If you haven’t heard about this yet, you should: During his debate with challenger Tammy Duckworth back on October 18, Representative Joe Walsh (R-Illinois) indicated that he favored criminalizing abortion in all circumstances, and there was no need for an exception for the health or life of the mother because that never came up. After the debate reporters asked him for clarification: Was he saying that abortion is never necessary to save a woman’s life?
“Absolutely,” Walsh replied, adding, “With modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance.” Hence, he said, “There is no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing.”
Representative Walsh is simply wrong. For one prominent example, back in 2009 a female patient at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix Arizona was near death from pulmonary hypertension and too sick even to be moved to an operating room. Concluding that her death was a virtual certainty unless her pregnancy was terminated, doctors asked the Catholic hospital’s ethics committee for permission to perform an abortion. Normally this would not be allowed under the hospital’s rigid rules, but since in this instance the fetus would die either way, the only real question before the committee was whether to intervene to save the woman’s life, to have a chance to save at least one life. Permission was granted, the abortion took place, and the woman survived, to the joy of her husband and her four children.
However, a nun serving on the ethics committee was later declared by her bishop to have “excommunicated herself” by allowing the doctors to save the woman’s life. The church’s position was that one cannot commit an evil act even for a good end, which sounds reasonable in the abstract, but in practice is like treating a matter of life and death as if it were some arcane problem in interpreting the rules of baseball.
There are plenty of other examples, of course, including one involving one of Walsh’s colleagues in the House, Representative Jackie Speier of California. How is it that we have people serving in our national Legislature who are so ignorant as not to know this, or to think (like Todd Akin) that rape never leads to pregnancy?