Dear esteemed Members of the Sasquatch Committee on Ethics,
I am honored to speak to you today regarding some propositions and urgencies concerning some very controversial legislation placed here before us today. We are tasked with the decision to vote on the use of certain new reproductive technologies and tests. As ethics committee members, it is our responsibility and sole duty to protect our close-knit small town values and represent the people of our great town of Sasquatch, Connecticut.
Before I address the very specific and nuanced technologies to which I refer, I want to remind you all that we must protect the dignity of procreation and human life by leaving them in God’s hands as much as we can. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the clinical setting of a hospital that we end up forgetting what we are truly considering here at Sasquatch Mercy Hospital: life and death. Real people, real bodies and real lives are affected by technological reproductive interventions. We must consider that any “intervention of the human body affects not only the tissues, the organs and their functions, but also involves the person himself…” (144, Donum Vitae).
Here in my proposal I stay true to the values and truths presented in the Holy Catholic Church’s decree: Donum Vitae. This precious document humbles us and reminds us that we walk the fine line of “going beyond the limits of reasonable dominion over nature” (Gen 1:28 as cited in Donum Vitae 141) when we tamper with the natural world by using too many technological interventions in a beautiful, natural, God-given miracle like reproduction. If we begin to make excessive exceptions for the use of these technologies, then we have ignored God’s decree of trusting in Him and His will.
For reasons unbeknownst to me, Sasquatch Mercy has recently dropped its affiliation with the Sasquatch Catholic Church. Surely, our community is ever changing, and we have new members of different faiths, but we are all a God fearin’ folk here in Sasquatch. Whether we are Jewish, Christian, or Islamic, we all uphold conservative values that place God and His will as first and foremost in our minds and hearts. To best serve the people we represent, we- as members of the Committee on Ethics- must consider the core values these faiths have in common when it comes to the question of reproductive technologies. However, because our hospital has historically served members of the Catholic Church and receives generous donations from the Church and its members, we must place those values as first and foremost. As you all know, Sasquatch Mercy is in no position to turn away or discourage any financial support. We need all the help we can get if the hospital is to continue providing free care for the under-insured residents of our town.
Let us take a moment to review each of the reproductive technologies that we are currently considering in an effort to regard each intervention as we rightfully should.
In the case of providing abortion services for underinsured patients, the hospital should not provide these services, save for the case in which both the baby and mother’s lives are threatened by the pregnancy, i.e. in the case of ectopic pregnancy. Here, both the mother and her baby are at risk and would not survive such this specific unsafe gestational circumstance. All other cases should not be subsidized by Sasquatch Mercy Hospital.
In subsidizing abortions (aside from those that would save both the mother and her child), the hospital would essentially place an unwarranted stamp of approval on abortions. In essence, this would also be a stamp of approval on disrupting the sanctity of human procreation as God intended.
Performing abortions (aside from for ectopic pregnancy) negates the foundational basis of society as nature and God intended: exemplified by the conjugal union. In her exposition, Contested Lives, Faye Ginsberg has worded the sentiment of right-to-life proponents eloquently here: “…biological reproduction becomes representation of the continuity of cultural life as well” (Ginsberg 109). The love and unity found in the conjugal union, consisting of man and wife, forms the basis of our society. To haphazardly allow abortion procedures is to go against the ways of nature and the laws of society. Abortion is analogous to withdrawing and denouncing “unconditional, self-sacrificing nurturance” found in the conjugal union (Ginsberg 109). We will examine later how important this union is in the process of human procreation and why we must protect its sanctity.
Considering that a majority of the nurses and physicians at Mercy Hospital abide by Catholic morality, the will be relieved to know that abortions will only be performed in those rare, absolutely necessary circumstances. Due to the rarity of those aforementioned pregnancies, those staff who still feel uncomfortable with performing the procedure will be allowed a temporary transfer into a different hospital department, if they happen to be at work on the day of said rare procedure. We shall not allow any other type of abortion procedure on the sole basis that as faithful Catholics we cannot support infringement on the dignity of human reproduction as God has so blessed us with.
