Saturday, 7 March 2009

The Brazilian rape/abortion horror

I've been a bit reluctant to post on this horrific story of a nine year old girl abused by her stepfather and found to be pregnant with twins, and who has now had an abortion because the full story seemed to be lacking. But the Lifesite has now provided some crucial background to the case. I therefore reproduce it in full, with my emphases.

The facts of the case

"Archbishop Announces Excommunication of Doctor and Family Members for Abortion on Nine-Year-Old Girl

Calls abortion a "holocaust worse than the six million Jews, which we lament every year"

By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman, RECIFE, BRAZIL, March 5, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) -

The Archbishop of the Brazilian city of Recife has announced the excommunication of a doctor who performed an abortion on a nine year old girl, as well as the family members who made the decision to carry out the procedure.

The girl, whose name has not been revealed by the Brazilian media, was found to be pregnant with twins recently. Her stepfather has confessed that he began molesting her at the age of three and that he is the father of the child. He is under arrest pending an investigation of his relationship with his stepdaughter, as well as her 14 year old sister.

Although doctors at the hospital where the girl was initially admitted, Imip, reportedly said that her life was not in danger, her mother reportedly transferred her to another hospital, Cisam, that was willing to do the abortion, which is not penalized under Brazilian law because the girl was raped.

José Cardoso Sobrinho, Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, confirmed that while the child would not be held accountable for the act, the doctor who carried out the abortion and anyone who assisted or gave their approval were excommunicated by the Church.

"To be subject to this penalty is it is necessary to be of age. The Church is very benevolent, especially with minors," the Archbishop told the media. "Now the adults, those who approved, who carried out this abortion, are excommunicated."

Sobrinho brushed aside the notion that the legality of the abortion under Brazilian law was a sufficient excuse for those involved."The law of God is above all human law," he said. "Therefore, when a human law, meaning a law promulgated by human legislators, is contrary to the law of God, this human law has no value.

"Abortion, he said, is "homicide against innocent life. We are talking about a silent holocaust, that kills a one million innocents in Brazil and fifty million in the world every year, a holocaust worse than the six million Jews, which we lament every year."

The Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife was preparing to file a motion to prevent the abortion when news arrived that it had already been carried out. The Archbishop's decision to announce the excommunication, which is automatic under the Church's law for those who participate in an abortion, was met with denunciations publicized by Brazil's media, which is dominated by liberal ideologues. Among those quoted was Brazil's pro-abortion health minister, Jose Gomes Temporao, who repeated the claim that the girl was at risk from the pregnancy.

However, an attorney for the Archdiocese, who was preparing to file a motion to stop the abortion when word came that it had already been done, told the media that "various specialists from Imip, which is a major hospital, say that she didn't have a risk of dying. They could have waited longer."

In an interview with ElPais.com yesterday, Sobrinho held firm.

"I'm not sorry. What I did was to declare the excommunication. It is my obligation to alert the people, so that they may fear the laws of God," he told the online publication.

The Archbishop will reportedly give a homily against abortion at the launch of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops annual Fraternity Campaign this Saturday. Last year's Campaign was entitled "Fraternity and the Defense of Life" and galvanized the nation's Catholic majority against the practice. A nationwide poll last year indicated that 68% of Brazilians oppose the further legalization of the abortion, which is not criminally penalized only in rape cases, or when the mother's life is in danger. Sobrinho made headlines earlier this month when he denounced the distribution of millions of contraceptives for Carnival, a festival that precedes the Catholic celebration of Lent."

A few points

This is a terrible story.

One must feel desperately sorry for the raped child.

Yet our first instincts as Catholics must be to oppose abortion in any circumstances - not to find excuses for it occurring as many commenters on other sites and blogs appear to be doing. Two wrongs simply do not make a right.

Moreover, those fearing for the child's mental health should consider that she may well have experienced the abortion as a further assault on her body over which she had no control.

