When Pregnancy Threatens a Mother's Life

Dateline: 11/7/99

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 With modern medical treatments, it is possible to get almost any woman safely through a pregnancy. Even women with multiple organ transplants or other equally drastic medical situations can bring their children to life with support. But even with the progress that has been made, sometimes pregnancy does pose a very real threat to a mother's life. What can we, as life advocates, do in these tragic situations?

1. Remember that this is not an easy choice. When a woman's life is endangered by a pregnancy, it is common for other people to believe that the choice is easy. The doctor prescribes an abortion, the woman has the abortion, and everything goes on as before, right? Wrong. Sadly, abortion advocates' insistence that abortion is a regret-free experience has done a lot to hide the pain of women who lose their unborn children because of medical problems. Even people who know that a child dies in every abortion have lived in an environment of casual abortion, and will to some extent absorb the "abortion as a victimless crime" poison. Remember that a woman who chooses abortion to avoid orphaning her children is making a dreadful, horrible decision that will haunt her for the rest of her life. We must respond with love and comfort to these women, and not dismiss their pain.

2. Be ready to offer real help. Some medical conditions aren't black-and-white. The mother can try to continue the pregnancy long enough to save the baby's life. Your local pro life groups need to do outreach to high-risk pregnancy specialists. Let them know that if a woman is struggling with issues such as medical expenses, child care, and other practical aspects of trying to bring her child into the world, you are there to help. Be prepared to do fund-raisers for experimental procedures not covered by insurance. Be a visible presence ready to help women struggling to save their babies. Strangely enough, although people know that pro lifers are ready to help women who are considering abortion, most people don't realize that our help is available to any woman who needs help to give birth to her baby.

3. Promote research and support. Abortion advocates pester insurance carriers to cover abortion. We need to be urging insurance companies to cover the expenses related to continuing a risky pregnancy, including Neonatal Intensive Care for children born prematurely because of maternal health concerns. Pro life doctors, nurses, and other professionals need to help develop cost-effective ways of providing nursing care and support to ailing mothers and babies. Communities need to be supportive of these efforts. There is a crying need for research in embryo transplants and other possible treatments to save unborn children who are gestating outside the uterus and endangering their mothers' lives.

Because most abortions are purely elective, pro life efforts tend to focus on preventing elective abortions. Let us not forget those women who most desperately want to avoid abortions, but for whom there might be no other option.


1. Calderone, Mary; "Illegal Abortion as a Public Health Problem;" AJPH v. 50 n. 7. pp. 948-9, July 1960

Related Links
"Baby That Cancer Threatened is Born"
"Don't Like Abortions? Don't Have One!"
Hodgkin's Disease and Pregnancy
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National Cancer Institute: Breast Cancer and Pregnancy
Pregnancy and Cancer: Breast Cancer
Pregnancy and Cancer: Cervical Cancer
Prenatal Diagnoses
Prenatal Diagnoses
"The Doctors Are Often Wrong"
Unwanted Abortions

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