“Abortion Never Saves a Woman’s Life” #Savita

I just came upon a short video.

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One wonders if they will issue a retraction. Actually, one doesn’t have to wonder. The answer is no. In fact, The Life Institute, which put out the above video, is currently fixated on whether or not Irish pro-choice groups knew about Savita’s case before the media broke it.

As a child, teen, and young adult involved in the pro-life movement, I did not deny that there are times when a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life and an abortion is the only way to save it. I did, however, contend that doctors often took advantage of the “life of the mother” exemption and argue that it was a noble thing for a woman to sacrifice her life to carry a pregnancy to term. A friend of my mother’s actually chose to carry a pregnancy to term rather than abort so that her cancer could be treated. The result was that she died, and my parents helped out with childcare as her husband set about the difficult task of raising a toddler and a newborn alone.

My point is that the argument that abortion is never necessary to save a woman’s life is new to me. I’m not sure how widespread it is, but from my perusal of pro-life sites and information following the death of Savita Hallapanavar, it appears that it is more widespread in the pro-life movement than I had any idea of.

Here is how Life Action News, for example describes the above video:

Abortion is not needed to treat cancer. In fact, it’s not needed to treat any medical condition arising in pregnancy.” Those are the opening lines of a powerful and important new video message from the Life Institute in Ireland, an organization that helps expose the inherent truth that abortion is never medically necessary.

Abortion advocates and others have proposed for years that abortion is necessary (rather, a “necessary evil”) to save women whose lives are at risk during pregnancy. This new video debunks that claim and exposes the fact that abortion is never needed to treat any medical condition arising during pregnancy.

Note that the argument is not that it is rare for abortion to be needed to save a woman’s life. Rather, the argument is that an abortion is never necessary to save a woman’s life.

Tell that to the pregnant teenage girl who died in the Dominican Republic last summer. Tell that to Savita Hallapanavar. Tell that to Edyta. Tell that to Martha Solay. Tell that to Olga Reyes. (For more on the idea that abortion is never necessary to save a woman’s life, where it came from and where it is now, see this post on RH Reality Check.)

One thing I have found as I have read about this issue is that those arguing that abortion is never necessary to save a woman’s life state that women should be allowed to have things like cancer treatment, even if it harms the fetus, but that aborting a fetus so that the woman can have cancer treatment is not permissible. Aborting a fetus, an intentional taking of a life, is not permissible. Damaging a fetus through radiation administered to a pregnant woman with cancer is, in contrast, permissible because it is not the intentional taking of a life. Of course, some of the women mentioned in the previous paragraph died because they lived in countries that would not even permit them the treatment for their conditions for fear it would harm the fetus. Nevertheless, the group in the video and others I have found online argue that such treatment, even though it would harm the fetus, is moral and ethical and should be administered to women in life threatening conditions.

Do you know what effect radiation has on fetuses?

Because the human embryo or fetus is protected in the uterus, a radiation dose to a fetus tends to be lower than the dose to its mother for most radiation exposure events. However, the human embryo and fetus are particularly sensitive to ionizing radiation, and the health consequences of exposure can be severe, even at radiation doses too low to immediately affect the mother. Such consequences can include growth retardation, malformations, impaired brain function, and cancer.

I’m trying to imagine the situation suggested here. Here is the scenario. You are eight weeks pregnant and have just been diagnosed with cancer. They’ve caught it early, and if you get chemotherapy now you can probably kick it right away and not have any long term consequences. You are told that you may not have an abortion. Your consequences are either to get chemotherapy and live, but give birth to a baby with brain damage, malformations, and quite possibly cancer, or to wait seven months until your pregnancy is over and then have chemotherapy, even though that may be too late for you. That, quite simply, is the choice these groups are offering women when they glibly state that abortion is never necessary to save a woman’s life.

But there’s something else, too. The results of the full investigation into Savita’s death have not yet been released and the investigation is ongoing, but from what we know right now it appears that it was the miscarrying pregnancy that caused Savita’s septicemicia (blood poisoning). In other words, this is not a case where she could have simply been treated while remaining pregnant. She was miscarrying and that miscarriage was killing her, and yet the doctors would do nothing to help her because the fetus still had a heartbeat. In other words, leaving aside the horrifying moral choice these groups want to give pregnant women stricken with cancer or other conditions, they are still wrong when they say that an abortion is never necessary to save a woman’s life. Savita’s death puts a face on the consequences of their misinformation.

For more, see “Pro-Lifers Play Fast and Loose with ‘Life of the Mother’ Exemption.” See also “I Know This Much Is True” and “Death in Ireland Is a Wake Up Call.”

When Abortion Restrictions Mean Jail Time
The Biased . . . and the Confused
The Totally Unoriginal Atheist Case against Abortion
Katlyn River, Loved and Grieved: A Story of Late-Term Abortion
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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