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.
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.
How can a mother avoid becoming one of these women? There are several steps you can take to protect yourself and your unborn child.
1. Know your doctor. When choosing a medical professional for your prenatal care, ask her about her handling of maternal or fetal problems. Does she recommend abortion readily? Does she refer to another doctor? Does she strive to save the child? Ask other women in your community about their experiences with various doctors. Especially speak to women who are active in the pro life community. They will be the most likely to be aware of which doctors resort readily to abortion and which treat the unborn child as a second patient. Your local or state pro life organizations will be glad to talk to you. Pregnancy help centers or CPC's (Crisis Pregnancy Centers) also tend to be very knowledgable about local doctors' attitudes toward abortion. Choose a professional who has a good reputation among pro life women, and with whom you have a good rapport.
2. Educate yourself. Start by asking your doctor for clarification. Women have been advised to abort and have, numbly or in a panic, followed their doctors' instructions only to find out afterward that abortion was recommended for a questionable reason. Look elsewhere for information about your condition. Your Pregnancy Guide at About.com has excellent links to information about options for high-risk pregnancies. You can also visit a university or medical school library and do some research on your condition, or the condition diagnosed for your unborn baby. The reference librarian will show you how to use the database there, and can help you find a medical dictionary so that you can decipher what you find. You can also search the database for articles written by doctors in your community, which can give you an idea of how they tend to handle difficult cases. You can also access some medical journals and abstracts at through the Internet. Armed with this information, you can seek a doctor who is familiar with the latest treament for your condition, or can open your doctor's eyes to options he might not have thought about.
3. Get a second opinion. Even a doctor with a reputation for being pro life might not be fully aware of every option available to you. Even a doctor who is up to date on the latest treatments might be litigation-shy and lean toward abortion. If you are told that your situation is a medical emergency, you can choose to be admitted to the hospital through the emergency room and in that way get the opinion of an emergency physician without any unnecessary delay in seeking treatment.
4. If you are advised to abort because of fetal indications, arrange in advance for an autopsy for your baby. If your baby really does have a fatal abnormality, an autopsy can verify this and give you important information about risks to future pregnancies. A conscientious doctor will recommend this step anyway. But it is also important to tip the scales back in favor of life. Currently, doctors often recommend abortion to avoid the risk of a law suit. If parents start routinely verifying unfavorable diagnoses after abortions, doctors will start to see that they are risking a lawsuit by recommending unnecessary abortions as well. Holding doctors accountable for the abortions they recommend can help to create a climate where doctors are again making medical decisions rather than legal decisions.
5. If you are facing the choice between abortion and unwanted, intrusive care for a dying infant, contact your local prolife group. I have recently heard from a woman who wanted to give birth to her dying infant, and hold and love him and comfort him as he died, but in her area the Baby Doe law was being applied improperly to doctors who failed to inflict intrusive and futile care on dying infants. This is not how the Baby Doe law was written, and not how it is to be implemented. If you are feeling trapped into any unwanted abortion, your local prolife groups will help you with whatever you need. They will not consider it at all acceptable for you to be forced into an abortion because it is your only alternative to watching your baby be tormented with painful, futile care. But they can not know that it is happening if nobody tells them. Please remember that your situation is rare, and that prolife groups are organized to address common situations. They can't be ready to address problems they aren't aware of. Educate them about your problem so that they can put their resources to work for you and your baby.
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