Monday, June 03, 2013

What Would Jesus Do in El Salvador?

"It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry."

H.L. Mencken

The Rep├║blica de El Salvador literally means the "Republic of the Saviour". With a population that is more than 80% Christian (52.5% Roman Catholics), one can easily surmise who that saviour is. Naturally, the laws of the land tend to reflect the values of the population and there is a law in El Salvador that completely and inflexibly forbids the abortion of pregnancies, no matter what. A Sith Lord can be proud of that bit of absolutism. A zero tolerance policy towards abortions had always been part of Catholic doctrine.

The problem with moral absolutes is that they operate on the assumption that there cannot possibly be moral exceptions to the rule. Even at face value, it sounds wrongheaded and the Catholics' stubborn dismissal of those possible exceptions had been tested to its limit in El Salvador recently by the story and struggle of Beatriz.

Beatriz is a very ill woman. She suffers from a condition known as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) which is an autoimmune disease in which her own body's immune system is destroying her. She also suffers from kidney failure which, presumably, is a complication of her SLE. To further complicate matters, she is in the second trimester of her pregnancy and her doctors are recommending that she abort it due to the threat her pregnancy poses to her life. While it is not unheard of for SLE mothers and their children to survive at the end of their pregnancies, I do not have access to Beatriz's medical records so I will accept her doctors' prognostication - that this pregnancy will probably kill her. Naturally, she and her doctors sought to have an abortion legally sanctioned to save her life because going forward without permission can result in a 30-year jail sentence. The medical committee at Beatriz's hospital and the Ministry of Health also backs her request - therefore it would not be hyperbole to say that almost every doctor in El Salvador thinks that aborting the pregnancy is the right thing to do.

On the 30th of May, the Supreme Court of The Saviour El Salvador voted 4-to-1 against Beatriz's request to terminate her pregnancy. One of the four judges who ruled against allowing Beatriz to abort her pregnancy, Judge Rodolfo Gonzalez, said he had not been convinced Beatriz was at risk of dying if the pregnancy was allowed to continue. Yes, this pompous fucking jackass thinks that his medical expertise trumps that of all the doctors in El Salvador who supported the abortion. This is the problem with people thinking that they have a valid opinion just because they can string a bunch of words together into a coherent sentence. It is the same problem with evangelical Christians who think that they can reject the theory of evolution because they think it is wrong when there exists a robust consensus on evolution as the fundamental principle of biology amongst biologists - you know, the experts who spent their life's work studying the subject? There is simply no humility any more (but then again, I suppose it's my fault for expecting humility from people who think they can talk to God by just clasping their hands together).

Of course, why would doctors in a heavily-Catholic country with an absolute law criminalising all abortions be so ready to broach the subject of terminating Beatriz's pregnancy? Here is the punchline of this entire circus of jokes: ultrasound scanning had revealed that Beatriz's baby has a condition called anencephaly. Do not Google that if you value your sleep.

Anencephaly diagram
The reason why Catholics think that you can still be a person deserving of full rights when you are missing most of your brain is because they function perfectly well without cerebral cortices anyway.

Due to a neural tube defect, the baby is missing most of its brain and what little brain tissue it has is exposed (because most of the skull is absent too). What remains is the brainstem which ensures that the basic life support of the body (the heartbeats, blood pressure, breathing, et cetera) remains functional but an anencephalic baby is blind, deaf, does not feel pain and does not have any consciousness - hence no memory, thoughts, personality or emotions. Basically, Beatriz's baby has a functioning physical body but there is no one home. Most anencephalic babies dies in the womb or shortly after birth, though one can theoretically keep it alive indefinitely when hooked up to artificial life support. Cases like Baby K and Nickolas Coke are outliers in that they survived two to almost four years with anencephaly but even they eventually expire in spite of every effort to keep them alive. We in the medical community call it "incompatible with life".

So yeah, the El Salvadoran Supreme Court ignored a very ill woman's pleas for them to allow doctors to save her life so that she can continue to be with her living one-year-old son who actually needs her. I didn't mention that she has a son, did I? Now, the judges have condemned her to risk death for the unborn human husk growing in her which would definitely die anyway even if she made it to term to deliver it.

This is why moral absolutism is stupid and immoral. This why the Catholic Church is stupid and immoral to be absolutely opposed to abortion no matter what the circumstances are. This is why all Catholics are stupid and immoral to continue following and funding this international two-thousand years old temple to stupidity and immorality. Their assertion that they support the sanctity of life is a lie, because Beatriz's life isn't worth shit to them.

However, the court also ordered her doctors to continue monitoring Beatriz's health and to provide her with all necessary medical treatment (so long as it is not an abortion, which is what she actually needs). Luckily, the El Salvador's Health Minister, Maria Isabel Rodriguez, is actually going to try to live up to her country's name. A day after the court's verdict was out, she approved of an emergency Caesarean section for Beatriz which will essentially achieve what an abortion does but sidesteps the abortion controversy. Because El Salvador is so pro-life, Beatriz will have to undergo major surgery with major risks instead of having a much less invasive abortion. This what Jesus would have wanted, isn't it?

For her son's sake, let's hope that Beatriz makes it through okay.

P.S. It is interesting to note that just like the case in 2010 when a woman had to undergo an abortion to save her life. In that case, a woman (a nun) who was on the ethics committee decided on aborting the pregnancy. A man (the bishop of the Phoenix diocese) was pissed that the hospital and all the doctors did not recognise his authority as the final word on the matter, even though he does not have any medical qualifications whatsoever. Now in El Salvador, a woman steps in while a man who does not recognise his lack of any credibility in the matter stands in the way.

Advocates the abortion of the Pope,

k0k s3n w4i


c3rs3i said...

This was huge last year but looks like El Salvador didn't learn from it:

k0k s3n w4i said...

c3rs3i: Yeah, read about the Irish case with the Indian lady. It is the Catholic Church's influence again, bloody ancient virgins.

Anonymous said...

This story brings back some sad memories to me. Twenty-one years ago, my wife and I had a pair of twin girls, one was anencephalic, and the other sufferred from TGA (Transposition of the Great Arteries). Both did not survive.