CHAPTER 51 ABORTION FOR THE MOTHER'S 'HEALTH:' WEDGE FOR ABORTION ON DEMAND
American Life League

Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal disease such as cancer or leukemia, and if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save the life.

                                                                                               Alan Guttmacher.[1]

Anti-Life Philosophy.

In my medical judgment, every pregnancy that is not wanted by the patient, I feel there is a medical indication to abort a pregnancy where it is not wanted. In good faith, I would recommend on a medical basis, you understand, that, and it would be 100% ... I think they are all medically necessary ... Occasionally we will advise these women to carry their pregnancy to term, but most of these are medically necessary because I am considering the woman's physical, mental, emotional and social and welfare and family and environment and all that ... I am concerned with the quality of life, not physical existence.

                                                      Sworn testimony of abortionist Jane Hodgson.[2]

Abortion must remain legal for those difficult cases where the mother's life is threatened by carrying the fetus or delivering it. Such cases are not at all uncommon. It is truly illogical to put the interests of a potential life above those of a living, breathing woman.

Introduction.

Alan Guttmacher was as pro-abortion as a person can get; he did more to spread abortion on demand throughout the world than any other individual. Yet his activism qualified him uniquely to comment on the rarity of true health indications for abortion and his above quote was made a quarter of a century ago! Obviously, with all of the advances that have been made in medicine during the intervening period, cases in which a woman's health is threatened by her pregnancy are rarer yet today.

Opening the Door.

The Strategy. Traditionally, pro-abortionists have used a time-honored and successful two-step strategy for enacting abortion on demand. The first step is to get abortion legalized for the true "hard cases" of rape and incest. The second step is to either legalize abortion for any reason or to legalize it "for the mother's health" which, in practice, is exactly the same as abortion on demand.

Abortion "for the mother's health" equals abortion on demand because, when defined by pro-abortionists, "health" means literally anything. Many abortionists in this and other countries use the definition of "maternal health" set by the World Health Organization (WHO): "A state of complete physical, mental, and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."[3]

Anyone who adheres to this definition, of course, can use it to demand abortion for any reason at all.

The History.

The statutes of 46 States regulating abortion before 1965 explicitly allowed abortion to save the life of the mother. Of the four States that did not explicitly allow an exception for the life of the mother, State courts found that such laws did indeed implicitly allow such an exception. These exceptions were used if there was any doubt at all that a mother's life would be imperiled by a continuing pregnancy; abortionists obviously did not wait for women to reach death's door.

It was generally expected that a woman seeking an abortion to preserve her health was in dire mental or physical condition indeed. However, lawmakers reasoned that it was hardly moral or fair to kill an unborn child for a chronic health problem that was induced by pregnancy and would clear up after delivery. Therefore, before 1965, "mother's health" was generally interpreted to mean a truly life-threatening situation. In other words, a "mother's life" exception was approximately equivalent to a "mother's health" exception.

The Strategy.

The process of pro-abortion incrementalism (abortion first for rape and incest, then the mother's 'health') was the original plan of the abortion strategists; however, this overall plan was cut short by the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision.

This progression of abortion exceptions that are more and more liberal is certainly not unique to the United States; it has been successfully employed all over the world. Many nations that have abortion exceptions "for the mother's health" essentially have abortion on demand. West Germany was a prime example.

Pro-Lifers Must Oppose The "Health" Exception.

Introduction.

At first glance, it seems callous for anyone to oppose abortions to preserve women's health. However, in dealing with abortionists, we must remember that any exception whatever even a "life of the mother" exception will eventually be expanded to mean, in practice, abortion on demand.

Cheating the System.

The first reason pro-lifers must oppose a "health of the mother" exception is that abortionists and unscrupulous women will lie and cheat the system as aggressively as they can to get their precious abortions committed. After all, what is a little rationalization and lying for women who are determined to kill their own children and to men who are committed to earning money by killing?

Lucinda Cisler described how women deliberately used bogus health indications ("psychiatric games," as she calls them) to obtain abortions before legalization in the Neofeminist "Bible" Sisterhood is Powerful. Her article was aptly entitled "Getting an Abortion By Hook or By Crook."[4] Many other Neofeminist organizations advocate this kind of deception and have promised to teach women how to "get over" on the system if abortion is restricted to "health of the mother" exceptions.

