They are against it. They imagine they have moral reasons for this. Their method of moral reasoning is inferior to mine. My method of moral reasoning fits free people; theirs fits people following the rules of an oligarchy.
Catholic morality is deontological, following rules. Certain acts are considered sins, whatever the consequences: the end never justifies the means, they say. My morality is at least in part consequentialist: I look at the intended result.
Can a foetus be aborted to save the life of the mother, when if it is not aborted both will die? No, they say: Two natural deaths are a lesser evil than one murder. John Paul II wrote, The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law; it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity. “Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo. This is clearly not an argument: it is merely a reiteration of words, to be completely clear.
However, in the case of ectopic pregnancy, where the foetus has implanted in the fallopian tube, removal of that tube is permissible under the principle of double effect- the surgeon removes the tube, mutilating her and making pregnancy later less likely, in order to save the woman’s life, with the unintended consequence that the foetus dies. However, removal of the foetus from the fallopian tube, saving the tube, is not permitted, because that is the direct act of killing the foetus.
I analyse this situation by its consequences. This is named consequentialist ethics. Consider the choices:
- Remove the foetus without damaging the tube. The foetus is dead, the woman’s life is saved, she retains her chances of pregnancy later.
- Remove the foetus and the tube. The foetus is dead, the woman’s life is saved, her chances of pregnancy are reduced.
To me, clearly, the first is preferable. The church considers the second preferable because it considers acts rather than consequences. For me, the end justifies the means. For them, the need to avoid the wicked act of directly killing the foetus justifies mutilating the mother.
I cite the legal principle that a person is presumed to intend the consequences of their acts. The Catholic doctor knows that the foetus is implanted in the fallopian tube which s/he removes; how can it be said that the doctor does not intend to kill it?
To me, there are situations where moral rules are useful. Do not lie, do not cheat, do not steal; but it seems to me that I follow rules from virtue ethics rather than deontology: I am not the kind of person who does that. This makes me a moral agent, the judge of my own morality, rather than slavishly following rules thought out before consequentialist ethics was conceived.
Catholic position from The Rejection of Pascal’s Wager.