Monday, November 18, 2002


I'll approach it practically first. In this age of medical advancements it is unfathomable to imagine a scenario where the mother's life was clearly in danger because of her fetus. In fact, many folks in the medical field believe it is never necessary to save a mother's life. C. Everett Koop - a pediatric surgeon for thirty-six years - said he never encountered even one instance where the child had to be aborted to save the mother's life. The distinction is made between potentially life-saving surgery to the mother - such as the removal of a cancerous uterus or an ectopic pregnancy that poses the threat of imminent death - and the direct act of intentional destruction of the unborn child. "Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal disease such as cancer or leukemia, and if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save the life of the mother." Alan Guttmacher, former President of Planned Parenthood, said that.

If complications arise nearer the end of the pregnancy the doctor will often induce labor or perform a C-section, keeping in mind both their lives to save. The Hippocratic Oath states "Nor will I give a woman a pessary [a vaginal suppository] to procure abortion" and the doctor's duty is to protect and treat both child and mother as his patients.

The mother's health is something else to consider. In the 1970s Roe v. Wade and its companion case Doe v. Bolton legalized abortion nationwide for any reason throughout all nine months of pregnancy. Although the court said states have a compelling reason to regulate abortion in late pregnancy, it made the exception allowing abortion even in the third trimester if it was necessary for the mother's health. It then defined health reasons for legal abortion as much broader than protesting the mother's life, but said that "all factors" of her health including physical, emotional an even the woman's age could provide reason for legal late-term abortion. In effect, any reason for legal abortion became acceptable. Medical opinions can often prove wrong but to include such ephemeral criteria as "emotional health" to a pregnant woman is to needlessly widen that door further.

Litigiousness is rampant and defensive medicine is sometimes practiced in order to avoid malpractice lawsuits but abortion is never necessary to secure the life of the mother.

Secondly, I'll engage the question theologically and philosophically. I know of no teaching in Scripture that would oblige a mother's conscience to value her own life over her child's. In fact, most every mother I've known, valued her children's lives above her own. One of God's general revelations to mankind is that we are made in His image ("Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...So God made man like his Maker." Gen. 1:26, 27) and, through His nature, life is sacred. Man is born with a sense of eternity and destiny and it is through Him that we understand our true raison d'ĂȘtre. Aquinas termed the purpose "to love God and to worship him forever."

The above example of distinction is justified under the ethical concept called the "principle of double effect." Under this principle, the death of the child is an unintended effect of an operation independently justified by the necessity of saving the mother's life. We are never permitted to commit any sin no matter how worthy the motive or outcome.

Morally, theologically, medically, philosophically and practically, I see no reason to cordon off "life of the mother" as an acceptable abortion argument.

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