As early as 1960, more than half of all California abortions were done for reasons other than maternal health. In New York State, before 1960, more than 40 percent of all abortions were performed for psychiatric reasons.[5]

By 1970 the percentage of women obtaining legal abortions for "psychiatric indications" had more than doubled, almost to the saturation point.

Dr. E. James Lieberman spoke of those states that had already legalized abortion for the mother's "health" in 1970 when he said that "In recent years, 90 percent of all legal abortions performed in the United States were justified on psychiatric grounds, since there are few physical conditions which stand in the way of normal gestation and parturition."[6]

Dr. Benjamin N. Branch confirmed this view as he explained that "Until June, 1970, almost 90 percent of abortions in New York were in fact certified as necessary to protect emotional health."[6]

How to Lie and Cheat ...

If abortion becomes illegal again, pro-life activists will be able to bet heavy money that a large number of immoral women will go right back to playing their clever and deadly little "psychiatric games."

In fact, in anticipation of the drastic limiting of Roe v. Wade, many Neofeminists began instructing women how to lie and cheat and pretend in order to get abortions, should they be limited to 'health' exceptions once again. An excellent and detailed example of how to lie and cheat during an interview for an abortion was given in Lana Phelan and Pat Maginnis' 1969 The Abortion Handbook and repeated in Rebecca Chalker and Carol Downer's 1992 A Woman's Book of Choices: Abortion, Menstrual Extraction, RU-486;

During the interview, weep, show anger, fear, disgust, outright destructiveness of your clothing or small objects, say, the ashtray on his desk which can be broken on the floor or against a wall. Don't overdo this. You will be billed for the broken things later! Don't break the doctor's head. This is a "no-no" ... How's your attention span? ... You can't seem to concentrate on anything for more than a couple of minutes ... Drop sly hints that you are "attracted" to many strange men sexually. Be dull and very sad. Cry a bit. Just sit in silence, and make him repeat questions as though you hadn't heard a word ... And now for the Manic Scene: Just like the opera, ladies! Brighten up, beam like a sunrise ... let your thoughts gallop wildly ... your speech flows like the Danube in flood time ... you might try taking off your shoes, kicking them all the way across his office, wriggling your toes. Then say, "That feels so good, I think I'll take everything off ... (musingly)."[7]

Chalker and Downer also admit that "Another pre-Roe standby that many women employed successfully was threatening or feigning suicide."[7]

So-called 'doctors' who knew how to make fast bucks simply ignored the system when abortion was illegal. Many psychiatrists still routinely certify women for Medicaid abortions where only "life of the mother" exceptions are paid for by saying that a pregnancy represents a threat to her long-term mental health.

Stretching the Definition.

The second reason that pro-lifers must oppose "health of the mother" exceptions is that abortionists stretch the definition of "health" to cover any reason whatever.

This chicanery has been given the imprimatur of the highest possible secular source of authority; the United States Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court never actually stated that its purpose was to authorize abortion on demand. However, the practical effect of its definitions of maternal 'health' is abortion on demand in practice.

The Court defined maternal health to include "mental health" in its United States v. Vuitch decision (402 U.S. 62, 71-72 (1971)), and expanded this to hold that virtually all factors of any type are relevant to the mother's health, including "physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age" (Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179, 192 (1973)).

Other judges have gone to even more ridiculous extremes in their mad rush to prop up the abortion 'right.' Perhaps the most ridiculous example was provided by Judge Dooling when he overturned the Hyde Amendment. Dooling asserted on page 309 of his opinion that "Poverty is a medical condition."[8]

Example Quotes.

The abortionists were certainly not averse to following the Supreme Court's definition of "health." After all, more abortions means more bucks.

Abortionist David Zbaraz has actually claimed that all first-trimester and most second-trimester abortions are medically necessary since, as he alleges, they are safer than childbirth.[9]

According to another author, "A Colorado abortion clinic director claimed that his extensive research showed that carrying a pregnancy to term is about 100 times more life threatening than having an abortion. He, therefore, considered any pregnancy life-threatening and used that as justification, certifying that the mother's life was endangered."[10]

Dr. Jasper Williams, former president of the National Medical Association, noted that, in 23 years of practice, he knew of only two women who had actually died in childbirth from previously undiagnosed causes; one of a pulmonary embolism and the other from an amniotic fluid embolism.

