Book Review

The Heart And The Abyss: Preventing Abortion

Ward Biemans SJ
Connor Court Publishing pty Ltd (13 Feb 2016)
ISBN: 978-1925138962

Book CoverHaving read several books recently on abortion, I would recommend this one as one of the very best. The author is a Dutch Jesuit priest and he consistently demonstrates an in-depth understanding of the subject matter.

After introducing us to the Dutch and British abortion legislation, he notes that in both countries, there is little respect shown in law for unborn human life. This despite the growing scientific evidence demonstrating the sheer humanity of the unborn child. In both countries, the legalization of abortion in certain circumstances has led to a massive increase in the number of abortions performed. Dutch studies demonstrate a clear correlation between abortion restrictions and lower abortion rates.The author argues that alternatives to abortion including providing financial support to women with crisis pregnancies and offering adoption are poorly organized in both countries.

The author examines the research over the last three decades and concludes that there are both psychological and physical risks to abortion. There is an increased risk of mental health problems in 30% of women and the physical problems include the risk of pre-term births in women who have previously had abortion. The controversial abortion-breast cancer link is examined.

It was very interesting to note that women are more likely to have abortion because of relationship problems rather than financial concerns. What is needed, says the author, is better relationship education. The author is surely right to promote virtue ethics in this context. So often, we think of abortion as a problem in relation to the woman. Surely, the father needs to take some responsibility for the pregnancy? The author also notes that many women have an ambivalent attitude towards the abortion process both before and after the procedure. One wonders what degree of consent is given if women feel that they are being coerced into having an abortion.

The author examines the current understanding of human embryology and concludes that from conception there is a living human being with active potentiality who deserves protection in law. The concept of potential persons is dismissed as a philosophical impossibility.

The Catholic Church inherited respect for unborn human life from the Old Testament. Abortion was always condemned, whether the foetus was regarded as formed or not. The Church has called for equal respect for the life of the mother and the unborn child. The autonomy of the woman can be respected provided it does not violate respect for human life.

 As I write this review, a doctor in Northern Ireland is making headlines after resigning in protest of Northern Ireland's abortion law. On BBC, she consistently referred to the unborn child as a baby: gone are my medical school days when we were told to use the word foetus and never the B word.

Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thevathasan