Jake and Amanda’s Story: A Terrifying Diagnosis

I don’t think any man is prepared for hearing that a pregnancy he helped create may be the cause of death for the mother of his child. I know the father of my child wasn’t prepared to hear that, but he did nonetheless. In his words: “You hear people say a person could die having a baby, but we don’t really think about what that looks like. It’s so different than say a person having cancer because we see that and know what it looks like. People just don’t talk about what it’s like when you’re told you’re gonna die having a baby.” I wanted to present our story from his perspective because men are often overlooked in maternal issues.

Mine and Jake’s relationship began in July 2016. We hit it off immediately and felt there was something solid about the connection we had. Jake had no children and I had 3. I told him immediately that I didn’t want more kids and in fact wasn’t able medically to become pregnant. He said he was okay with loving the children I had, so we continued our budding romance. However, in August 2016 we discovered the doctors had been wrong and that I could become pregnant because I was definitely pregnant.

We were in disbelief and although he was shocked and scared, he handled it with grace. He was excited despite the fact we’d only been together a month. Unfortunately we both knew that with my medical history, our pregnancy would be difficult and statistically the odds were in favor of miscarriage. I’d had a uterine ablation a few years back and that makes conceiving and maintaining a pregnancy exceptionally difficult. We miscarried at 6 weeks… but at 12 weeks found out we were still pregnant. We had lost a twin.

It was then that my doctor presented us with the scary statistics of my pregnancy and that if I continued with it, my fatality was the overwhelming outcome. We chose to continue the pregnancy. Jake was angry when we were told to terminate, and scared for the implications of not terminating, but he supported my decision.

At 26 weeks I had a massive hemorrhage and was admitted to the hospital. We lived over an hour away from the hospital so he and I moved into a hospital room together. He got up each day, went to work and came “home” to me and did everything in his power to keep our lives normal. I can’t imagine how difficult those days were for him but he says they weren’t hard, it was just our life. It’s funny how you can adjust to anything as long as you’re with the one you love.

We had to stay in the hospital until my delivery, which was set for 33 weeks. The days leading up to my delivery were hard for Jake. This was his first and only child, but due to my medical issues I’d have to be under general anesthesia for delivery which meant he couldn’t be in the room when our daughter was born. He would have to wait until she was stabilized to see her because of her prematurity, and he’d have to meet her without me because I’d still be in surgery.

On March 8, we were scheduled for delivery. Both of us were scared and anxious. Our main concern was would our daughter be okay? Would she have complications? It’s so hard to be excited when your whole pregnancy has been doom and gloom. But we held fast to the belief that our daughter was a fighter and that she would be okay.

At 1:45 that day, Sadie Kayte Holliday entered the world weighing 5 lbs and was 17 inches long. She was every bit the fighter we knew she would be and came off intubation within the first hour of her birth. Jake only knew she had been born via a phone call to the waiting room from a nurse. He didn’t get to meet her for several hours. It was only upon him getting to meet our daughter that he learned things were seriously wrong with me.

I was still in surgery, he was told. He knew I should have been out by now and that something was wrong. Later that evening my doctors met with Jake and my family and told them they’d done all they could do but it wasn’t enough. I had bled out several times during surgery and they couldn’t find or stop the bleeding. My body had had enough, so they packed my incision and stapled me up and put me on life support until they could come up with a new plan.

Jake finally got to see me in ICU around 11pm that night. He says seeing me like that was the hardest part. He held my hand, cried, and prayed for me to live. He thought about how life would be raising Sadie without me. He never left my side and slept with his head on my damaged body.

The next day I was operated on again. The doctors successfully found and fixed the arteries that had been damaged. I’ll never forget the look of relief on Jake’s face or our hug through his tears when I saw him after surgery in ICU.

We are about to celebrate our daughter’s first birthday. We are now married. Our experience shaped our relationship in so many ways. We grew together and became so strong. We could have so easily said we haven’t been together long enough to have a baby, or the doctors know best, but we didn’t. We chose to fight together instead of doing what was convenient, and I am grateful for that every day.


[Today’s guest post by Amanda Solomon is part of our paid blogging program. She is Vice President of Life Defenders.]

Jake and Amanda’s Story: A Terrifying Diagnosis

I don’t think any man is prepared for hearing that a pregnancy he helped create may be the cause of death for the mother of his child. I know the father of my child wasn’t prepared to hear that, but he did nonetheless. In his words: “You hear people say a person could die having a baby, but we don’t really think about what that looks like. It’s so different than say a person having cancer because we see that and know what it looks like. People just don’t talk about what it’s like when you’re told you’re gonna die having a baby.” I wanted to present our story from his perspective because men are often overlooked in maternal issues.

Mine and Jake’s relationship began in July 2016. We hit it off immediately and felt there was something solid about the connection we had. Jake had no children and I had 3. I told him immediately that I didn’t want more kids and in fact wasn’t able medically to become pregnant. He said he was okay with loving the children I had, so we continued our budding romance. However, in August 2016 we discovered the doctors had been wrong and that I could become pregnant because I was definitely pregnant.

We were in disbelief and although he was shocked and scared, he handled it with grace. He was excited despite the fact we’d only been together a month. Unfortunately we both knew that with my medical history, our pregnancy would be difficult and statistically the odds were in favor of miscarriage. I’d had a uterine ablation a few years back and that makes conceiving and maintaining a pregnancy exceptionally difficult. We miscarried at 6 weeks… but at 12 weeks found out we were still pregnant. We had lost a twin.