It has been brought to my attention, by Ms. Marmeno, that some patients would be willing to pay for abortion services in full. However, we cannot allow this either (based on the rationale above). Even though our hospital is in need of financial gain, we must remain strong in our moral convictions. Again, only that one particular case, in which a pregnancy is life-threatening to both the mother and child, would warrant performing an abortion.
Since the last time we met as a committee, certain queries regarding a “defense” of abortion have been posed. One argument of particular interest, presented by Judith Jarvis Thomson in her writings on the permissibility of abortion, deserves ample consideration and rebuttal. Thompson’s assertions do not hold water, are often self-contradictory and in complete opposition to the teachings of Catholicism as I will demonstrate below.
Let us examine her analogy on kidney ailment. Thompson asks her readers to imagine themselves having woken up to an unconscious individual with a fatal kidney ailment. She writes, “[his] circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own…. the violinist now is plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it’s only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you” (Thompson 48-49). Thompson asks, “Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation? No doubt it would be very nice of you if you did, a great kindness. But do you have to accede to it? What if it were not nine months, but nine years? Or longer still? What if the director of the hospital says, ‘Tough luck, I agree, but you’ve now got to stay in bed, with the violinist plugged into you, for the rest of your life.’ Because remember this. All persons have a right to life…you have a right to decide what happens in and to your body, but a person’s right to life outweighs your right to decide what happens in and to your body” (Thompson 49).
Although creative and striking at first, upon further examination, Thompson’s proposed hypothetical scenario is in no way analogous to human procreation, especially when we logically consider the process by which a woman becomes pregnant. The conjugal act affords the child dignity and unity with his parents in a way that no stranger “in need of kidney dialysis” would ever be afforded.
Additionally, Thompson’s analogy seems to equate motherhood and/or pregnancy as some type of ‘theft of the body’ for at least nine months. She insinuates that pregnancy occurs in way that is completely against the mother’s will, and that somehow pregnancy involves exchange of the mother’s life, agency, or freedom due to the pregnancy. This theme of bodily theft is captured most clearly here: “They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, ‘Look, we’re sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you-we would never have permitted it if we had known’” (Thompson 49). Again, this reasoning in Thompson’s analogy does not equate the true experience of human procreation. Therefore, Thompson’s arguments- founded upon her notions of usurped agency during pregnancy- are invalidated here.
Now, let us consider the case of prenatal testing. We must keep in mind that the human embryo should be treated with utmost respect, as human beings must be respected from the very first moment in which they exist: from the time at which they are conceived (Donum Vitae 147). Prenatal testing, including amniocentesis will be allowed at Sasquatch Mercy Hospital. Prenatal testing is considered acceptable by the Catholic Church as these tests are advanced enough to not pose a serious threat to the fetus and may ultimately benefit parents in gaining knowledge of potential special (health) circumstances their child may possess.
The question of whether or not to perform amniocentesis tests has come up, as there is a chance of miscarriage, however, recent technological advancements allow doctors to perform these tests while monitoring the baby in order to ensure a safer procedure. Doctors are no longer blindly poking around in the amniotic fluid without knowing whether they will harm the child. According to Rayna Rapp, in her book Testing Women, Testing The Fetus, when sonograms were finally employed in combination with “experimentally invasive techniques of the womb” they became safer and “miscarriage rates attributable to these procedures dropped dramatically” (Rapp 29). So, with the use of sonograms we may provide amniocentesis tests here at Sasquatch Mercy. Ultimately, prenatal tests can be a great way to help parents prepare adequately for the specific and special needs of their child (Donum Vitae 150).
