Are there life-threatening illnesses arising in pregnancy where the life of the mother can only be saved by abortion?


No. Several conditions can arise in pregnancy which, if left untreated, would result in the death of the expectant mother and consequently of her child. HELLP Syndrome, pre-eclampsia, congestive heart failure and other conditions can arise in pregnant women.

The necessary treatment is the termination of the pregnancy, not the termination of the life of the unborn child; in other words, the intent is to bring the pregnancy to an end, not to deliberately kill the unborn baby. Usually the unborn baby is viable, i.e. can survive outside the mother's womb. In rare cases the condition threatens the life of the mother before the child is viable. In these cases current medical practice is to deliver the child and to do all that is possible to save his/her life.

A small minority of doctors argue that this treatment constitutes an abortion, since the practicing obstetrician knows that the ending of the pregnancy will in all probability, effectively end the baby's life. We argue that there is no intent to kill the baby, an essential requisite for what the vast majority of people consider to be "abortion."

Cancer of the womb occurs in a tiny number of expectant mothers. It is often necessary to remove the pregnant uterus to prevent the spread of the cancer and, thereby, save the mother's life.

This is standard practice and any doctor who did not provide the necessary treatment would be guilty of professional misconduct. Again, the intent is to treat the cancerous womb, not to deliberately kill the unborn baby, and such treatment is not and has never been considered an abortion.

An ectopic pregnancy is said to occur when implantation of the fertilised ovum occurs anywhere other than the womb, most commonly in the fallopian tubes, but occasionally elsewhere such as in the abdominal cavity. Ectopic pregnancy is not compatible with survival of the unborn baby.

If the pregnancy is not ended the mother will die from haemorrhage as a result of rupture of the ectopic's implantation site. The more modern treatments aim to destroy the placenta of the ectopic pregnancy so that the pregnancy ends and the threat of rupture recedes. Left untreated, the mother and child will both die. Treatment will save the mother's life, and again, this is the sole intent of the practice.

The essential point here is the intent of the practitioner. The importance of intent is recognised in law. There is no reason why any of these cases should be used as excuses for refusing an absolute ban on the deliberate and intentional killing of the unborn, commonly known as abortion.

In 1951, Dr. R. J. Heffernan, of Tufts University, said:

"Anyone who performs a therapeutic abortion (for physical disease) is either ignorant of modern methods of treating the complications of pregnancy, or is unwilling to take time to use them." Congress of American College of Surgeons, 1951

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