Lately, I’ve been reading through a book I got from the LivingWaters Ministry (www.livingwaters.com). It’s called Why Pro-Life? Caring for the Unborn and Their Mothers by Randy Alcorn. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even order the book; it just came for free with some 180 videos I ordered. I’m finding that Mr. Alcorn’s book is good, despite being a little shallow. I’m only part-way through it now, but something has stood out to me.
In what is probably (I’m not done reading the book yet) the shortest chapter in the book, Alcorn addresses a question that is so often brought up by Pro-Choice advocates; “Is abortion right when pregnancy presents risks to the mother’s life?” In fact, that’s the name of the chapter.
I think that so many believers, myself included, have been reluctant to answer the question because we don’t understand the issue. Let me try to clarify; the question is this: If Mom’s life is threatened because of her pregnancy, is abortion right? The implication is that if it is not, you are condemning both mother and baby to death, just to uphold this opinion that abortion is wrong. In truth, the whole issue is filled with ignorance (the kind that just doesn’t know, not stupidity).
Although I don’t have express written permission, and will remove this long quote if asked to, I’d like to quote this whole (short) chapter and make some comments as I go. It is found on pages 76 and 77 in Alcorn’s book. His words are in italics.
Is abortion justified when a woman’s life or health is threatened by pregnancy or childbirth? It’s an extremely rare case when abortion is required to save a mother’s life. While he was the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Koop stated that in thirty-six years as a pediatric surgeon, he was never aware of a single situation in which a preborn child’s life had to be taken in order to save the mother’s life. He said the use of this argument to justify abortion was a “smoke screen.” Dr. Landrum Shettles claimed that less than 1 percent of all abortions are performed to save the mother’s life.
It is interesting that the U.S. Surgeon General himself would be so clear about the fact that abortions to save a mother’s life are (to him anyways) unheard of. From the rest of the article, we will find that they are not altogether nonexistent, but that such cases are extremely rare. These have, however, been used to lend credibility and morality to the killing of children in the womb. One could liken this kind of thinking to saying that since some murderers are to be put to death, we would be right to kill as many criminals as we want. Please don’t misconstrue my words to liken children to criminals – I am merely pointing out the absurdity behind the argument at hand. But this does not mean that we have reached a conclusion on the matter. Read on.
SAVE THE LIFE THAT CAN BE SAVED
A woman with toxemia will have adverse health reactions and considerable inconvenience, including probably needing to lie down for much of her pregnancy. This is difficult, but normally not life-threatening. In such cases, abortion for the sake of “health” would not be lifesaving but life-taking.
My wife had toxemia during her first pregnancy. It was a fairly severe case, though there have been far worse ones out there. Fortunately for her, this happened at about 34 weeks and our daughter was born at 36 weeks, so she did not need to endure it long. That being said, we are not unsympathetic to the inconvenience and discomfort caused by such an illness but we also recognize that it is not cause for aborting a child. With enough rest and medical attention, a woman and her baby can be kept well through the rest of the pregnancy. This is the case with the extremely vast majority of illnesses that a woman can face during her pregnancy.
However, if the mother has a fast-spreading uterine cancer, the surgery to remove the cancer may result in the loss of the child’s life. In an ectopic pregnancy the child is developing outside the uterus. He has no hope of survival and may have to be removed to save his mother. These are tragic situations, but even if one life must be lost, the life that can be saved should be. More often than not that life is the mother’s. There are rare cases in later stages of pregnancy when the mother can’t be saved but the baby can. Again, one life saved is better than two lives lost.
Friends of ours were faced with a situation where removing the mother’s life-threatening and rapidly spreading cancer would result in their unborn child’s death. The pregnancy was so early that there wasn’t time for the child to develop sufficiently to live outside the womb before both mother and child would die. The surgery was performed. But this was in no sense an abortion. The surgery’s purpose wasn’t to kill the child but to save the mother. The death of the child was a tragic side-effect of lifesaving efforts. This was a consistently pro-life act, since to be pro-life does not mean being pro-life just about babies. It also means being pro-life about women.
Notice that every effort is made to save both lives, but that only one is saved when only one can be. This is not a question of maybes but a matter of fact; if the baby cannot survive the pregnancy, then no abortion is being done. If the baby cannot survive the pregnancy, then all efforts should be made to save the life of the one who can be saved. If the baby can survive the pregnancy, let it. From the tone of this chapter, as well as the rest of the book, I don’t believe Alcorn is dealing flippantly with this issue; there has to be certainty that one life will be lost during the pregnancy before any child-endangering procedures should take place.
The point is that abortion for the sake of the mother’s health is unnecessary. It may be that a crucial, necessary procedure or treatment in the mother may tragically take the life of a baby, but this is not done intentionally.
Are there many more questions to be asked here? Absolutely. Is this the final word on the topic? By no means. But I think it is a step in the right direction for us to understand how to answer those who espouse abortion on the grounds of the mother’s health. “Smoke screen”… I like it. Don’t forget it.
And by the way – I’m no authority on medical issues, nor have I really studied out this issue enough to make dogmatic statements but I do know that killing children is wrong. (You’d think far more people would find that statement a no-brainer…?) In any case, if you feel I’ve left something out or missed the point here, feel free to let me know through Facebook.
- Pastor Mike
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