Health Through Death

Jérôme Lejeune

L'homme nouveau, 6 June, 1976.


About sixty years ago, an obstetrician's equipment included a terrible instrument which was designed to perforate and crush the skull of the foetus. This dreadful instrument was used when the head of the child was blocked by some accident and normal delivery was impossible.

At the beginning of my medical studies students were reminded of such facts from the distant past so that they would understand how medical progress had led to the disappearance of such barbarous methods.

A quarter of a century ago, respect for the child had stimulated research to such an extent in civilized countries that abortions which were called therapeutic, that is, were performed to save the mother's life, had almost disappeared.

One of the greatest obstetricians in France, who had at this time delivered more than fifty thousand babies, had never resorted to the deliberate sacrifice of a foetus, although he had been able to protect the health and lives of their mothers absolutely.

The only tragedy which remained was that of pregnancies which developed outside the uterus, in the tube which links it to the ovary. Here the necessity of stopping fatal haemorrhage makes it impossible to save the foetus, which is only one or two months old and cannot survive outside the maternal organism.

Apart from this one case, it could be said that medical technology had almost achieved its goal.

At dinners in town it was still discussed whether the mother or the child should be saved, but in qualified services the techniques used almost always enabled us to save both of them.

And now, when the final difficulties have gradually been overcome by the parallel processes of cardiology (cardiac reanimation), nephrology (artificial kidneys) and so many other techniques which may be named, it is proposed to extend the abortion laws to cover a larger number of children.

This is so true that, during the abortion campaign in France, one of the pro-abortion group, a gynaecologist by profession, argued for extension of the law on the grounds that there were fewer therapeutic abortions!


The Pediars of Death

In order to make their proposals acceptable, the pediars of death present their arguments very skilfully.

By appealing to charitable sentiments, they try to get people accustomed to the liquidation of their children.

Their arguments are based an three points:

- if the mother's life is in danger, the child should be killed;

- if the child's life is in danger, the child should be killed;

- if there is danger to public health, the child should be killed.

These three points are incorrect.


The Mother's Health

It sometimes happens that a child is expected in disturbing conditions. If the another has an evolutive illness, for example cancer, it is sometimes difficult to protect her and to protect the child. However, we know by experience that this dangerous struggle is often successful and that a positive outcome occurs more and more frequently. Surprising as it may seem, many children are born to mothers who have been treated for such illnesses, and have survived without problems.

Here we must be clear and should not became involved in detailed discussions which seem expert and which are only misleading.

There is a popular saying that, on an average, each child costs its mother a tooth. And to lose a tooth is a victory for health!

Without neglecting serious cases in any way and without failing to appreciate the admirable devotion of so many mothers who would give everything in the world to protect their children, it must be said clearly that any law which maintains that the mother's health is more important than that of the child would put the lives of all children directly in danger.

This is not an isolated medical opinion, it is a statement of fact. Everyone knows that abortion is freely available in England, to the point where for several years London was the European abortion capital - people came a long way for abortions. From a reading of the text of the English abortion act it appears to be rather restrictive, far two doctors must agree that the mother's health is in danger.

Mental health is most frequently cited. What psychologist or psychiatrist would dare to affirm that such an undesired birth would definitely, either immediately or later, influence the mental health of the mother!

To tell the truth, no one knows anything about it, and this ignorance itself condemns all children if the law ceases to give them absolute protection.


The Child's Health

In the early period and particularly during the first two months of life, the human being is very vulnerable. Infections (such as rubella or toxaplasmosis) can reach him and produce various malformations, not to mention the effects of medicines or poisons such as thalidomide, which produced children without legs and arms.

Hereditary illnesses may also be transferred to children, such as haemophilia, which makes blood-clotting impossible, or chromosome accidents may survive right up to the beginning of life, such as an excess of chromosome 21, which leads to the form of mental weakness which was formerly called mongolism.



In the vase majority of cases, no examination can give us direct information about the condition of the child, and we only know that in a certain family yr under certain conditions, the risks are far greater than in others.

In a small number of cases, however, some investigation is possible. By using a needle which goes through the abdominal wall of the mother, a little of the amniotic fluid in which the foetus swims (amniocentesis) may be obtained. This fluid is then analyzed in the laboratory.

By cultivating the cells which have been separated in this way the chromosomes can be studied and a chromosomal disease may be detected. It is even possible to diagnose exactly certain hereditary diseases which cause chemical disorders.

The amniotic fluid is obtained in about the sixteenth week, that is, at the end of the fourth or at the beginning of the fifth month. At this time the foetus is longer than twenty centimetres.

In the particular case of incompatibility of the blood of the mother and the child (Rhesus disease), amniocentesis is extremely valuable, as it makes early treatment possible, as Professor Liley authoritatively showed when he was the first to perform a successful blood transfusion on a child in utero.

However, in the vast majority of cases, early diagnosis is not accompanied by the possibility of treatment. It is known that the child is ill but no one knows how to save him.

It is on this helplessness that certain people propose to base a law allowing sick people to be killed. What a pity that Moliere, who didn't care much for doctors, cannot emerge from his grave to castigate these ignorant people, who speak so learnedly of the removal of patients who are so impertinent as not to be healed in their way.

Here one must also see the facts clearly. To authorize the removal of the sick is to expose medicine to abortion.

It is not at all a matter of passing aver the strategies of heredity in silence and of ignoring the suffering of parents when the flesh of their flesh is suffering from an incurable disease or from an irremediable intelligence defect.

We should know that the only nobility and the only reason for the existence of medicine is to try to give everyone what fate has refused him or taken away from him ...

Medicine is not only for the powerful, the strong and the wealthy it is specially for those who are not beautiful, who are unhealthy, not wealthy, unhappy, those who suffer and are overcome.

It fights unceasingly for life against illness and against death - it cannot change sides. And the whole of history assures us that it is not those who burned the plague-stricken in their houses or who suffocated people who had rabies between two mattresses who saved mankind from the plague and rabies.

The plague should not be fought by attacking its victims. The disease must be conquered, then those suffering from it will be saved.


Public and Moral Health

Finally, a third argument is often put forward. If the pregnancy is brought about by an act of violence, by incestuous relations or if the condition of the mother (extreme youth or despondency) removes all hope for a happy life for the child, they claim it should be aborted.

Here too, we must see clearly that the death of the child does not save anyone. The mother who has had the abortion certainly starts out again without the child, but she takes her distress with her. What should be forbidden and reduced are the causes of this distress, rape or incest, sexual relations at a too early age or the lack of respect for a woman shown by a perverted husband. It is here that the law can protect.

To ask medicine to remove the innocent victim would be a terrible mistake.


Health by Death

Finally, all the laws which claim to protect health key removal of the children all make the same mistake. Health by death is a ridiculous triumph, as only life can conquer.

We can ask ourselves, then, why legislation is proposed to extend the limits of an abortion which is clamed to he medical.

Reason provides evidence of this. In spite of the words used, it is not health which is demanded, but the right aver life and death which is demanded for the parents, thus returning to the morals of the pre-Christian era. The method used to achieve this regression varies according to country.

The English members of parliament are pragmatic and know that it is possible to juggle with words; they have made a law of health by death.

The French deputies are legalists and know that people can always get around the law; they have voted for legal permission to kill.

The results are identical, since children are killed without any protection in both countries.

It is useless to claim, as some people do, that one can kill without making a habit of it.

The first death makes one a killer.



This article appeared in the Observatore Romano.