I have to say that my first instinct is not sympathy for the mother in this case. Was her judgment impaired due to the horrific circumstances? Perhaps, but on the face of it she was either culpable in not stopping the abuse from occurring in the first place, or must have been utterly oblivious to her children not to realize that something was wrong. And she clearly made active decisions to insist on an abortion to deal with the situation. Frankly, I'm surprised child protection authorities haven't taken custody or at least challenged the mother's authority to make decisions for the child until it is clear that she had no role in allowing the abuse to occur.

If there really is a double effect case to be made as some have suggested, then the judgment should be made taking into account the expert advice of a priest. Clearly this didn't occur. We should therefore laud the Archbishop for defending Church teaching.

An example for bishops everywhere.

And in the meantime, Melbourne trembled...

And possibly not completely unrelated to the subject of abortion, Melbourne had an earthquake last night...

21 comments:

Al said...

I hope I am wrong, but I suspect that the mother was trying to get the abortion done under the radar to cover up what her husband had done so he wouldn't get charged.

Terra said...

Al,

Perhaps, although apparently the stepfather did come forward and give himself up. The point I guess is not that we should make judgments about the relevant motives, because in the end we just don't know, but that in a situation like this where the presumptions should lie.

Aussie Therese said...

I totally agree with you about the mental health of the child. It is astounding that people don't think this could have a further affect on her life.

I think people need to realize when we abort a baby because a person has been raped or is a victim of incest we are punishing the baby for the sins of his/her father. No one in their right mind would take a child that has been born and kill them if their father rapes/murders a women. Too many people don't see the child in the womb as a living person with the same rights as anyone else.

Annette said...

"Moreover, those fearing for the child's mental health should consider that she may well have experienced the abortion as a further assault on her body over which she had no control."

And how was she suppose to experience the caesarian section that would have been neccessary to deliver these two babies - even assuming she was still alive by that time?

How was she to experience the growing of two babies inside her for several more months?

I think an abortion would have been the least worst of all options, especially as she could quite easily have died without it.

The catholic church might very well claim the right to excommunicate those involved, but the rest of us simply say shame on it for preferring to endanger this girl's life.

And let's not forget that she is too young to properly consent to accept the church's doctrine on abortion. So the church is forcing its doctrine on her, possibly up to the point of death.

You may be convinced of the rightness of everything the catholic church says, but not everyone is. However, as adults we are able to reject its teaching if we so choose. But this girl isn't. No church should have the right to impose its will on those who haven't freely consented to be bound by its rules.

Terra said...

Annette,

Why do you assume that she would have experienced the growing children and subsequent caesarian negatively? We simply can't know.

She may well have found a reverence for life, a sense that something good had come out of the evil.

The point is that three lives were at stake and now two of them are dead, never having been given even a chance of survival. This is not a case of rules beng arbitrarily imposed on someone, but of an objective truth to which we are all subject.

Annette said...

"Why do you assume that she would have experienced the growing children and subsequent caesarian negatively? We simply can't know."

And why do you assume that she would have experienced the abortion negatively? We simply can't know.

As for your claim of "objective truth" - it's no such thing.

First all, not everyone accepts that a foetus is a human life whose rights are equal to that of a human being who has actually been born. You're entitled to your view, but you should realise that other people take a different view - and that includes deeply moral people who have thought long and hard about the issues and about the competing rights of foetuses and mothers.

Secondly, the issue here is if that the girl was said to be so small that her uterus could not contain even one baby, then the abortion was the only way to save one of those three lives.

"Fatima Maia, director of the public university hospital where the abortion was performed, said the 15-week-old pregnancy posed a serious risk to the 80-pound (36-kilogram) girl.

'She is very small. Her uterus doesn't have the ability to hold one, let alone two children,' Maia told the Jornal do Brasil newspaper."


http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,504525,00.html

It seems that the two foetuses could almost certainly not have survived anyway. At least this way the girl survived.

I have no quarrel with the church believing that abortion is murder, and seeking to promulgate that view to persuade adult women to its way of thinking. But what I strongly object to is this being forced onto a child, to the point where she could quite well have died.

