This is a rather shocking statement to make. The political organization that represents all the obstetricians in our country is arguing in federal court that an abortion--a forced miscarriage--is safer for a woman than a childbirth. And not just safer, but 23.3 times safer.
This is counter-intuitive, to put it mildly. Pregnancy and birth is a natural, healthy event that billions and billions of women have undergone since the dawn of humanity. Yes, there are certain dangers in a pregnancy. But, one might add, there are even more dangers to a woman in a miscarriage. Indeed, much of the dangers in a pregnancy revolve around a miscarriage. A miscarriage signals that something is wrong with the pregnancy. And when something is wrong with the pregnancy, there is a danger to the mother.
And yet in 1973 the ACOG is flipping this understanding on its head. In its Roe v. Wade brief, the ACOG is arguing that an abortion--a forced miscarriage on a healthy pregnant woman--is safer and healthier than a pregnancy itself. The political body that represents obstetricians in our country is telling the Supreme Court that pregnancy is a danger to women, and a miscarriage is the cure.
What motivates the ACOG to argue something so at odds with reality? How can medical doctors argue, with a straight face, that miscarriages are always safer for women than pregnancies? It defies reason and common sense. And yet abortionists believe it.
One of the foremost authorities on abortion practice in our country is Dr. Warren Hern. He is the author of Abortion Practice, a medical textbook widely used in medical schools. And he takes the ACOG argument to its logical conclusion. "Abortion is the indicated treatment for pregnancy."
Think about what this doctor is saying. Apparently, every time Dr. Hern sees a pregnant woman in the street, his thought is, "she needs an abortion." To Dr. Hern, a pregnant woman is sick and unhealthy. And he has a cure!
Dr. Hern writes, "The relationship between the gravid female and the feto-placental unit can be understood best as one of host and parasite." That is an odd attitude for an obstetrician to have, to put it mildly. A baby is a parasite? The baby is attacking the mother, putting her life in jeopardy?
Imagine finding out that your wife is pregnant. (With a parasite!) And so, with her consent, you punch her in the abdomen repeatedly, in a desperate attempt to cause a miscarriage.
Obviously forcing a miscarriage is unsafe for women! We know this instinctively. This is why aborting women always want a doctor around. A doctor with needles and drugs and scalpels is always going to be safer than a non-doctor performing an abortion with a coat hanger. Right? We all agree on that.
So that's the argument the ACOG should be making. "Some women are desperate for abortions, and if doctors are not allowed to do them, these women will inflict horrible damage on themselves." Perhaps the ACOG did not think that argument was persuasive. After all, this is Roe v. Wade. Our medical authorities have to convince the Supreme Court that our Constitution requires abortion.
So they say, "The medical procedure of induced abortion is potentially 23.3 times as safe as the process of going through ordinary childbirth." Note the weasel word, "potentially." It's an outlandish thing to say, and so they give themselves wiggle room.
The ACOG brief is relying upon a social science study that reports a death rate from women in childbirth and a death rate from women having an abortion. But of course the problem with any social science study involving abortion is that people are very secretive about their abortions. So while a death caused by a pregnancy will always make it into the death certificate, a death caused by an abortion might be hushed up. Indeed, it might be blamed on the pregnancy!
This sloppy social science is at the root of much of the Supreme Court's jurisprudence in this area. In Roe v. Wade, Justice Blackmun writes, "Mortality rates for women undergoing early abortions, where the procedure is legal, appear to be as low or lower than the rates for normal childbirth." You can't possibly know with any assurance how many women die from an abortion in a society that is so secretive about our abortions.
These Supreme Court assertions that abortion might be safer than childbirth, or is potentially safer than childbirth, became dogmatic assertions that abortion is always safer than childbirth. In Planned Parenthood v. Danforth, Justice Blackmun writes, "the mortality rate for normal childbirth exceeds that where saline amniocentesis is employed."
Again the Supreme Court is relying upon shoddy social science. The "mortality rate" involves reported fatalities that are passively collected by the CDC. Are we expected to believe that the actual abortion procedure used by the doctor always makes it into the death certificate? What if the death is blamed on "embolism" or "hemorrhage"?
People might hide an abortion death because they want to hide the fact that a patient had an abortion. And people might hide an abortion death because they want to hide the fact that a doctor caused a death. And yet the non-doctors on the Supreme Court give us this facile assurance that childbirth is more dangerous to a woman than a forced miscarriage late in the term.
The Supreme Court's argument is even more absurd when we discover what a saline amniocentesis abortion actually is. It's a procedure that involves injecting high doses of salt into a pregnant woman's uterus. The salt burns the skin off the baby inside the womb, and a few days later the mother gives birth to a burnt carcass.
As with any late-term miscarriage, there are serious risks to a woman who undergoes a saline amniocentesis. It may cause uncontrolled blood clotting throughout the woman's body, with risk of severe hemorrhage. Seizures, coma, or death may also result from saline accidentally injected into the mother's vascular system. An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that saline amniocentesis "has the highest fatality rate of any elective surgical technique, second only to cardiac transplantation."
Yet here is the Danforth Court, insisting that it's safer for a woman to have poison injected into her uterus than to give birth to a baby. It's preposterous. Indeed, saline amniocentesis not only scalds the baby in your uterus, it causes mom to go into labor! So if birth is dangerous to women--and the Supreme Court constantly reminds us that birth is dangerous to women--then what makes saline amniocentesis so safe? You not only have the danger of birth, but the additional danger of injecting high doses of salt into a pregnant woman's uterus.
By the late 1970's, abortion doctors largely stopped doing saline amniocentesis, because the procedure was so dangerous to women. Indeed, in 1983 the Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision, sent a doctor to prison for doing a saline amniocentesis abortion on a patient outside a hospital. What happened to Danforth and the claim that abortion is always safer than birth? Down the memory hole!
The new, approved procedure for a doctor forcing a miscarriage in the 1980's was a dilation and excavation, or D&E. The doctor would dilate the cervix and grab the baby with forceps, and then dismember the child in utero. This procedure has obvious dangers for a woman. The Supreme Court lists them for us in the first Carhart opinion:
"sharp bone fragments passing through the cervix"
"uterine perforations caused by (the doctor's) instruments"
"infection-causing fetal and placental tissue in the uterus"
"potentially fatal absorption of fetal tissue into the (bloodstream)"
What's quite odd is that the Supreme Court only discusses the medical dangers of a D&E abortion when doctors start abandoning the procedure to do a D&X abortion. A D&X abortion (also known as a "partial-birth abortion") involves inducing labor and delivering a baby, and killing her halfway outside the birth canal.
Yet when the Supreme Court first introduces the D&E abortion procedure to the world, in Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, there is no discussion whatsoever of the medical risks of this abortion. Indeed, the Court assures us that "D&E may be performed safely...(in) nonhospital facilities."
In 1983, the D&E is declared so safe that state medical boards are stripped of their authority to regulate the procedure. And yet in 2000, we are told the D&E is so dangerous to women, that it justifies inducing labor and killing the baby outside the birth canal.
What Carhart makes clear is that the Supreme Court's dogmatic assertion that abortion is always safer than childbirth is fatally flawed. If abortion is safer than childbirth, why do abortion doctors want to induce labor and deliver children in order to abort them? Indeed, one abortion doctor was actually convicted of murder for killing newborns. Why would Dr. Kermit Gosnell deliver babies, if abortion is safer than birth? The answer, I suspect, is that labor and childbirth is always easier for a doctor than a D&E abortion. Easier for doctors and safer for women.