Distinguishing between elective abortions and other medical interventions
19 December, 2019
It is often thought that "termination of pregnancy" is simply a euphemism for abortion. While that may often be the case, two news releases issued in the fall of 2019 (below) demonstrate that "termination of pregnancy" can also be understood as a separation of an infant or foetus in utero from the mother (thus terminating the pregnancy) in order to save the life of the mother, even if the infant/foetus cannot survive. It appears that all of the organizations involved agree that abortion/termination of pregnancy can be justified for this reason, though the agreement does not necessarily reflect the same moral reasoning.
However, the news releases also demonstrate a difference with respect to interventions intended to preserve the health of the mother.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
(ACOG) and Physicians for Reproductive Health (PRH) support abortions performed to "preserve a patient's health" if her health is "at risk." What level of "risk" to health is sufficient to justify abortion is unexamined in the news release.
American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), Christian Medical Dental Association (CMDA), and American College of Pediatricians (ACP) are silent with respect to terminations of pregnancy or separation of an infant/foetus from the mother in order to preserve the health of the mother.
The difference with respect to health could be related to different beliefs about the relative worth of the lives of the infant/foetus and mother. If they are held to be of equal value, it could be argued that (a) one cannot choose to save one and not the other, even if both cannot be saved, and (b) only a significant threat to the life of the mother could justify an intervention that could lead to the death of the infant/foetus. This would morally preclude an abortion intended to preserve the health of the mother.
Alternatively (or, perhaps, in addition), the difference may also be related to the fact that where abortion has been legalized to preserve the health of the mother, "health" has often been interpreted so broadly as to permit abortion on socio-economic or other non-medical grounds. Hence, silence on this point may reflect prudential judgement that the issue is too complex to be addressed in a news release.
The ACOG and PHR correctly observe that medical science is not subjective. However, they fail to acknowledge that,
at least with respect to abortions performed to preserve the health of the mother, their members' decision-making is informed by beliefs about the relative worth of the lives of the mother and infant/foetus. Such value judgements are not scientific. They typically rest upon the same kind of "subjective . . . strongly held personal beliefs" that inform the decision making of the AAPLOG, CMDA and ACP.
Abortion Can Be Medically Necessary
25 September, 2019
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Physicians for Reproductive Health released the following joint statement:
“The science of medicine is not subjective, and a strongly held personal belief should never outweigh scientific evidence, override standards of medical care, or drive policy that puts a person’s health and life at risk.
“Pregnancy imposes significant physiological changes on a person’s body. These changes can exacerbate underlying or preexisting conditions, like renal or cardiac disease, and can severely compromise health or even cause death. Determining the appropriate medical intervention depends on a patient’s specific condition. There are situations where pregnancy termination in the form of an abortion is the only medical intervention that can preserve a patient’s health or save their life.
“As physicians, we are focused on protecting the health and lives of the patients for whom we provide care. Without question, abortion can be medically necessary.”
ACOG Communications Office
2 October, 2019
As organizations representing over 25,000 medical professionals, we would like to correct the errors and assumptions of the recently released joint statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and Physicians for Reproductive Health (PRH).
We state unequivocally that there is a difference between elective abortion – a procedure done to ensure that a baby is born dead -and the separation of the mother and the baby in order to save the life of the mother. ACOG leadership is deceptively hiding behind the confusion about the meaning of the word “abortion” to imply that such treatments to save the life of the mother are the same as elective abortions.
A separation procedure to treat maternal pathology INTENDS to save the lives of both the mother and her baby if possible. In contrast, an abortion, which the general public understands to mean “elective abortion”, INTENDS to deliver a dead baby. That is why a baby born ALIVE after an elective abortion is called a “Failed Abortion”. The separation of the baby from the mother did not fail. What failed to occur is that her baby “failed” to be killed.
We are glad that ACOG and PRH leadership recognize what all pro-life obstetricians know – that sometimes treatments which result in the separation of the mother and the baby are necessary to save the mother’s life. However, ACOG and PRH leadership disingenuously imply in their statement that these life saving procedures are the same as elective abortions.
The ACOG leaders’ advocacy of elective abortion is out of step with the 85% of OB/GYN’s who do not perform abortions. Their extreme advocacy for elective abortion through birth does not represent the majority opinion of either ACOG membership, or the majority opinion of all the rest of the obstetricians and gynecologists in this country.
Donna J. Harrison M.D. dip. ABOG
American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Mike Chupp MD, FACS, FCS(ECSA) CEO
Christian Medical Dental Association
Michelle Cretella, M.D.
American College of Pediatricians
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