TW: ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, death
Many churches will be jubilant today. This message is for devout Christians who are celebrating. We are going to talk about what happens when wanted pregnancies end in abortion.
There are no surprises in what I’m about to say, but Christian soldiers, I need you to hear this and pay attention. I need you to share this and decide how you will protect unborn life and still protect women, fully-realized, fully-developed image bearers of God. If you truly care about life and not just control, I need you to decide what you will tell the politicians in your state to set as policy to achieve what you sincerely believe are Godly aims meant to preserve life.
Please stay with me. I’m not going to make a case for why you should change what you believe. I am only interested in you advocating for policy that is scientifically sound and that will preserve women’s lives as well as potential babies. I say potential because whether we think it is alive or has a soul or not, a lot can happen between conception and a birth.
Non-Christians or pro-choice Christians: I will not be making arguments around women’s rights to bodily autonomy here, as those aren’t motivating to this audience. Please don’t take me as saying those rights don’t exist in my opinion.
Men, I need you to pay double attention. We don’t know enough about women’s bodies full stop, and even less if we are in churches telling us that women don’t have any right to lead men. The creator of the universe created science, and there are rules for how things work that weren’t specified in detail by prophetic nomads in the desert thousands of years ago, yet still accurately describe how the world works.
Women, forgive me and correct me if I get anything wrong. My intent is to clear common misconceptions driving the conversation among regular people, not to mansplain pregnancy to Christian women who know their own bodies.
What Is Abortion?
First, I want you to know what abortion means. Abortion refers to any procedure that removes an embryo or fetus from a woman. It does not specify whether the procedure was elective or medically necessary. It does not specify whether the fetus or embryo are viable or not. I’m going to talk about some common cases that require abortion that will be prohibited under the new state laws besides the usual “rape and incest” clauses some of you seem to grudgingly accept.
Miscarriages happen between 15-25% of the time a woman becomes pregnant, mostly in the first trimester. There are a number of reasons they can happen, but commonly it is due to fetal/embryonic non-viability. A woman’s body will usually expel the fetus or embryo along with the gestational material. At six weeks, the fetus is the size of a grain of rice. At the end of the first trimester, it’s about the size of a plum. So the experience is traumatic, because most miscarriages actually noticed as such rather than as a heavy period are wanted pregnancies, but we’re not talking about something that would be experienced like a birth.
Sometimes, the woman’s body does not expel the non-viable material. And sometimes, the miscarriage is after the first trimester, where the fetus has developed further before dying. In these cases, the primary way to remove the material is by dilation and curettage, opening the cervix and removing the material directly from the uterus. This is what people typically think of as an abortion. Other ways can include the use of drugs like misopristol that will induce the shedding of the material, and these are also considered abortion.
You’ve seen me use a lot of terms here, and I want to be clear. The fetus or embryo in the cases I’m describing is dead tissue. It has not developed to viability and will not develop further. There is no chance it will become a baby. And if the woman is not shedding, the result of this dead tissue in the body will be sepsis or death of a woman.
In states trying to criminalize every actor involved with an abortion, doctors simply will not perform these procedures and take the risk of being accused of illegal activity. Those women who cannot leave their state will risk sepsis and death. And those who can risk prosecution if it is ever found out that they did.
Complete banning of abortion prohibits the removal of dead tissue that will never become a baby and that can endanger a woman’s life. Complete banning of abortion adds to the burden of women who wanted pregnancies but had them end through no fault of their own.
About 1-2% of fertilized eggs lodge in the Fallopian tube or elsewhere outside the uterus. This number can double for assisted reproduction, where children are again always the goal. It is effectively impossible for an embryo to develop to term outside the uterus. It can, however, grow, but the prognosis is damage to the woman’s organs and death. At the minimum, waiting until the situation is an emergency puts the woman’s fertility at risk, even if her survival prognosis is good. The treatments for ectopic pregnancy are surgical or procedural removal of the embryo or fetus, which is also classified as abortion.
Complete banning of abortion means that every ectopic pregnancy is a death sentence. The US maternal mortality rate is 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births. This would push that number as high as 1,000 deaths per 100,000. Somebody check my math here, but a complete, nationwide ban on abortion when one percent of pregnancies end in a life-threatening condition should mean 40 times the number of women would die. In practice, it would be lower, but only because those with means would go to other countries and those without would rely on underground medical care. Even this would result in more complications and more loss of fertility. The death rate goes up either way.
Abortion procedures are a part of women’s health care. Women who wanted their children very much sometimes need abortions. The policy being advocated for by conservative Christians and their favorite politicians will deny that health care.
The pro-life Christian’s goal in this as I understand it is to prevent elective abortion, to prevent a baby that could be born from being killed before it can be born. You have two choices:
A ) Advocate for policy that allows women to get health care in the above cases I mentioned, knowing that some elective abortions will slip through.
B ) Advocate for the current policy prescriptions completely banning abortion procedures, knowing that more women who carry wanted pregnancies will die.
Ultimately, this is your dilemma. You cannot choose to eliminate legal abortion completely and preserve the lives of born women who are here, because this is not a moral problem caused by promiscuity or some other sexual sin. I focused on purpose on wanted pregnancies that end in a requirement for abortion.
Please think about this, and advocate for women’s lives, too.