Tuesday, May 08, 2007

PPA not necessarily an abortion, but formal murder...

Well the things you find when you look for answers to unrelated questions...

A Pastoral Letter on Abortion and Excommunication

The Most Reverend Rene H. Gracida, D.D.
Bishop of Corpus Christi

September 8, 1990


106. Because penalties in Church law are to be strictly interpreted (canon 18), all the conditions specified in canon 1398 must be present for it to be operative. There must first be a pregnancy and a subsequent abortion which has taken place. The term "abortion", derived from ABORIOR, in its strict etymological sense means death. Abortion has come to signify the delivery of an immature or non-viable baby. A non-viable baby is one that cannot survive outside the womb even with medical assistance. If the unborn baby is viable and survives outside the womb, an abortion is not committed. Abortion is understood to be the intentional ejection of a non-viable baby from the womb of the mother. Any method or technique which is used to effect the abortion, even if its indirect purpose is to act as an abortifacient, comes within the scope of the crime.

107. The killing of a viable baby would not be an abortion, but formal murder in Church law. The mere fact that the baby sometimes lives for a short while after its ejection does not necessarily indicate viability. If the subsequent death is due precisely and solely to its insufficient development, then the baby is non-viable, consequently, its removal implies an abortion, not a premature delivery. On the other hand, if a baby is ejected at a time when it is judged to be non-viable; but after delivery continues to live, this is unquestionable evidence that it is viable and therefore abortion is not verified.

108. At which point in its development is an unborn baby considered viable? Obstetrical authorities commonly place the minimum age for viability between 26 to 28 weeks. For practical purposes one could follow this practical rule: If an unborn baby is ejected before the 26th week and lives, there is no crime of abortion. If the baby dies, however, it must be considered non-viable, unless there are positive indications that its death was due to other circumstances than extra-uterine existence. In this latter case, the penalty of excommunication would be incurred.

With the progress of medical science, viability is bound to occur earlier. But even with progress in this area, the important considerations of the anatomical and functional development and the weight and length of the unborn child as well as other factors, will help determine viability.

109. The fetus must be living prior to the abortion. The expulsion of a fetus which dies of natural causes in the womb is not an abortion. A natural miscarriage is not an abortion. As mentioned earlier, a fetus or unborn baby can be said to be present with moral certitude once pregnancy is determined. Moral certitude excludes all prudent and positive doubt. The unborn baby is considered a human from the moment of conception and impregnation. The old speculative theory regarding the animation of the fetus no longer has any application in the crime of abortion. Science and medicine have proven clearly that human life begins at conception (37). It is certainly biologically alive and despite its dependence upon the mother, it is a distinct living being, not a mere part of the mother. The unborn baby sustains a life proper to itself, dependent upon yet distinct from that of the mother.

110. Concerning the aborted fetus, the pastoral practice the Church enshrined in law calls for the baptism of the expelled fetus. Canon 871 of the Revised Code states that aborted fetuses are alive, they are to be baptized if this possible. The animated- inanimate distinction is absent here too, and leading commentators on the 1917 Code of canon law explain this norm as based upon the "more common" view that the human fetus has a rational soul from the first moment of conception (38). Even if the theory of immediate animation is not an abiding conviction in the Church, the pastoral practice of baptizing a fetus expelled at any age is soundly established as the safer course of action. If a human is present, the Christian community will try to extend the saving power of Christ to him or her through the sacrament of baptism.

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