Here is a story that I have heard about that sums up the abortion debate:
When rape results in pregnancy, or when giving birth might cost the mother's life, few women would fail to consider as an alternative:
But let's say you're a doctor--a physician not morally adverse to terminating a patient's pregnancy--and the circumstances are neither frivolous
Let's say that on a given day you are consulted by two young women, both pregnant, both doubtful as to whether they should be.
Now, remember: such a choice is ultimately the mother's, but because you are a physician, and because your judgment is respected, and because your
patient is seeking guidance, everything you say, regardless of how clinically objective--yes, even the tone of your voice--may sway her decision.
Yours is a position of enormous responsibility. Like it or not, the very expression on your face could save or extinguish a life.
Your first expectant mother is Caterina. Caterina is unmarried, obviously in her teens, obviously poor. You ask her age, and she tells you, and at
once you realize she has overstated her years by one or two or three.
Caterina is in the first trimester of her pregnancy. You ask if she has been pregnant before. Caterina shakes her head. Studying her, you wonder.
You inquire of her general health; no problems, she says.
And the health of the father? Caterina shrugs; her eyes fall.
She has lost contact with the father of her unborn child. All she knows is he was twenty-three, a lawyer or a notary or something like that. He
lives nearby, she thinks; she is not sure. The affair was over quickly, little more than a one-night stand. No child was expected--nor now is
What Doctor, is your advice?
Later the same day, you are consulted by a second expectant mother.
Her name is Klara. Klara is twenty-eight, married three years, the wife of a government worker; she has the look of a woman accustomed to anguish.
Concerned for the ultimate health of her unborn, Klara explains that for each year of her marriage she has had a child--and each has died; the first
within thirty-one months, the second within sixteen months, the third within several days. Disease? You ask. Klara nods. She suspects that any
future child would be equally susceptible. For you see, her husband is also her second cousin. Both Catholic, they received papal dispensation to
marry--though now Klara questions their wisdom in asking permission.
And there's something else...
One of Klara's sisters is a hunchback; another sister, the mother of a hunchback. Klara is in the first trimester of her fourth pregnancy. The odds
are against the health of her child. Time is running out.
And it is only later that you learn--Klara's husband is not, as she has said, her second cousin. He is her uncle.
So what, Doctor, is your advice?
In addition to all immediate considerations--physical, moral, religious--the dilemma of whether to terminate a pregnancy is a philosophical
Might this life, if left to live, affect the consciousness or even the destiny of mankind?
Yet if the profundity of this question is diminished by the balance which governs all life, there is evidence in the two true stories you have just
heard: the unwed mother with unwanted child; the married mother with the graves of three infants behind her.
For if you, as the hypothetical physician, have opted in both cases for abortion--then you have respectively denied the world the multifaceted genius
of Leonardo da Vinci--and spared humanity the terror of Adolf Hitler.