Hard Cases and Abortion
by Sebastian R Fama
In an effort to justify the legalization of abortion, its advocates will often point to the hard cases. The idea behind this tactic is that anyone who would deny an abortion to a woman in a difficult situation is uncaring and cannot be taken seriously. This is nothing more than an appeal to people’s emotions. What is really needed is clear thinking.
We should start by defining what we are talking about. This issue has been with us for so long that the word abortion has become just a word. I believe many of us have forgotten just what an abortion is. Abortions can be performed in a variety of ways. Here are ten that I am aware of:
(1) Suction Aspiration: This is the procedure most often used in the first trimester of pregnancy (the first three months). The abortionist inserts a suction tube (similar to a vacuum hose with an extremely sharp end) into the mother’s womb. The suction and cutting edge dismember the baby while the hose sucks the body parts into a collection bottle.
(2) Dilation and Curettage (D&C): In this procedure, the abortionist uses a loop shaped knife to cut the baby into pieces and scrape the uterine wall. The baby’s body parts are then removed and checked to make sure that no pieces were left in the mother’s womb.
(3) Dilation and Extraction (also known as D&X or partial-birth abortion): Used to kill babies well into the third trimester (as late as 32 weeks old), the abortionist reaches into the mother’s womb, grabs the baby’s feet with a forceps and pulls the baby out of the mother, except for the head. The abortionist then jams a pair of scissors into the back of the baby’s head and spreads the scissors apart to make a hole in the baby’s skull. The abortionist removes the scissors and sticks a suction tube into the skull to suck the baby’s brain out. The forceps are then used to crush the baby’s head and the abortionist pulls the baby’s body out the rest of the way.
(4) Dilation and Evacuation (D&E): This form of abortion is used to kill babies in the second trimester (24+ weeks). The abortionist uses a forceps to grab parts of the baby (arms and legs) and then tears the baby apart. The baby’s head must be crushed in order to remove it because the skull bone has hardened by this stage in the baby’s growth.
(5) Hysterotomy: Performed in the third trimester, this is basically an abortive Cesarean section (C-section). The abortionist makes an incision in the mother’s abdomen and removes the baby. The baby is then either placed to the side to die or is killed by the abortionist or nurse.
(6) Mifepristone (RU-486): Mifepristone blocks the hormone that helps develop the lining of the uterus during pregnancy (progesterone). This lining is the source of nutrition and protection for the developing baby. The tiny boy or girl is starved to death, and then a second drug, misoprostol, causes contractions so that the dead baby is expelled from the womb.
(7) Methotrexate: This highly toxic chemical directly attacks and breaks down the baby’s fast-growing cells. It also attacks the life-support systems the baby needs to survive. When the systems fail, the baby dies. Misoprostol is then used to cause contractions and push the dead baby out of the womb.
(8) Salt Poisoning: This technique is used in the second and third trimester. The abortionist sticks a long needle into the mother’s womb. The needle contains salt which is then injected into the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. The baby breathes in, swallows the salt and dies from salt poisoning, dehydration, brain hemorrhage, and convulsions. The baby takes nearly an hour to die. His skin is completely burned, turns red and deteriorates. The baby is in pain the entire time. The mother goes into labor 24-48 hours later and delivers a dead baby.
(9) Prostaglandins: Used during the second and third trimester, prostaglandin abortions involve the injection of naturally produced hormones into the amniotic sac, causing violent premature labor. During these convulsions the baby is often crushed to death or is born too early to have any chance of surviving.
(10) Intracardiac Injection: In an intracardiac abortion, a needle is guided into the fetus’s heart with the aid of ultrasound, and poison (often potassium chloride or digoxin) is injected, causing an immediate heart attack. Intracardiac injection is most commonly used for “pregnancy reduction” abortions following in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures, if multiple embryos were implanted to increase the likelihood of pregnancy. In these cases, the procedure is typically performed between 10 and 12 weeks gestation.
Intracardiac injection is also used in late term abortions when there is likelihood of delivering a live baby, in order to avoid state laws that would require the baby to be resuscitated and given medical care.