Terra said...

Objective truth - is our existence all imagination? Are the laws on which we base our society - the prohibition of murder for example somehow relative?

In terms of the facts of the case, the reality is that the first hospital she was treated at didn't not come to these conclusions, or at least wanted more time to assess the situation. It is the fact that the mother swtiched hospitals to get the outcome she wanted that makes the comments noted above look like rationalisations after the fact.

My point about her reaction to events is that those advocating abortion invariably leap to a particular conclusion about her subjective experience that may or may not be justified and assert it as fact.

Louise said...

Annette, since when have you been an advocate of the death penalty for the children of criminals?

Also, a c-section is no worse than most other kinds of necessary surgery (I've had c-sections and I also had spinal surgery when I was 12 - none of it was pleasant, but with good care, it was something I could fairly easily live through).

The girl, being a child, and not having become a sophisticate, might well experience the horror of knowing that the babies who had been inside her are now dead.

Nobody denies that this is an horrific situation, but you can't kill people to solve your problems and the abortion may well have made things worse for the girl herself, not better.

Annette said...

"Objective truth - is our existence all imagination? Are the laws on which we base our society - the prohibition of murder for example somehow relative?",

What I am disputing - and what millions of people dispute - is that abortion of a foetus is murder. You claim that it is. Fair enough - but it's not an objective truth, it's an assertion. You are asserting that terminating a foetus is murder.

The catholic church has changed its mind more than once over the centuries about how old the foetus has to be before aborting it would be murder. So it's hard to argue for objective truth here when even the church couldn't make up its mind for several centuries.

"In terms of the facts of the case, the reality is that the first hospital she was treated at didn't not come to these conclusions, or at least wanted more time to assess the situation.
It is the fact that the mother swtiched hospitals to get the outcome she wanted that makes the comments noted above look like rationalisations after the fact."


I haven't seen this claim about this having been the second hospital the mother tried anywhere else but on this blog. I assume you have a source for it?

Also, if the first hospital wanted more time to assess the situation, how do you know that they would eventually have disagreed with the second hospital's conclusion?

I don't think it's rationalising after the fact for several doctors to say that an 80 pound child didn't have a uterus large enough to carry twins to term, and that if she were forced to do so, she might very well have died.

"My point about her reaction to events is that those advocating abortion invariably leap to a particular conclusion about her subjective experience that may or may not be justified and assert it as fact."

I did not leap to any such conclusion. You introduced the issue of her subjective experience by claiming, "Moreover, those fearing for the child's mental health should consider that she may well have experienced the abortion as a further assault on her body over which she had no control."

Annette said...

"Annette, since when have you been an advocate of the death penalty for the children of criminals?"

And since when have you been an advocate of the death penalty for child victims of rape?

The child's life was in danger. Why is that not being respected here? Why are the lives of two 15 week old foetuses being given more importance than the life of a 9 year old child?

"Also, a c-section is no worse than most other kinds of necessary surgery."

Quite possibly - assuming she lived long enough to have a C-section.

"Nobody denies that this is an horrific situation, but you can't kill people to solve your problems and the abortion may well have made things worse for the girl herself, not better."

You may think it's killing people, but others don't. That's the whole point.

I've been on both sides of the abortion question, having been brought up as a catholic and formerly been opposed to abortion (though not for rape or when the life of the mother was in danger). What the years have taught me is to have some humility in my views, to accept the possibility that I might be wrong about things.

But this is what so many religions, including the catholic church, fail at. So many of them have the arrogance to claim that they are right and everyone else is wrong - and what is worse, to seek to impose their views on other people.

And that's the crux of my argument here - that the church was trying to impose its will on a child who was too young to consent to be bound by its teachings.

It did the same to me. I was brought up in catholic schools and catholicism was forced on me as if it was the only possible truth. It did me no great harm (though I know children who were harmed by it). But then I wasn't at any time required to risk my life for its beliefs, as this child was.

