- Love and Liberty
Ectopic Pregnancies and Abortion
I believe that human life begins at conception. Once the new human life attaches to the uterus, in about a week after conception, its physical form begins to develop. But even before this physical development begins, from the moment fertilization takes place, the child’s genetic makeup - gender, eye and skin color, etc. - is already complete. Abortion is the purposeful ending of a life and it is murder (Exodus 20:13).
Sometimes in our suffering creation, after fertilization, a child does not travel the normal course to the uterus. This is known as an ectopic pregnancy (for example - when the child attaches to the fallopian tube - also known as a tubal pregnancy, which is potentially fatal to the child and the mother). More than one course of action is available, some of which appear to be morally acceptable while others are not. I will mention two options and leave out the options that clearly seem to be immoral.
Initially, a “wait and see” approach can be taken in which the situation is monitored and prayers are offered to God. Once it is apparent that the ectopic pregnancy will not be corrected, a decision has to be made. In some instances the life of the mother is in jeopardy. A procedure can be conducted in which both sides of the fallopian tube around the child are cut and the child is removed in order to save the life of the mother (option 1). While the death of the child is foreseen, the purpose is not to end a life, but to save the life of the mother. This is a difficult situation to be in. Some believe the correct decision is to allow the matter to take its course and to leave the outcome in God’s hands; if the mother perishes, she perishes (option 2). Others may decide that saving the life of the mother is the morally upright choice under the principle of double effect.
Moral actions that produce two effects can be evaluated under the understanding of the principle of double effect. It is an ethical basis that Christian philosophers have used to evaluate the permissibility of certain actions that may also cause an effect one would otherwise want to avoid.
1. The action, apart from the foreseen bad effect, must be either morally good or indifferent.
2. The bad effect must not be directly willed.
3. The intention must be the achieving of only the good effect, with the bad effect being only an
unintended side effect. All reasonable measures to avoid or mitigate the bad effect must be taken.
4. There must be a proportionate reason for permitting the bad effect.
Considering the removal of the fallopian tube under this principle:
1. Removing a part of the body that is about to rupture and cause the death of the mother is a morally good action.
2. The death of the child, though foreseen, is not the direct intention of the procedure. The removal of the fallopian tube is for the purpose of saving the life of the mother, not to cause the death of the child.
3. The death of the child is not willed and would be avoided if at all possible - if, for example, re-implantation in the womb were reasonably possible.
4. The life of the mother is not less valuable than the life of the child.
Though this procedure will result in the death of the child, it is not the intention. I do not consider this procedure to fall under the evil known as abortion, since abortion is the intentional and purposeful destruction of life as an end in itself.
I do not question the faith of individuals who choose option 1 or option 2 in this difficult matter