In the comments below this post, I am taken to task for not being concerned about the life of the mother involved in the St. Joseph's Hospital abortion case--the only one the public knows about, anyway. I was similarly chided elsewhere: after all, goes the argument, this woman was going to die if her child wasn't killed! A terrible choice for her to make, sure, but still--surely an acceptable one?
Such a view comes from those who subscribe to the view of abortion you are likely to encounter from pro-life members of the GOP: that is, that abortion is a really bad thing, except in circumstances involving rape, incest, or the life or health of the mother, in which case, it's still a really bad thing, it's just permissible and understandable and maybe, when you come to think of it, not such a bad thing after all.
In that world view, abortion is not something that is fundamentally and intrinsically evil. It is just wrong most of the time, when done for the reasons for which most abortions are done, reasons which primarily involve the mother's sense of autonomy and whether or not the pregnancy is convenient to her. Those who accept this notion are comfortable calling themselves pro-life, because they are opposed to most abortions; but they don't think that abortion is intrinsically morally evil in the same way that, say, the murder of an adult human being, a two-year-old child, or an elderly person might be.
The problem with this can be illustrated if we ask the question, why? Why is abortion wrong most of the time but not all of the time?
As a Catholic I see abortion as wrong because it is the direct and intentional killing of an innocent human being. The fact that this killing takes place while he or she is still in his or her mother's womb does not have the power to change the inherent immorality of the action: directly and intentionally killing an innocent human being is always wrong.
And, since I accept that truth, I can see further that if it is always wrong directly and intentionally to take the life of an innocent human being, then no amount of circumstances related to the mother's pregnancy, however grave, dire, unpleasant, unfortunate, tragic or unjust, can change that fundamental moral truth. If it is wrong directly and intentionally to take the life of an innocent human person, then it is wrong to do so even if a gunman holding a classroom full of students hostage promises he will begin shooting them one at a time if the police do not immediately and publicly kill the gunman's enemy.
The only way you can really believe that abortion is wrong most of the time, but not in cases of rape or of incest or when the life or health of the mother is threatened, is if you believe either a) the unborn human being is not really a human being of intrinsic worth, or b) it is not always wrong directly and intentionally to take the life of an innocent human being, and may sometimes be expedient and even morally correct to do so.
Either one of these views, though, is extremely problematic for a pro-life person. If the first is believed, then how does he oppose abortion at all? If the unborn human being is somehow a lesser human being who can be legitimately killed some of the time for some reasons, how is it anything other than a limited personal view that opposes the notion that an unborn human is a lesser being who can be legitimately killed at any time for any reason? In other words, if the unborn human is a lesser being who is less worthy of life, then who is to say whether it is not just as moral to kill her because she will keep her mother from taking an international ski vacation as it is to kill her because she is unknowingly and unintentionally contributing to her mother's pre-existing condition of bad health?
But if the second is believed, that is, that it is not always wrong directly and intentionally to take the life of an innocent human being, then why should this be limited to the lives of unborn humans? If it is expedient, or even morally good, to kill the child of the rape or incest victim or to kill the child who is causing negative health consequences to her mother, why should it not be expedient to kill other human beings, innocent or not? If killing the innocent is sometimes allowable, what, other than the faint vestiges of religion and custom, keeps it from being allowable in regard to the elderly, the handicapped, the drug addict, the homeless man?
I realize that most who subscribe to the "three exceptions" theory think that doing so is compassionate. But in order to think of these exceptions as compassionate, you have to accept that at least some of the time you think unborn humans are expendable or that human life in general is. There is no other way; when you look at the situation in the Phoenix hospital with approval, you are saying to the dead eleven-week old fetus, "Well, most of the time I would agree that your life was valuable and ought to have been protected, but this time, since your mother was dying, I thought it was perfectly justifiable and acceptable for you to be directly and intentionally killed--not secondarily or unintentionally, as might have happened if your mother's pulmonary hypertension had been treated, but as the main goal. In fact, once they got rid of you, your mother did much better--now, don't you agree that your life was worthless, just this once?"
The sad truth is that the mother in question didn't want an abortion. It is apparently the case that she went weeks from her initial consultation with a doctor, who said, "Abort," and washed his hands of her when she wouldn't comply, to the point of her hospitalization. She chose a Catholic hospital under the belief that they would not ever abort her child. How they went about terrifying her into acquiescing in the evil they planned to do to her and to her baby I can only imagine; but I can say without hesitation that it was gravely evil and seriously unjust of them to betray her trust in that way, in addition to the grave evil of slaughtering her unborn child without apparently making any sustained attempt to treat both patients.
When we accept the three big cop-outs, and say that abortion is fine in the case of rape, or incest, or the life or health of the mother, we are betraying women as much as we are turning our backs on their precious children. Abortion is never fine. It is never good. Circumstances can't ever make it so. It is a monstrous evil crying out to Heaven to be remedied. And anyone who thinks abortion is fine some of the time ought to realize that they're not really against the direct and intentional killing of innocent unborn human beings--just against the more egregiously selfish excuses for this modern enlightened variation on infanticide.