Interesting, isn’t it?

An unborn baby was removed from its mother’s womb for life-changing surgery before being put safely back inside, her mother has revealed.

Surgeons performed the pioneering operation at 24 weeks’ gestation after scans revealed the feotus had spina bifida.

The condition can leave sufferers with walking difficulties and even paralysis because the spinal cord does not fully develop during pregnancy.

Surgeons from University College London and Great Ormond Street Hospital, along with Belgian colleagues, managed to repair the spinal cord and it is now hoped the baby will be born healthily in April.

At what point does the ability to correct defects means that abortion of one with defects isn’t morally justified?

Don’t forget, the 24 week limit doesn’t apply in the case of defects.

We are already saying “24 weeks is close enough to human that no abortion. Except in the case of defects.” So, at what point of repairability does the “except” no longer apply?

17 comments on “Interesting, isn’t it?

  1. At what point does the ability to correct defects means that abortion of one with defects isn’t morally justified?

    How bad must a defect be for abortion to be morally justified anyway? Has there been surveys of people with differing levels of defects asking them if they wish they had been aborted?

  2. And what if the health of the woman could be treated by medical science, so she had no excuse to abort?

    Nah, that’d be silly.

  3. Also – what defects are correctable? But it’s beside the point.

    Is it morally objectionable for the human body to spontaneousla abort a defective fetus (as happens in most such cases?)

    If not, why is it morally objectionable to intervene when nature has failed not once, but twice, in producing a defective fetus and then failing to abort it?

    If such an intervention is morally objectionable because we shouldn’t be correcting nature’s mistakes, then what is the moral justification for having any medicine at all?

    Alternatively, should we be developing treatments that prevent the spontaneous abortion of defective fetuses? Because no one asked them if they wanted to be spontaneously aborted or not.

  4. Is it morally objectionable for the human body to spontaneousla abort a defective fetus (as happens in most such cases?)

    No because the human body doesn’t have any moral agency.

    If not, why is it morally objectionable to intervene when nature has failed not once, but twice, in producing a defective fetus and then failing to abort it?

    Go tell someone with spina bifida that they should have been aborted.

    If such an intervention is morally objectionable because we shouldn’t be correcting nature’s mistakes, then what is the moral justification for having any medicine at all?

    Because medicine improves the quality of life.

    Alternatively, should we be developing treatments that prevent the spontaneous abortion of defective fetuses? Because no one asked them if they wanted to be spontaneously aborted or not.

    Finally a sensible and intriguing point. Why didn’t you just start with that and explore it further?

  5. Defects cover a wide spectrum. Some developmental defects (spina bifida, club foot, cleft palate, hole in the heart) have been surgically correctable for decades (although not so early as this case). Some genetic defects like cystic fibrosis are increasingly treatable and we can see that genetic editing may be able to correct them in the future. However, defects like trisomies 9 and 16, which are always lethal, just aren’t correctable as that would involve removing one specific strand of DNA from every cell in the foetus.

  6. My problem with abortion was always that the various reasons why it was ok seemed to equally apply to the newly born child.
    A new born is no more capable of living unaided than it was the previous day..bring our the baseball bat ( sort of thing ) . Seems wrong.
    There is some science behind this; compared to our simian cousins and most ( if not all )mammals humans are indeed born early in development and I have read this is an adaption related to our large heads. The new born then is essentially an unborn, lodged outside for a bit.
    The presumption is that aborting after birth is self-evidently abhorrent, but this is by no means the case . In the ancient world exposing unwanted new borns was common practice and whilst regrettable not considered immoral.
    Christianity distinctively gave the child a new value , or possibly this development was due anyway . Anyway it happened at around that time in the West , it is clearly culturally specific in a way that the incest taboo, is not .

    Just a bit of background , no special point to make

  7. why is it morally objectionable to intervene when nature has failed [?]

    Because it is objectionable to set oneself up as an arbiter of nature having failed.

  8. Abortion limits were initially fudged as being before the time a premature birth could survive, but premature birth survival assistance has advanced further and further into earlier premature births it is rapidly approaching abortion limits. Pre-term births at 24 weeks are already rapidly approaching 50% survivability. link

  9. ‘ So, at what point of repairability does the “except” no longer apply?’

    Except:

    – where the expertise is not available
    – except where ‘repairability’ cannot be reliably assessed
    – except where the attempt might harm either fœtus or mother
    – except where the mother declines to consent to the trauma
    of the procedure
    – except where the mother does not want to accept the risk of
    an unsuccessful repair and the consequences of having to
    care for an infirm child for life.

    Morally.

    People should stop deciding what others must do or not do, just to suit their own prejudices and sensitivities and World-view.

  10. People should stop deciding what others must do or not do, just to suit their own prejudices and sensitivities and World-view.

    I doubt there are many here who would wish to argue against people’s rights to do as they wish with their own bodies. The ethical problem with abortion is that (arguably) there’s more than one ‘person’ involved. And all the ethical arguments used to persuade us that abortion should be permitted entirely at the discretion of the mother, are equally applicable to early infanticide.

  11. I think my view is that it isn’t ever going to be my job to make this complex ethical decision for someone else (let alone for two or three other poeple). And that the fact that many other people don’t see this as a complex ethical decision but just a decision of convenience made at the drop of a hat still isn’t a reason for me to step in and make that decision for them. In other words, I’m so liberal that I’m not into this level of bansturbation, a hobby our host usually criticises.

    If even the Christian deity is so totally OK with abortion that he has a detailed procedure for its administration by priests written in the Christian holy book, there is clearly no compelling religious argument against it either.

  12. ‘An unborn baby was removed from its mother’s womb’

    We call that “birth.” Or “abortion.” Depending on intent and further actions.

    ‘before being put safely back inside’

    Okay, we have no word for this. This is beyond our realm of experience. A paradigm shift.

  13. May make an interesting case in a few years time as to what the child’s actual birthday is. How does the law define “birth”, has it caught up with the ability to be removed from the womb and then put back in for further gestation?

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