Although, in clinical practice, miscarriage has been termed 'a spontaneous abortion', this is increasingly discouraged as it can cause avoidable distress to patients who overhear and may misunderstand the term. Therefore in this section, abortion refers to the deliberate, planned ending of the life of an embryo, foetus or unborn child, whether by using abortificient drugs for this sole purpose, by physically destroying the living human life whilst within the uterus or by removal from the uterus pre-term without an intention to save his/her life. Catholic church teaching has always been that involvement in abortion is a serious evil.
As a healthcare professional, you are better placed than most to be aware of the development of human beings before birth. This may have been presented in ways in your training which tried to minimise the status of intrauterine life. If you are facing the practical results of such an attitude, you may be uncertain, confused by what you would perceive as abortion or apprehensive about how to navigate your way through your career whilst following Catholic church teaching.
To help you make decisions about how to deal with this issue in your clinical practice, it helps to be well-informed! It also helps to know where to get support in times of crisis or if you feel you are being bullied when exercising your legal right to a conscientious objection.
Healthcare professionals are increasingly in need of training in Christian ethics and not simply the secular law, as forms the majority of some so-called ethics courses during training.
To start with, one excellent booklet published by the Catholic Truth Society and written by bioethicist Dr Helen Watt is in the'‘Explaining Catholic Teaching' series and entitled simply 'Abortion'.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith produced statements on abortion which are timeless, Declaration on Procured Abortion in 1974 and Donum Vitae (Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation) in 1987. The Papal encyclical Evangelicum Vitae (The Gospel of Life) in 1995 was written by Pope John Paul II and dealt with abortion, euthanasia and the deliberate killing of innocent human beings.
If you are a CMA member, access to a confidential mutual support online forum, will be of practical use as this site expands. Above all, remember that you are ministering clinically to fellow human beings at all stages of life, who are even more vulnerable than you sometimes feel and the longterm effects of your practice need to bear the fruit of gentleness and respect for life.