Is abortion ever necessary to “save the life of the mother”?

Published: October 2, 2013 5:44 am

Is abortion ever necessary to “save the life of the mother”?

It’s dropped on the daily basis: Abortion should be legal except in cases where the life of the mother is threatened by the pregnancy. But should it?

Politicians who do not affirm the legitimacy of abortion under these circumstances are written off as straight-up lunatics. Who could be so callous, opponents ask, as to deny life to a pregnant woman whose life is threatened by her pregnancy? The truth is, there is one massive misconception about the “life of the mother” exception. That is the belief that abortion is sometimes necessary to save the life of the mother.

The abortion procedure is not – ever – necessary to save the life of a mother. There are, however, maternal health risks that require a treatment that cause the unfortunate, indirect, and unintentional death of an unborn child. For instance, in life-threatening ectopic pregnancies that require removal of a Fallopian tube, the pregnancy (including the unborn child) will be removed along with the Fallopian tube. The intention in this procedure is first and foremost to save the life of the mother, and in order to do so, a physician must perform a procedure that indirectly causes the death of her unborn child.

This is not an abortion. Furthermore, a true abortion – in which the direct intention is to end the life of a human being – is not a treatment for any type of maternal health risk. The death of a baby never saves his or her mother; procedures that may lead to a child’s death save the life of the mother.

The Association of Pro-Life Physicians, whose mission is to practice pro-life medical ethics as the only legitimate means of living out the do no harm clause of the Hippocratic Oath, clarified the subject with the following statement, which can be found within its broader context here:


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