The Life of the Mother Exception to Abortion

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Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
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Ever since the Roe vs. Wade decision, some states have been trying to place restrictions on abortion (or in recent cases eliminate them). These efforts have been more successful at some times than others, more so lately. When considering abortion from a legal standpoint, at some point there is a discussion of exceptions. The most common ones are rape, incest, and the life of the mother. While the first two are important discussions, I want to focus on the 3rd. Some laws use health of the mother, which in practice can mean anything, e.g. “I’m having a bad day.” Where the real seeming moral dilemma comes is when the mother’s life is truly in danger due to the pregnancy.

In the late 1990s, and again in the early 2000s, I was a board member of a Crisis Pregnancy Center. In this capacity, I was part of a group that made decisions not only for the finances of the organization, but also internal and public policy statements. At one of the board meetings a new public policy statement was being voted on that was developed for the Center. I don’t remember the exact words, but the gist of it was, “We are opposed to abortion under any circumstances.” Believing like many people, I thought there should be a “life of the mother” exception. We debated this for some time, but didn’t really come to a resolution. Because I wasn’t comfortable with the wording of the statement, I tendered my resignation from the board.

The board president, instead of accepting my resignation, brought it up again at the next board meeting. We discussed how we might change the statement without compromising principles. In addition, one of the board members brought a doctor in to address my concerns. This is when I came to learn that the “life/health of the mother” exception was just another way for pro-aborts to water down any proposed bills as they do with rape, incest, and anything else they can come up with.

As it was explained to me by the doctor, abortions aren’t performed to save the mother’s life (I’m not including the butchers with medical licenses). If the mother or unborn baby are in life-threatening distress, it sometimes becomes necessary to deliver the baby, either early or very early. At all times, the doctors work to save the life of the mother and the child. During the course of these actions, there are times that either or both can die during the process. This is not an act to take life, but rather always to save lives.

The reason for this diary is to respond to a comment in Mike Ford’s diary about When Life Begins. A portion of the comment was,

Why is it ok to have an abortion if the mother’s life is in danger? Why is it ok to murder the fetus just because the mother might die?

This simply isn’t what happens in these cases unless the mother has decided she wants an abortion, and then it’s really no longer about her health or life, but her decision to kill her unborn child and it’s still not a morally acceptable act.

These exceptions for the life of the mother are important legal distinctions though, and that’s why they are included. They are there to protect the doctor from being prosecuted for taking a life when they are actually trying to save lives but a death cannot be prevented due to the circumstances of that case. There are unfortunately still some doctors who want to move too quickly, partially because of our broken tort system. This is not an attempt to save lives, but rather to prevent a lawsuit.

There really isn’t a valid medical reason to have an abortion, so those questions presented are strawmen. There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who value life, and those who don’t. If you value life, questions such as these don’t come up, because you will always act in a way that protects life, no matter the circumstances. This is how our board’s statement became, “We are opposed to abortion, and value the life of the mother and the child.”

Full disclosure: When I was young, my then girlfriend got pregnant. She wanted to get an abortion, but I didn’t have the money for it. If I did, I probably would’ve given it to her. By God’s Grace she was prevented from aborting her child, and there are now eight lives (daughter, 5 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren) as a result.