Asking Questions about Miscarriage and Abortion
by Ms. Boomer-ang
While on a vacation in New York’s Adirondacks in September 2018, I ran into a family that included two gospel singers, a mother and a daughter. One day we ended up hiking together.
During the hike, the daughter said, “I have a little sister in heaven. That’s neat!”
The mother told her story: She had had an early miscarriage, and the doctor had sped it up surgically. I wondered if there was a chance that the fetus was still alive when the operation started.
Within the medical profession, the technical term for a miscarriage is a “spontaneous abortion.” Such an event is obviously very different from what doctors call an “induced abortion”—in other words, what we conventionally call “an abortion.” However, the similar language used raised questions for me about how doctors might be responding to women with medically complicated pregnancies.
When women are told they are going to miscarry and then rushed into a procedure to complete the miscarriage efficiently, how likely is it in these cases that the fetus was still alive when the procedure began? How likely was the woman herself to have survived without the procedure? What chance did the pregnancy have of continuing until the live birth of a viable baby, with the mother surviving too?
Sometime between 1995 and 2010, a woman wrote in the Washington Post that she had signs of trouble in the first trimester of her pregnancy. The doctor told her she was miscarrying. She could wait and see if her body expelled the fetus naturally or have it taken out immediately by surgery. So the woman agreed to surgery. This meant going to an abortion facility and having the same procedure as an abortion.
Since apparently she did not oppose abortion, she did not mind doing that. She said one or two other women there at the same time were also there to complete miscarriages. But she noted that she was the only woman in the recovery room not crying.
The New York Times reported this September that when pregnant women come to doctors with “miscarriages or hemorrhaging,” abortion is the established standard care. It quotes Dr. Alison Haddock attacking the prospect of restrictions on abortions with, “Do we wait until the fetus is definitely dead?…[H]ow much bleeding is too much?”
That made me wonder if in many, if not most, cases where women are rushed into “miscarriage completing” procedures, the fetus is still or probably still alive. In some cases, could the pregnancy have been continued, without endangering the mother?
Surgery may be necessary in ectopic pregnancy, but what about other types of situations?
If a woman is suffering life-threatening hemorrhaging, then the bleeding must be stopped in any way possible, but does removing the fetus—which may require cutting—really ease the bleeding?
I am not a doctor, so I am not certain. However, with a medical culture that both wants natural processes sped up and values abortion, how much bleeding are doctors—even pro-life ones—now trained to regard as too much?
Furthermore, when the fetus is dying or becoming detached and cannot be saved, making the mother “complete” the miscarriage immediately through a surgical abortion has similarities to killing patients because they are terminally ill and to regarding the dying as already dead.
Are there cases where the doctor does not want to know if the fetus is alive? In many cases, is it an instance of not wanting to “reduce efficiency” by taking a step considered extraneous? In others, is distinguishing between the dying, the possibly dying, and the dead considered too nitpicky?
Doctors should be better trained in handling a pregnancy with complications to ensure the survival of both mother and baby. Have doctors forgotten how, when encountering possible miscarriage symptoms, to save both mother and baby? Are younger doctors taught that is impossible? In order to learn how to save the life of both the mother and the baby, will doctors have to get training in countries where abortion is still illegal?
And women should definitely be told if there is a chance that the fetus is still alive before being rushed into “miscarriage completion.”
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