The powerful story of 30-year-old Pamela Cook is circulating around the internet: When she was 16 weeks pregnant she was diagnosed with breast cancer and the doctors “encouraged” her to terminate the pregnancy (read: kill her child). She didn’t, and her son Zion is the love of her life.

Pamela’s story not only provides inspiration, as many have noted, it also illustrates the difference between an ethical and unethical response to a pregnant woman’s life being in danger.  Here’s a moral lesson we can draw from this news:

When a pregnant woman’s life is in danger it is still wrong to directly and intentionally kill her pre-born child.  That doesn’t mean, however, there are no ethical avenues to pursue.

If Pamela Cook’s very life depended on chemotherapy treatment being administered while pregnant, it is ethical to do that, even if there is a risk to her child.  The act itself–administering chemotherapy–is a good action to address a pathological condition within her (life-threatening cancer).

That good action may have a good and bad effect–the former being her life preserved, the latter being her child may be harmed.  But applying the Principle of Double Effect, the good effect is intended, not the bad one (which is merely tolerated), and there is proportion between both effects.

Finally, she isn’t saved by means of the child’s potential harm, but because a pathological condition was directly addressed (for if she wasn’t pregnant, chemotherapy would still be administered and hopefully save her).

This ethical response is entirely different from what physicians encouraged: abortion. Such an action is itself wrong as it directly and intentionally targets the baby’s body for destruction, not the woman’s pathology for elimination.

Pamela chose to do the right thing.  Not only was her life preserved, but so was Zion’s.  Her story shows a truly pro-life response to an ethically challenging situation.

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