A concern among the American people and a popular pro-choice argument revolves around the life and health of a pregnant mother. If a mother’s life was threatened or her health was compromised, would it be okay for her to abort her child? Must we weigh the two lives on a scale, deciding which one is most important and most worthy of saving? 

It is the scientifically backed pro-life position that we do not have to. According to neonatologist Dr. Kendra Kolb, “There is no medical reason why the life of the child must be directly and intentionally ended with an abortion procedure.” By taking careful inventory of the scientific, logical, and medical facts, an abortion never has to be done for the sake of the mother’s life. 

In the Case of a Life-Threatening Condition

There are several conditions or situations that may occur during a pregnancy that would involve the mother and the child needing to be separated. Some of these complications include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Chorioamnionitis

If untreated, these medical issues could lead to both the deaths of the mother and the unborn child. In these cases, it is important for us to remember that there are two patients in the situation. Both the mother and the preborn child are equally valuable and human, worthy of medical attention and care. Doctors should be taught to consider the lives of both patients, the mother and the child.

Instead of abortion, preterm delivery is a safe and life-affirming route that will work toward saving and respecting both lives. Abortion intentionally takes the life of a preborn child through brutal procedures, including using a suction or dismembering the child. Meanwhile, preterm delivery is the act of delivering the baby before it reaches its term. This may end in the child not surviving, but this is not an intentional killing. In reality, this humane procedure respects the preborn child and gives them a chance to survive outside of the womb (almost all babies at 24 weeks can survive outside of the womb if given proper medical care) or to pass away in the arms of their mother. 

According to The American Association for Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists

“Abortion is the purposeful killing of the unborn in the termination of a pregnancy. AAPLOG opposes abortion. When extreme medical emergencies that threaten the life of the mother arise (chorioamnionitis or HELLP syndrome could be examples), AAPLOG believes in “treatment to save the mother’s life,” including premature delivery if that is indicated — obviously with the patient’s informed consent. This is NOT “abortion to save the mother’s life.” We are treating two patients, the mother and the baby, and every reasonable attempt to save the baby’s life would also be a part of our medical intervention.”

Furthermore, there is also evidence that proves that preterm delivery is safer for the mother compared to a late-term abortion (any abortion done after twenty weeks gestation, which is when most life-threatening complications occur). An emergency C-section can be completed within an hour, but a late-term abortion is a two- to three-day procedure. The separation will be done in a much quicker time if a C-section or labor induction is done instead of an abortion, protecting the mother’s safety and health much more efficiently. 

Not to mention that abortion can cause many health complications and mental health problems. In fact, women who have abortions are 138% more likely to have health problems compared to women who give birth. They have higher rates of:

  • Anxiety (34%)
  • Depression (37%)
  • Alcohol use/misuse (110%)
  • Suicidal behavior (155%)

All of this proves that in life-threatening situations, preterm delivery is much safer and life-affirming compared to abortion.

In the Case of a Potentially Dangerous Treatment

Just as the mother and preborn baby may need to be separated for the sake of both of their lives, a mother may also need to be treated for a certain condition or disease. Sometimes this treatment can be developmentally dangerous or life-threatening to the baby. For example, a mother who has been diagnosed with cancer may choose to undergo chemotherapy or radiation, which may result in a miscarriage – the death of the baby.

It is vital to understand that these treatments are not equal to abortion, because the intent of these treatments are to save a life, not to take one. If an abortion is successful, it always results in the death of a human being. Meanwhile, chemotherapy and other treatments the mother may need are not administered for the sake of killing an unborn baby.

In the Case of an Ectopic Pregnancy

Finally, ectopic pregnancies are a point of interest as well in this debate. According to the Students for Life Organization, “An ectopic pregnancy is also known as a tubal or extrauterine pregnancy and occurs when the newly-conceived human implants somewhere other than the uterus (most commonly, in one of the fallopian tubes).” 

These cases are extremely serious and will result in dire complications for the mother and child. Tragically, the child in an ectopic pregnancy will not survive, as it cannot successfully grow outside of the womb. According to an article written by the Guardian in 1999 documenting a baby who was miraculously born after an ectopic pregnancy, it is a one-in-60 million chance for this child to survive. 

Ectopic pregnancies can be treated with:

  • Methotrexate, a drug that is toxic to the outer layer of the blastocyst, which provides necessary nutrients to a developing human being
  • Salpingostomy, a surgery which involves incising a hole into the fallopian tube and removing the offspring
  • Salpingectomy, another surgery that involves removing the entire section of the tube in which the offspring is implanted

Treatment for ectopic pregnancies may be loosely considered to be abortions, if the term abortion is simply being used to mean “ending a pregnancy.” However, pro-lifers do not consider this instance of separating the child from the mother to be an abortion, because the intention is not to kill the child. Instead, it is to save the mother’s life. 

In most cases of ectopic pregnancies, the offspring has already died before discovery, but the salpingectomy option is considered to be the most ethical and morally permissible decision, as it is the option that will not kill the child if they are still living. Nonetheless, the child will not survive, and if the ectopic pregnancy continues, the mother may die as well, so this is not considered an abortion legally or in the mind of pro-lifers.


As perinatologist Dr. Byron Calhoun once said

“There is never a reason to take the life of an unborn child since there is no maternal condition that requires the death of the fetus to save her life. The infant may need to be delivered prematurely and die as a result of that, but it is not necessary to take the infant’s life.”

Additionally, the Dublin Declaration, with more than 1,000 signatures from neonatologists, obstetricians, midwives, pediatricians, and other medical professionals states that, 

“As experienced practitioners and researchers in obstetrics and gynecology, we affirm that direct abortion – the purposeful destruction of the unborn child – is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman. We uphold that there is a fundamental difference between abortion, and necessary medical treatments that are carried out to save the life of the mother, even if such treatment results in the loss of life of her unborn child. We confirm that the prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women.”

Our society and our obstetricians need not decide between saving the mother’s life or saving the unborn baby’s life. Neither life-threatening situations, medical treatments, nor ectopic pregnancies warrant or include the murder of the unborn child in the womb. Instead, we can take life-affirming steps to protect both lives.

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

I love history, Middle Earth, writing, cinema, and Jesus. I hope to use the gifts He has given me to spread the Truth about His love and protect those in the womb.

The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.