With respect to the consideration of in-vitro fertilization treatments, let us consider the viewpoints of our fellow religious citizens here in Sasquatch. Jewish Halakhic law, and Sharia law allow the usage of IVF with varying particularities, but the consensus is that in a married infertile couple, IVF treatment is permissible (Kahn 2). Sharia law establishes that as long as the procedure does not breach the sanctity of the couple’s marriage (i.e. placing another man’s sperm into the married woman would breach the terms of marriage), IVF is allowed. Shirin Garmaroudi Naef writes, “Fertilizing the ovum of a woman with the sperm of her husband outside of her body and implanting it in the wife’s womb is not forbidden in Islam, and the resulting child is the legal offspring of the married couple” (Naef in Inhorn and Tremayne 166). In Halakhic law the issues with IVF stem from protecting and promoting kinship relations which can be complicated by whether the gestational mother is Jewish or whether donated sperm is from male belonging a particular sect of Judaism (Broyde 316). In also considering our Catholic law, we do see a consensus with Jewish and Muslim sharia law, particularly with respect to placing the unity of marriage as first and foremost (when considering morally licit unities for the aim of producing children). However, when we examine Catholic moral law, we see that the usage of IVF treatments is in direct opposition to the naturally afforded dignity that the conjugal act bestows upon the child.
Donum Vitae states, “It is a child’s right to be conceived and brought into the world in marriage and from marriage” (163). The child must be “the fruit of a conjugal act” because the conjugal act demands that a person has “dignity in his origin” because he is the product of “the conjugal act specific to the love between spouses” (Donum Vitae 163). This love between spouses places the child and his parents on an equal plane because of the parents’ self-giving act and unity required to create the child in the conjugal union. Ultimately, in-vitro fertilization and embryo transfer dissociates the child from the conjugal act, essentially depriving the child the dignity that is supposed to be natural to him.
Thus, in order to appease our Catholic donors and honor the legacy of this historically Catholic hospital, IVF therapies will not be allowed at Sasquatch Mercy Hospital. We must protect the dignity and sanctity of what is natural to human procreation; we must honor the love and unity present in the conjugal act.
In sum, prenatal testing should be confined to the specific use of preserving, protecting, and anticipating potential treatments and procedures the human embryo may require to aid in after birth. Consequently, Embryo donation should not be allowed at the hospital. The human embryo should be treated with utmost respect, as human beings must be respected from the very first moment in which they exist from the moment of conception (Donum Vitae 147). The embryo is human from the moment of conception because of the simple fact that that embryo will develop into a human, and human alone. Therefore, we consider the embryo as human and deserving of utmost care and protection. The use of embryos for scientific research is not in line with respect towards the human embryo.
Spiritual counseling is essential for those dealing with loss, sickness, an emotional distress caused by health issues. Here at Sasquatch Mercy Hospital we take pride in our ability to not only attend to our patient’s physical needs, but also to their emotional and spiritual needs. It is so important for us to keep our faith strong in the midst of life’s trials and tribulations and keep faith in God’s divine will. As a community open to those of all walks of life and faiths, we should open our hearts and provide safe spaces in which patients can get in touch with their own spirituality. We will open our spiritual counseling to members of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths so that each person is able to consult God in his or her own way during their time of need. But, each clergy representative of each religious background shall only be called upon by the request of the patient. Otherwise, these clergymen should give the patient, their family, and attending physician family ample space by not intervening in the patient’s chosen medical care. To ensure this, we will place clergy offices in the back office rooms located on the Sasquatch Mercy’s lobby floor.
My dear friends; brothers and sisters of the board, please remember that “science without conscience can only lead to man’s ruin” (143, Donum Vitae) and it is up to us, and us alone, to uphold this sacred value. Please vote with God’s divine will in your minds, heart, and spirit.
Rev. John Doe
Michael J. Broyde, “Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law,” In Michael J. Broyde and Michael Ausubel editors, Marriage, Sex and the Family in Judaism (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005), pp. 295-328.
Donum Vitae In Shanon, Thomas A. and Lisa Sowle Cahill, Religion and Artificial Reproduction: An Inquiry into the Vatican “Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Reproduction.” (Crossroad, 1988).
Faye Ginsburg, Contested Lives: The Abortion Debate in an American Community (University of California Press, 1989).
Susan Martha Kahn, Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel (Duke University Press, 2000)
Shirin Garamoudi Naef, “Gestational Surrogacy in Iran,” In Marcia C. Inhorn and Soraya Tremayne editors, Islam and Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Berghahn Books, 2012).
Judith Jarvis Thompson, “A Defense of Abortion.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (1971): 47-66.
Rayna Rapp, Testing Women, Testing the Fetus (Routledge, 2000)