It's useless making this plea in this arena, but I'll make it anyway - believe what you will, but please have the humility to accept that you might be wrong. And if you might be wrong, by what right do you then seek to impose your views on a child?

Those doctors were trying to save the child's life. It's as simple as that. You might not like it, you might call it murder, but other people beg to disagree with you. At least let that child's life be saved so that she has a chance of deciding for herself later on what creed she wishes to follow - if any.

Terra said...

Annette - You obviously didn't read the post above properly, because it gives the information about the first hospital's assessment. Perhaps they would have changed it down the track - the point is that the situation of danger had not yet been reached in their view. And my understanding is that issues about babies being 'too big' generally have to do with delivery, not bringing to term.

Secondly your claim that the church has changted its positon on this subject over the centuries is utterly false. The Church has always taught tht infanticide of any kind and at any time is wrong.

Terra said...

How can we decide whose life is the more important? The fact that they are particular ages is irrelevant to the question.

I remember vividly having this same debate with my sister, and her being totally flummoxed when I told her something that she hadn't known - that my mother had been strongly advised to abort my brother for medical reasons. She refused, deciding to take the risk in view of her faith, and he was born, a premmie but healthy. Our reaction changes when it is someone you actually know who might not have lived. Yet all of what you term 'potential lives' are real people.

I'm sad to hear that you have lost your faith Annette and pray that you recover it. Yes we do need humility in the search for truth, but once we have found it we should cling to it desperately.

Humility though demands that we be grateful for the undeserved gift of faith, not acceptance of error.

Because the consequences of living as if God does not exist are much more dire for each of us if we are wrong than living as if God does exist.

Louise said...

What the years have taught me is to have some humility in my views, to accept the possibility that I might be wrong about things.

Nonsense. I don't hear you saying, "well maybe I'm wrong, but I just think the doctors were trying to save the girl's life." No, you were just as dogmatic as I am.

According to the reports I've read, the child was "at risk" but not in imminent danger of death, so that makes your question to me irrelevant.

Secularism is just as dogmatic as Catholicism and children are being indoctrinated by it all the time - more so than the Church ever indoctrinated you, so give it a rest.

Bottom line: you can't kill people to solve your problems. Whether you're Catholic or not.

Louise said...

The catholic church has changed its mind more than once over the centuries about how old the foetus has to be before aborting it would be murder. So it's hard to argue for objective truth here when even the church couldn't make up its mind for several centuries.

Who has imposed on you with this lie?

Annette said...

Sorry, I did read the post fully when I first came across this site, but when I asked for the source of the first hospital's assessment, I forgot that it had been given in the original post.

Annette: The catholic church has changed its mind more than once over the centuries about how old the foetus has to be before aborting it would be murder. So it's hard to argue for objective truth here when even the church couldn't make up its mind for several centuries.

Louise: Who has imposed on you with this lie?

Terra: Secondly your claim that the church has changted its positon on this subject over the centuries is utterly false. The Church has always taught tht infanticide of any kind and at any time is wrong.


This source, among others, lays out the changes over the centuries in the church's teachings on when abortion is murder:
http://www.religioustolerance.org/abo_hist_c.htm

See also:
http://www.religiousconsultation.org/News_Tracker/moderate_RC_position_on_contraception_abortion.htm


Nonsense. I don't hear you saying, "well maybe I'm wrong, but I just think the doctors were trying to save the girl's life." No, you were just as dogmatic as I am.

I wasn't being dogmatic, I was simply reporting what the doctors had said. They are reported to have said that they considered the child's life to be in danger, and thus carried about an abortion.

And of course the child wasn't at risk of imminent death last week, no-one's claiming that, since the pregnancy was still at an early stage. The point was that continuing the pregnancy would have been life-threatening, in the opinion of the doctors.