It is his opinion that pro-abortionists will expand even minor conditions (such as mild varicose veins) into "threats to the woman's life."[11]

This strategy is aptly summarized by two pro-abortion doctors, Norbert Gleicher and Uri Elkayam; "A clear definition of what constitutes a medical indication for pregnancy interruption remains to be established. It is our opinion that the medical advice for termination of pregnancy has to be carefully evaluated in each patient, taking into account a variety of factors ... objective factors, subjective factors ... financial considerations, social considerations ... It should be recognized, however, that fetal factors should never enter into a consideration of a "medically indicated" abortion."[12]

Minnesota abortionist Jane Hodgson stated her case in much simpler and more direct terms: "A medically necessary abortion is any abortion a woman asks for."[13]

Magnitude of the Lying.

The above quotes reflect not only theory, but practice as well. In 1986, the Inspector General of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a report (Control Number 14-60150) that summarized the events leading to 207 Colorado and Ohio Medicaid abortions performed to "save the life of the mother."

Intuition would tell us that an abortion performed to save a woman's life would involve only the most extreme life-threatening physical circumstances. Yet 179 of the 207 abortions (86 percent) "to save the mother's life" were performed in the abortionist's offices, which generally have no advanced medical or resuscitation equipment on hand. Even more startling, 182 of these abortions (88%) were coded as including "no medical complications!"

Three physicians performed 184 of these abortions (89% of the total) and the HHS report stated that they "... said that pregnancy was more life-endangering to a mother than an abortion, so they signed the certifications on that basis." In other words, the abortionists simply alleged that "childbirth is ten times more dangerous than abortion, so abortion was obviously the way to go."

Abortionist Lise Fortier took this attitude to its extreme at the 1980 national convention of the National Abortion Federation when she asserted that "Each and every pregnancy threatens a woman's life. From a strict medical viewpoint, every pregnancy should be aborted."[14]

Abortionist Michael Burnhill of the National Abortion Federation confirmed this bizarre attitude when he said that a "life of the mother" exception would allow him to perform all abortions he considered "medically necessary," all those that would preserve a "condition in which one can actively participate in one's total life ... "[15]

Widespread exploitation of the "mental health" dodge is not a purely American phenomenon: Abortionists are the same the world over. For example, of the 168,297 abortions committed in England in 1988, 92% were for "mental health reasons" and 6.6% had no medical condition mentioned. The person who made a determination of mental problems was not a psychiatrist but the abortionist!

Perhaps this explains why 100% of the abortion justifications for "mental health" were labeled either "neuroses" or "depression," which no reputable psychiatrist or psychologist would ever do.

Professor Myre Sim, lecturer in Psychiatry at Birmingham University, recognized that abortionists are certainly not qualified to make psychiatric evaluations; "I was able to demonstrate successfully that psychiatry was competent to deal with all the psychiatric hazards of pregnancy, and that the day that a psychiatrist required a gynaecologist to treat his patients has not arrived."[16]

For a detailed rebuttal to the false pro-abortion premise that abortion is safer than childbirth, see Chapter 59, "Maternal Deaths Due to Abortion."

Conclusion.

Abortionists are totally committed to their cause: making lots of money by killing preborn people. Is it any wonder, then, that they would stretch any exception to achieve a condition that is essentially abortion on demand?

The one truly admirable quality of the pro-abortion movement is its absolute refusal to compromise. The pro-aborts reject limits on third-trimester abortions, convenience abortions, and abortions for sex selection, and they oppose even the most trivial limits on abortion activity, such as parental involvement, informed consent, clinic licensing, and decent burial of aborted babies.

The pro-abortion strategists must adopt this 'no-compromise' position because they correctly recognize the threat of a 'reverse slippery slope;' i.e., if they let go of abortion in even the most apparently trivial cases, pro-lifers will use this weakness to destroy abortion on demand.

We in the pro-life movement, then, must also assume an absolutist posture if we are to have any hope of victory. We must reject any type of compromise when dealing with the lives of preborn babies. After all, it is not us who will be burned, scalded, and torn apart.

The 'health of the mother' exception is the most dangerous exception of all.

The Reality.

Overview.

According to those who should know the best the abortionists themselves no more than two percent of all abortions are performed for what is called "clinically identifiable health reasons," and much less than one percent are performed to save the mother's life.[17]

The Experts Speak.

