The pro-life movement strongly supports medical intervention to save a pregnant mother’s life, even if that results in the foreseen but unintended death of her child. And in fact, every state limit on abortion provides exceptions for life-saving care for pregnant mothers.
However, it should be noted that these kinds of cases are extremely rare, accounting for approximately 0.1% of all abortions. And in many cases, the medical intervention involved would not technically be considered an abortion — for example, the inducing of labor after premature rupture of the membranes, a condition that can be fatal for both mother and child.
Further complicating this question is a shift in priorities within the medical community. While those treating pregnant women used to recognize that they have two patients — the mother and the child — more than fifty years of legal abortion have diminished the value that many physicians place on the life of a human fetus.
In all such difficult cases, the human dignity of both mother and child should be respected to the greatest extent possible.
Skop, Ingrid, M.D. “Abortion Policy Allows Physicians to Intervene to Protect a Mother’s Life.” Charlotte Lozier Institute. May 16, 2023. https://lozierinstitute.org/abortion-policy-allows-physicians-to-intervene-to-protect-a-mothers-life.
In recent years, some abortion advocates have begun to claim that “there’s no such thing as late term abortion,” saying pro-lifers invented the term as a scare tactic. But in reality, the phrase “late term abortion” was used widely throughout the pro-choice movement until very recently — so it can’t have been “made up” by pro-lifers.
While it’s true this term does not describe a particular medical procedure, it clearly refers to abortions late in pregnancy — generally after 20 weeks — of which there are 11,210 every year in the United States.
In a medication abortion, also known as a medical or chemical abortion or the “abortion pill,” a woman is administered an abortion-inducing compound called mifepristone (also called RU-486 or Mifeprex). Mifepristone blocks the action of progesterone, the natural hormone vital to maintaining the lining of the uterus. As the nutrient lining disintegrates, the embryo starves. Subsequently, the woman takes a dose of misoprostol, which initiates uterine contractions and causes the embryo to be expelled from the uterus. Mifepristone is approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) up to 70 days after the woman’s last menstrual period, but many abortionists prescribe it after 70 days, when side effects are known to be more severe.
North, Anna. “People are using abortion medication later in their pregnancies. Here’s what that means.” Vox, June 18, 2023. Accessed October 19, 2023. https://www.vox.com/23755658/abortion-pill-second-trimester-mifepristone-misoprostol.
Willke, John, MD and Barbara Willke. Abortion: Questions & Answers. Cincinnati: Hayes, 2003.