any surgical procedure carried out on a born  fetus would cause them to feel pain?
This is how I responded to him:

The report you link to, which was put together in response to moves to legislate requiring physicians
to inform women seeking abortions that the fetus feels pain and to offer fetal anesthesia.

Small wonder that those same doctors with blood on their hands, whose work consists of dismembering the unborn, have chafed at the idea .

The report you link to is littered with caveats like "unlikely" or "possibly" or "little evidence as yet".,
Strange don't you think, that where the wanted get the benefit of the doubt, the unwanted get none.

I thought this passage very telling:

"...Instead, beneficence toward
the fetus represents the chief justification
for using fetal anesthesia or
analgesia during abortion—to relieve
suffering if fetal pain exists

In the absence of crucial "beneficence" we can sweep away all doubt.

The baby who is not wanted can die and die violently.

The baby to whom we feel is owed  beneficence however, will get the benefit of the doubt regarding it's experience of pain.

This is why I stand in solidarity with the weakest members of our human family, against whom all,
from their parents and grandparents, to the medical establishment to the legal system, have shut their doors.

There is no "BENEFICENCE" toward them.

 Honor and Marie-Aibhlinn on the steps of the BPAS abortuary


  1. If you find abortion so awful, why not move to the Republic of Ireland, where it is currently illegal? If you find the practice so abhorrent, one would think that integrity requires you to divest yourself of the benefits of a society that permits it.

    Also, I must admit I find it galling that a Catholic in a non-Catholic country would presume to argue that her beliefs should be adopted into law.

  2. Expat
    Why would my moving to Ireland make abortion more tolerable?
    Abortion, whether it happens on my doorstep, or on the other side of the world kills unborn human babies. Their actual nationality is immaterial to me.

    And btw, I am not making a case 'to adopt my catholic beliefs into law' any more than anti slavery campaigners were.
    Abortion is a human rights issue, not a niche religious concern, and plenty of non religious people recognise this also (see Secular Pro Life).

  3. In Nazi Germany, many men and women of conscience chose to flee the country rather than share in the benefits of an evil society. You apparently feel o.k. with taking the benefits of British society-a better economy, a national health system, and so forth-even as you view it as hideously corrupt.

    Secular pro-lifers, in my experience, are few and far between, and generally fall into the category of people I would consider idiots.

  4. well done for your commitment to life and supporting actively the campaign. I personally do not take part in actions against abortion, but somehow I admire the people who stand up for the rights of the unborn children. Pro-lifers in actions (secular or not) have to hear so many stupid remarks and also violent ones, I admire your courage! I believe there are many people like me, who are discreet in their actions, keep quiet but do support in their heart the fight for the rights of unborn children. Life always fight for survival in situation of danger, a fetus will also fight for survival. To be killed where they should feel safest, in a womb where they have no possiblity to escape is a tragedy. If only we could link the people who want children but cannot have any to the people who are pregnant but do not want their child!