Many abortionists and other experts have acknowledged that abortions to save a mother's life or to preserve her health are extremely rare indeed. The experts have testified as follows;

Anyone who performs a therapeutic abortion is either ignorant of modern medical methods or unwilling to take the time and effort to apply them.

Roy Heffernan, Tufts University Medical School. Quoted in Thomas J. O'Donnell's Morals in Medicine. Westminster, Maryland: Newman Press, 1960. Page 159.

Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal disease such as cancer or leukemia, and if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save the life.

Alan Guttmacher. "Abortion Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow." The Case for Legalized Abortion Now. Berkeley: Diablo Books, 1967, page 9.

There is now general agreement that pregnancy does not alter the natural history of disease, so that, provided a woman survives the immediate challenge, neither her health nor her life-expectancy is permanently changed.

John F. Murphy, M.D. and Diernan O'Driscoll, M.D. "Therapeutic Abortion: The Medical Argument." Irish Medical Journal, August 1982, pages 304 to 306.

The situation where the mother's life is at stake were she to continue a pregnancy is no longer a clinical reality. Given the state of modern medicine, we can now manage any pregnant woman with any medical affliction successfully, to the natural conclusion of the pregnancy: the birth of a healthy child.

Bernard Nathanson, M.D. Written statement to the Idaho House of Representatives' State Affairs Committee, February 16, 1990. Also quoted in "Exceptions: Abandoning "The Least of These My Brethren."" American Life League booklet, 1991. Page 22.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on the Constitution of the United States Senate on October 14, 1981, Dr. Irving Cushner, Professor of Obstetrics at the UCLA School of Medicine, was asked by one of the Senators how often abortions are necessary to save the life of the mother or to insure her physical health.

Dr. Cushner, who is strongly pro-abortion, answered, "In this country, about one percent."[18]

The Actual Percentage of Abortions Performed for the Health of the Mother.

Introduction.

Reporting the reasons for abortions is largely voluntary in countries where abortion has been legal for an extended period of time. However, the few studies that do include reasons for abortions show that abortions for genuine health threats to the mother account for less than one percent of all abortions! This data exactly confirms the statement given by Dr. Cushner to the United States Senate, as described above.

The following paragraphs describe some of these studies and their conclusions, and discuss the impacts of the cutoff of Medicaid funding for abortions performed to 'safeguard the woman's health.'

The Louisiana Study.

Louisiana abortionists must fill out a form entitled "Report of Induced Termination of Pregnancy" (Form #PHS 16-ab) for every abortion he performs. The form warns at the top that "Failure to complete and file this form is a crime."

Item 9d on this form is entitled "Reason for Pregnancy Termination."

The Office of Public Health of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals compiles these statistics. Over the 14-year period 1975 to 1988, 202,135 abortions were performed in Louisiana. Of these, the reasons were listed for 115,243 of them.

The reasons for these abortions are listed below;

REPORTED REASONS FOR LOUISIANA ABORTIONS

•Mother's mental health 114,231 (99.12%)
•Mother's physical health 863 ( 0.75%)
•Fetal deformity 103 ( 0.09%)
•Rape or incest 46 ( 0.04%)

It is very significant indeed that more than 99 percent of all abortions performed in Louisiana are for "mental health" reasons, and less than one percent (one out of 134) abortions are performed for genuine physical health complications.

The United Kingdom Studies.

A total of 358,074 abortions were reported in the United Kingdom for the years 1987 and 1988. Of these, a total of 966 were performed for a "specified medical disorder," i.e., a perceived serious health threat to the mother.

This is a total of 0.24% (one-fourth of one percent), or one pregnancy in 416.[19]

Another study of maternal health was performed at the Republic of Ireland's National Maternity Hospital, the largest facility of its kind in Europe. During the ten-year period 1970 to 1979, this hospital was the scene of 74,317 deliveries at more than 28 weeks' gestation. 21 of these women died. Of these 21, seven died of reasons not associated with childbirth, 11 died as a result of unforeseen circumstances (and which therefore would not have been corrected by abortion), and three were a result of chronic diseases that deteriorated during the pregnancy.[20]

Therefore, exactly 3 of 74,317 delivering women a total of less than one-one hundredth of one percent lost their lives as a result of their pregnancies at a hospital that had experience in managing the health of pregnant women.

