Reading through some of the comments that have been left on the Passion Life social media pages yesterday, I was not surprised to come across some, shall we say, passionately contrarian comments left by those who oppose the idea of advocating for life in the womb. We leave those responses on our social media on purpose. We leave them there for people to read unless they are violent or vulgar, which sometimes they are, in which case we remove them because they are not adding anything constructive to the conversation. Usually we leave those responses because they expose a lack of sound reasoning or expose the vitriol that motivates a lot of abortion advocacy.
One such dissatisfied customer responded by referencing a story that was in the news media about two weeks ago. You may have read the article. The story was about five Texas women who were suing the state of Texas to clarify laws about exceptions to what is often perceived as a near total abortion ban in that state. I read the article when it first came out. Why am I talking about this? The Ministry of Passion Life is usually not focused on politics or current events. The concern of Passion Life is to equip the church to understand and deploy biblical ethics where abortion is most concentrated. I bring up this story because in obeying God and in applying what the Bible says, we often have to sift through cultural rhetoric in order to discern how God would have us respond to the issues of our day. These five Texas women say that they were denied abortions in the face of horrific medical emergencies. Here is the story from NPR. That story picked up a lot of national attention because it described a series of very dire medical situations that these five women were experiencing, and the story was written in such a way as to elicit an emotional response of sympathy for these women. Indeed, the circumstances are nothing that anyone ever wants to experience. I certainly felt sympathy for these women myself. We all should.
I think that the article made people recoil at the idea that abortion was not readily available for the medical situations that they faced. This is the provoked response that the sympathy was intended for, where upon further reflection, the circumstances were not as clear cut as they were presented to be in the story. The Texas law, the article points out, is known as SB eight, and it enabled people in the state of Texas to file lawsuits against people who performed abortions or against people who help others obtain an abortion. The law includes “limited exceptions for medical emergencies.” Let me make this clear: the bill does provide limited exceptions for medical emergencies. The article makes it sound as if the bill does not allow for any exceptions of consideration whatsoever, but it does.
The article goes on to describe a medical situation of one woman. Her name is Anna Zargarian, and this is what the article says, “ Zargarian’s doctors denied her an abortion after her water broke at 19 weeks too early for the fetus to survive, fearing the prospect of severe infection, she flew to Colorado for a termination.” Zargarian told NPR that she came forward because “it’s important to share this story because someone is going to die eventually.” Now these stories turn my stomach in a knot. I think that the stories should have that effect because I have no desire to see a woman die unnecessarily. But as we look at the circumstances that are described here, we find that there is actually no medical argument for an abortion as the prescription for her circumstances.
What do I mean by that? The article clearly says that her water broke at 19 weeks which is too early for the fetus to survive and that there was a threat of severe infection. The statement that 19 weeks is too early for a fetus to survive the water breaking is medically incorrect. What is being described here is known as preterm, premature rupture of the membrane (PPROM), and, while it is a very serious complication, a baby can survive this phenomena.
In 2016, self.com (keep in mind this website is no friend of conservative, political or cultural thoughts) posted an article about a woman whose water broke not at 19 weeks, but 17 weeks. Through bedrest and good prenatal medical care, she was able to deliver a healthy baby in the 31st week of her pregnancy. The article describes that while PPROM is dangerous, it poses a risk of infection to the mother and a fatal risk to the baby. However, with our current technology and good doctoral management some circumstances, not all, can be navigated. In other words, a doctor is not going to look at this circumstance and, by default, say your prescription is to have an abortion. At the very least, a compassionate doctor who foresees an imminent death through a complication for the baby might suggest an early termination to the pregnancy as an option for the mother.
Is an early termination the same thing as an abortion? While it might seem like splitting hairs, the medical answer is no. A medically assisted removal of a nonviable pregnancy, whether or not the baby has already expired or perished, is not the same thing as an abortion. What is the difference? The difference is intent. An abortion intends to kill a baby, almost always for the convenience of the mother or the family. A medically assisted removal of a non-viable pregnancy does not seek to end the life of a baby, it seeks to preserve the life of the mother. If the baby could be saved, in other words, that would be the preferable course of action. It is the same as with an ectopic pregnancy, and its ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg implants within the wall of the fallopian tube rather than in the wall of the uterus. This results in a non-viable pregnancy that is very, very dangerous. It poses an extreme risk to the lives of both the mother and the baby. If that baby continues to grow inside the fallopian tube, a rupture of the fallopian tube will occur and the life of the mother, through hemorrhaging, will be lost and, of course, the life of the baby will also be lost. This is a non-viable pregnancy, and if left unaddressed, it is going to cause death. When the baby is medically removed from the fallopian tube, the intent is not to kill the baby. The intent is to avert the death of both the baby and the mother.
If medical science were advanced to the point that we could remove that baby from the fallopian tube and safely, reliably re-implant it within the wall of the uterus so that a healthy pregnancy resumed, that would be the preferred course of treatment at this point. That is, unfortunately, a medical impossibility. But brothers and sisters, rest assured if the Lord does not come back for us before it happens, medical science will progress to the point where we are able to take that baby from the fallopian tube and reimplant it within the uterine wall. When that happens, we will rejoice and use that technology as the preferred method of dealing with ectopic pregnancies. Although the removal of that non-viable pregnancy and the death of the baby is foreseen, it is not intended. Therefore, it does not meet the criteria of abortion.
Back to our story of Anna Zargarian and her water breaking at 19 weeks. She and her doctors had a very complex decision to face. They could elect to manage the complication through bedrest, hospitalization, and a host of other medical technologies until the age of viability. Or if the case were deemed extreme where the death of the baby was foreseen, they could elect to: A) wait for the baby to expire under medical supervision assuring that this was indeed a non-viable pregnancy and commence a medically assisted removal of the already expired baby, or B) facing the threat of infection which would certainly take the life of the mother and the baby, they could commence a medically assisted removal of that non-viable pregnancy. In either case, the intent is not to kill the baby for some convenience. The procedure is not considered abortion.
What we have here, brothers and sisters, is a very difficult case. In these cases we must understand what the Bible says and we must be able to apply it carefully to that situation. When the Bible prohibits murder, often worded in the scriptures as the shedding of innocent blood, it prohibits the intentional taking of an innocent human life. If it is not intentional, it is not murder. If you unintentionally and accidentally kill somebody with your automobile, that is a serious situation. The consequences can be grave and the penalty can be very high as it often should be, but it is not the same thing as intentional murder. This is why you may be tried and convicted of negligent manslaughter. The penalty for manslaughter is not as high as it is for intentional murder. Again, intent matters. And it matters in the case of abortion.
Passion Life advocates against the intentional killing of innocent human beings in the womb. We travel the world to help Christian leaders understand the Bible and help them lead well on the issue of protecting life and rescuing the vulnerable. With your partnership, we have already been to or made plans to go to Columbia, Cuba, Mexico, Asia, Hawaii, Argentina, and many other places. We are thankful for your partnership in the gospel. As the culture brings us these heart-wrenching stories of pregnancy complications that make it seem like abortion advocacy is a compassionate stand. Look closely, think carefully and critically about the medical, ethical, and biblical implications. Abortion is never the prescription.