Some people have suggested resorting to abortion and contraception in response to the Zika outbreak. Fr David Garcia looks at the issues.
Women in the early stages of pregnancy, infected with the Zika virus, seem to have a higher number of microencephalic births. I will not concern myself with the facts of the disease but only with the ethical problems that it has stirred, for some have suggested that abortion and contraception should be measures that help to curb the incidence of microencephalic infants, apparently caused by this virus.
For them, it makes sense to use contraceptive measures to avoid a risky pregnancy or even to eliminate the child in the womb to “spare him or her” or perhaps his parents from a life of “suffering”.
This approach is based on two beliefs. The first is that the end justifies the means. This means that one can do something not ideal in itself, such as abortion or contraception, and would be justified by the good end he is aiming to, namely, avoiding an unwanted pregnancy or an unwanted child.
But if the end justifies the means, then there are no non-negotiable moral principles, for all principles will admit exceptions depending on the good result we want to attain thus resulting in moral relativism: there is nothing right or wrong in itself, it all depends on the circumstances.
The second belief is that the life of a microencephalic person is not really worth living or at least too burdensome for parents to bear.
Both beliefs are not only incompatible with Christian faith but also poisonous for any society. Interestingly, both beliefs are interconnected for both ignore a most important principle of our civilisation: all persons are equal in dignity.
If we truly believe that all persons are equal in dignity, then we must defend the life of all human beings and consider everyone worthy of respect regardless of their circumstances.
If some may be killed, because their lives are too handicapped, too young (as in embryos), too old, or incapable of exercising capacities we deem worthy of human life, then we are in fact saying that not all are equal, since some would have claimed for themselves the right to terminate the life of others.
The only way to protect the principle of human equality is precisely by holding to non-negotiable moral principles that allow no exceptions. Thus, the moral principle that admonishes not to commit murder is one of those non-negotiable moral principles.
This protects everyone because if there were exceptions to murder, and some people could intentionally kill others, the principle of equal dignity would fail to be applied. The idea that the end justifies the means precisely negates the fact that there could be some non-negotiable moral principles, and thus, becomes not only the root of relativism but also a threat to civilisation itself.
In short, if we believe, with the Church, that all humans are persons and equal in dignity, we must hold that no end, no matter how good, will justify wrong means and that all human life, no matter how limited, is worth living.
Fidelity to moral principles is crucial because it protects humans from fellow humans. For those who hold those principles, they will do well to avoid contracting the Zika virus, but will not seek to negotiate with non-negotiable moral principles. n
Fr Garcia is the spiritual director of the Catholic Medical Guild.
Seminar on medical, ethical aspects
With the present uncertainties surrounding the Zika virus infection in Singapore the Catholic Medical Guild of Singapore will hold a seminar to discuss and clarify the medical and ethical aspects related to it. “Heart Issues, Hard Decisions: Ethical dilemmas in Zika Virus Infection” will be held at St Peter’s Auditorium, Catholic Archdiocesan Education Centre, 2 Highland Road, on Sept 17 from 2 pm-4 pm. To register, visit www.cmg.org.sg