Under what circumstances will an abortion save a woman's life?

Since this thread has the dreaded “A” word in it, I though I should place it in GD right off the bat…

Shall we try not to get political? Let’s give it a shot…

We often hear the qualifier “except when the mother’s life is at risk” associated with various pro/anti-abortion stances. What does this mean?

What risks can there be to a mother’s life that are alleviated by an abortion?

Truly, truly not a politcally motivated question.

Eclampsia/HELLP. They can kill the mother (and the baby). Not being pregnant is a cure for them.

Well, ectopic pregnancies and eclampsia come immediately to mind, but even things such as high-blood pressure or depression (yes, mental illness can be considered life threatening in cases) can be a problem. I think most doctors would tell you that each pregnancy needs to be looked at on an individual basis, and then recommendations are made.

From personal experience. Specific identities unmentioned unless the party wishes to personally confirm.

Woman with broken bones in lower spine. Not a paralysis-threatening injury, so she can move around and live her life, but certainly painful and intermittently disabling. Also, it’s slowly getting worse, so she undergoes spinal fusion surgery (in which a metal cage is clamped around the vertebrae to prevent further movement). It’s a major procedure, involving surgical entry from the front and the rear, repeated x-rays, heavy drugs, and a very long recovery. Then discovers, a month or two afterward, that unknown to anyone, she had gotten pregnant about a month before the surgery (birth control failure, nobody’s fault).

Her situation, therefore: A fetus that has been repeatedly bombarded with x-rays, filled with narcotic painkillers, and subjected to physical trauma when the uterus was moved to give the surgeon access to the spine. And her own spine is still delicately healing from having a metal cage placed around it.

The fetus is very likely to have been damaged, and she herself is not physically prepared to proceed with pregnancy. If her surgically repaired back survives the stressful expansion of her abdomen, which is doubtful, it will certainly fail during the contractions and other movements involved with birth. Result ranges from internal bleeding (never good in a birthing situation) to paralysis (if the cage shifts) to death.

Decision: abortion. No other reasonable option.

Any questions?

Another case might be cancer that requires chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is introducing toxic chemicals into the body, that are taken up preferentially by rapidly dividing cells. This is intended to poison cancerous cells, but of course it would also kill any unborn baby.

In college, I snuck into the med school with some pals (one of whom was pre-med) and saw a huge display of monstrous, deformed fetuses in jars of formaldahyde. Over half of these were tubal or ectopic pregnancies. It made a much bigger impression on me than the grisly “baby killer!” photos used by Operation Rescue and the like.

Imagine having to wait for a judge to authorize the abortion in these situations above ? Ever delay creating the possibility that you will enter a late preganancy phase and forbidden to abort…

Question: What are “Eclampsia/HELLP” ?

In extremely rare cases, hyperemesis (severe morning sickness) can kill the mother.

A friend who used to be an OB nurse saw a case in which the mother had some kind of heart condition that pregnancy exacerbated. They had to abort early, like around the 10th week because the mother was going to die if they didn’t (she wanted the baby and wanted to try to stay pregnant as long as possible). There was no way around it :frowning:

From here

And from here

In short, two health- and potentially life-threatening conditions that, although not exceptionally common, mean that “where the mother’s life is in danger” is not just an empty phrase coined for political cover by liberal pro-abortion advocates.

Not that anybody here has said that it is. . .

There are many drugs that cannot safely be used during pregnancy, leaving the woman with the grisly choice of taking the drugs and giving birth to a malformed child, or not taking the drugs and risking her life and health.

I believe that pregnancy and childbirth can aggravate some diabetic conditions.

Also, women should allow their bodies at least two years to recuperate from pregnancy and childbirth. If they don’t, they run an increased risk of serious anemia and hemorrhaging.

Once a woman has had a Caesarian, pregnancies are more dangerous to her health.

Another threat is an embolism in the ambiotic fluid.

I would think that a long and difficult labor might lead to a stroke or a heart attack.

Many talk about the dangers of abortion. Childbirth is more dangerous.

Ouch. I empathize, Cervaise, with your friend/family member. I’ve had two spinal fusions, with all of the accompanying metalwork (and a battery!). I’m male, so pregnancy was not a risk. In the case you describe, there is indeed no question. Recent spinal fusion and pregnancy-to-full-term are incompatible – period.

That’s true, which is why pro-lifers are wary of life/health of the mother provisions in legislation. Any abortion could be justified by this rationale.

