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13 August 2008

Pro-Life Physicians?

By Diana Hsieh

The Association of Pro-Life Physicians is frighteningly consistent in their total opposition to abortion, as seen in their page Are There Rare Cases When an Abortion Is Justified? They write:

We must respond to all tragic circumstances of pregnancy from the unshakeable foundation of two indisputable premises: human life begins at conception, and it is always wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. The unborn child's right to life and liberty is given by his or her Creator, not by his or her parents or by the state. ... It is never right to intentionally kill an innocent person, even if it does relieve another's emotional or physical suffering. ...

We find it extremely unfortunate that many pro-lifers have regarded the health of the mother to be a consideration in whether or not she should have the right to terminate the life of her pre-born baby. ... To intentionally kill or condone the intentional killing of one innocent human being precludes one from being considered 'pro-life' at all. A murderer of one person is not any less a murderer if he allows thousands to live, nor if he saves thousands from dying!
As Ari Armstrong notes, "Contemplate that for a moment. This allegedly "pro-life" position would subject women to agonizing physical suffering and the risk of death to maintain the faith-based fantasy that a fertilized egg is a person." (Ari has more on the anti-abortion approach to risk to the pregnant woman here.)

The far-fetched reasoning for denying women a chemical abortion in case of a totally non-viable ectopic pregnany was particularly alarming:
A chemical abortion with a medicine called methotrexate is often recommended by physicians to patients with early tubal ectopic pregnancies, when the baby may still be alive, to decrease the chances of a surgical alternative being necessary later, but we have found this to be an unnecessary risk to human life. We offer the following true case to demonstrate this point.

One patient was diagnosed with a tubal ectopic pregnancy by her obstetrician, and he informed her that they were fortunate to have made the diagnosis early and that she should have a methotrexate abortion. The patient was pro-life, and did not want to take the medicine, but the physician insisted. The baby was not going to survive, he argued, and a chemical abortion now could prevent the need for a surgical procedure later. The chemical abortion would lessen her chances of a rupture of her fallopian tube and subsequent life-threatening hemorrhage. The chemical abortion was also better at preserving future fertility than surgical removal of the ectopic pregnancy later. Feeling like she had no other reasonable alternative, she took the methotrexate.

However, there was a complication. Two weeks later, she still had vaginal bleeding and pelvic discomfort. A repeat ultrasound confirmed the physician's worst fears: his patient was pregnant with twins - one in the fallopian tube, and one in the uterus! He missed the uterine pregnancy in his ultrasound examination, and that baby was dying from his prescription.

Holding off surgery and watchful waiting in this case might have resulted in spontaneous resolution of the tubal pregnancy or would have required surgical removal of the tubal pregnancy when the embryo was likely to be dead, but in both cases the uterine pregnancy would probably have survived. Unfortunately, the chemical abortion killed both babies, much to the dismay of this young pro-life woman.

It is only ethical to remove the tubal pregnancy if spontaneous resolution does not occur after watchful waiting and if the physician is 100% certain that there are no twins. At this point, the embryo in the fallopian tube is likely to be dead and, even if not, the death is unavoidable and unintentional, and the procedure is necessary to save the life of the mother.
So every woman should be forced by law to endure all the risks of emergency surgery for ectopic pregnancy -- rather than the much safer alternative of a chemical abortion at the time of diagnosis -- because of some wild chance that she might be pregnant with another embryo.

Under that policy, women would suffer and die. Yet these physicians wouldn't blink an eye -- because they're doing God's work.

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