The Use of Utilitarianism to Prove Special Status before God at a Woman’s Expense
A Response to the Invited Speaker List for Vision Forum’s 2010 Baby Conference
Please start HERE with Part I.
During the Summer of 2008, Vision Forum declared that any pre-emptive surgical intervention for tubal pregnancies constitutes murder, if the surgery takes place before a confirmed fetal death. Tubal pregnancies present a definite problem in this way, because the medical profession does not specifically confirm fetal death -- because there is only one option for a woman with a tubal pregnancy. Life-saving surgery provides the only ethical option for the medical profession. Because no baby from a tubal pregnancy has ever survived, the doctor must save the life of the mother, and it would be drastically unethical to do otherwise. The pathology of the condition ends the pregnancy and risks the mother’s life, not the doctor who acts to rescue the woman. In this case, Vision Forum fails to honor the life of the woman in favor of death. By the time a woman knows that she is pregnant with a tubal pregnancy, the life of the unborn baby has already been critically compromised because of the conditions that have adversely affected its growth. Yet Vision Forum recommends “Watchful Waiting” in ALL cases of ALL ectopic pregnancy types. In cases where the baby stands a chance of survival outside the womb, even with a poor prognosis, I completely agree with “Watchful Waiting.” In cases of tubal pregnancy, however, I believe such behavior dishonors life and makes a mockery of wisdom in the very Name of Wisdom itself.
But why would Vision Forum make such a declaration? Doug Phillips, an Attorney by training, defines any medical intervention in the case of any ectopic pregnancy as a utilitarian measure that places the life of the mother ahead of the life of the baby. That is often true in other types of obstetric (OB) care such as extreme hypertension, for example, but it is not the case in tubal pregnancy for those reasons stated above. As is so typical of Vision Forum, all cases are drawn out to be all-or-nothing cases and all decisions to be clear cut “black and white” ones, part of their “grand sweeps of revelation” that do not allow for exceptions on any ambiguous and unusual matters concerning any topic. On one hand, the group argues that surgery which ends the life of the baby during tubal pregnancy constitutes murder because they define it as a utilitarian decision of pragmatics, something that they define as cold and humanistic. Yet on the other hand, the group states statistics about what they determine to be an insignificant and exaggerated risk of harm regarding tubal pregnancy. They quote real death and incident rates concerning ectopic pregnancy, apparently claiming that such numbers don’t really warrant all of the concern displayed by those outside of their group. Somehow, their quoting of numbers and diminishing the significance of them does not seem remotely pragmatic and utilitarian to them.
Their ethical argument should be sufficient, so what purpose do these statistics show? They employ this as a propaganda technique to manipulate their followers into dismissing or denying dispassionate fact. “It’s really not that many…” They also fail to recognize that the statistics they quote regarding maternal death in tubal pregnancies reflects the standard of medical care that demands surgical treatment or other medical intervention which averts those deaths! Those women who die as a result of declining or refusing treatment are not properly captured or reflected in these statistics which artificially decreases the significance of not receiving the recommended and life-saving surgical intervention. To make meaningful statements about these statistics in the way Vision Forum has attempted, the researcher would have to eliminate from consideration all women who had pre-emptive surgical intervention from consideration! Death rates are low because it is unethical to allow a woman with a tubal pregnancy to die when the baby never survives.
Both the morbidity and mortality related to ectopic pregnancy, tubal pregnancy in particular, are painted (by people who are not physicians or nurses) to be some myth concocted by abortion minded people who love death and can’t wait to evangelize others into their culture of death. And these supposed evangelists for death exaggerate the numbers and claims and such in order to hurt good, fervent, and dedicated Christians, tempting them to act in an unethical and ungodly manner. But then, Doug Phillips is noted to state that “He who defines, wins.” (Perhaps I will explore this topic in another post about the Doctrine of the Double Effect to explain why I believe that the ideologues at Vision Forum are unethically and ignorantly abusing matters themselves. They employ a philosophy of pragmatism favorable to their self-centered and personally aggrandizing views, carelessly jerking faithful and trusting women of God around as if they are nothing more than disobedient dogs on a choke chain. By doing so, they prove to themselves that Vision Forum holds a greater position of honor in the eyes of God and that their following is more special to God than any other Christian group.)
At this point, I have to ask how their arguments about the rarity of tubal pregnancy corresponds with the Good Shepherd who left ninety-nine sheep to rescue the one? I find that their pragmatic arguments stand in complete opposition to the principle taught by Jesus in His parable found in Matthew Chapter 18 and Luke Chapter 15. *[What men are they, having an hundred sheep (women with healthy pregnancies), if they lose one of them (through tubal pregnancy), does not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that insignificant minority which is lost, until they find them?]* But patriarchy does admit to the legitimate existence of exceptions to any rule. Exceptions are labeled “non-normative” and therefore statistics can be discounted, giving no deference or consideration to that one non-normative sheep. Rather than embrace them as perhaps more deserving of attention, care and encouragement, those messy people who do not conveniently fit the preferred mold are cursed as pariahs. That one sheep is a messy one, and patriarchy doesn’t like the mess because they are consumed with keeping themselves free of the “contamination” (phrase used by Kevin Swanson) by means of “normative” living. How inconvenient the messy, fallen world is for them.
In August of 2008, I contacted a whole host of Pro-Life and Christian medical ethics organizations regarding these teachings concerning tubal pregnancy advanced by Vision Forum, and only a few responded to me. None would make any kind of formal statements, repeating to me the common sense about things I already knew and embraced about the Doctrine of Double Effect. I am grateful for those who made an effort to respond, but they are all hesitant to make any formal statements because they fear that doing so might possibly be misunderstood as their organization taking a stand that might possibly be misunderstood as the support of abortion in some remote way. Privately, however, everyone expressed concern and grief over the idea that a ministry encourages women to put themselves in harms way concerning tubal pregnancies. It is unethical to ask a mother to crawl up on the altar of an ideologue for a lofty idea when the price required may be her own life – all without any possibility of saving another life which is true of all tubal pregnancies. These men are not telling women to wear head coverings or dresses as a means to and demonstration of their holiness. Ideologues are telling women that they must put their lives at risk when there is no wisdom in doing so – that they must spill their own blood in order to demonstrate their holiness.
Link HERE to Part III when available.
Also of Interest: No Longer Quivering’s Response to “The Baby Conference”