Abortion in the Case of Medical Diagnoses

  • Koria Horrocks
  • 09/10/2021

Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

There are a variety of risks and medical problems that can arise during pregnancy, both for the mother and the baby. Because of these risks, early termination has been deemed acceptable, but the facts of abortions for “medical emergencies” need to be discussed, and questions of what is moral and most humane need to be answered.

We do not need to purposefully end a preborn baby’s life in order to save a mother.

A pregnancy that risks the life of a mother is very rare. In the 2012 Dublin Declaration, over 1,000 medical professionals avowed that there is no medical reason to intentionally end the life of a preborn child to save the mother’s life. This declaration on maternal healthcare states:

“As experienced practitioners and researchers in obstetrics and gynaecology, we affirm that direct abortion – the purposeful destruction of the unborn child – is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman.

We uphold that there is a fundamental difference between abortion, and necessary medical treatments that are carried out to save the life of the mother, even if such treatment results in the loss of life of her unborn child.

We confirm that the prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women.” [1]

In other words, in the rare case that a woman requires treatment that might result in her preborn baby dying, doctors can administer that treatment without first intentionally killing the baby.

Early delivery instead of termination. 

Abortion is often defended in regard to saving a mother’s life, yet there is never a situation where terminating the baby while they are inside the womb is safer, easier, or even necessary to save the mother’s life. Instead, if a woman's life is in danger if the pregnancy continues, her doctor can induce an early delivery.

It is important people are aware that this is not the same as an abortion. If the delivery is too early, the child unfortunately may not survive, but they deserve to be delivered and treated, not terminated beforehand.

The procedure to terminate the baby's life before birth is risky and takes time. Late-term abortions (when most emergencies would arise) sometimes take days to complete. Logically, in an emergency, the safest procedure would be to deliver the baby early, while treating the mother for her health. Not only is it dangerous for the mother; it is anything but humane, and it is definitely not warranted when an early delivery could be performed. Death may not be avoided in an early delivery, but a painful, forced death before birth should never be the answer. [2]

A special note on ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage: If an ectopic pregnancy occurs, the pregnancy cannot continue safely. Ectopic pregnancies harm both mother and baby early on, and we currently lack the technology to save babies who implant outside of the uterus. The treatment, therefore, is not elective and is different than an abortion. Miscarriages occur naturally and are also very different than intentional termination and abortion, though they are medically classified as “spontaneous abortions.”  

Abnormal diagnostics for preborn babies should not merit a mercy killing, and it won’t alleviate the pain for mother or baby. 

Cases of abnormal medical diagnoses (including trisomy 18, cleft palate, spina bifida, clubfoot, marfan syndrome, muscular dystrophy and other issues) for preborn babies are relatively rare, but they do unfortunately occur. Even more sadly, the way to handle the situation is now considered a grey area in the medical field, when this need not be the case. Any abnormal medical diagnosis should not justify an early death sentence. It is not a merciful option or a “way out” to avoid heartache.

An abortion procedure is always a violent end for a preborn child. It is not painless, and it is never humane. Abortion includes using starvation, suction, dismemberment, or lethal injection. (The injection, potassium chloride, is the same drug used for people on death row.) [3]

According to recent medical research, a developing child can almost certainly feel pain as early as 14 weeks; some evidence even suggests it even occurs as early as 8 weeks. [4] A violent end that any baby in the womb can feel is especially immoral and repugnant.

If a doctor discovers a baby will likely not live long after birth or will have birth defects that may render life difficult, terminating the life in the womb is not a painless option for the developing baby or the mother. The baby is not kept comfortable or held and loved for her short life, and the mother will be heartbroken and experience loss either way. It will not spare her from losing her child to take her life earlier, and it certainly isn’t an easier way to deal with inevitable grief. If anything, it will likely add to her torture to know she didn't give her baby the best chance at life and to wonder if she missed out on the joy of meeting her baby.

Treat the most vulnerable like any other living patient. 

Terminating your unborn baby's life early, for any reason, will not spare you heartache. Rather, it will add to it. Preborn children with health problems should be treated like any other medical patient and given the chance to fight for life. If a baby may die, they still deserve the chance to live as much life as possible and treated humanely until the very end. They deserve to pass on their own and be given care until that point.

Viability is a slippery slope to judge by, especially when medical advancements are making leaps and bounds with earlier viability age. Richard Hutchinson, who was born at 21 weeks and weighing just over 11 ounces, was given a 0% chance of survival. He just celebrated his first birthday this year. [5] Utah’s own Planned Parenthood performs abortions up to 22 weeks, as an outdated consideration of the so-called “point of viability.” We can’t judge which babies deserve care and base worth on an arbitrary time frame. Viability varies. The rule should be to give adequate care to each child. 

We do not forcefully euthanize terminal or sickly patients outside of the womb, and the same should hold true for preborn children. Those who are unable to speak for themselves should be given the same respect and dignity that every life deserves. 

Handicaps and extra medical necessity do not warrant death; just because parents may find that option easier for them, it is certainly not the choice of the vulnerable baby in question. We don’t allow parents of handicapped children to euthanize them when they become too big or a burden. Preborn children deserve the same compassion and legal right to life. It is wrong for doctors to even offer termination as an option.

Doctors are not infallible. They have gotten diagnoses wrong, and medical miracles occur frequently, as in Richard Hutchinson’s case.

Eugenics is not a thing of the past.

Down Syndrome and other disabilities can be tested for during pregnancy, but these results should not become death sentences to the already-growing and otherwise healthy baby. To end a pregnancy because of a medical handicap or genetic disorder is eugenics, by very definition. [6]

Ending the life of a preborn child because it is not up to one’s standards, or because the child may need more help in this world, is morally abhorrent. Yet, in the US, around 67% of Down Syndrome pregnancies are aborted. In some countries in Europe, that number is nearly 100%, decreasing the Down Syndrome community significantly. [7]

Our society, and especially physicians, can do better to save lives.

Ending a pregnancy intentionally is not the answer to a difficult diagnosis or medical issue. The process is inhumane, and the question of morality desperately needs to be brought back into the conversation.

Let’s allow children to develop, beat odds, and fight for their lives. Let’s treat the most sickly and vulnerable with more compassion and humanity.

This discussion should not be merely between a pregnant mother and her doctor. Let’s cultivate a more humane society, especially in the medical community, by questioning what is right, rather than seeking for “private medical solutions” that lead to the guaranteed death of a preborn child.

Pro-Life Utah works to protect all children from abortion. To do this, we support women in crisis, assist women post-abortion, and advocate for pro-life legislation. Please consider making a donation so that together we can create a community that supports life. 

Donate | Resources

1.  https://www.dublindeclaration.com/

2. https://www.abortionprocedures.com/induction/

3. https://www.abortionprocedures.com/

4. https://www.hli.org/resources/fetal-pain-reason-end-abortion/

5. https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2021/6/worlds-most-premature-baby-given-0-odds-of-survival-celebrates-first-birthday-663394   

6. https://prolifeutah.org/news/article.cfm?id=639

7. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/the-debate-over-terminating-down-syndrome-pregnancies

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