“Ask a Priest: Was It OK That I Assisted at an Abortion for a Zika Sufferer?”

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Q: I work as an anesthesia provider. Recently a woman and her husband had traveled overseas and she unknowingly contracted the Zika virus. A few months later she conceived a child. The child had severe anencephaly (no brain). They desired an abortion — after jumping through several hoops and waiting until neural development was complete — they received hospital approval as the ultrasound remained unchanged. I have never participated in any abortion procedure. I always believed that any life is sacred, but this child had no chance of life. This had been a very difficult decision for these two parents. What responsibility do I have in the death of this child? What moral right do I have to decide the fate of these parents by refusing to participate in this surgery? The pregnancy was at 17 weeks. –C.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: As you say, “Any life is sacred.” You should have allowed that principle to guide you in this case. Even that little child had a right to life.

Abortion is wrong in any case, even in the case of anencephaly. That child was created in the image of God, and it should have been left in the Almighty’s hands when he would call the little one from this world.

Ideally you should have refused to participate in this procedure. Your participation amounted to proximate material cooperation in an abortion.

Notwithstanding the anguish of those parents, perhaps the better question to be asked is, “Who gives anyone the right to participate in the taking of an innocent human life?”

The baby should have been allowed to come to term. There would have been the chance for baptism, too. (For related reading see the National Catholic Bioethics Center post.)

It would be good for you to learn from this experience, and maybe even say a special prayer for that child and the parents. Also, let any regret that you feel turn into a prayerful spirit of repentance — God knows our weakness, and he knows how confusing and difficult situations like this can be. Even when we make wrong decisions, his mercy and his love continue to be there for us.

I hope this clarifies things. You will be in my prayers.

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