Late-term abortion provider Warren M. Hern opened his New York Times' op-ed — "Pregnancy kills. Abortion saves lives." — by saying that "pregnancy is a life-threatening condition. Women die from being pregnant. We have known that for thousands of years."
Hern, who directs the Boulder Abortion Clinic in Colorado, listed a number of potentially fatal issues pregnant women may face — "hemorrhage, infection, preeclampsia (which can lead to fatal seizures), obstructed labor, amniotic fluid embolism, thromboembolism, a ruptured uterus, retained placenta, hydatidiform mole, choriocarcinoma" — and said modern medicine can't cure all of them.
"Pregnancy always comes with some irreducible risk of death," Hern wrote in his Tuesday piece.
Women dying due to pregnancy versus having abortions
The doctor then spelled out stats in Alabama, which just passed a new law restricting most abortions, and compared them to abortion mortality:
In Alabama, the overall maternal mortality ratio in 2018 was 11.9 per 100,000. Among white women, the 2018 maternal mortality ratio was 5.6; among black women, it was 27.6, making black women in Alabama almost five times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy than white women. For the United States overall, the maternal mortality ratio was 20.7.
By comparison, a study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology on abortion mortality from 1998 to 2010 found that for the 16.1 million abortions performed during that time, the overall death rate was 0.7 per 100,000 procedures. The death rate for early-abortion procedures — those that took place within the first eight weeks of the pregnancy — was less: 0.3 per 100,000.
Alabama's new law claims that it does not prohibit abortion if there is a "reasonable medical judgment" that the pregnancy poses a "serious health risk" to the woman. An abortion may be performed if a "reasonable medical judgment" "necessitates" that a pregnancy be terminated to "avert her death or to avert serious risk of substantial physical impairment of a major bodily function." The definition of a "major bodily function" is not given, nor is it distinguished from a minor bodily function.
"But pregnancy itself poses a 'serious health risk' — including the risk of dying and losing all bodily functions," Hern continued. "A woman's life and health are at risk from the moment that a pregnancy exists in her body, whether she wants to be pregnant or not."
He went on to ask a number of questions:
- "Could a doctor who determines that a woman is pregnant also determine, as a consequence of that pregnancy, that a 'serious health risk' exists?"
- "Could that doctor then end her pregnancy without fear of prosecution?"
- "Who decides what a 'reasonable medical judgment' is or what a 'major bodily function' is? What are the criteria for these judgments?"
Hern added that the effects of new Alabama law likely is racially "unequal" because "black women are more likely to die from pregnancy in Alabama than white women and so are more likely to benefit from the availability of safe abortion."
He concluded by saying that perhaps the law's "vagueness" is the whole point as "vagueness and confusion are tools of tyranny."
Pro-choice supporters protest against Alabama's abortion ban youtu.be
How are readers reacting?
Believe it or not, some of the op-ed's comments picked for highlighting by the Times were critical of Hern's op-ed:
- "This is a terrible argument. Pregnancy 'kills' but abortion saves 'lives'? No matter where one stands on the abortion issue, are we just going to ignore the fact that an abortion does lead to the loss of a fetus/baby in the womb? There's 'killing' involved — and every abortion results in that."
- "The logic posed here is incredibly flawed."
- "You're on the wrong side of morality when you suggest that the procedure that ALWAYS results in death saves lives."
- "It's disingenuous not to include the statistics on complications from abortion in any discussion on the risks of pregnancy. A D & E procedure carries its own set of dangers including permanent loss of fertility and death. And no I'm not even considering the Gosnell and Brigham victims. I'm talking about supposedly competent doctors in accredited hospitals. There's also mental and emotional health issues that can and do follow some women for years. Tell the truth."
- "Some facts are self-evident. One of these facts is that pregnancy gives life. All of us who are considering these questions is alive because of a pregnancy. ... the grim fact of biology is that abortion ends a human life. The fetus is alive. It is human, it is of no other species."