Remember that abortion was completely illegal in the Republic of Ireland at this time, and so women were not able to get abortions for health reasons and therefore artificially lower the maternal death rate for those women who decided to give birth.

The Mount Sinai Study.

There were a total of 57,228 deliveries at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital from 1953 to 1964. During the same time period, 69 abortions were performed for physical health reasons: 24 cardiac, 12 renal, 9 each for pulmonary and gastrointestinal, and 15 for miscellaneous conditions.

The study managers admitted in a journal article that the true degree of risk to the mother's health was not assessed in most cases; if there was any doubt whatever about the mother's health, they performed the abortions as a safeguard. The authors also failed to comment upon the impact (favorable or otherwise) that the abortions had on the women's diseases or conditions.[21]

Even accounting for the author's extremely permissive attitudes about abortion for the mother's health, the total rate of abortions performed to safeguard health in this study was one-eighth of one percent, or one in 830 pregnancies!

As in the Republic of Ireland, abortion was not legal in New York State during this time period, and so the rate of maternal health problems at Mount Sinai Hospital was not artificially deflated by the availability of abortion.

Medicaid Abortion Funding.

Aside from exhaustive studies, the best indicator of the number of abortions actually performed for valid health reasons is reflected in changes in both federal and state Medicaid abortion funding standards and the resulting changes in numbers of abortions funded.

Until October 1, 1977, the federal government funded abortions for the life of the mother, for rape and incest, and for the 'health of the mother.' After this date, the Hyde Amendment allowed the government to drop funding for the 'health' exception, while retaining funding for the other exceptions.

The results were truly dramatic. In Fiscal Year 1977, before the Hyde Amendment took effect, the Federal taxpayer was coerced into funding 294,600 abortions. With the new restrictions, the Federal government only paid for 2,100 abortions in Fiscal Year 1978 a decrease of 99.3 percent!

In other words, bogus 'health' reasons had been used to obtain all but a tiny handful of federally-funded abortions before the Hyde Amendment took effect.

On the state level, the best example of such a precipitous drop was presented by Illinois, which paid for 23,209 abortions in 1976, primarily for the 'health of the mother.' The state paid for exactly 12 abortions in 1983, after courts upheld a 1977 state law banning the use of state money for abortions unless medically necessary to save the woman's life.[22] This meant that 99.95 percent of all abortions performed in Indiana prior to the cutoff in funding were committed for reasons not related to maternal health!

Teenage Birth Complications.

One of the most pitiful 'hard cases' employed by pro-abortionists to get and keep abortion on demand is the young, unmarried teenaged girl who becomes pregnant as a result of fornication, or, in extremely rare cases, incest or rape. Pro-aborts allege that pregnancy is extremely dangerous for younger girls, and, in fact, some leaders of the movement have demanded that abortion be mandatory for teenaged girls!

For example, Minnesota abortionist Jane Hodgson said at the 1980 National Abortion Federation conference; "Is adolescent pregnancy a disease? We have laws regarding other epidemics. We have mandatory immunizations, but we have no law prohibiting motherhood before the age of 14 in our supposedly-civilized society. We ought to mandate against continuing pregnancy in the very young say, those less than 14 years."[23]

Despite all of this pro-abortion puffery, several studies show that pregnancy and childbirth for younger girls is much safer than for older women.

The most comprehensive study every performed on the physical and mental effects of childbirth on teenagers found that teenaged girls had the least complications from childbirth of any age group of childbearing women.

The four-year study conducted by the National Institute of Child Health Development (NICHD) and the University of Pennsylvania was based upon the case histories of 9,000 women who had given birth in a Copenhagen hospital.

Chief researcher Dr. Brian Sutton-Smith stated that "We have found that teen-age mothers, given proper care, have the least complications in childbirth. The younger the mother, the better the birth."[24] Dr. Sutton-Smith also reviewed other studies that came to different conclusions, and stated that these "obscured the findings" by deliberately including a large proportion of teenagers living in deep poverty and comparing them to older, more affluent women.

It is important to remember that pro-abortion researchers generally have no qualms about "cooking the numbers" if such unethical activities will support the desired results.

Unwanted Pregnancy = 'Unhealth.'