It was then that my doctor presented us with the scary statistics of my pregnancy and that if I continued with it, my fatality was the overwhelming outcome. We chose to continue the pregnancy. Jake was angry when we were told to terminate, and scared for the implications of not terminating, but he supported my decision.

At 26 weeks I had a massive hemorrhage and was admitted to the hospital. We lived over an hour away from the hospital so he and I moved into a hospital room together. He got up each day, went to work and came “home” to me and did everything in his power to keep our lives normal. I can’t imagine how difficult those days were for him but he says they weren’t hard, it was just our life. It’s funny how you can adjust to anything as long as you’re with the one you love.

We had to stay in the hospital until my delivery, which was set for 33 weeks. The days leading up to my delivery were hard for Jake. This was his first and only child, but due to my medical issues I’d have to be under general anesthesia for delivery which meant he couldn’t be in the room when our daughter was born. He would have to wait until she was stabilized to see her because of her prematurity, and he’d have to meet her without me because I’d still be in surgery.

On March 8, we were scheduled for delivery. Both of us were scared and anxious. Our main concern was would our daughter be okay? Would she have complications? It’s so hard to be excited when your whole pregnancy has been doom and gloom. But we held fast to the belief that our daughter was a fighter and that she would be okay.

At 1:45 that day, Sadie Kayte Holliday entered the world weighing 5 lbs and was 17 inches long. She was every bit the fighter we knew she would be and came off intubation within the first hour of her birth. Jake only knew she had been born via a phone call to the waiting room from a nurse. He didn’t get to meet her for several hours. It was only upon him getting to meet our daughter that he learned things were seriously wrong with me.

I was still in surgery, he was told. He knew I should have been out by now and that something was wrong. Later that evening my doctors met with Jake and my family and told them they’d done all they could do but it wasn’t enough. I had bled out several times during surgery and they couldn’t find or stop the bleeding. My body had had enough, so they packed my incision and stapled me up and put me on life support until they could come up with a new plan.

Jake finally got to see me in ICU around 11pm that night. He says seeing me like that was the hardest part. He held my hand, cried, and prayed for me to live. He thought about how life would be raising Sadie without me. He never left my side and slept with his head on my damaged body.

The next day I was operated on again. The doctors successfully found and fixed the arteries that had been damaged. I’ll never forget the look of relief on Jake’s face or our hug through his tears when I saw him after surgery in ICU.

We are about to celebrate our daughter’s first birthday. We are now married. Our experience shaped our relationship in so many ways. We grew together and became so strong. We could have so easily said we haven’t been together long enough to have a baby, or the doctors know best, but we didn’t. We chose to fight together instead of doing what was convenient, and I am grateful for that every day.


[Today’s guest post by Amanda Solomon is part of our paid blogging program. She is Vice President of Life Defenders.]

Alicia’s Story

During the summer of 2015, Alicia Young started experiencing some unusual symptoms: weight gain, neck swelling, moodiness, easily becoming sick, and extreme fatigue.

She fell ill quite often, getting three ear infections all within four months. At the young age of twenty-five she felt it was not normal, so she made an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat specialist to see if something more serious was going on. After the doctor examined her, he said that everything looked fine and that Alicia shouldn’t worry too much about it. Even with his reassurance, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was not right. She was always a healthy, active and energetic person.

At the time, she had a two-year-old and a ten-month-old. The logical explanation her doctor gave her was that the two young children were running her down. Young decided to go back to her primary provider and explain more fully the symptoms she was experiencing for a second opinion.

Thankfully, she wholeheartedly listened, and mentioned that Alicia’s neck look enlarged. That doctor ordered blood tests, a neck ultrasound and a sinus scan. After completing the test it was determined that Alicia had two separate four-centimeter nodules on her thyroid that needed to be biopsied. Not even twenty-four hours after the biopsy was done did the phone call come that she had cancer and needed surgery immediately.

After her first surgery in October 2015, the doctors expressed it was a success! At her three week post-op check and scan, it was determined that the lymph nodes that are around the thyroid also needed to be extracted—a surgery that was completed at the end of November of 2015. It was so emotionally and physically draining.

After her surgeries, she was on track to start her radioactive iodine treatment after Christmas. Before she went into her appointment, scans had to be done and blood had to be drawn. Alicia arrived to her appointment with total expectation to hear the side affects of radiation and how the treatment would affect her life.

Instead, the doctor came in and rather matter-of-factly stated that her blood results had came back and that she was roughly four to six weeks pregnant. He recommended immediate termination. He stated that if she didn’t terminate, she would need another surgery.

Cancer in the lymph nodes travels fast. She was in complete shock. With every imaginable emotion surging through her, she fought every urge to scream and cry.

As the doctor discussed the risks of Alicia sustaining a  pregnancy in her condition, she immediately blurted out that she would not be terminating the the life of her unborn child. The doctor tried to persuade Alicia to go home and reconsider it, reiterating to her the risk of the cancer quickly spreading throughout her body, killing both her and the baby.

The words “termination”and “fetus” were stated over and over again. Alicia forcefully told the doctor that if he repeated the word termination one more time, she would find a new doctor who would treat them both! While deep down, Alicia felt he was just doing his job and trying to advocate for her health, she continued to wonder who was advocating for the life inside of her. She knew that as a mother, she was this child’s advocate.