(Sources: American Life League, Human Life International)
As you can see, most abortions not only end a baby’s life, they also cause that baby a great deal of pain. In an article written for The Federalist dealing with fetal pain, Robin Pierucci, a neonatologist wrote the following:
In the neonatal intensive care unit, I see premature babies at the edge of viability (23-24 weeks’ gestation) react to painful or uncomfortable procedures every day. For example, when you poke them for blood work, the babies wrinkle up their faces, kick their feet, clench their hands into tiny fists, curl their toes, arch their backs and try to wriggle away, or smack at the offending person.
Fetal pain is not limited to late term babies. In another article entitled: “Fetal Pain is a Reason to End Abortion” The staff at Human Life International wrote:
Medical experts agree that fetal pain begins at 14 weeks gestation, maybe even as early as 8 weeks. But perhaps the best source for firsthand experience with fetal pain is an abortionist. As early as 1976, those performing abortions realized that the procedure is painful for the dying fetus. Abortionist John Szenes describes an unborn baby fighting for its life during a saline injection: “All of a sudden one noticed that at the time of the saline infusion there was a lot of activity in the uterus. That’s not fluid currents. That’s obviously the fetus being distressed by swallowing the concentrated salt solution and kicking violently and that’s, to all intents and purposes, the death trauma.”
In a video entitled: “The Silent Scream,” Dr. Bernard Nathanson presents footage of an actual abortion filmed via an ultrasound screen. Dr. Nathanson is a former abortion doctor and one of the founders of NARAL. As of this writing the video is still available on YouTube.
When the procedure begins the baby becomes agitated and thrashes back and forth in an effort to get away. It’s heart rate speeds up and its mouth opens into a silent scream. Slowly the baby is torn apart until it is totally destroyed. I found it quite upsetting to watch. It haunts me to know that, to date, we have done this somewhere north of 61 million times (in the US alone). And so the question remains, can such a brutal act ever be justified?
I was recently challenged with a few cases that involved difficult circumstances. I was asked if I would still be pro-life if I had to deal with them first hand. Let’s see if they hold up to scrutiny.
- Your wife is told by the doctor that her pregnancy is not viable; her baby has no kidneys or a brain, and will most likely die before birth.
Any difficult situation needs to be dealt with compassionately. But true compassion must be rooted in reality. Ignoring reality usually makes a bad situation worse. Quick easy choices are not always the best ones.
Before Noah Wall was born his parents were told that he didn’t have a brain. They were advised five times to abort him. And five times they refused. Noah’s parents were told that he had very little chance of survival. However, if he did survive he would be severely mentally disabled – unable to talk, see, hear or eat. But the six year old can do all of those things. Noah defied the odds by growing a brain. When he was born he had about 2% of his brain. With the help of a radical brain training center his brain has grown to 80% (The Sun).
Twenty weeks into her pregnancy Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler was told by her doctor that her little girl had no kidneys and that her daughter’s situation was “incompatible with life.” Jaime was warned that if she proceeded with the pregnancy she could miscarry or her child could be stillborn. She was also told that if her baby was born alive she might suffocate in her arms.
Doctor after doctor gave Jaime and her husband the same prognosis. But they refused to give up. Rob Volmer heard of their plight and contacted them. Rob and his wife had experienced a similar situation. Their son’s life had been saved by amnio infusions of saline into his wife’s uterus. Rob knew that the saline injections would provide the needed fluid that would have otherwise been produced by Jaime’s daughter’s kidneys. Rob put Jaime in touch with the doctor that had helped him and his wife. Long story short; Jaime received the treatments and her daughter Abagail began to develop normally.
Abagail was born prematurely and weighed only 2 Lbs. 12 Oz. She went on dialysis until she was old enough to receive a kidney transplant from her father. End result; Abagail is a happy healthy child (God Updates).
There are certainly no guarantees that every such situation will end this happily. But every human being deserves a chance at life. And no human being should be made to suffer a painful death because they have a medical condition.
- The doctor tells you and your wife that she will most likely die if the pregnancy is brought to term, along with the baby.
In this case we have two patients not one. And the answer is a simple one. The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists put it this way:
When extreme medical emergencies that threaten the life of the mother arise (chorioamnionitis or HELLP syndrome could be examples), AAPLOG believes in “treatment to save the mother’s life,” including premature delivery if that is indicated — obviously with the patient’s informed consent. This is NOT “abortion to save the mother’s life.” We are treating two patients, the mother and the baby, and every reasonable attempt to save the baby’s life would also be a part of our medical intervention. We acknowledge that, in some such instances, the baby would be too premature to survive.
