An OB/GYN abortionist is claiming that a woman had to be sent on a six-hour ambulance ride from Tennessee to North Carolina for an abortion to save her life. But this story raises some serious questions and concerns.
Leilah Zahedi-Spung is a maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialist in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She’s also an ardent abortion supporter who commits abortions. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, she claimed a patient of hers was pregnant in her second trimester with a baby who had been diagnosed with serious fetal abnormalities. Then the woman’s blood pressure began to rise. Fearing that the woman may have pre-eclampsia, Zahedi-Spung told her she needed an induced abortion, but that the law prevented Zahedi-Spung from committing one. Tennessee does have a law protecting preborn children from abortion, but that law permits abortion in cases to save the mother’s life (though the intent of an induced abortion is to end a life and is not medically necessary; a pre-term delivery without intent to kill would be legal in such a situation). According to the Wall Street Journal:
Dr. Zahedi-Spung said she wasn’t confident the woman’s condition was dire enough to meet that standard and feared that being charged with a crime could upend her life for years, even if she eventually was vindicated.
Out of fear of losing her career, Zahedi-Spung sent the woman on a six-hour ambulance ride to North Carolina, where she arrived allegedly with dangerously high blood pressure and failing kidneys. Then she told the media about it.
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“She kept asking if she was going to die,” Zahedi-Spung said. “I kept saying, ‘I’m trying, I’m trying, we’re going to make it happen. We just need to get you to the right place where you can be taken care of.’”
Choosing her career over her patient’s life
Much of this story raises glaring questions. First, if the patient was, indeed, so dangerously close to dying, then by Zahedi-Spung’s telling, she prioritized her own medical license over the patient’s life. She claims to have sent a gravely ill patient in kidney failure on a six-hour ambulance ride to undergo an abortion procedure which could take several days to complete — yet she wasn’t sure the patient’s condition was dire enough to fit under the emergency exception in the Tennessee pro-life law.
In short, she said her patient’s life was on the line, but didn’t trust her own diagnosis enough to actually treat her patient and instead sent the extremely ill woman six hours away when she could have performed a life-saving and completely legal and ethical preterm delivery. It wasn’t that the state of Tennessee didn’t allow this woman to be cared for, but that Zahedi-Spung wouldn’t care for her.
Zahedi-Spung’s account raises questions about her motivation behind sending her patient six hours away for an unnecessary procedure. According to Tennessee law, induced abortion is still permitted if the licensing physician in the case feels it is needed to save the woman’s life. The text of the law states that abortion is permitted if:
[t]he physician determined, in the physician’s good faith medical judgment, based upon the facts known to the physician at the time, that the abortion was necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.
The law also states:
Medical treatment provided to the pregnant woman by a licensed physician which results in the accidental death of or unintentional injury to or death of the unborn child shall not be a violation of this section.
But Tennessee also ascribes what is known as an “affirmative defense,” meaning the burden of proof is on the doctor to show that the abortion was medically necessary, as opposed to the state proving that it was not. Zahedi-Spung claimed that because of this, she feared being charged with a crime and losing her ability to practice medicine. But if the patient’s life was truly at risk, then she shouldn’t have had anything to fear — and she shouldn’t have sent her on a six-hour ambulance ride, either. The patient’s medical concerns could have been resolved with a preterm delivery, but it seems that Zahedi-Spung may have had other motives.
Induced abortion is never necessary to save lives
Finally, nowhere in her story did Zahedi-Spung, an admitted abortionist, explain what a second-trimester induced abortion procedure entails or what its sole purpose is. The most common abortion procedure in the second trimester is a dilation and evacuation (D&E), which can take several days and carries the intent of producing a dead baby — not saving a woman’s life.
The abortionist begins by inserting laminaria into the woman’s cervix. The laminaria works by absorbing liquid from the woman’s body and expanding, thereby dilating the cervix. While some abortionists rush this, the safest and most common practice is to wait 24-48 hours before removing the laminaria. After that, the abortionist further dilates the woman’s cervix and then uses a sopher clamp to tear the preborn baby’s limbs from her torso before continuing by pulling apart the baby’s various organs. Finally, the abortionist crushes the baby’s skull. The dismembered child is killed as he is removed in pieces instead of being delivered whole and alive.
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A D&E abortion is not a time-sensitive medical procedure and is not necessary to save a woman’s life. If the patient was in such poor condition that she was dying, Zahedi-Spung could have performed a C-section or induced labor. A C-section, for example, which is a common procedure when a woman is experencing pre-eclampsia, would have taken less than an hour. And these situations — induced labor or C-section, even when it is too early for the child to survive — are not induced abortions if the intent is not to kill, and these are not restricted anywhere in the nation. As previously explained by the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG):
There are times when separating the mother and her unborn child is necessary to save the life of the mother, even if the unborn child is too premature to live. In those tragic cases, if possible the life of the baby will be attempted to be preserved, and if not possible, the body of the unborn child is treated with respect, recognizing the humanity of the life which is lost in the separation. In contrast, the purpose of an induced abortion is to produce a dead baby. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defined legal induced abortion as an “intervention performed by a licensed clinician (e.g., a physician, nurse-midwife, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant) that is intended to terminate a suspected or known ongoing intrauterine pregnancy and produce a non-viable fetus at any gestational age.”
That is what an abortionist is paid to do: to kill the unborn child before delivering it, or to kill the child during the delivery process, as is done with partial-birth abortion. So the focus of the abortion procedure is on killing the unborn child, and the purpose of the abortion is to produce a dead baby. Induced abortion, that is the deliberate killing of an unborn child prior to separating that child from the mother, is never necessary to save the life or preserve the health of any woman.
Nothing about this story adds up. If abortionists truly cared about women, they wouldn’t risk women’s lives as Zahedi-Spung did, in order to protect their own careers or to create a heartwrenching story ripe for the media that is meant to play on the emotions of compassionate Americans, convincing them that intentional killing must be legal in order to save women’s lives.