Her doctor informed Alicia that he could not, “in good conscience,” keep Alicia as his patient, so she was passed off to his colleague within the same office. Her new doctor was very optimistic and compassionate, thoroughly monitoring her pregnancy very closely.

Towards the end of her pregnancy, the tumor markers in her blood were very high. The doctor said that her cancer had spread and that she would need another surgery to remove lymph nodes through out her entire neck. He reassured her that he would make sure everything went smoothly.

Alicia’s son, Evin William, was born perfectly healthy. According to Alicia, he was her “easiest delivery.” Evin was a whopping 10 pounds, 14 ounces, and 21 inches long. Alicia says:

He was so calm, so happy and I truly felt he was meant to be. I also remember in that moment bawling my eyes out thinking that if I had made one decision, one seemingly valid and appropriate decision, then this beautiful baby boy wouldn’t be here.

A little over a month  after her son’s birth and after numerous scans/blood work, Alicia had her third and final surgery to remove the cancerous lymph nodes throughout her neck. She healed slowly and only six weeks after surgery, underwent her radioactive iodine treatments which put left her in a ten-day isolation. It was difficult to be separated from her three children, but 15 months after her son’s birth, Alicia is cancer-free and eight months pregnant with her fourth—all together and alive!

Alicia is yet another of many examples that a pregnancy can be sustained even when it is said that the mother’s life is in danger. If you are reading this and currently have received such a prognosis, don’t give up on your baby. Get a second opinion!

The Young family

[Today’s guest post by Heather Hobbs is part of our paid blogging program. Heather is an editor and blogger at Life Defenders.] 

Alicia’s Story

During the summer of 2015, Alicia Young started experiencing some unusual symptoms: weight gain, neck swelling, moodiness, easily becoming sick, and extreme fatigue.

She fell ill quite often, getting three ear infections all within four months. At the young age of twenty-five she felt it was not normal, so she made an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat specialist to see if something more serious was going on. After the doctor examined her, he said that everything looked fine and that Alicia shouldn’t worry too much about it. Even with his reassurance, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was not right. She was always a healthy, active and energetic person.

At the time, she had a two-year-old and a ten-month-old. The logical explanation her doctor gave her was that the two young children were running her down. Young decided to go back to her primary provider and explain more fully the symptoms she was experiencing for a second opinion.

Thankfully, she wholeheartedly listened, and mentioned that Alicia’s neck look enlarged. That doctor ordered blood tests, a neck ultrasound and a sinus scan. After completing the test it was determined that Alicia had two separate four-centimeter nodules on her thyroid that needed to be biopsied. Not even twenty-four hours after the biopsy was done did the phone call come that she had cancer and needed surgery immediately.

After her first surgery in October 2015, the doctors expressed it was a success! At her three week post-op check and scan, it was determined that the lymph nodes that are around the thyroid also needed to be extracted—a surgery that was completed at the end of November of 2015. It was so emotionally and physically draining.

After her surgeries, she was on track to start her radioactive iodine treatment after Christmas. Before she went into her appointment, scans had to be done and blood had to be drawn. Alicia arrived to her appointment with total expectation to hear the side affects of radiation and how the treatment would affect her life.

Instead, the doctor came in and rather matter-of-factly stated that her blood results had came back and that she was roughly four to six weeks pregnant. He recommended immediate termination. He stated that if she didn’t terminate, she would need another surgery.

Cancer in the lymph nodes travels fast. She was in complete shock. With every imaginable emotion surging through her, she fought every urge to scream and cry.

As the doctor discussed the risks of Alicia sustaining a  pregnancy in her condition, she immediately blurted out that she would not be terminating the the life of her unborn child. The doctor tried to persuade Alicia to go home and reconsider it, reiterating to her the risk of the cancer quickly spreading throughout her body, killing both her and the baby.

The words “termination”and “fetus” were stated over and over again. Alicia forcefully told the doctor that if he repeated the word termination one more time, she would find a new doctor who would treat them both! While deep down, Alicia felt he was just doing his job and trying to advocate for her health, she continued to wonder who was advocating for the life inside of her. She knew that as a mother, she was this child’s advocate.

Her doctor informed Alicia that he could not, “in good conscience,” keep Alicia as his patient, so she was passed off to his colleague within the same office. Her new doctor was very optimistic and compassionate, thoroughly monitoring her pregnancy very closely.

Towards the end of her pregnancy, the tumor markers in her blood were very high. The doctor said that her cancer had spread and that she would need another surgery to remove lymph nodes through out her entire neck. He reassured her that he would make sure everything went smoothly.

Alicia’s son, Evin William, was born perfectly healthy. According to Alicia, he was her “easiest delivery.” Evin was a whopping 10 pounds, 14 ounces, and 21 inches long. Alicia says:

He was so calm, so happy and I truly felt he was meant to be. I also remember in that moment bawling my eyes out thinking that if I had made one decision, one seemingly valid and appropriate decision, then this beautiful baby boy wouldn’t be here.

A little over a month  after her son’s birth and after numerous scans/blood work, Alicia had her third and final surgery to remove the cancerous lymph nodes throughout her neck. She healed slowly and only six weeks after surgery, underwent her radioactive iodine treatments which put left her in a ten-day isolation. It was difficult to be separated from her three children, but 15 months after her son’s birth, Alicia is cancer-free and eight months pregnant with her fourth—all together and alive!

