"Don't like abortions? Don't have one." It makes a great bumper sticker slogan. If only it were that simple in real life. Abortion advocates would have us believe that all legalization did was allow those women who would have had dangerous "back alley" abortions to have "safe and legal" abortions instead. It's all supposed to be about each woman making her own choices based on her own religion, her own ethics, her own plans, her own wants. But that's not the way it has turned out in practice.
David Reardon's research of post-abortion women showed that over 60% of them felt "forced" into unwanted abortions by people or circumstances. Nowhere is this more apparent -- or more dastardly -- than in the realm of "medically indicated" abortions.
This is not to cast aspersions on those rare women whose lives are endangered by a pregnancy. Sometimes the death of the unborn child is the unwanted but tragically necessary side effect of treatment necessary to save the mother's life. A conscientious doctor will struggle with such cases, and will make all reasonable efforts to preserve the child's life if possible. The trouble lies in the fact that abortion advocacy efforts have created a climate in which many doctors feel safest recommending abortion at the first sign of trouble.
We've all seen how often a small group of troublemakers can cause grief to others. Abortion proponents have painted abortion as a "right," rather than an evil to be avoided. They have filed suit against conscientious doctors, doctors adhering to the Hippocratic Oath, for failing to advise them to abort in the face of a possible problem with the baby or with the woman's health. Because these folks are loud and expensive to deal with, they have gotten what they want at the expense of other women and the lives of wanted children.
Over a decade before widespread legalization of abortion, even Planned Parenthood's Medical Director, Mary Calderone, recognized that "it is hardly ever necessary today to consider the life of a mother as threatened by a pregnancy."1 But thanks to the efforts of abortion advocates, pregnancy is perceived as dangerous, and women are being steered by litigation-shy doctors into needless, unwanted abortions, ostensibly for maternal or fetal indications.
Nobody knows how often women are channeled into such abortions. The fact that an abortion was prescribed unnecessarily is usually only discovered if the woman persists in her resolve not to abort, or if someone investigates the situation after the abortion. The very fact that such cases happen proves the lie behind the slogans about women choosing abortions freely. We can also hazard a guess about how frequently women are sold needless, unwanted abortions on medical grounds by looking at the experiences of doctors who take the mother's desire to preserve her child's life more seriously.
Dr. Thomas Murphy Goodwin is affiliated with an obstetrical service specializing in high-risk cases. His reflections on cases he has seen in his practice are described by him in The Silent Subject.2 In Goodwin's cachement area, there are approximately 30,000 births a year. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that there are slightly over 330 abortions for every 1,000 live births. That would mean that there are about 9,900 abortions per year in the area served by Goodwin and his colleagues. The Alan Guttmacher Institute estimates that 3% of abortions are for maternal health indications and another 3% are because of fear of fetal problems. So if we look at only half the problem -- maternal indication abortions -- there are approximately 300 abortions done for maternal indications in Goodwin's cachement area every year. Goodwin indicates that in his practice, he and his colleagues will see one or two women a year with health problems that mean they have a greater than 20% risk of death from carrying the pregnancy to term. That's one or two abortions that are actually medically indicated for every 300 women who abort because they believe their lives are in danger. This is, to say the least, overkill -- in the ugliest sense of the word.
Goodwin tells poignant stories of women who had been sent to his practice for unnecessary abortions. One 21-year-old woman was referred for "immediate abortion" of her 19-week pregnancy because she had been diagnosed with a congenital heart lesion. She was so distressed at the idea of aborting that a physician referred her to Goodwin and his associates for a second opinion. An evaluation that could have been done by the woman's referring physician showed that her heart abnormality was not endangering her life. She continued the pregnancy, with unremarkable labor induced, and a healthy baby delivered, at 38 weeks.
Another woman, 32 years old, had a test at 7 weeks gestation that was positive for cytomegalovirus. She was advised to abort lest her baby be born with mental retardation and multiple organ problems. Her doctor even told her that he had confirmed this grim prognosis with a "high risk pregnancy specialist." With great regret, the woman scheduled an abortion. A physician neighbor learned of her plight and referred her to Goodwin's practice. A review of her test results showed that there was a 4 in 100 chance that her baby had been affected by the virus, and that even if the child was affected, there was a 50% chance that the consequence would just be some hearing impairment. "She was stunned and relieved," Goodwin wrote, "to learn that the risk was no greater than that." More precise tests were done which showed that there had been no infection at all. Thanks to the kindly advise of a neighbor, this woman was spared the tragedy of an abortion, and gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
Yet another woman was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was told that she needed immediate chemotherapy, that the chemotherapy would certainly harm her baby, and that trying to continue her pregnancy would worsen her prognosis. She was instructed to abort her 11 week pregnancy so that chemotherapy could be initiated. She scheduled an abortion, but was referred to Goodwin's practice by her pastor. There she learned that breast cancer did not require abortion for treatment, and that the fetus was likely to tolerate the chemotherapy well. The woman was able to have her chemotherapy, and delivered an apparently healthy baby boy. "That many chemotherapy regimens can be continued without apparent ill-effect in pregnancy is information readily available to any interested physician," Goodwin notes. "Why was the patient not informed?"
Although these women were put through needless anguish, they were spared the trauma of abortion. Other women have not been so fortunate. The next Feature will look at these sad cases.
"Baby That Cancer Threatened is Born"
"Don't Like Abortions? Don't Have One!"
Hodgkin's Disease and Pregnancy
National Cancer Institute: Breast Cancer and Pregnancy
Pregnancy and Cancer: Breast Cancer
Pregnancy and Cancer: Cervical Cancer
"The Doctors Are Often Wrong"
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