Interestingly enough, whenever the choice is the mother or the baby, the moms usually choose to save their babies. As Janet Morana noted:
For many women, having an abortion leaves lifelong psychological scars. A mother’s maternal instinct is to save her child. What mother on a sinking ship would not put the life vest on her children first? If a car was careening out of control, wouldn’t every mother push the baby carriage out of the way first, even if that meant she might be hit by a car?
Abortion advocates don’t think of it that way because they have effectively dehumanized babies in the womb. Abortion providers work very hard at promoting this deception. And that’s because they profit greatly from it. Unfortunately this deception does not always last. And it’s the moms who suffer. It’s true that God offers healing to them. However, the process can be difficult.
- You’re pro-life until your daughter is raped, and you’re forced to watch her suffer through her pregnancy, only to have her die in a failed attempt to abort at home.
Anyone who has been raped should receive all of the help and support that they need. And that help should include sound guidance. One thing that any rape victim doesn’t need is another act of violence. Having an abortion can create a host of long term problems for a woman. Women who have abortions risk bladder injuries, bowel injuries, severe rapid bleeding, sterility, and more. Abortion can have a negative effect on future pregnancies and can also result in Post Abortion Syndrome (PAS). If you doubt that PAS is a thing contact the women at iregretmyabortion.org.
That being said, let’s test the logic used in scenario number three. Suppose shortly after your parents were married your mother was beaten and raped by a stranger. She wakes up from a coma a few days later in the hospital. As it happens in some cases, she remembers nothing about the attack. Nine months later you are born and everyone assumes that the man you call dad is your father.
Twenty years later your mom has a flashback and remembers the attack. A DNA test is done only to find that the rapist is your biological father. The memory of the attack upsets your mother greatly and she requires counseling. At this point does she have the right to burn and choke you with a salt solution until you die? Does she have the right to have you ripped limb from limb? Can she jam a tube into the back of your head and suck your brains out (all without anesthesia)? I would say no and I’m sure your mom would agree. But that is exactly the sort of thing that is done to a living baby when it is aborted. And that is why giving birth and putting the baby up for adoption is a better choice. It’s better for the mom too. Those who choose life do better over the long run, both physically and mentally.
The criminal behavior of some can cause trauma in the lives of innocent people. There is no magic wand that can make it all go away. Recovery can be difficult. That being said, we still have an obligation to act humanely. The rapist is the criminal not the baby.
But what about the women who die from back alley abortions? Just like abortion itself, this is an unnecessary tragedy. I wish we could have the option of choosing life for everyone. But unfortunately, we are not given that choice. We have a situation where we must choose between a very small number of deaths and millions of deaths. Logic demands that we choose the option that results in the fewest deaths.
The author of these challenges ended with a statement:
- It is not your body, not your choice! A woman should be able to decide on her own as it is her and her alone who has to deal with this decision.
To begin with, the woman is not the only one that has to deal with this decision. The baby and the father have to deal with it as well. As we noted earlier, an abortion causes a baby to suffer and die. And yes some fathers really don’t care about their unborn babies. For that matter some fathers don’t care about their born babies. But it is also true that most fathers love their children and feel very connected to them. Abortion can affect them very profoundly.
There is something else we need to consider. A woman has a heart, a set of lungs, kidneys and a host of other organs and body parts that serve to keep her alive, healthy and functioning. In short, they are made for her. But her uterus falls into a different category. As Stephanie Gray points out, a woman doesn’t need it. She can live without it. It’s actually not made for her. Every month it prepares itself for a new life. That’s the way God designed it. So when a womb is inhabited by a baby, that baby is on her own real estate. Thus, I think it’s more accurate to say that women haven’t so much been given a uterus as they have been entrusted with one.
God is the author of all life. He has given us bodies that allow us to help Him create. To a lesser extent we do the same sort of thing when we allow a small child help us bake a cake. We really don’t need their help. However, because we love them we let them be a part of the process. Likewise God allows us to be a part of the process of creating new life. It would be wrong for us to destroy that which God has created. So yes, still pro-life even when unique circumstances are involved. As Janet Morana noted: “Choosing life is always the right choice, even when it’s hard, even when it’s scary, even when the outcome is unclear.”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a leader in the early women’s rights movement. Commenting on abortion she said: “When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.”
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