US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Hard cases: Brazilian 9-year-old has abortion

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

I'm wary of even mentioning this story, but since this is going to be all over the news, it seems to require comment, and hopefully the conversation that follows will be civil. Those who wish to participate are welcome to do so, but I will be the judge of the charity of those who do.

The case of the 9-year-old Brazilian girl, whose pregnancy was terminated over the objections of the local Brazilian bishop, has to qualify as a moral tragedy: The girl has apparently been abused since she was 6, abuse which obviously included rape. Pregnant with twins and now the subject of public dispute, one wonders if she will ever emotionally recover. You can read the Reuters report here. Then you can storm heaven on her behalf.

I have to question the wisdom of Cardoso Sobrinho, the archbishop of Olinda and Recife, who publicly argued that the child should have carried the pregnancy to term and delivered by Caesarean section, especially when it seems unlikely that the 80-pound girl or the children she may have had would have survived.

I also imagine many moral theologians would have argued that the abortion was at least mitigated in this instance by the horrific circumstances, perhaps even on the grounds of double effect, as women are not morally obliged to carry a pregnancy to term if it is highly likely to endanger her life, as in the case of an ectopic pregnancy or a woman who is diagnosed with cancer or another life-threatening condition who becomes pregnant. 

At any rate I don't think the bishop advanced the church's prolife message by excommunicating those involved in the abortion. Hard cases make bad law. There is a time to speak up and a time to keep silent, and I wonder if the latter wasn't the wiser course. I predict his actions will incite a backlash that may have significant unintended consequences.