In the final analysis, an unwanted pregnancy has evolved until it is medically, legally, and ethically equal to a "threat to the physical health of the mother." We have been lectured by the pro-abortionists for years now that an unwanted pregnancy is, by definition, a threat to a woman's health.

However, a quarter-century ago, when pro-abortion scientists tended to be more truthful, Professor Edward Pohlman of Planned Parenthood stated that "In early 1966, the present writer attended a conference at which the Population Crisis Committee was trying to persuade certain groups within the National Institute of Health to give greater priority to family planning in their mental health programs. The writer and others found it somewhat embarrassing to have to confess that there was little clear evidence that unwanted conceptions were in a worse light than other conceptions."[25]

This principle was confirmed recently by Dr. Carlos del Campose, who surveyed the literature on the subject of children born to women refused abortion for various reasons and concluded; "Thus, the literature shows a generally comparable outcome of pregnancy, delivery and puerperium [the period between women who were denied abortion and controls; no evidence that a continued unwanted pregnancy will endanger the mother's mental health; good acceptance of the infant by the mother, especially if she has the father's support; and minimal to moderate psychosocial disadvantages for the child."[26]

These researchers, and many others, have decisively debunked the pro-abortion idea that an unwanted pregnancy will place undue mental or physical stress on women. Even abortionists concede that most women with unwanted pregnancies will, upon giving birth, be relieved that they did not abort.

Veteran British abortionist Aleck Bourne, who confesses to having committed over 5,000 abortions, has said that "I have never known a woman who, when her baby was born, was not overjoyed I had not killed it."[27]

Conditions that Do Not Require Abortion.

The complete list of all conditions that may still endanger a pregnant woman's life is extremely short. These conditions include acute heart and kidney diseases and advanced hypertensive diseases.

Figure 51-1 shows the various diseases that are rarely indications for abortion.

FIGURE 51-1
DISEASES AND DISORDERS THAT ARE RARELY INDICATIONS FOR ABORTION

Blood Diseases
Anemia
Clotting disorders
Hemoglobinopathies
Myeloproliferative diseases
Thrombocytopenic purpura

Cancers
Breast cancer
Central nervous system cancer
Gastrointestinal tract cancer
Leukemia and lymphoma
Melanoma
Thyroid cancer

Connective Tissue Diseases
Marfan's Syndrome
Periarteritis nodosa
Rheumatoid arthritis
Scleroderma
Systemic lupus erythematosus

Endocrine System Diseases
Adrenal disease
Diabetes mellitus
Parathyroid disease
Pituitary disease
Thyroid disease

Gastrointestinal System
Liver disorders
Pancreatitis
Regional enteritis

Heart Diseases
Cardiac arrhythmias
Congenital heart disease
Coronary artery disease
Hypertensive heart disease
Rheumatic heart disease

Infectious Diseases
Bacterial infections
Spirochetal/protozoal infections
Viral infections
Kidney/Urinary Tract Diseases
Acute renal failure
Acute/chronic glomerulonephy
Ectopic kidney
Nephrosis
Urinary tract infections/calculi

Nervous System Diseases
Cerebral vascular accidents
Chorea gravidarum
Epilepsy
Multiple sclerosis
Myasthenia gravis
Obstetrical paralysis
Peripheral neuropathies
Tetany
Respiratory Diseases
Asthma
Bronchiectasis
Cystic fibrosis
Sarcoidosis
Tuberculosis

Skeletal Disorders
Chondrodystrophy
Osteogenesis imperfecta

Skin Diseases (all)

Vascular Diseases
Arterial aneurysms
Aerial coarctation
Essential hypertension
Thromboembolic disease
Varicose veins

Reference: Denis Cavanagh, M.D., Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of South Florida College of Medicine. "Medical Treatment for Pregnant Women." Restoring the Right to Life: The Human Life Amendment. 1984: Brigham Young University Press, Table 3, pages 139 to 141.

The "Double Effect."

The Concept.

The Catholic Church and many other religions, both liberal and conservative, recognize the principle of the "double effect."

Simply stated, this means that any treatment administered to save a woman's life that also results in the death of a preborn child is not a true abortion, since the primary purpose of the treatment was to save a life not take it. Even if the death of the baby is a foregone conclusion, such an action is not classifiable as an abortion.

