(image courtesy priestsforlife.org, Patrick’s face burned by saline)
By Spencer D Gear
I was sitting in the waiting room of a hospital awaiting day surgery shortly after 6am on Thursday, 24 November 2011, when I heard the sad news on Channel 9 TV news, Australia, that an ”Aussie hospital mistakenly aborts wrong twin fetus‘. The essence of this news item was:
- A Victorian (Australian) woman, 32-weeks pregnant, lost her twin babies in a botched abortion on Tuesday, 22 November 2011, at Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital – the wrong baby was ‘terminated’. That means that he was killed.
- Doctors had told the woman that one of the babies had a congenital heart defect requiring many operations if it lived. Obviously the woman had agreed to abort the unhealthy baby.
- Instead of ‘terminating’ the unhealthy twin, the healthy twin was aborted when he was ‘accidentally injected’.
- Then there was ‘an emergency Caesarian section to end the life of the sick child’.
- The mother is traumatized.
- The medical staff involved called it a ‘clinical accident’ and were said to be ‘inconsolable’.
- A hospital spokeswoman apologised, said the hospital was deeply sorry for the loss suffered by patient and family.
- A newspaper, the Herald Sun, said that the family was considering legal action.
See further details at, “Healthy foetus accidentally terminated” (ABC News Australia).
How did I respond?
Here I’ll give a brief personal reflection.
Firstly, I was in a hospital waiting room in the early hours of the morning about to undergo a much less serious procedure when I heard this message on the TV in the waiting room. Instead of thinking of the possibility of a botched procedure in my own case, my heart went out to this mother, father and family who were grieving the loss of twin boys who had already been named. I felt deeply for their loss in such tragic circumstances.
I’ve lost both of my parents through death, but I can’t imagine that this is anything like the severity of losing twin boys through an accidental medical procedure.
Secondly, my grand-daughter was born one month prematurely in July 2011 at 8-months gestation. She was the same age as these twins in their mother’s womb. I know what my grand-daughter looked like as a premature new-born child. These are the size of children that this mother in Melbourne lost. Under normal circumstances they may have been old enough and developed enough to live. I’m thinking of a mother losing two children who could have been the size of my grand-daughter at birth. But the mother did choose to abort one of the boys on doctors’ recommendations.
What are some of the ethical issues?
Is it ever right to abort, even if a child has abnormalities?
1. It should be very obvious with these twin babies that they were old enough to survive outside of the womb under normal circumstances. However, the bigger issue is that abortion always kills human life. See my article, “Abortion and life: A Christian perspective“, that demonstrates that all of life is precious, from conception to the grave. Ethically, I consider that there is only one circumstance in which abortion is an option and that is to save the life of the mother, an example being a tubal pregnancy.
2. What happened at the Melbourne hospital is an example of the medical profession playing God and it went horribly wrong. It is God’s right to give and take life. How do I know?
I am a committed evangelical Christian who takes the Bible seriously. God’s view on life is more important than mine. Hannah’s prayer was, “The Lord gives both death and life; he brings some down to the grave but raises others up” (1 Samuel 2:6 NLT). It is God’s responsibility to give life and to end life. Human beings want to take that responsibility from God. We must remember God’s perspective: “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 NLT).
3. What about abortion of those with disabilities, as with the Melbourne case?
It is often claimed that abortion is a more “humane” alternative for the defective, since it will spare them the agony of “lives devoid of quality and meaning”. I’ll let the handicapped speak for themselves, through a testimony that appeared in 1962 in the London Daily Telegraph in the midst of the thalidomide tragedy:
We were disabled from causes other than Thalidomide, the first of us having two useless arms and hands; the second, two useless legs; and the third, the use of neither arms nor legs.
We were fortunate . . . in having been allowed to live and we want to say with strong conviction how thankful we are that none took it upon themselves to destroy us as helpless cripples.
Here at the Delarue School of spastics [Trowbridge, Kent], one of the schools of the National Spastic Society, we have found worthwhile and happy lives and we face our future with confidence. Despite our disability, life still has much to offer and we are more than anxious, if only metaphorically, to reach out toward the future.
