Wednesday, October 24, 2012

When killing babies is good

The September 13, 2012 online issue of the New England Journal of Medicine included a "Perspective" article by Dr. Lisa Harris, entitled, "Recognizing Conscience in Abortion Provision1". In it Dr. Harris attempts to persuade that the desire to kill unborn children can be a noble impulse, prompted by one's conscience in the same way that another person might be urged by conscience not to kill unborn children. Yes, we live in a time when physicians can be found who believe that healing a sick person can be morally equivalent to killing a healthy one.

I submitted a brief response to the NEJM, which was rejected. So I'll post it here:

Conscience and the desire to provide induced abortion

Dear Editor,

Dr. Lisa Harris argues that physicians urged by conscience to refuse to induce abortions, and those urged by conscience to provide induced abortions, equally deserve legal accommodation and respect for their "core moral beliefs".

Yet while all persons are worthy of respectful tolerance, not so all personal acts. Just laws placing limits on elective abortion reflect a social awareness that these acts, while presently legal in many cases, inflict a tragic human cost. A large segment of society believes justice is better served by limiting these acts than by promoting them. Those whose conscience urges them beyond the limits of law must expect from society not license but resistance.

Dr. Harris attempts to erase from memory the Hippocratic tradition prohibiting induced abortion, and to persuade us that for a physician it can be equally noble to kill, as to refuse to kill. Yet is it not the duty of society to stand firm against the demands of a conscience that fails to respect the good of both pregnant mother and child?

1N Engl J Med 2012; 367:981-983. September 13, 2012. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1206253

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