I think it's important to remember that those doctors would have had to be very careful before carrying out the abortion to ensure that they couldn't later be prosecuted for it. Brazilian law prohibits abortion, except in cases of rape or threat to the mother's life. The doctors couldn't know for certain that the child had been raped - although it's reported that the step-father has confessed to abusing her, there's been no proof of rape in a court of law yet. So their best defence if they are charged with illegal abotion will be that the child's life was in danger. One of the doctors has been quoted as saying that the child's uterus is too small to carry even one baby, let alone two. This is a claim that can be tested in the courts if they are charged, so I doubt they would have made it if they hadn't been fairly confident that most other doctors would agree with them later on.


Louise: Bottom line: you can't kill people to solve your problems. Whether you're Catholic or not.

You're claiming that early abortion is "killing people", but you don't seem to understand that not everyone agrees with you that early abortion is murder. Why should the rest of us be bound by your beliefs?

Terra: Yes we do need humility in the search for truth, but once we have found it we should cling to it desperately. Humility though demands that we be grateful for the undeserved gift of faith, not acceptance of error.

Don't you see the contradiction in what you've said? You're claiming that you have now found The Truth. That's not humility.

Louise and Terra, you clearly have strong views on abortion and the existence of god, and I respect that. But others of us have different views - why don't you respect them? Intelligent and good people have come to different decisions about whether or not god(s) exist. So who is to say who is correct? Certainly not me, and certainly not you either. Believe if you will, but claims that you are definitely right and non-believers are definitely wrong seem rather arrogant.


Because the consequences of living as if God does not exist are much more dire for each of us if we are wrong than living as if God does exist

Yes, Pascal's Wager. There are a number of objections to it, and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes them in more detail than I can:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pascal-wager/#5

I repeat, my objection to what went on is Brazil doesn’t concern who does or doesn’t believe abortion is wrong – it’s simply about the fact that the church sought to impose its dogma on a child, a child who is too young to be able to make a free and informed decision about which belief system she will eventually subscribe to. And that in this case, the church was seeking to force the child to risk her life for its beliefs.

Annette said...

Secularism is just as dogmatic as Catholicism and children are being indoctrinated by it all the time - more so than the Church ever indoctrinated you, so give it a rest.

I beg to differ. As a child, I was told that catholicism was right, and everyone else was wrong, even other christian churches (if they differed from the catholic church). But children these days are presented with information about many different belief systems, including non-religious ones. Except in faith schools, where they receive the same kind of narrow religious education that I was given.

I'm not sure who exactly you mean by "secularists", and therefore who you're claiming is dogmatic. Do you mean atheists, agnostics, humanists, free-thinkers, rationalists, scientists, pagans or wiccans? Or all of them? If so, they mostly get on with their own lives rather than trying to force their beliefs onto others. They certainly express their views, but there's rarely any dogma.

As an example of how "secularists" behave, the British Humanist Association's website states the following: "We campaign on the basis of human rights, including the rights of people with religious beliefs, and a humanist view of society. The law upholds freedom of ‘religion or belief’ and the word ‘belief’ in this legal sense includes non-religious worldviews or lifestances such as Humanism."

Among other things, the BHA works with government bodies that prepare materials for religious education and philosophy classes in schools. They've contributed material that explains humanist beliefs to children, working alongside those contributing material about religions. Many belief systems are presented to the children, both religious and non-religious. The BHA is certainly not campaigning to stop religion being taught in schools, or trying to force its views onto children.

As they say, "Schools are where many people – parents, children and teachers – first encounter religion and religious privilege and school-related requests for help advice and guidance constitute the largest single category of requests for help that the BHA receives from the public. We have campaigned and lobbied for over a century for the rights and interests of humanists and other non-religious people in education, for non-religious beliefs to be respected in schools, and for a genuinely inclusive school system where all pupils are educated together, not separately according to the beliefs of their parents, and will receive a rounded and broad education."

http://www.humanism.org.uk/home

As for atheists, often portrayed as dogmatic because they supposedly claim that god doesn't exist, even Richard Dawkins says only that "there almost certainly is no god."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-dawkins/why-there-almost-certainl_b_32164.html

And that seems to be the position of most atheists, that there probably isn't a god and that they live their lives on that basis. Very few claim there definitely isn't one.

