On June 30, 2022, the St. Joseph County Health Department issues a statement on the recent Supreme Court decision, Dobbs v. Jackson. The department noted the upcoming special session of the Indiana legislature and called for abortion to remain legal in cases of rape, incest, fetal anomalies and when the life of the mother was threatened. The St. Andre Bessette Guild met to discuss the SJCHD statement and sent the following response to the Board of Health and the health officers. The statement was read in the public comment section of the Board of Health meeting on 7/20/22. Copies were forwarded to all St. Joseph County state senators and representatives.
Response of the St. Andre Bessette Guild to the St. Joseph County Health Department
The St. Joseph County Health Department (SJCHD) recently released its response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson. We respect the role of the health department and the professionalism of its members. We take issue with the content of the statement. The department called on citizens to share their views on the abortion issue. We members of the St. Andre Bessette Guild of the Catholic Medical Association are exercising our right and obligation to speak for those who have no voice.
The statement contained a lengthy list of areas in which Indiana falls short of meeting the needs of women, children and families. (It is unfortunate that this list did not also include the adoption and foster care systems.) These are important topics for our legislature to address, not as single issues, but with a comprehensive view of the protection society owes to its most vulnerable members. Specific proposals should be advanced, and their economic and social impact assessed through the legislative process. The inclusion of these issues in a statement about abortion implies that these problems require the availability of abortion as a solution. We hold that the taking of an innocent human life can never be part of the solution for societal issues such as poverty, discrimination, or unequal access to health care and education.
From the first moment of its existence, what is conceived is a living human individual, distinct from either its mother or father, but wholly dependent on its mother for support and safety. The majority opinion of the Dobbs decision (page 7) included as findings of fact the many milestones through which the developing baby demonstrates its humanity. The life of this tiny, vulnerable human has equal value to that of every other person in the world. Its value cannot be diminished by physical defects, developmental potential, circumstances of conception or the emotional or economic burden he or she presents. A society which uses such criteria to judge the value of any person’s life is one in which nobody is truly safe.
For this reason, we reject abortion as a solution to the problems of incest and rape. We strongly support giving the mother who is pregnant in these difficult situations all the assistance she needs not only to carry the pregnancy to term but to recover from the trauma sustained in these events. Abortion in these settings only adds another act of violence against another innocent person. We encourage those societal changes which will make rape and incest unthinkable, so all women can live in safety and dignity.
A baby who is developing with an anomaly which may be incompatible with life outside the womb or which may present significant medical or social challenges is still an innocent human being. While it is difficult for parents to receive the news that their child has such a defect, the solution can never be to eliminate the child. Perinatal hospice programs, improved access to specialized medical care and better support for families whose children have disabilities are important policy directions.
The department’s statement listed medical situations which are considered abortions in medical terminology but are not legally considered such. Their inclusion infers that legislative restrictions on abortion will prohibit medical care in cases of spontaneous miscarriages, for instance. The definition of induced abortion in the statement is incomplete and would even include the induction of labor at term with the intent of delivering a healthy baby. The statement also listed a wide range of complications of pregnancy which it said are treatable by abortion, again inferring that an abortion ban will affect many routine obstetric situations. In fact, most of these complications are safely treated with other interventions. When removal of a developing baby must occur because of the threat to the mother’s life, the direct intention must be to save the mother and not to take the baby’s life. Even in states with restrictive abortion laws, such situations are not considered abortions and have not been prosecuted as such. Catholic obstetricians have navigated these situations for years and are available to provide guidance to lawmakers.
In summary, the SJCHD statement focused entirely on the burdens that children present to mothers and society. We assert that the humanity of the unborn child is an essential element in each of these situations, and we reject the direct, intentional taking of innocent human life in any situation. We call upon the SJCHD to amend its statement to reflect its obligation to protect the life and health of all residents of our state, born and unborn.