Why ‘life of the mother’ exceptions for abortion are unnecessary

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According to a recent Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll, 40% of Americans who consider themselves to be pro-life think abortion should be legal in certain circumstances, including when there is a risk to the mother’s life. While they likely feel that it is compassionate to allow abortion in these cases, the truth is that abortion is never medically necessary to save the life or health of the mother.

Abortion is not health care

Abortion is the intentional killing of a preborn human being and has no medical benefit to the mother under any circumstances — even in the most high-risk of pregnancies. There is no medical reasoning that justifies the direct killing of innocent humans, but the abortion lobby plays on the sympathies of caring individuals to convince them that abortion must remain legal for these heartbreaking situations.

“In situations where the mother’s life is truly in jeopardy, her pregnancy must end and her baby must be delivered,” explained neonatologist Kendra Kolb, MD. “These situations occur in cases of mothers who develop dangerously high blood pressure, have decompensating heart disease, life-threatening diabetes, cancer, or a number of other very serious medical conditions.”



Preterm delivery

Kolb explained in a video for Live Action that some babies will need to be delivered before they are able to survive outside the womb, however, most life-threatening complications for the mother do not occur until 24 weeks of pregnancy or later. Babies born as young as 21 weeks have survived when given proper medical care.

Delivering a baby early to save the life of the mother and making an effort to save both lives is not an abortion. Yet many well-intentioned pro-lifers mistakenly believe that it is, as do many women who have had to undergo a preterm delivery and whose babies tragically did not survive. However, preterm delivery through an emergency C-section when the mother’s life is at immediate risk is safer and faster than a later abortion.

A C-section takes less than an hour while a second-trimester D&E abortion can take more than 24 hours to carry out based on the gestational age of the baby, and a third-trimester induction abortion takes three or four days to carry out. In a true medical emergency, an abortion would increase the risk of death and serious disability to the mother, said Kolb.


Abortion is a greater physical health risk to a woman facing a medical condition during pregnancy than preterm delivery. However, there is also a higher risk of psychological damage to a woman who undergoes an abortion for her own health, said Kolb. Abortion can also increase a woman’s risk of alcohol and drug use, depression, and suicidal thoughts — especially if the mother originally intended to carry the baby to term.

Abortion is not only unnecessary, it is dangerous.

Ectopic pregnancy

During an ectopic pregnancy, the baby has implanted in the fallopian tube or another area outside of the uterus. Almost always, an ectopic pregnancy will put the mother at life-threatening risk. Treatments for ectopic pregnancy, explained Kolb, will result in the death of the baby. Though removing the baby is necessary to protect the mother’s health, this is not an abortion because the purpose of the procedure is not to kill the child; instead, the child tragically dies as a result of medical treatment for the mother.

READ: Why miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, and early delivery are not abortions


As with ectopic pregnancy, pregnant mothers who have cancer may undergo medical treatment that can harm their babies. Many women refuse cancer treatment if they are pregnant. However, if chemotherapy can not be avoided, a miscarriage may occur depending on the type of chemotherapy. However it should be noted that some forms of chemotherapy have been shown not to harm preborn children. If a miscarriage does occur due to chemotherapy, this also is not an abortion.

“Physicians have an ethical duty to deliver expert care for both patients — the mother and the child,” said Kolb. “A mother’s life is of the paramount importance, but abortion is never medically necessary to protect her life or health.”

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