As Hakeem the Bunny Muncher would say, "Well, if you insist!" (Long story. If you're interested, ask me.)
Let's look at this idea of abortions to save the mother's life.
First of all, they're exceedingly rare. As far back as 1960, Planned Parenthood Medical Director Mary Calderone wrote "[M]edically speaking, that is, from the point of view of diseases of the various systems, cardiac, genitourinary, and so on, it is hardly ever necessary today to consider the life of a mother as threatened by a pregnancy." Dr. Alan Guttmacher, another former leader of Planned Parenthood, said in 1967, "Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal illness such as cancer or leukemia, and if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save life."
With the advances that have been made in medicine since then, how much more true are Calderone's and Guttmacher's observations?
But what about those rare cases? I searched for conditions in which the prescribed treatment is abortion, and I've not been able to find any. Here's what I have found:
This Spanish study of women with lupus during pregnancy found no maternal deaths, and of the 8 patients who had "therapeutic" abortions, six of them requested the abortions themselves, and two had abortions performed because their treatment medications were presumed to have harmed the fetuses. None of them was aborted as a live-preserving measure for the mother.
The research these doctors in the UK did is worth noting. I'll bold the particularly important parts:
Between 1967 and 1990, only 151 abortions have been carried out to save the mother's life, a figure amounting to 0.004% of all abortions.
In 1992, a group of Ireland's top gynaecologists wrote: "We affirm that there are no medical circumstances justifying direct abortion, that is, no circumstances in which the life of a mother may only be saved by directly terminating the life of her unborn child."
When Dublin's National Maternity Hospital (where 10% of all births in Ireland occurred) investigated the 21 deaths of pregnant women there between 1970-1979, they found that not a single one of those deaths could have been avoided by abortion.
Ireland, a country where the unborn child is constitutionally protected, has the lowest maternal death rate in the world. The UK, where abortion is available practically on demand, has over five times Ireland's maternal death rate.
Developments in medicine mean that the 'abortion to save the mother's life' argument is becoming harder and harder to justify. It is now possible for women with heart defects to carry a baby to term with expert help and life-threatening conditions such as cancer can often be treated without harming the unborn child. Women facing difficult pregnancies have a right to the best available medical support.
Direct abortion is the deliberate killing of an unborn child. Treatment to save the life of the mother that results in the death of the child as an expected but not intended side effect is not a direct abortion, e.g. in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. In this situation, the baby begins to develop in the woman's fallopian tube and has to be removed or the tube will rupture and cause the death of the woman. This involves the unavoidable death of the unborn baby but the aim of the operation is to save the mother not to kill the baby.
Let me reiterate the most important points:
In fact, the successful treatment of high-risk pregnancy is measured in terms of length of gestation and fetal survival; maternal survival is expected. You start seeing maternal mortality when you look at studies of women who suffer catastrophic injuries during pregnancy. The medical literature on these cases mentions "abortion" (miscarriage) as an undesired effect of these injuries, not as a treatment.
Pro-life physicians note that doctors often recommend abortions for ailing patients because they fear that treatment for the mother might harm the fetus. Aborting the baby to prevent his possible injury or death makes sense from a legal standpoint, for the doctor to avoid a lawsuit, but these abortions are to protect the doctor's malpractice rates, or to avoid the possible birth of a child with a disability, not to preserve the mother's life.
An example is breast cancer. Doctors would give the women a choice between having the baby killed, and delaying chemo until after birth, risking their own lives. But it turns out that there are treatment regimens that can be administered during pregnancy.
Even if the woman had uterine cancer, requiring a hysterectomy, doctors would deliver the baby live first if he or she was viable. If the baby was not yet viable, the hysterectomy would indeed kill him or her, but would not be the same as performing an abortion -- which is a procedure performed with the primary intent of killing the fetus.
Yes, there are sometimes situations in which a mother develops health problems that require the pregnancy to be terminated. My friend had to have three pregnancies terminated in the third trimester due to life-threatening problems. These terminated pregnancies are named Daniel, Becky, and Mary; they were delivered by emergency c-section.
Do these rare, tragic cases mean that we need a "life of the mother" exception in abortion bans? I think not. Let the doctor take whatever measures he thinks necessary to preserve the mother's life, and allow such cases to simply go unprosecuted, as they were before legalization, and just as doctors are not prosecuted in those rare cases where they kill one conjoined twin to allow the other to survive.
See also “What if the Mother’s Life is in Danger?”
Now, let's cut to the chase.
I'm sure that though your average, ordinary citizen is unaware of these facts, the high mucky-mucks at NARAL and Planned Parenthood no doubt are aware of these facts. (If they're not, they're failing to do proper research before taking a strong public advocacy position, which is inexcusable.) So what is it that they're really afraid of?
I think it's that women will be inspired, like Pam Tebow, to question their doctors. And if they do that, we'll get more cases of women learning that their doctors were pushing for unnecessary abortions.
If women who are told that their lives are in danger, or who are facing other serious medical problems, start doing research and finding that there are better ways, imagine the ripple effects.
If the "hard cases" turn out to be situations in which there are better options that women would freely choose if given the information they need, what next? Might not other women, in less drastic situations, also start questioning whether abortion really is so necessary?
There could be a backlash of outraged women wanting to know why they were abandoned to the heartbreak of abortion, when other avenues were available to them. Other avenues that they weren't told about, because to open other doors might cause women to choose unchoice choices.
That would be a disaster for the abortion lobby. And I think the prospect terrifies them.
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