Alicia is yet another of many examples that a pregnancy can be sustained even when it is said that the mother’s life is in danger. If you are reading this and currently have received such a prognosis, don’t give up on your baby. Get a second opinion!

The Young family

[Today’s guest post by Heather Hobbs is part of our paid blogging program. Heather is an editor and blogger at Life Defenders.] 

Poll: Many Americans call themselves “pro-choice” but want increased abortion restrictions

I’m a few months late to this poll—which was conducted from December 12 through 16 of last year—but better late than never. There are a few reasons that this particular poll is worth discussing.

First, it was conducted by Marist College, which has an A grade from FiveThirtyEight (indicating low bias).

Second, it asked about abortion in specific scenarios, rather than asking if abortion should be “legal in most circumstances” or “illegal in most circumstances.” My problem with the “most circumstances” language commonly used in other polls is that it invites an availability heuristic problem. The availability heuristic leads people to assume that events which receive significant media/public attention—and therefore come to mind readily—must be common. The classic example is plane crashes, which are quite rare, but are always the top story when they do happen; this causes people to fear flying more than driving, when the latter is actually more dangerous, just less newsworthy.

In the abortion debate, abortion in “hard cases” like rape and incest—and, on the other end, elective partial-birth abortions—are talked about in wild disproportion to how often they actually occur. If there’s such a thing as a typical abortion, it is a first-trimester abortion done for purely socioeconomic reasons. What does the average survey-taker imagine “most circumstances” to be? Who knows. Asking about abortions in each trimester and isolating the “hard cases” is more illuminating.

Third and finally, Marist identified which of its survey-takers were religious (“practicing”) and not religious (“non-practicing”) and kindly broke down the data for each.

So what did they find?

When merely asked if they were “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” the results were stark. Among practicing adults, it was 58% pro-life and 37% pro-choice. But among non-practicing adults it was 28% pro-life and 66% pro-choice. In other words, a non-religious American is a whopping thirty percentage points less likely than a believer to identify themselves as pro-life.

But the more detailed questions showed that, in fact, support for abortion among the non-religious is not nearly that high (click to enlarge):

Only 21% of non-practicing Americans take the abortion-on-demand position held by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the like. 15% oppose third-trimester abortions, and 25% oppose both third- and second-trimester abortions. Banning abortions after the first trimester would require the reversal of Roe v. Wade. A ban on second-trimester abortions is murkier, but would arguably require the reversal of Roe‘s companion case, Doe v. Bolton.

26% of non-practicing Americans believe abortion should be limited to cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, and 13% oppose abortion with no exception for rape and incest. In short, 39% of non-practicing Americans oppose the vast majority of abortions, and another 25% stand in stark opposition to the pro-choice establishment by advocating a ban after the first trimester. And yet only 28% will say that they are pro-life!

Moving to the next row of data, it’s clear that people are calling themselves “pro-choice” for reasons other than actual support for abortion. Adding together those who want a ban after the first trimester and those who want abortion in “hard cases” only, a majority (54%) of self-described pro-choicers want abortion to be more restricted than it is now!

This is why we do what we do. Non-religious Americans come to pro-life conclusions, but don’t adopt the pro-life label because they assume the pro-life movement is just a religious thing, or because they fear social ostracism from secular pro-choicers. They think they’re alone, because—availability heuristic again—pro-life atheism isn’t talked about in their networks of friends. If this sounds like you, Secular Pro-Life is ready to accept you with open arms!

There’s quite a bit more to explore in the poll, including breakdowns by sex and race. (Spoiler alert: you’re more likely to support abortion on demand if you’re male and white. Duh.) But since the religion angle is kind of our thing, we’ll end here.

Poll: Many Americans call themselves “pro-choice” but want increased abortion restrictions

I’m a few months late to this poll—which was conducted from December 12 through 16 of last year—but better late than never. There are a few reasons that this particular poll is worth discussing.

First, it was conducted by Marist College, which has an A grade from FiveThirtyEight (indicating low bias).

Second, it asked about abortion in specific scenarios, rather than asking if abortion should be “legal in most circumstances” or “illegal in most circumstances.” My problem with the “most circumstances” language commonly used in other polls is that it invites an availability heuristic problem. The availability heuristic leads people to assume that events which receive significant media/public attention—and therefore come to mind readily—must be common. The classic example is plane crashes, which are quite rare, but are always the top story when they do happen; this causes people to fear flying more than driving, when the latter is actually more dangerous, just less newsworthy.

In the abortion debate, abortion in “hard cases” like rape and incest—and, on the other end, elective partial-birth abortions—are talked about in wild disproportion to how often they actually occur. If there’s such a thing as a typical abortion, it is a first-trimester abortion done for purely socioeconomic reasons. What does the average survey-taker imagine “most circumstances” to be? Who knows. Asking about abortions in each trimester and isolating the “hard cases” is more illuminating.

Third and finally, Marist identified which of its survey-takers were religious (“practicing”) and not religious (“non-practicing”) and kindly broke down the data for each.

So what did they find?

When merely asked if they were “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” the results were stark. Among practicing adults, it was 58% pro-life and 37% pro-choice. But among non-practicing adults it was 28% pro-life and 66% pro-choice. In other words, a non-religious American is a whopping thirty percentage points less likely than a believer to identify themselves as pro-life.