I am pro-life, but I don’t think legislation or court decisions to ban any abortions can be sustained unless a culture that respects life in America can be built.

Now that “partial birth” abortions have been recently banned, are the women with the conditions listed in this thread pretty much screwed if they let their pregnancies go too far? And how far must a pregnancy go before the “partial birth” is the only way to perform the abortion?

Usually, other abortions can be done till about 5 months, and PBAs are usually only performed in the third trimester.

Most of my pregnancy-related health problems showed up in the third trimester.

Zoe said:

In my case, pregnancy caused diabetes. The diabetes caused other health problems. For instance, my retinas are partially detached because of diabetes complications during pregnancy.

It’s very, very difficult to find a doctor/clinic (in the United States) that will perform elective abortions after 3 or 4 months, despite what the prolifers say. Or at least that was the case 5 or 10 years ago, when I was active in the cause. I’ve been trying to keep up with it, but I haven’t actually been phoning clinics lately, trying to find one that will perform an abortion on a patient who has irregular periods and is a week or two over the cutoff date.

We frequently have patients in our ICU whose lives are seriously endangered by pregnancy. Usually the trouble is preeclampsia, eclampsia, or HELLP syndrome. These conditions are incredibly scary, as they can lead rapidly seizures, hemorrhage, organ failure, and death.

We also get women who become deathly septic from infected C-section incisions. Another life-threatening complication we see is pulmonary embolism. Gestational diabetes is a common complication of pregnancy that usually doesn’t cause death by itself, but it adds to complexity and danger when a pregnant woman is hospitalized for other reasons.

Since we’re a trauma center, we often get pregnant women who have been injured in car wrecks. Seat belts are not designed to accomodate a pregnant belly; often, the uterus ruptures. Needless to say, this is highly fatal to the fetus and highly dangerous to the woman who can quickly bleed to death.

I have taken care of perfectly healthy young, pregnant women who have gone into multisystem failure due to pregnancy. One of these comes to mind: 20 years old and formerly athletic, both of her kidneys and her heart failed due to severe preeclampsia. She’s on the transplant list.

Even when pregnancy isn’t the direct cause of death or disease, it can be a serious danger for any woman who is hospitalized for other reasons.

Wow… one does wonder how the human race even survived these childbirth complications. :frowning: Figures for populations in more ancient times put the highest death rates for women at the peak of their childbearing age… that must have lasted pretty much until modern medicine.

I have a friend with a kidney condition. It doesn’t impair fertility, but if she were to get pregnant, her chances of survival are limited. Sorry, not much more information than that, don’t know the kidney condition or why.

I have a cousin with severe scolosis and an steel bar down her back (actually three of them). She has three kids and would love more. Her doctor thinks another pregnancy would paralyze her.

I had preeclampsia. Sucked. Mine was mild - I didn’t even go on bed rest - and wasn’t a big deal until around 32 weeks - late enough that had it become a bigger deal, a few weeks on complete bed rest and a c-section in the hospital would have delivered a healthy baby. But having your blood taken every week so they can run some test and maybe they will call you and tell you to pack for the hospital isn’t a plesant feeling. I know women who have had it hit much earlier - when trying to carry to term is risky. And apparently, that is one where you can be borderline one day and comatose the next.

The depression thing can be a very big deal (says someone who then had PPD, and has depression and suicide running rampant in her family tree).

I’ve known two women with etopic pregnancies - they are life threatening although I don’t consider the treatment for them an “abortion” as they never properly implanted.

One girlfriend hemmoraged during labor and needed several hours of surgery and a lot of blood to save her life.

I’ve also had friends with issues like Lynn’s. A lot of my girlfriends were not diabetic until their pregnancies. And some of them have had severe complications. Another friend (actually a friends wife) has severe Type I diabetes - she will kill herself if she does get pregnant.

One of my issues with the abortion debate is the term “abortion of convieniece” and “you can always put the baby up for adoption.” (OK, that is two) Like pregnancy is nine months of keeping someone’s books in your basement while they don’t have room in their apartment and then they’ll come pick them up. Whatever else pregnancy is, it is not merely an inconvience - even if you really really wanted to be pregnant. Few women I know have not had some sort of lasting physical souvienier of their pregnancies - some of them major and some quite minor (excuse me while I run to the bathroom to sit on the toilet while I sneeze).

My sister-in-law was a severe alcoholic. Her blood vessels (particularly a big one in her abdomen) were deteriorated to the point that she had a shunt installed to equal out the pressure. She had to abort or she most likely would have bled to death internally.