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Sebastian's Point

Sebastian's Point is a weekly column written by one of our members regarding timely events or analysis of relevant ideas, which impact the Culture of Life. All regular members are invited to submit a column for publication at soss.submissions@gmail.com. Columns should be between 800 to 1300 words and comply with the high standards expected in academic writing, including proper citations of authority or assertions referred to in your column. Please see, Submission Requirements for more details.

In Defense of the Pro-Life Texas Abortion Ban

Joe Kral, M.A.

President

Society of St. Sebastian  |  09 June 2024

 

Recently, the Houston Chronicle editorial board published an op-ed piece criticizing the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling regarding the state’s pro-life Abortion Ban.[i] Over the course of the last two years, there have been multiple efforts by various actors (abortionists, pro-abortion law firms, media, etc.) to stir up the claim that pro-life Abortion Bans are not clear when it comes to medical emergencies involving abortion. As just mentioned, the Texas Supreme Court issued a ruling, and that ruling dealt with the medical emergency exception[ii] The Court, in brief, stated that the law is, indeed, clear. Naturally, opponents of the law balked at the ruling and continued their tirade. What the opponents don’t seem to understand is that law, in general, cannot be overly specific. The Texas Supreme Court upheld this principle and, as a result, upholds a time-proven Thomistic legal idea when it comes to the very notion regarding the nature of any law.

 

 

Those who have argued that the law needs to be more specific, and in particular, those who argued before the Texas Supreme Court, seem to miss an important point regarding law itself. The fact remains that law is not meant to be overly specific to begin with. Aquinas is clear that the law must apply generally, “Since then the lawgiver cannot have in view every single case, he shapes the law according to what happens most frequently, by directing his attention to the common good.”[iii] The idea is that 1) the lawmaker cannot come up with every conceivable exception to the general rule and 2) if a law is overly specific, it may not contribute to the common good itself since it is overly specific. As Thomas states,

 

 

No man is so wise as to be able to take account of every single case, and therefore he is not able sufficiently to express in words all those things that are suitable for the end he has in view. And even if a lawgiver were able to take all those cases into consideration, he ought not to mention them all, in order to avoid confusion, but should frame the law according to that which is of the most common occurrence.[iv]

 

 

This helps explain why the medical exception rule within the law is general. In fact, the Texas law states,

 

 

in the exercise of reasonable medical judgment, the pregnant female on whom the abortion is performed, induced, or attempted has a life-threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy that places the female at risk of death or poses a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless the abortion is performed or induced.[v]

 

 

As one can see, the law is general enough to include many different sorts of circumstances in which the pregnant mother is facing an extremely problematic pregnancy. But the law does lay out some general rules in which the doctor can reasonably follow: 1) the doctor must exercise reasonable medical judgement. Meaning, the diagnosis the doctor reaches, due to his best medical judgement concludes, that no other option exists in which he can save the life of the mother without aborting the unborn child. This comes down to the second point: 2) that the doctor, by doing his due diligence, will come to know what options are available to save both mother and child first. If absolutely no option exists, then it comes down to saving one of the two lives. This places a duty upon the doctor; that is, he must educate himself of the latest techniques available that help pregnant women in these situations. If he fails to do this then his judgement can legitimately be questioned.

 

 

The goal is that the doctor does the just action, not the most expedient. And so, yes, the moral obligation is legalized that the doctor performs his proper duty as a doctor, not only to the best of his ability but also to inform himself of the latest lifesaving techniques that save both mother and child. This is what is due to both mother and unborn child. Justice being the aim of law, “Therefore human law makes precepts only about acts of justice; and if it commands acts of other virtues, this is only in so far as they assume the nature of justice.”[vi]

 

 

Roe radically changed the culture, and it certainly changed the medical culture, particularly obstetrics. As Dr. David Franks posits in a recent article, “Unless you have gone through such an experience, it is hard to credit that a medical specialty supposedly devoted to maternal-fetal health could have become so ideologized as to pressure for abortion with so little thought, so little care, and so little humanity. But obstetrics has indeed become thoroughly divorced from the basic obligations of medical care over which it should stand sentinel.”[vii] Legalized abortion became not only the most expedient avenue of “treatment,” but it stifled knowledge within the field since it placed so little value on the unborn. In essence, the moral obligation to look at the child as a patient was largely ignored because there was no legal obligation to do so. Simply put, many OB/GYN’s simply looked at the unborn child as a thing to be removed since abortion was legal to help correct any sort of “health” concern of the mother.

 

 

Thankfully, the Texas law is now making doctors look at the unborn as patients; as human beings deserving of the right to life. Abortion is not to be treated as routine medical care in Texas. It is to be only used in the most extreme of circumstances and those circumstances are very rare. It is time for doctors within Texas to step up and not only meet their legal obligation but their moral one as well.

 

 

____________________

[i] Editorial Board, “Texas Abortion Exceptions Are Clear as Blood. Just Ask the Texas Supreme Court,” Houston Chronicle, June 5, 2024.

[ii] The ruling was published on May 31, 2024. The case is Zurawski v. Texas (23-0629).

[iii] Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 96, A. 5.

[iv] Id.

[v] Texas Health & Safety Code 170A.002(b)(2)

[vi] Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 100, A. 2.

[vii] Franks, David, “Prudence as Attentive Love and the Sophistry of Abortion Abolitionism,” Journal of Bioethics in Law & Culture, Spring edition, Volume 7, Issue 2, 2024.

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