Some of the treatments that may indirectly kill a preborn child include certain cancer treatments; hysterectomy (removal) of a cancerous or severely traumatized uterus; and salpingectomy (the removal of a Fallopian tube).[28]

Tubal Pregnancies.

The most common application of the "double effect" occurs in the case of a tubal pregnancy when the embryo implants in the Fallopian tube, instead of completing its journey to the uterus.

Such implantation is inevitably fatal to the woman if her pregnancy progresses too far.

It is quite possible for a baby to implant virtually anywhere in the mother's abdominal cavity and survive. Recently, a mother gave birth to a perfectly healthy baby boy who had somehow migrated out of a rupture in the uterus and had implanted in the vicinity of her stomach.[29]

The surgical procedure used to remedy this situation is fairly simple to describe. The surgeon first must use ultrasonography to diagnose the unruptured tubal pregnancy. He then inserts a laparoscope (small camera with light) through an incision in the abdominal wall and locates the distended fallopian tube. He then laterally incises the tube and suctions out the embryo.[29]

Legally and medically, then, this procedure is the same as a typical suction abortion. Morally, however, it is different in several critical ways. In the majority of cases, the pregnancy is wanted. And, most importantly, the intent of the surgical procedure is to save life, not extinguish it.

In the future, doctors hope to be able to remove the embryo intact and transfer it to the uterus, where it will be successfully implanted.

All pro-life groups (including Catholic organizations) concede that such procedures are necessary.


References: Health Indications for Abortion.

[1] Alan Guttmacher. "Abortion Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow." The Case for Legalized Abortion Now. Berkeley: Diablo Books, 1967, page 3.

[2] Abortionist Jane Hodgson, Transcript, August 3, 1977. at 99-101, McRae v. Califano, 491 F.Supp. 630 (E.D.N.Y. 1980), rev'd sub nom. Harris v. McRae. 100 S. Ct. 2671 (1980).

[3] Jodi L. Jacobson. "Coming to Grips With Abortion." Pages 114 to 131. In the Worldwatch Institute's State of the World 1991 Report. W.W. Norton Publishers, London, 1991. Also issued as Worldwatch Paper #97, The Global Politics of Abortion.

[4] Lucinda Cisler. "Unfinished Business: Birth Control and Women's Liberation." Sisterhood is Powerful (Robin Morgan, editor). New York: Vintage Books, 1970. Page 269.

[5] Ralph J. Campbell and H.J. Packer. Stanford Law Review, May 1959, page 7.

[6] E. James Lieberman, M.D. "Abortion Counseling," and Benjamin N. Branch, M.D. "Counseling in Abortion Services." Sarah Lewit (Editor). Abortion Techniques and Services: Proceedings of the Conference, New York, N.Y., June 3-5, 1971. Amsterdam: Excerpta Medica, 1972.

[7] Quoted from Lana Phelan and Pat Maginnis. The Abortion Handbook. North Hollywood, California: Contact Books, 1969, pages 111 to 115. Also quoted in Rebecca Chalker and Carol Downer. A Woman's Book of Choices: Abortion, Menstrual Extraction, RU-486. Four Walls Eight Windows Press, Post Office 548, Village Station, New York, New York 10014. 1992, 271 pages. Suicide quote is on page 43.

[8] "Judge Dooling, the Hyde Amendment, and the New Bill That Would Limit the Courts." ALL About Issues, January 1980, page 5.

[9] Zbaraz v. Quern, No. 77-C4522 (N.D. Ill, Memo Opinion, June 13, 1978).

[10] "Are Exception Clauses Pro-Life?" ALL About Issues, July-August 1987. Pages 25 and 26.

[11] Summary of the MacNeil/Lehrer Report of April 22, 1980, entitled "Medicaid Abortion." Human Life Review, Summer 1980, page 86.

[12] Norbert Gleicher, M.D., and Uri Elkayam, M.D., editors. "Birth Control and Abortion in the Cardiac Patient." Cardiac Problems in Pregnancy: Diagnosis and Management of Maternal and Fetal Disease. New York: Alan R. Liss, Inc., Publishers, 1982. Page 307.

[13] Abortionist Jane Hodgeson, quoted in Human Life International Special Report Number 83, August 1991, pages 6 and 7.