But the more detailed questions showed that, in fact, support for abortion among the non-religious is not nearly that high (click to enlarge):

Only 21% of non-practicing Americans take the abortion-on-demand position held by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the like. 15% oppose third-trimester abortions, and 25% oppose both third- and second-trimester abortions. Banning abortions after the first trimester would require the reversal of Roe v. Wade. A ban on second-trimester abortions is murkier, but would arguably require the reversal of Roe‘s companion case, Doe v. Bolton.

26% of non-practicing Americans believe abortion should be limited to cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, and 13% oppose abortion with no exception for rape and incest. In short, 39% of non-practicing Americans oppose the vast majority of abortions, and another 25% stand in stark opposition to the pro-choice establishment by advocating a ban after the first trimester. And yet only 28% will say that they are pro-life!

Moving to the next row of data, it’s clear that people are calling themselves “pro-choice” for reasons other than actual support for abortion. Adding together those who want a ban after the first trimester and those who want abortion in “hard cases” only, a majority (54%) of self-described pro-choicers want abortion to be more restricted than it is now!

This is why we do what we do. Non-religious Americans come to pro-life conclusions, but don’t adopt the pro-life label because they assume the pro-life movement is just a religious thing, or because they fear social ostracism from secular pro-choicers. They think they’re alone, because—availability heuristic again—pro-life atheism isn’t talked about in their networks of friends. If this sounds like you, Secular Pro-Life is ready to accept you with open arms!

There’s quite a bit more to explore in the poll, including breakdowns by sex and race. (Spoiler alert: you’re more likely to support abortion on demand if you’re male and white. Duh.) But since the religion angle is kind of our thing, we’ll end here.

Doe takes Roe from Bad to Worse

[Today’s guest post by Chris Rostenberg is part of our paid blogging program.]

When I first heard, in the 1990’s, that abortion was legal through all nine months of pregnancy, I couldn’t believe it. If that were true, why would it not be common knowledge? Why would there be debate over where life began?

I had just abandoned the pro-choice movement and was researching the pro-life position. I was finding most of what they said quite persuasive. But how could abortion be legal until birth? Many other people who I have spoken to also could not believe the law could be so extreme. So I snuck into a local law library and read Roe vs. Wade—and, importantly, I also read its companion case, Doe vs. Bolton. I discovered that the pro-lifers were telling the truth: abortion really is legal through all nine months, in every state, for any reason, and has been since 1973.

Either by design or by accident (and my vote is for the former), our law is confusing in the extreme. The Supreme Court in Roe vs. Wade made it seem as if only early abortion was legal, saying that the states, if they wished, could make late abortion illegal. They can’t. The moderate-sounding threads of the Roe opinion are completely unraveled in Doe.

The details are important. Roe said the states could make third trimester abortion illegal unless the woman’s “life or health” was endangered. (We should already be suspicious; why mention “life” if “health” is enough to get a third trimester abortion? If a woman’s life is endangered, surely her health is too.) The Roe opinion says that it should be “read together” with Doe—and in Doe, the Supreme Court defined “health” as “all factors, physical, emotional, psychological and familial,” including the woman’s marital status and age.

So to recap, the states can prohibit late abortion… except when one of “all factors” comes to pass. Which is a really convoluted way of saying that the states cannot prohibit late abortion.

The Justices did not need to write their opinions in such a confusing way, of course. The whole thing could have been resolved by including the definition of “health” within the main Roe opinion. The only reason to go about it the way they did is to make it easier for the abortion movement, and its allies in the media, to conceal how extreme the law is.

To take but one example: in his presidential debate with Senator McCain, then-Senator Obama said, “I am completely supportive of a ban on late term abortion … as long as there’s an exception for the woman’s health and life.” As a former law professor, Obama knew exactly what that really meant. But McCain had trouble explaining the health loophole, because it’s too complicated to fit into a 15-second sound bite.

The Supreme Court backed off slightly in Gonzales v. Carhart, the partial-birth abortion case, but for all other abortion methods the “health” loophole remains wide enough to drive trucks through. We’ll soon find out whether or not the current Court is committed to keeping up the charade. In recent years, several states, working together with pro-life legal scholars, have passed laws banning abortions after 20 weeks. One or more of those laws will surely find its way to the High Court, and when it does, we must take full advantage of the opportunity to educate the public. Because for over 40 years, the media has consistently failed to accurately report on the reality of American abortion law. If it had, people would know that Doe instituted legal abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. As it stands, many Americans have never even heard of Doe!

Doe takes Roe from Bad to Worse

[Today’s guest post by Chris Rostenberg is part of our paid blogging program.]

When I first heard, in the 1990’s, that abortion was legal through all nine months of pregnancy, I couldn’t believe it. If that were true, why would it not be common knowledge? Why would there be debate over where life began?

I had just abandoned the pro-choice movement and was researching the pro-life position. I was finding most of what they said quite persuasive. But how could abortion be legal until birth? Many other people who I have spoken to also could not believe the law could be so extreme. So I snuck into a local law library and read Roe vs. Wade—and, importantly, I also read its companion case, Doe vs. Bolton. I discovered that the pro-lifers were telling the truth: abortion really is legal through all nine months, in every state, for any reason, and has been since 1973.

Either by design or by accident (and my vote is for the former), our law is confusing in the extreme. The Supreme Court in Roe vs. Wade made it seem as if only early abortion was legal, saying that the states, if they wished, could make late abortion illegal. They can’t. The moderate-sounding threads of the Roe opinion are completely unraveled in Doe.