This we hope will give comfort and hope to the parents of the Thalidomide babies, and at the same time serve to condemn those who would contemplate the destruction of even a limbless baby. [Signed by Elane Duckett, Glynn Verdon, Caryl Hodges] (in Davis 1985, pp. 156-57).
4. Are foetuses in the womb human or are they medical tissue to be aborted? There are strong biblical arguments for the foetus being a fully human being (surely the abortion of a foetus at 32-weeks can be recognised as human):
a. Unborn babies are called “children,” the same word used of infants and young children (Luke 1:41, 44; 2:12, 16; Exodus 21:22), and sometimes even of adults (1 Kings 3:17).
b. The unborn are created by God (Psalm 139:13) just as God created Adam and Eve in his image (Genesis 1:27).
c. The life of the unborn is protected by the same punishment for injury or death (Ex. 21:22) as that of an adult (Gen. 9:6).
d. Christ was human (the God-man) from the point he was conceived in Mary’s womb (Matt. 1:20-21; Luke 1:26-27).
e. The image of God includes “male and female” (Gen. 1:27), but it is a scientific fact that maleness or femaleness (sex) is determined at the moment of conception.
f. Unborn children possess personal characteristics such as sin (Ps. 51:5) and joy that are distinctive of human beings.
g. Personal pronouns are used to describe unborn children (Jeremiah 1:5 LXX; Matt. 1:20-21) just as any other human being.
h. The unborn are said to be known intimately and personally by God as he would know any other person (Ps. 139:15-16; Jer. 1:5).
i. The unborn are even called by God before birth (Gen. 25:22-23; Judges. 13:2-7; Isaiah. 49:1, 5; Galatians 1:15).
j. Guilt from an abortion is experienced, therefore, because a person has broken the law of God (sinned), “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13; Matt. 5:21; 19:18; Romans 13:9). Forgiveness can be received through confession to Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9).
“Taken as a whole, these Scripture texts leave no doubt that an unborn child is just as much a person in God’s image as a little child or an adult is. They are created in God’s image from the very moment of conception, and their prenatal life is precious in God’s eyes and protected by his prohibition against murder” (Geisler 1989, p. 148).
5. There is another tragedy in the death of twins in the womb. There could be many couples without children in Australia who would be ready, willing an able to accept a child for adoption who has congenital heart disease and would need many operations throughout life. These people are denied this opportunity.
Adoption numbers are reducing in Australia. One report stated, “There has been a substantial decline in the number of adoptions in Australia since the early 1970s. In 1971–72 there were 9,798 adoptions, which declined to 1,052 in 1991–92, and 576 in 2005–06”. Here are figures for “Adoptions Australia: 2005-2006“.
What a tragedy that some Aussie family has not had the opportunity to adopt a child who had congenital heart disease.
For the benefits of adoption, see my wife, Desley Gear’s, testimony, “Adoption – How sweet the sound“.
I pray that what happened in Melbourne Royal Women’s Hospital will jolt the medical profession and Australians in general to rethink what they are doing in endorsing abortion and what the medical profession is doing in violating its own Hippocratic Oath in killing infants in the womb.
I grieve for the parents involved, but I have deep sorry for the thousands of babies who are killed in the womb in Australia every year. The Australian government states that “it is impossible to quantify accurately the total number of abortions which take place in Australia each year”. Life Network, in the article, “Abortion in Australia“, used government and other statistics to demonstrate that:
estimated 80,000 – 90,000 surgical abortions are performed in Australia each year. This equates to approximately 250 per day, or one abortion for every 2.8 live births. One in three Australian women will have an abortion in their lifetime.
And this is supposed to be the Lucky Country!
Davis, J. J. 1985. Evangelical Ethics: Issues Facing the Church Today. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.
Geisler, N. L. 1989, Christian Ethics: Options and Issues. Leicester, England: Apollos (an imprint of Inter-Varsity Press).
Copyright © 2011 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 October 2015.