Abortion is never necessary to save the life or health of the mother

By Sarah Quale, president of Personhood Alliance Education—In their zeal to protect “abortion access,” Democrats inadvertently forced a change in our national conversation that has cast a very unfavorable light on their position. Not only do these legislative efforts support infanticide, they expose a commonly misunderstood exception for abortion that we now have the opportunity to completely and unequivocally dismantle—the “life and health of the mother” argument…


In a panicked reaction to a potential overturning of Roe v. Wade, Democrat lawmakers in Virginia, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Mexico, and Washington are scrambling to pass legislation that protects abortion-on-demand at the state level. These lawmakers were emboldened by the celebrations that took place after the passage of New York’s Reproductive Health Act, in the New York Senate chamber and atop One World Trade Center, which, ironically, towers over a 9/11 memorial that bears the names of 11 pre-born children killed in the attack. In this blatant display of power, however, abortion advocates triggered a pro-life backlash that America hasn’t seen since January 22, 1973.

In their zeal to protect “abortion access,” Democrats inadvertently forced a change in our national conversation that has cast a very unfavorable light on their position. Not only do these legislative efforts support infanticide (the denial of basic care to babies born alive after a failed abortion),1 they expose a commonly misunderstood exception for abortion that we now have the opportunity to completely and unequivocally dismantle—the “life and health of the mother” argument—which is being used to allow abortion up to and even during birth.2

Historically, the “life and health of the mother” argument jumpstarted state-level abortion legalization in the 1960s, but when Roe’s companion case, Doe v. Bolton, defined “health” to mean physical, mental, emotional, familial, and even age, abortion-on-demand throughout pregnancy was legalized in all 50 states.3 This is what Democrats are trying to embed in state laws and constitutions across the country, through legislative chambers and in activist courts. But there is a very simple question that we must propose right now: Is abortion really necessary to save the life or health of the mother? The answer is a resounding NO.

The principle of double effect

Let’s pretend for a moment that abortion is a legitimate medical procedure—a procedure whose goal is to intentionally take the life of a pre-born human being. In the event that a woman’s life or physical health is in immediate danger, the physician will do everything he can to try to save both of his patients. If one patient dies (the child) during attempts to save the other patient (the mother), this is a tragedy, not an abortion. This is the principle of double effect, where an act that is intended for good also has an unintended, bad effect. Trying to save a baby’s life and failing (intended good, unintended bad) is not morally equivalent to killing the baby deliberately.

What would happen if the physician stopped to kill the child before treating the mother? She would likely die, too. This is because abortions in the second and third trimesters, when major pregnancy complications like high blood pressure and gestational diabetes can increase in severity,4 require a dilation process that takes days to complete.5 The medical reality is that the baby would likely be delivered early and provided a chance to live or, if that wasn’t possible, the baby may die as a result of attempts to provide the mother with emergency treatment. Again, this is not an abortion.

What about ectopic pregnancies?

In an ectopic pregnancy, the embryo attaches to a place other than the uterine lining, usually the fallopian tube, and can present a serious threat to the mother’s life. Standard medical treatment for an unruptured tubal ectopic pregnancy is the injection of methotrexate, which causes the death of the embryo.6 But is this necessary? Medical breakthroughs are happening in embryo transplantation—a surgical procedure in which the physician transplants the embryo from the fallopian tube to the uterus.7 But because abortion is accepted as standard treatment, this area of research struggles to move forward. Outside of surgical solutions, several large studies have shown that a careful, informed, wait-and-see approach, in cases where risk of tubal rupture is low, leads to a spontaneous resolution 48-57% of the time.8,9 This means that the embryo naturally unattaches and reattaches in the proper place. In cases where resolution doesn’t happen or tubal rupture has already begun, surgery is currently indicated as the only option, despite substantial evidence of nearly 100% maternal survival rates with interventions such as autotransfusion.10,11,12 It is important to note that, even when this surgery is performed, it is not an abortion. Instead, it is an indirect and unintentional cause of the child’s death—another example of the principle of double effect. Indeed, ectopic pregnancies are heart-wrenching and scary, but despite established and growing scientific evidence, the medical community continues to push methotrexate abortion as the immediate and only course of action.13

The truth sets us free

The “life and health of the mother” argument is yet another attempt to justify the unjustifiable. It is not a necessity, but a deception. Much needs to be done to bring this truth and a culture of life back into the field of medicine and to connect families with pro-life physicians who will honor the sanctity of life. Likewise, we must educate our elected officials on how the “life and health of the mother” exception and others, like rape, incest, and fetal anomaly, are used as legal loopholes to prolong the injustice of abortion in America. For those of us who serve pregnant women and their families, providing comprehensive, evidence-based information when a life-threatening situation arises is key to building trust and bringing hope. For those of us on the sidewalk, discerning medical realities from pro-abortion deception helps us speak knowledgeably and compassionately into crisis situations. We, just like the physicians, should always work to save both lives.


  1. WTOP Radio. (2019, January 30). WTOP’s ask the governor with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. https://youtu.be/E6WD_3H0wKU
  2. LifeSiteNews. (2018). Virginia delegate defends bill allowing abortion as woman is giving birth. https://youtu.be/t0kC1B__CJ4
  3. Brown, J. (2017). Doe v. Bolton. https://www.all.org/doe-v-bolton/
  4. CDC. (2017). Data on selected pregnancy complications in the US. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pregnancy-complications-data.htm
  5. Live Action. (2016). A conversation with a former abortionist: Is abortion ever medically necessary? https://youtu.be/ysl1tRnk-ig
  6. ACOG. (2018, March). Practice bulletin: Tubal ectopic pregnancy. https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Practice-Bulletins/Committee-on-Practice-Bulletins-Gynecology/Tubal-Ectopic-Pregnancy
  7. Shettles, L. (1990). Tubal embryo successfully transplanted in utero. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 163: 20-26.
  8. Fortenberry, B. (2015). Successful ectopic pregnancies. http://www.personhoodinitiative.com/successful-ectopic-pregnancies.html
  9. Tulandi, T., MD. (2017). Ectopic pregnancy: Expectant management. http://www.uptodate.com/contents/ectopic-pregnancy-expectant-management
  10. Chang, J., et al. (2003). Pregnancy-related mortality surveillance—United States 1991–1999. MMWR Surveill Summ, 52:1–8.
  11. Falcone,T., et al. (1998, May). A study of risk factors for ruptured tubal ectopic pregnancy. Journal of Women’s Health, 7(4): 459-463.
  12. Selo-Ojemea, D. O., Onwudea, J. L., & Onwudiegwu, U. (2003). Autotransfusion for ruptured ectopic pregnancy. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 80(2): 103-110.
  13. ACOG, Ibid.
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