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Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

so who decides?

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Sep 27, 2005

Pro-abort Amy Sullivan has any interesting article in the Boston Globe explaining how NARAL and NOW imperil the future of abortion by harming the electability of Democrats. I'd like to pick up on one phrase mentioned in passing:

The issue, for people like me, isn't certitude -- we don't question that the decision to end a pregnancy should be left up to a woman and her doctor.

As John Wauck once wrote in the Human Life Review, the phrase "a woman and her doctor" is little more than an outdated figure of speech, like "a boy and his dog." For most women who undergo an abortion, by the time they first see a doctor they're already sedated and in the stirrups.

But let's take Sullivan's language at face value: "the decision to end a pregnancy should be left up to a woman and her doctor." This, of course, is a deviation from the strict feminist orthodoxy, according to which the woman and only the woman decides to abort. But if we include the doctor in the decision-making process, it's obvious that there are two persons, hence two wills, hence four possible scenarios regarding the choice to abort: woman pro doctor pro; woman con doctor con; woman pro doctor con; woman con doctor pro.

Where woman and doctor concur there is no problem from Sullivan's perspective. But what if they disagree?

Now it might be the case that Sullivan is simply saying that a woman should solicit medical advice and then do what she damn well pleases; if so, her view reduces to the standard feminist position, and the doctor's advice is just one more datum that goes into her equation (like the data provided by her banker, her boyfriend, her employer, etc.). My hunch is that if, for example, the woman wanted to abort but her doctor advised against it -- on the grounds, say, that it might aggravate her depression -- 99% of NARAL/NOW feminists would uphold the woman's will against the doctor's advice, regardless of how well qualified the doctor was and how ill-suited the woman was to make the decision.

But take the last possibility: woman con doctor pro. Imagine a pro-choice woman who manages to conceive a much-desired child late in life. Testing shows the fetus is defective and the mother's desire to continue the pregnancy is no longer clear, changing from day to day. During in utero surgery to correct the abnormality, the doctor decides the fetus is beyond repair and aborts it, let's say, based on his own medical judgment. To make the example more interesting, let's imagine that the woman is cognitively impaired and that whatever consent she gave to the surgeon's prerogatives was founded on gross misunderstanding of the medical reality. When she awakes from the anesthesia she is devastated by the news of what the surgeon has done and sues. Well, Ms. Sullivan, Ms. Gandy, Ms. Michelman: who wins -- the woman or her doctor?

(tip to Amy)

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