The details are important. Roe said the states could make third trimester abortion illegal unless the woman’s “life or health” was endangered. (We should already be suspicious; why mention “life” if “health” is enough to get a third trimester abortion? If a woman’s life is endangered, surely her health is too.) The Roe opinion says that it should be “read together” with Doe—and in Doe, the Supreme Court defined “health” as “all factors, physical, emotional, psychological and familial,” including the woman’s marital status and age.

So to recap, the states can prohibit late abortion… except when one of “all factors” comes to pass. Which is a really convoluted way of saying that the states cannot prohibit late abortion.

The Justices did not need to write their opinions in such a confusing way, of course. The whole thing could have been resolved by including the definition of “health” within the main Roe opinion. The only reason to go about it the way they did is to make it easier for the abortion movement, and its allies in the media, to conceal how extreme the law is.

To take but one example: in his presidential debate with Senator McCain, then-Senator Obama said, “I am completely supportive of a ban on late term abortion … as long as there’s an exception for the woman’s health and life.” As a former law professor, Obama knew exactly what that really meant. But McCain had trouble explaining the health loophole, because it’s too complicated to fit into a 15-second sound bite.

The Supreme Court backed off slightly in Gonzales v. Carhart, the partial-birth abortion case, but for all other abortion methods the “health” loophole remains wide enough to drive trucks through. We’ll soon find out whether or not the current Court is committed to keeping up the charade. In recent years, several states, working together with pro-life legal scholars, have passed laws banning abortions after 20 weeks. One or more of those laws will surely find its way to the High Court, and when it does, we must take full advantage of the opportunity to educate the public. Because for over 40 years, the media has consistently failed to accurately report on the reality of American abortion law. If it had, people would know that Doe instituted legal abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. As it stands, many Americans have never even heard of Doe!

Is Abortion Justifiable in the Hard Cases? Part III

[Today’s post is the third in a three-part series on “hard cases” by SPL member Clinton Wilcox.  For the first post, on fetal disability, click here.  For the second, on pregnancy from rape, click here.]

One of the most tragic things in life is when a woman or a child dies during pregnancy or childbirth. Thankfully, technology has advanced to the point where the death rate from a pregnancy-related complication is extremely low. [1]

In fact, Alan Guttmacher, past president of Planned Parenthood, acknowledged: “Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal illness such as cancer or leukemia, and, if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save, life.” [2] A powerful quote, especially considering Dr. Guttmacher wrote it in 1967.

But what about the rare cases in which the pregnancy does become life-threatening? The most common example of this is an ectopic pregnancy, in which the human zygote implants itself somewhere other than the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tube. If the zygote implants itself in the fallopian tube, thi
s is highly dangerous to the mother. Once the embryo grows big enough,
the fallopian tube will burst, causing the mother to hemorrhage internally. This is an extremely dangerous situation for the mother, and almost always fatal for the embryo.


Some pro-choice advocates claim that we should keep abortions legal because abortions are always an act of self-defense — the pregnancy may end up threatening her life. However, very few women die in childbirth and pregnancy. Additionally, we can’t justify abortions because of the extremely unlikely possibility of the pregnancy becoming life-threatening, otherwise we could justify infanticide in the off chance they may grow up and kill their parents.

I take the position that life-saving abortions are morally permissible as long as the child is not yet viable. Once the child becomes viable, a caesarian section should be performed to save both mother and child. This is not only the ethical choice, it is also faster and safest for the mother. Late-term abortions are a three-day procedure, and a c-section takes about thirty minutes. This is a position consistent with my pro-life views. The mother and child are equally intrinsically valuable human beings. The mother and child should both be treated as patients, and it’s not always possible to save both.

Ectopic pregnancies don’t always implant in the fallopian tubes. If the embryo implants elsewhere and it is generally safe to continue the pregnancy, I don’t think abortion would be justified in that case (although constant physician observation may be required). But if the unborn implants in the fallopian tube, I believe that abortion is justified. There has been a case in which a zygote implanted inside his mother’s fallopian tube, later bursting the tube and implanting himself in the uterus, later to be born completely healthy. [3] However, I don’t think we can justify leaving ectopic pregnancies in the fallopian tube hoping that the woman and child will both survive. What would you think of a father who learns his son has pains in his appendix, waiting until the appendix bursts to finally seek medical treatment? With technology the way it is now, there’s a good chance of surviving a burst appendix. But the father would be negligent in waiting until his son’s appendix bursts to seek medical help. Since tubal pregnancies are dangerous and potentially fatal, I don’t believe a doctor is justified in leaving the embryo to develop there.

It is a tragedy when this happens, but to the best of my knowledge there is no way to transfer the developing embryo from the fallopian tube into the uterus for it to implant. If that were medically possible then that would be the ethical course of action. Since there is little evidence that this transfer could be done right now, abortions are justified in that instance. Sometimes the embryo dies on its own, before putting the tube at risk. In that case, there is no moral dilemma.

Life-saving abortions can be justified through three lines of reasoning.

Triage
— Triage is when two people are mortally wounded and only one can be saved. Say two soldiers are on a battlefield, dying of bullet wounds. The medic will survey the two dying soldiers, determine which one stands a greater chance of survival, and save that person.  If he works on the more severely injured person he may lose them both. By saving one he is not declaring that the other is not human or not valuable. In the case of a life-threatening pregnancy, the child can’t survive without the mother and the mother stands a 100% chance of survival. Since it is better to lose one life than two, the doctor will save the mother who has the best chance of survival.


