The word “abortion” has found its way to the forefront of societal and political discussion. Overlooked in these discussions is the distinction between types of abortions which is qualitatively very different. Abortion is, as is universally agreed, the termination of a pregnancy, However, intent and purpose make the difference in deciding which side of the discussion one will fall.
The type of abortion that has come under the most heated scrutiny and conflict is the direct abortion; also known as induced or elective abortion. E. Healy, in medical ethics, describes direct abortion as follows; “In direct abortion a living and nonviable fetus is removed from the uterus. The removal is that the pregnancy added to some pathological condition from which the mother is suffering, increases her difficulties or even lessens he chances of survival”. Other definitions include;
The term abortion is more commonly used as a synonym for induced abortion, the deliberate interruption The term abortion is more commonly used as a synonym for induced abortion, the deliberate interruption Also, “an abortion without medical justification but done in a legal way, as in the United States”. (Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary). In other words, direct abortions are, essentially, “abortion on demand.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in article 2271, teaches;
“ Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law”.:
On the other hand, indirect abortions are permissible under Church Law. Pope Pius VII teaches;
“"Never and in no case has the Church taught that the life of the child must be preferred to that of the mother. It is erroneous to put the question with this alternative: either the life of the child or that of the mother. No, neither the life of the mother nor that of the child can be subjected to an act of direct suppression. In the one case as in the other, there can be but one obligation: to make every effort to save the lives of both, of the mother and of the child."
It is one of the finest and most noble aspirations of the medical profession to search continually for new means of ensuring the life of both mother and child. But if, notwithstanding all the progress of science, there still remain, and will remain in the future, cases in which one must reckon with the death of the mother, when the mother wills to bring to birth the life that is within her and not destroy it in violation of the command of God - Thou shalt not kill - nothing else remains for the man, who will make every effort till the very last moment to help and save, but to bow respectfully before the laws of nature and the dispositions of divine Providence." (Pius XII, Allocution to Large Families, November 26, 1951).
On indirect abortions, E. Healy also writes; “The abortion is termed indirect when the pregnant uterus itself is excised because its condition is such that its removal is medically necessary. If the uterus contains a living and nonviable fetus, the fetus of course will inevitably die. There is no direct attack upon the fetus, however, and death is merely permitted as a secondary effect of an act which needs to be performed and which. . . is permissible to perform”. He concludes that “safeguarding the mother’s health is a proportionately grave reason for permitting the death of the fetus”.
The life of the mother, in Theological and ethical arguments, is always taken into account. To take an extreme stand without understanding and defining this powerful distinction work contrary to productive dialogue. The two sides, often, talk past each other rather than conducting a useful discussion.