by Martina Nicholson, MD, FACOG:
I have always felt that my vocation was to try to stop women from bleeding to death, in childbirth. The biggest cause of loss of mothers is hemorrhage. Placentas which do not come off the wall of the uterus, called "placenta accreta", or placentas which are placed over the cervix obstructing the path for birth of the baby, called "placenta previa" are the biggest causes of this maternal mortality. But there are also issues of what used to be called Toxemia, where the pregnancy becomes toxic to the body of the mother, with high risk of stroke, heart attack, blindness and blood clots or hemorrhage. Mothers need to be protected when their lives are at stake. Often there are other children at home, and other family members to whom these women are precious and sacred, in their role as mother. In Obstetrics there must be priority made for the life of the mother. We can not allow a law which excludes from consideration the life of the mother. Doctors and patients in these life-threatening situations must be given the right and the scope, legally, to do what is best in a given rare situation. Many factors may affect the answer of what to do, but politicians should never be allowed to outweigh the medical decision-making.
I am going to add to this by trying to defend doctors. We are speaking about the LAW. Moral authority and religious fervor about personal behavior, and the exhortation to live up to the gift and the grace of pregnancy are a different issue. I feel very strongly that it does not serve us to be blindly pious in our attachment to the sacredness of pregnancy. We have to be realistic when considering the LAW. We can have ideals and goals and moral support and courage for people doing hard things, but we should not criminalize something that you and I know is a hard decision made by layers and layers of scientific and historical knowledge of what to do in rare complications. We need the LAW to be clearly backing up the medical decision-making. And I will add that the protection of the specialists who can do a medical procedure for a person who is in advanced heart failure or kidney failure, or leukemia, not responding to treatment, should be carefully protected and respected for their medical skill. NO woman will ever be forced to have an abortion, and many will choose their own death, rather than undergo what they consider to be killing their own child. But we have to protect the right to life of the mother, and the medical decision-making to try to give mothers that fundamental help.