Double effect — Double effect reasoning is a set of ethical criteria that we can use for evaluating the permissibility of acting when one’s otherwise legitimate act would also cause an effect one would normally be obliged to avoid. [4]

In this case, the legitimate act is saving the life of the mother and the act one would normally be obliged to avoid is the death of an innocent human being. Essentially, four conditions must be met before an act is morally permissible:

1) The nature-of-the-act condition. The action must be either morally good or indifferent.
2) The means-end condition. The bad effect must not be the means by which one achieves the good
effect. (This is because the ends do not justify the means.)

3) The right-intention condition. The intention must only be the achieving of only the good effect, with the bad effect being only an unintended side effect.
4) The proportionality objection. The good effect must be at least equivalent in importance to the bad effect.

Most life-saving abortions satisfy all four conditions. 1) The action is saving the mother’s life, which is morally good. 2) In most life-saving abortions (removing a cancerous uterus or the fallopian tube in which a zygote implanted itself) you don’t achieve the saving of her life by directly killing the embryo, itself. 3) The intention is only to save the mother’s life, not to kill the unborn human. If there were a way to save the unborn human, that would be the ethical course of action. And 4) The good effect is equal in proportion to the bad effect. You are saving the woman’s life although the unborn child will die, and the unborn child will die even without doctor intervention.

If the woman has a cancerous uterus and can’t wait for the child to become viable, the ethical thing to do would be to remove the uterus, with the unintended (but foreseen) side effect that the unborn child will die. This would only justify one method of action during ectopic pregnancy (though the other methods can be justified using the other lines of reasoning — triage and third-party defense of an innocent aggressor).

Third-party defense of an innocent aggressor
— The preborn human has no intention of implanting itself in the wrong place or threatening the mother’s life. They have become an innocent aggressor. If the woman were to have the abortion herself, this would be justified by self-defense. But does the doctor have a right to step in? I would argue that he does.


Consider the case of a man at a bar who, unbeknownst to him, has his drink spiked with a hallucinogenic drug. He flips out and next thing you know is aiming a gun at five people, threatening to shoot. The police arrive and an officer has a shot, but a fatal one. I think the police officer would be justified in taking the fatal shot to protect the people whose
lives are at risk.

As I indicated earlier, pregnancies are generally very safe. Most abortions cannot be justified as self-defense. But in a case where the woman will die if the pregnancy is left alone, then defense measures are justified.

Let’s have a look at the three different methods used to treat ectopic pregnancies. Some pro-life people I have talked to justify these by claiming that they are not really abortions, since medically they are called something else (Methotrexate, salpingectomy, salpingostomy). However, this does not affect the morality of the situation. They still result in the death of the preborn human. Plus, we can make the argument that all abortions are called something else (e.g. Dilation & Evacuation, RU-486, etc.). Even miscarriages are called “spontaneous abortions.” Shakespeare once wrote, “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” [5] Well, that which we call an abortion by any other name would still result in the death of an innocent human being.

Sometimes an ectopic pregnancy may correct itself. If it doesn’t and if no intervention is taken the embryo will grow large enough that the tube will rupture, causing hemorrhaging in the woman and a severe risk of death. I do not believe a doctor is justified in waiting around to see what will happen, since the tube rupturing severely harms the woman (possibly fatally). To expound on an analogy I used earlier, suppose a boy approaches his father complaining of pain in his abdomen. The father realizes his son may have appendicitis, but decides it’s not an emergency so he waits. The son’s appendix soon bursts and his father rushes his son to the hospital. With today’s technology his son has a good chance of survival, but the father was still negligent in his parental duties by waiting until the son’s appendix burst to seek medical attention.

Salpingectomy
— In this procedure, the section of the tube with the zygote inside it is removed and the embryo dies on its own. This is seen as satisfying double effect since you are not directly killing the embryo, you are allowing it to die on its own. This satisfies the second criteria, where the bad effect (the death of the embryo) is not used as a means to bring about the good effect (saving the woman’s life).


Salpingostomy
— In this procedure, an incision is made in the fallopian tube and the embryo itself is removed. This has the added advantage of preserving the woman’s fertility. Christopher Kaczor actually argues that this procedure likewise satisfies double effect. The effect of removing the embryo itself from the fallopian tube is not an intrinsically evil act, otherwise we would have to oppose removing it to attempt to transfer it into the uterus, if such a procedure ever becomes perfected.
[6]

Methotrexate
— Methotrexate is a drug that inhibits the cellular reproduction in rapidly growing tissue; it is also used to treat some forms of cancer. It works by inhibiting the growth of the trophoblast, the forerunner to the placenta and the embryo proper. [7]


Now, I personally believe that salpingectomy does not, in fact, satisfy the principle of double effect. Even if you are not directly killing the embryo itself, you are still the agent responsible for its death by removing the fallopian tube. You are removing it from the only environment in which it can live, which will result in its death. Someone might respond that you are simply removing the tube, which has been damaged and will result in hemorrhaging if left untreated. But I find this unconvincing. The reason the tube is damaged and will burst is because the embryo has implanted itself there and will burst it when it grows large enough. The embryo is the agent, not the fallopian tube, that is threatening the woman (albeit unintentionally).

