What ‘Dilemma’?

After reading your Aug. 29-Sep. 24 issue, I was quite concerned with what I consider error in the [Indepth column] “Our Story: Facing the Moral Dilemma of an Ectopic Pregnancy,” written by Kelly Bowring. I have been an avid reader of the Register for some years now and have found your articles not only informative, practical and fair, but I've considered them authoritative also.

My wife and I are both retired from the practice of medicine, having accumulated about 70 years of experience therein. We are Catholic.

I cannot escape the conclusion that the concepts utilized to “tell the story” were quite unclear, even to the extent that they were misleading from the biological (medical) standpoint. But my greater concern is the appearance of what I can only judge as fraud or vincible ignorance in emotionally and repeatedly referring to a moral dilemma. The only “dilemma” I noted, even on re-reading, was that generated by the author. [This] seemed to have genesis in erroneous biology, excessive emotionalism and a gratuitous, overarching stretch to achieve. Stated otherwise, I can see no reason for the [piece] except to [satisfy the writer's need to] write.

From the standpoint of biology, I believe it is safe to say that a tubal pregnancy has never resulted in a viable infant. Conversely, it has taken the life of many young women. We have seen it! When a fertilized ovum implants itself in a tissue or structure, it instantly and energetically commences to obtain support and nutriments on a grand scale. The reason for the structure and function of the womb is to provide these. A fallopian tube cannot.

The net result, then, of the presence of an early pregnancy in a tube might be compared to a stick of dynamite. It has never been known not to “go off” at an unannounced and unpredictable point in time and, conversely, has been known to kill the mother if it is not removed prior to rupture.

Biologically the destruction or removal of fetus and tube would not be referred to as a miscarriage in medical parlance. It must be obvious by now that the whole article distresses me. If there is in reality no moral dilemma, and I do not see one, it is specious to allege one and appear to laboriously conquer it.

The solution the story presents, i.e., salpingectomy, which the author's protagonist seems to have found and suggested to the doctors in charge, is the same one that I have used in medical/surgical practice for 40-plus years and the only one. Again, I cannot imagine the “fact” of the statement attributed to “the doctors” that salpingectomy was, in their opinion, “archaic and unnecessarily harsh to the mother's body.” I'd characterize those doctors as “off the wall” and studiously avoid ever sending my patient or family to them for care.

I must, in all honesty, tell you that more than a little of the same attitude of author Debra Haberhorn is exhibited in the article on page 16, “Priest Ordained After Brush With Death.” I have no quarrel with “the medical story.” It is only with the time frame related between the existence of an otherwise healthy young man — going to the hospital with pain in his hip — and then, within 48 hours, his condition was declared fatal and doctors recommended “turning off the machines.” So then “the doctors” drained the hip abscess, left in a pack and expected all to be well. Two days later the pack was removed, clinical observations were made and doctors declared the patient's condition fatal! Again the doctors said to turn off the machines, but the family did not allow same. After indicated spiritual exercises were employed, the patient fully recovered. Now, really, this repeated, flighty flip-flopping of “the doctors” on their opinions and recommendations makes me want to verify the location of the hospital. Was it St. Paul, Minn., as the article states — or was it Uganda?

Comment: There are many and weighty topics for so-called medical writers to relate in order to inform or discuss with people in the popular press topics of health and spirituality, but the goal of such authors (and publishers) can certainly not be furthered by such emotionalism — such nonsense. Can it?

Mark T. Cenac, M.D.

Bisbee, Arizona

Editor's note: The article dealt with the principle of double effect. A current medical practice, as described in the article, involves the direct killing of the fetus — a clear violation of Catholic moral principles. Another procedure, which is allowable, is the removal of a section of the fallopian tube in order to save the life of the mother; a secondary and unintended effect is the death of the unborn child.

McCain on Abortion

[The LifeNotes item] “McCain Changes Position on Roe v. Wade” (Register, Sep. 5–11, excerpted from the Aug. 24 Washington Post) contains his comment that he wouldn't want abortion to be illegal now because that would force “women to undergo illegal and dangerous operations.” This is nonsense! It doesn't matter whether abortion is legal or illegal; either way it has attendant risks.

Sen. McCain's comment is obviously based on the myth that “thousands of women died as a result of illegal abortion prior to Roe v. Wade.” Abortion advocates began the canard that 10,000 women died annually from illegal abortions in the 1960s as a public-relations ploy.

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who is now an internationally renowned defender of the pre-born child and has converted to Catholicism, was a cofounder of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. He confessed that he made up the figure of 10,000 women dying of illegal abortions each year as a total lie. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics show that 39 women died from illegal abortions in 1972; 35 died in 1973 and 37 in 1974 from legal abortions.

Deaths due to abortion decreased markedly after the 1940s due to the introduction of new antibiotics, advances in medical technology and the skill of the physician, not because of [a court decision] in 1973.

Contemporary maternal deaths and injuries due to legalized abortion are underreported. A pro-life organization, Life Dynamics Inc., has proof that more than 450 women have died as a result of legal abortions. They say this is only a partial list, and that it is very difficult to uncover these tragedies because the cover-up of deaths and injuries by the abortion industry is commonplace.

In addition to immediately apparent negative medical effects such as death, hemorrhage and uterine perforation, abortion brings many latent medical complications. Life-threatening conditions in future pregnancies include a 600% increase in the risk of placenta previa and 50% increase in the risk of tubal pregnancy after one abortion, and 160% after two abortions. There is an increased risk (200%) of miscarriage after two or more abortions.

The medical evidence and legal ramifications of the abortion-breast cancer link were comprehensively analyzed in the Wisconsin Law Review (Volume 1998, No. 6). The conclusions include: “there is no doubt that the abortion providers have a duty to inform women considering the procedure about this significant health risk before an abortion is performed.”

Acute grief and emotional and psychological disturbances are noted in 77% of women who have had abortions. Anecdotally, Gloria Swanson wrote in 1992 that she felt guilty all her life about an abortion she had 65 years earlier, in 1927.

In Finland between 1987 and 1994, women who had undergone abortions committed suicide 6.4 times more frequently than did mothers who gave birth to their babies and 3 times more frequently than the general population.

That abortion for all nine months of pregnancy, and partial-birth abortion (the extrauterine procedure akin to infanticide), are legal has tremendously undermined our once-civil society by reducing respect for human life, undermining the family and engendering violence.

Sen. McCain is terribly misinformed regarding maternal mortality and morbidity resulting from abortion, and he ignores the substantial deleterious sociological effects of legalized abortion. Women and society in general would be much healthier if abortion were illegal.

William J. Hogan, M.D.

Rockville, Maryland


In the Aug. 22–28 issue, the Register quoted the World Wrestling Federation's spokesman Jim Byrne calling professional wrestling “raunchy.” Byrne actually said “naughty.” We regret the error.