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Professor examines abortion ethics

Amanda Gonzales | Monday, March 26, 2007

Margaret Hogan, a McNerney-Hanson professor of ethics at the University of Portland, took on the hot-button issue of elective abortion during her lecture Friday on “Bioethics Ethics and Its Gordian Knot.”

Hogan, who called abortion a “bloody battle that has taken many lives and left many scars,” said it is a subject on which “everyone has taken a stance, but no decision has been made.”

Hogan said she considers elective abortion the “Gordian knot” of medical ethics. The idea of a “Gordian knot” stems from Gordius, ancient king of Phrygia, who tied a knot that was to be undone only by the person who was to rule Asia. That knot was cut, rather than untied, by Alexander the Great.

Hogan said four ideas have “tied” the Gordian knot around the practice of abortion, including a particular philosophy, a particular legal theory, the split of feminism and the form of ignorance that she said pervades American society.

Hogan said she believes by changing the ways in which our society views abortion – primarily by working to change these four ideas – the Gordian knot can be untied.

Hogan also spoke about the ideals of motherhood, and how the relationship of a woman to her unborn child is a human union, both physically and morally. Because it is such a union, “the task of the woman is for her to speak for the unborn and its rights,” Hogan said.

She said humans are dependent creatures – not only on God but also on each other – and it is our duty to help those that are helpless, including unborn children.

Hogan said Catholics are not doing enough to stop the practice of abortion.

“Catholic intellectuals have sat on the side,” she said, stressing the need for greater participation in this heated controversy. Catholics must be willing to take a risk in today’s society and can make a change, even though they are small in number, she said.

Hogan was the 18th lecturer to speak at the 22nd-annual J. Philip Clarke Family Lecture in Medical Ethics series and is also a fellow of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture.

The Philip Clarke Family Lecture, hosted by the Center for Ethics and Culture as well as the Notre Dame Alumni Association’s Alumni Continuing Education Office, brings 100 practicing physicians and health care workers from around the country to Notre Dame to speak about the issues currently facing the medical community.