just how many "life saving" abortions are there?

the issue of protecting the life of the mother comes up in discussion pretty often, but how common is something like that, in terms of numbers and percentage of the total abortions in America?

It’s happened to my mother like 4 times, so with some people more common than others.

It’s not that unusual to induce very early labor when a woman has pre-eclampsia. It often happens when the child is close to viable, and if the child is born alive it isn’t abortion, but still the baby doesn’t have a good chance at all. But if there’s no induction, then it’s the mother who doesn’t have a good chance at all.

If it happens before viability, it’s abortion, and it saves the life of the mother. Either way, tough choice for the mother and the rest of the family.

Now, my birth mother was told after the birth of my brother that she should not give birth again. Birth control was not so reliable in those days, and abortions were illegal. Hence she had me, and then two more, when her doctors kept telling her one more pregnancy might kill her.

So I and all my siblings (except my brother) owe our lives to the fact that abortion was not legal. You’d think we’d be all for making it illegal again. But we’re not.

Due to improved health care resulting in generally healthier moms (like something that would have killed moms in childbirth a hundred years ago is now treatable)
I would think that the majority of theraputic abortions are done due to profound birth defects (the kind where it’s very likely that the baby will be born dead or is dying in utereo)

nm, spent too much time in GD today

But that’s the opposite of what the OP is asking for. Cases like my aunt being diagnosed with breast cancer during a pregnancy ultrasound and the doctors wanting to “perform the procedure” as soon as possible so she’d be able to get treatment are still perfectly possible with our improved health care and would count as “an abortion performed to save the life of the mother”.

In the US, I believe that it’s only legal to abort during the 3rd trimester if it’s to save the life of the mother.

It looks like the third trimester is from 29 weeks, but the data only tells us that 1.3% of abortions are 21 weeks or later. From 29 weeks would be somewhat less than 1.3%.

Making an assumption that “aborting to save the mother” is something that only happens towards the end of the pregnancy, then that 1.3% is probably pretty close.

Ahah, the Wikipedia had a link to a better source of data:

In the US, abortions to due to “risk to maternal health” are 2.8% of the total.


So- a small percentage of the total, but still significant.

Sage Rat there are some pre-existing maternal conditions where a pregnancy is extremely dangerous, so a termination could be indicated as soon as pregnancy is diagnosed.

For example- with more adult suvivors of congenital heart disease living to adulthood there are some women with very precarious cardiac function who have the capacity to become pregnant. Some of these women would have a mortality risk of 50% in pregnancy, with that risk present from the early 2nd trimester- i.e. long before viability. No contraception (including sterilisation) is 100% effective.

I don’t see how you ethically could tell someone that their pregnancy has a 50/50 chance of killing them, and then NOT offer a termination as a possible option. Whether they then decide to continue the pregnancy, knowing the risk, is up to them, but there has to be an informed choice.

But I would think “life saving” would be a subset of “risk to maternal health,” which seems a lot broader.

More correctly, the states are not allowed to prohibit abortions in the first and second trimester, but are allowed to prohibit abortions in the third trimester, except for those required for the life or health of the mother.

However, states are under no obligation to prohibit any abortions at all.

“Risk to maternal health” is an euphemism for “high risk of maternal death”. Cos you can’t say death, you know, it’s a bad word.

I have (technically) had one of those a couple weeks ago.

When they IVF’d me, one of the embryos apparently overshot the uterus, headed out the fallopian tube and implanted somewhere in my body cavity. This is one of the less common types of ectopic pregnancy, and if it had been allowed to continue it would probably have killed me. (Depending on where it landed; they did lots of ultrasounds and never did find the little bugger. Probably hanging out on the dark side of my spleen.) In any case the pregnancy would not have been viable.

I had to have an injection of Methotrexate, which is a chemotherapy drug that kills off rapidly-dividing cells - such as, in this case, foetal cells. It also sapped all the folic acid out of my body, meaning I can’t try to get pregnant again for about 3 months.

So yeah. It happens fairly frequently.

I’ve read that only 90% of people agree with an abortion to save a woman’s life. I guess the other 10% don’t care if the woman dies.

ahem This is GQ, remember?

I’m not sure it’s such an unreasonable position. A patient who needs a new liver will die without it. Do we kill someone so we can obtain a liver for them? Heck, we won’t even forcibly take a liver from a person who’s already dead - they have to be a donor or have family who consent. Killing people for the medical benefit of other people sounds pretty horrific.

The people in that 10% simply don’t see the difference between killing someone for a liver and killing someone for the health of the mother. For them, the unborn child is as much a “someone” as the mother or the liver patient and just as deserving of legal protection.

Of course, every survey has a certain percentage of people who didn’t understand the question, marked the wrong box, are total nuts, etc.

(For the record, I’m in the 90%)

I’m not sure that signifies. AIUI in most cases where a pregnancy threatens the life of the mother the fetus would also die.

In some cases that person who doesn’t agree happens to be the woman. Are you “pro-choice except when you don’t agree with the choice”?

A couple of years ago on this board, I asked what life-threatening conditions might cause a woman to abort a fetus after the point of viability. I’m a strong supporter of abortion rights in early stages of pregnancy but in my mind, abortion after viability is not that different morally from strangling a baby shortly after birth. This would be different if the mother’s life was in danger, but I had never heard of a specific condition where purposely killing the viable fetus would save the mother’s life.

A lot of the responses I got were really angry that I would ask such a question, and there were several responses along the lines of “only a moron doesn’t know about pre-eclampsia.” (In fact, I didn’t know about it, but as previously noted here, with pre-eclampsia the goal is a live birth, not an abortion, of a viable fetus.) Some other possibilities also failed to answer the question to my satisfaction. Finally someone discussed a condition where the fetus has an abnormally large head that could rupture the mother, which I think was the best answer I was going to get.