This post was inspired a few days ago on twitter, where else.
It started with a guy asking “What disease does abortion cure? None. Abortion is not health care.”
Setting a broken bone doesn’t cure a disease, but we still consider it to be valid medical health care.
Then came the Melinda Gates post explaining why even though she wants to help women plan their families and stop dying from preventable pregnancy related complications, her foundation does not fund abortion because that is a separate matter, ie; not legitimate health care.
So, here’s the thing – abortion is health care. Not only does it actually, literally cure a few things, it also treats potentially lethal conditions and can provide a compassionate end for a non-viable fetus.
Here are some things that abortion cures: Preeclampsia & eclampsia (which is defined as an acute and life threatening complication of pregnancy.) Abortion cures gestational diabetes, which if it gets bad enough is also life threatening. Abortion cures severe cases of placental abruption and placental praevia, both of which can cause severe uterine bleeding leading to enemia and threatening the life of the pregnant person. Abortion cures pregnancy related high blood pressure which can lead to death. Abortion can cure certain types of sepsis, or infections, caused directly by the fetus. Such as the recent death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland where a woman who was spontaneously miscarrying was denied an abortion to complete the miscarriage and ended up dying of sepsis caused by the dying fetus.
Now, granted – not all women who experience these conditions and diseases of pregnancy experience them at a level where an abortion is medically indicated. BUT SOME DO. And the decision to end a pregnancy to save the mother needs to take place between the woman and her doctor. Period. Full stop. Politicians don’t need to step in, unrelated citizens don’t need to step in, uninvited family doesn’t need to step in. This is the WOMAN’S life – she gets to decide, with her doctor, what her pregnancy risks are and how close to death she wants to risk getting in order to give life to another human.
Then there are the other conditions that abortion cures. These are more black and white. When this happens there is exactly one choice. Save the mother, or let her die. There is no wiggle room.
Depending on how “pro-life-of-the-fetus-no-matter-what” you are, abortion could also cure an ectopic pregnancy. For those of us who are more “pro-life-of-the-mother” we don’t consider that to be an abortion because ectopic pregnancies are NOT VIABLE EVER and if left untreated can kill the mother. AND YET – some Catholic owned hospitals are not allowed to treat ectopic pregnancies because even though the pregnancy is not viable, they consider ending it to be an abortion. So, you know, kill the mother even though the fetus won’t live, because the Catholic church is pro-life.
Then there is my friend who required a uterine ablation, a procedure that removed the lining of her uterus permanently. The result is that any future pregnancy will be life threatening for my friend. The only way to save her life would be for her to have an abortion. Her husband got a vasectomy, but nothing is 100% and vasectomies have been known to reverse themselves, there is also the disturbingly real risk that my friend could get raped and become pregnant if either of these scenarios were to happen, my friend would have no choice but to terminate her pregnancy or widow her partner and leave their children motherless.
I have another friend who was diagnosed with cancer six weeks after learning that she was pregnant with a very much wanted pregnancy. Her type of cancer and the stage that it was at left her with two choices – keep the pregnancy and forgo treatment (because Chemo kills fetuses) which would allow the cancer to grow and spread beyond what modern medicine has a hope of curing, or… End the pregnancy, get treatment and try again once she was healthy. She had to choose – her life, or a baby.
Those are just a few of the direct, clear-cut medical reasons for abortion to save the mother’s life.
There are also some reasons to have an abortion to save a baby or child from excruciating pain.
Before I dive in, I want to remind everyone that as a parent now I have not only the right – but the obligation – to make medical decisions for my children. If they are in a horrific accident and are in a coma with little chance of ever waking, I am given the option to remove life support. If they are diagnosed with a terminal disease that will kill them slowly and painfully, in some states I have the right to allow a doctor to help ease them from that suffering. There are many reasons that I, as a parent, would have the right to compassionately end the suffering of my children.
As a pregnant person, whose body is being used as a life support mechanism and who will be a parent if the pregnancy is viable and a live child is born from it, we too should have those same rights of compassion.
If at, or after, 20 weeks it is discovered that our fetus has a condition or disease that makes it incompatible with life, we should be allowed to end that pregnancy and end any suffering that fetus might experience as the pregnancy progresses, not to mention our own suffering in carrying a pregnancy that we know will not produce a live child.
If we learn that our fetus has a condition that will force them to spend their entire life, no matter how long or short, in severe, crippling pain, we should have the right to end that suffering.
This is a decision that should be made between a doctor and the woman – and no one else. Not politicians, not strangers, not uninvited family or people of another faith who purchased the only hospital in town. This is a difficult, emotional, medical decision and it is a decision the parent carrying the fetus must make with the information provided by the medical people she has hired to assist her.
There is also the case of a woman who sought an abortion because she was in an abusive relationship. She told her doctor that her husband was abusing her and beating the children they already had. She did not want to bring another child into that life. The doctor would not perform the abortion without the husband’s permission, which the woman could not get. The baby was born and within a month the father had killed it in a violent rage.
Those are cases of what I would call compassionate abortion. Terminating a pregnancy to end or avoid undue suffering.
There is another category of abortion.
We, as a nation, have been talking a lot about mental health. What with all the shootings and stabbings and whatnot. And granted, most of those conversations are about all the angry white guys – but… Women have mental health issues too.
postpartum depression is a real thing, and it can kill. For women who already suffer from depression, or who are experiencing it for the first time because of the circumstances of their pregnancy are at a very real risk for developing severe postpartum depression, or even severe depression during the pregnancy. This depression could cause the pregnant woman to commit suicide, or could lead the mother to kill her child after the birth.
These, to me, are the clear-cut examples of times that abortion is health care. This is when abortion saves lives, or helps to end them compassionately.
These are all instances when a doctor and their patient should be left alone to make the decision that is right for the people whose lives will be affected.
Last, it is worth noting that illegal and unsafe abortion is one of the three leading causes of maternal death world-wide – which is to say that safe, legal, and accessible abortion cures unsafe and illegal abortions and the maternal deaths that they cause.
Safe, legal and accessible abortions SAVE LIVES. Women’s lives.
That is why abortion is legal in the USA, that was the basis for the supreme court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. Women have the right to access abortions as part of their reproductive health care because abortion is a medical procedure that helps women who need it remain healthy, physically, mentally and emotionally. That is why abortion should be covered by insurance, including medicaid. That is why Melinda Gates foundation should fund abortion if she really does care about reducing maternal death world wide.