Finally, last year, a young atheist comedienne, tired of seeing rather strident christian advertising on buses etc, wondered whether it would be possible to raise enough money for a small campaign of adverts that put the other viewpoint. She hoped to raise £5000 for a short campaign of adverts on some London buses. Within a short period of time, over £140,000 was donated by the public. Earlier this year, the adverts appeared on many buses in London and the rest of the UK.

Some christian groups were cross at seeing atheist ads, and mounted their own campaigns. I saw one of their ads the other day, in the same typeface and colour as the original atheist ad. I think the difference in the wording of the two ads speaks volumes. The original atheist ad began "There's probably no god." The christian ad began "There definitely is a god."

So who's being dogmatic?

Louise said...

Annette, according to the esteemed GK Chesterton, there are two kinds of people: those who are dogmatic and know they are; and those who are dogmatic and don't know they are.

I am in the first group and you are in the second. I have no objection to dogmatism, but I do object to those who are dogmatic, but think or claim they are no such thing.

Your own dogmatism would bother me a lot less if it were actually rational, although obviously I would still disagree with you.

Louise said...

I saw one of their ads the other day, in the same typeface and colour as the original atheist ad.

It's a complete red herring of course and means very little in the context of this post, but I think the pictures you saw were probably generated by an atheist bus campaign generator. I developed one of my own, incidentally.

Louise said...

You're claiming that early abortion is "killing people", but you don't seem to understand that not everyone agrees with you that early abortion is murder.

Actually, I understand that perfectly.

Why should the rest of us be bound by your beliefs?

Well, since you can't prove that it isn't a human being, I would have thought that the humane thing would be to err on the side of caution.

Let's face it, if you are wrong, you are imposing your own beliefs on a small human being in a very terminal way. You are also, incidentally, imposing your own beliefs on the taxes of my family. So, frankly, I don't give a damn about your worries about me imposing my beliefs on you, when in fact, I do no such thing, since abortion is accessible just about everywhere.

Abortion supporters do all the imposing, not us.

I wasn't being dogmatic, I was simply reporting what the doctors had said.

Madam, you are quite insistent that the Catholic Church is wrong to impose its views on a girl who cannot decide for herself.

Also, the Church has *never* said a procured abortion was ethical, even if views on ensoulment have altered in the light of better embryology. Procured abortion has always been condemned by the Church.

And that in this case, the church was seeking to force the child to risk her life for its beliefs.

I think you will find that the Church was seeking to point out that the babies had the right to live.

But others of us have different views - why don't you respect them?

You do not respect our views, you disagree with them. You may respect us, but don't come here and argue the toss with us, while claiming to respect our views. Nor do I expect you to respect my views. I do expect you to respect us. There is a difference between respecting someone and respecting their views. We manifestly cannot all be right on this issue. Either abortion is killing or it's not. There is no middle ground.

Louise said...

As a child, I was told that catholicism was right, and everyone else was wrong, even other christian churches (if they differed from the catholic church).

Look, if you can't see that the TV etc all teach children that the Catholic Church is wrong for opposing contraception, divorce, abortion and gay sex yada yada, and that it's in the Dark ages blah blah blah, then I can't help you see it, even though this view is around us all day long.

I'm not sure who exactly you mean by "secularists"

I mean anyone who holds the views of the Church I have just mentioned above and who claim there is no objective truth, while all the time *acting* as though there is.

E.g. forcing Catholic doctors and nurses to participation in abortions against their will as per the draconian Victorian abortion laws. Calling people "bigots" for being opposed to "gay marriage" etc is another classic example.

Sharon said...

Annette the article by Daniel Maguire you referenced in support of your claim The catholic church has changed its mind more than once over the centuries about how old the foetus has to be before aborting it would be murder.
provides no sources for one to check the accuracy of Mr Maguire's claims.

A little info about Mr Maguire
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/23/us/23prof.html?_r=2&oref=slogin
Bishops Denounce Writings of a Catholic Theologian Daniel C. Maguire