[14] Dr. Lise Fortier at the 1980 national convention of the National Abortion Federation. Quoted in Andrew Scholberg. "The Abortionists and Planned Parenthood: Familiar Bedfellows." International Review of Natural Family Planning, Winter 1980, page 308.

[15] Abortionist Michael Burnhill of the National Abortion Federation on the April 22, 1980 "MacNeil/Lehrer Report." Quoted in "Exceptions: Abandoning "The Least of These My Brethren."" American Life League booklet, 1991. Page 24.

[16] Professor Myre Sim, lecturer in Psychiatry at Birmingham University. Association of Lawyers for the Defence of the Unborn, London, Newsletter No. 29, Spring 1986.

[17] Hearings on Bills Proposing a Constitutional Amendment With Respect to Abortion Before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. 97th Congress, 1st Session, pages 158 and 159.

[18] Village Voice, July 16, 1985.

[19] D.B. Paintin, M.D., Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, St. Mary's Hospital Medical School, London, England. "Late Abortions." The Lancet, November 11, 1989. No. 8672:1158.

[20] Her Majesty's Safety Officer, Office of Population Censuses and Surveys. Abortion Statistics 1988, page 60. Quoted in "Submission by Dr. G.T. Gardner, M.R.C.G.P., to the General Medical Council Preliminary Proceedings Committee, May 7th, 1992."

[21] J.J. Rovinsky and S.B. Gusberg. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 98:11-17 (1967).

[22] Frontline Updates. "Illinois State-Paid Abortions Drop to Twelve." National Right to Life News, August 16, 1984, page 4.

[23] Abortionist Jane Hodgson at the May 28-30, 1980 National Abortion Federation conference in Washington, D.C. Quoted by Mary Meehan and Elizabeth Moore. "Forced Abortion Suggested at Clinic Owner's Conference." National Right to Life News, June 2, 1980, pages 1 and 13.

[24] The New York Times, April 24, 1979, page C5.

[25] Professor Edward Pohlman, Social Science Committee of the Planned Parenthood Federation of American. "Unwanted Conception: Research on Desirable Consequences." Eugenics Quarterly, Volume 14, Number 2, 1967.

[26] Carlos Del Campos, M.D. "Abortion Denied Outcome of Mothers and Babies." Canadian Medical Association Journal, February 15, 1984, pages 361 and 362.

[27] Abortionist Aleck Bourne, M.D. Quoted by James Wilkinson, "A Doctor Speaks." London [England] Express, January 25, 1967.

[28] Bernard M. Nathanson and Richard N. Ostling. Aborting America. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1979, pages 244 to 247.

[29] J.C. Willke. "Tubal Pregnancies and Life of the Mother." National Right to Life News, November 19, 1987, page 3.


Further Reading: Health Indications for Abortion.

Colleen D. Clements. Medical Genetics Casebook: A Clinical Introduction to Medical Ethics Systems Theory.
Humana Press, Crescent Manor, Post Office Box 2148, Clifton, New Jersey 07015. 1982, 233 pages. The author examines 130 actual case studies from a medical genetics program and attempts to apply systems theory to come up with a general decisionmaking process that allow hospital and other bioethicists to make decisions in difficult cases. The cases cover the gamut, including selective abortions and amniocentesis.

Father John Connery, S.J. Abortion: The Development of the Roman Catholic Perspective.
Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1977. Hardcover. Order from: Life Issues Bookshelf, Sun Life, Thaxton, Virginia 24174, telephone: (703) 586-4898. This study traces the entire history of the Roman Catholic doctrine regarding abortion from the beginning of the Christian era to modern times. Particular attention is given to the controversy and confusion within the Church regarding abortion to save the life of the mother.

Norbert Gleicher, M.D., and Uri Elkayam, M.D. (editors). "Birth Control and Abortion in the Cardiac Patient."
In Cardiac Problems in Pregnancy: Diagnosis and Management of Maternal and Fetal Disease
. New York: Alan R. Liss, Inc., Publishers, 1982. Page 307.

Professor Charles E. Rice. No Exceptions: A Pro-Life Imperative.
Tyholland Press, Box 212, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556. 1990, 131 pages. A truly outstanding examination of the basic pro-life moral arguments against abortion. Pro-life direct and support activities are also described in some detail. Recommended for all new pro-life activists, and those veterans who want to redefine and sharpen their debating skills.


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