I would actually argue that salpingectomy is morally impermissible in treating ectopic pregnancies. First, it is causing unneeded harm to the woman. By removing the fallopian tube, you are reducing the chance of her conceiving another child in the future by 50% (and if she had one before, you are effectively sterilizing her). Second, the embryo will die regardless of which method you use. Even if you don’t kill the embryo itself, you are still responsible for its death by removing it from its natural environment. So you are effectively responsible for the embryo’s death in any case. It seems that due to the unneeded harm and the fact that the embryo will die anyway, salpingectomy is actually morally worse than salpingostomy and using Methotrexate.

There’s some evidence to suggest that transferring an embryo implanted into the wrong place may be possible. [8] If this is correct, then this may change the ethics of the situation. Some may argue that this course of action would be morally required to be taken. Others, like Christopher Kaczor, argue that, as with saving other humans, this action may not be morally required. As he writes, “we need not make use of every treatment available in every circumstance. In each case, the burdens and benefits of the treatment must be considered, and treatments that are more burdensome than beneficial may be foregone.” [9]

So I would argue that abortions are morally permissible if the woman’s life is in immediate jeopardy but the child is not yet viable. Regarding the other hard cases, fetal disability/defect, rape, and incest, abortions are not morally permissible. On top of that, even if they were, they could not be used to justify general abortion-on-demand. Saying that we should make abortion legal because of a rare instance it may be justified is like saying we should eliminate all traffic laws because you may have to break one rushing a loved one to the hospital. [10]

 

[1] 
http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/womens-health/articles/2012/01/23/abortion-safer-for-women-than-childbirth-study-claims While this article claims that abortion is safer than childbirth, this is still a misleading figure. Abortion is safer than childbirth in the first trimester, and then it’s only marginally so. Less than 1% of women die from abortion (0.6 in 100,000, according
to the study), and less than 1% of women die in childbirth (8.8 in 100,000, according to the study). A woman’s risk of dying by having an abortion rises exponentially as the pregnancy continues.
[2] Guttmacher, Alan F., “Abortion — Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” in The Case for Legalized Abortion Now (Berkeley, CA: Diablo Press, 1967).
[3] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/443373.stm[4] Aquinas, Thomas, Summa Theologica IIa-IIae Q. 64, art. 7.
[5] Shakespeare, William,
Romeo & Juliet, Act II, Scene II.
[6] 
http://myweb.lmu.edu/ckaczor/ectopicpregnancyLinacre.pdf See the article for a much more thorough examination of the methods of resolving an ectopic pregnancy, and the ethics involved in each of the methods.

[7] See Kaczor’s article for more on this.
[8] L. Shettles, “Tubal Embryo Successfully Transplanted in Utero,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 163 (1990): 2026.
[9] See Kaczor’s article.
[10] Scott Klusendorf makes this observation in The Case For Life, (Crossway Books: Wheaton, Illinois, 2009), p. 175.

On the Beginning of Life

[Today’s blog post is by SPL member Robert T.]

After coming under fire from established pro-life activists for his stance that life begins at implantation, Newt Gingrich has recanted this and stated that fertilization is the moment when life begins. At least one pro-life veteran is skeptical of this sudden change.

Traditionally pregnancy has been dated from the first day of the mother’s last menstrual period, which typically occurs about two weeks before fertilization. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists years ago decided pregnancy started with implantation, in part to avoid some questions being raised about birth control methods, specifically hormonal birth control and intra-uterine devices (IUDs). These are questions that needed to be addressed a long time ago, and pro-lifers are as guilty of failing to address this as the pro-choice side. When pro-lifers say that life begins at conception, they need to look at whether a given birth control method is abortive. Pro-life women and men need to know there’s speculation that the birth control pill may cause early abortions. By the same token they also have a right to know there’s much room for doubt that this takes place.

The belief that the pill causes early abortions is based on the observation that the endometrium is thinned out while a woman is on oral contraceptives, and this is believed to hinder implantation. Beginning around the 1990’s, however, some pro-life physicians began to challenge this, arguing that implantation can take place in environments far more hostile than an endometrium thinned by oral contraceptives, such as the Fallopian tube in ectopic pregnancy. Moreover, implantation is known to take place directly in the uterine muscle, which leads to a condition called placenta accreta requiring surgery. This suggests the uterine lining’s purpose is as much to protect the mother as to nourish the child. Some other physicians have challenged this with their own papers. This became such a source of division that the American Association of Pro-life Ob-Gyns decided to shelve the debate and concentrate on other pro-life matters. They have a page that links to both papers.

There is also some disagreement over how methods of emergency contraception work, at least within the medical community as a whole. If, as some studies suggest, levonorgestrel (Plan B) does not disrupt post-fertilization events, it would seem unlikely that the much smaller doses of hormones in ordinary contraceptives would have this effect.

At this point I might add that I am not trying to encourage emergency contraception. There are indications that its effectiveness is overstated, and it has not been shown to reduce abortion.

With the IUD there’s not as much doubt that it can act abortively. The progesterone IUD is believed to thicken the cervical mucus to impede sperm transport, while the copper IUD is believed to have a spermicidal effect. The latter is also used as emergency contraception, however, and in this setting is considered much more effective than pills. Those who argue the effectiveness of Plan B and even ella can be accounted for by actions that occur before fertilization admit the IUD’s very high effectiveness means it must be able to act post-implantation. A moment’s reflection can help to explain this. Pills alter the growth of endometrial linings, while the IUD acts as a foreign object and an irritant.