One of the most common arguments brought up with regard to keeping abortion legal is the life of the mother. Whenever anyone says that abortion should be illegal, the immediate response from the pro-abortion side is "What about abortions to save the life of the mother?" They seem to think that making abortion illegal places women at risk. However, the life of the mother argument is not a good argument for keeping all abortion legal.
First, we would like to make it clear that we are unconvinced that abortion is ever necessary to save the life of anyone. In fact, there is good reason to think that direct abortion is never a necessary treatment for any condition of the mother. (See statements from the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists here, here, and especially here.)
However, we are open to the possibility of terminating a pregnancy to save a woman's life. If several doctors independently agree that it is absolutely necessary to end a pregnancy, otherwise the mother will die, then the mother should be treated to save her life. Some might call this abortion, though the intent differs from elective abortion in that the death of the child is not the primary objective. We don't consider such life-saving procedures abortions. Abortion involves the intentional killing of the unborn child as its main purpose and is not simply removing a fetus or ending a pregnancy (that's called birth or C-section). Thus, a procedure that removes a child from the womb for the purpose of preserving the mother's life is not the same thing as abortion, even if the child dies as a result.
In discussing this issue, several points come to mind:
1. Most abortions do not fall into this category.
2. Doctors should be required to recognize that with a pregnant woman they have two patients, and every effort should be made to save both of them.
3. If the pregnancy is causing complications, an induction or C-section with the intent to save the child's life should be performed instead of an abortion, if at all possible.
4. In many ectopic pregnancies (due to the location of implantation), the unborn child has no chance of survival anyway. So save the person you can - the mother.
5. In many cases where the life of the mother is endangered, the unborn child will not survive if the mother dies. So in those cases, it only makes sense to save the mother. The death of the child is not an intended result in such cases, but a by-product of saving the mother's life.
6. In many cases where abortion is claimed to be for the life of the mother, it is really to protect doctors. For example, a pregnant woman with cancer may be advised to have an abortion and then start chemotherapy. The idea is that chemo is dangerous to the child and so the mother should get an abortion before starting treatment. However, in these cases it is the cancer threatening the mother's life, not the pregnancy. And doctors are usually advising abortion so that they aren't sued for harming the baby by giving chemo to a pregnant woman. But if the unborn child is a human being (and he is), then it is never okay to kill him to prevent a risk of injury to him. That's like shooting someone because he is at risk for a heart attack. The "cure" (abortion) is worse than the disease (possible birth defect or death). That isn't medicine; that's doctors covering their own tails. The proper way to handle these situations is to consider both patients and work to do the least harm. Early delivery may be the best solution. Having the mother undergo chemo, even while pregnant, may be necessary (even if it causes the death of the child). The best decision may vary, depending on the individual case. But it is not necessary to purposely kill the baby in order to treat the mother.
7. The proposal for these "life of the mother abortions" should originate from an actual doctor, not someone in an abortion mill (like Planned Parenthood), nor from the patient (in order to avoid to avoid doctor shopping for an abortion). For instance, a cancer patient does not shop around for a doctor who will prescribe chemotherapy. He goes do a doctor who then prescribes chemotherapy if it is necessary to save the patient’s life. Remember, we're talking about a medical decision which is designed to save the life of the mother. That should be the original and primary intention – not an abortion. An actual abortion should be a last resort, and employed only when it is the only way to save the mother’s life.
8. In general, the purpose should not be to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy. We're talking about necessary steps to save the life of the mother which may, unfortunately, result in the death of her unborn child.
9. This life of the mother exception does not, in any way, justify elective abortions or abortion on demand. So most abortions should be illegal.