The Health Of The Mother Exception

Over the years since Roe v. Wade, many have stated that they are against abortion unless it's for the health of the mother. This exception is common when legislation concerning abortion is debated. What does "health of the mother" really mean? In the case of Doe v. Bolton in 1973, the Supreme Court issued their opinion about it. In this companion case to Roe v. Wade, the Court stated that a woman may obtain an abortion after viability, if necessary to protect her "health." The Court defined "health" as:

"Whether, in the words of the Georgia statute, "an abortion is necessary" is a professional judgment that the Georgia physician will be called upon to make routinely. We agree with the District Court, 319 F. Supp., at 1058, that the medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors - physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age - relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health."*

In other words, the "woman's health" aspect could cover almost any reason for abortion. A woman could say that her child would cause her stress, or she is not ready to have a family, and that would be sufficient.

In reality, there is one definite condition that will cause the mother to die, and that is an ectopic pregnancy. It basically is when the new human implants on the wall of the fallopian tube instead of on the wall of the uterus. If left alone, the fallopian tube will eventually rupture and cause the death of the mother and child. In this case, there is no way to have a baby born alive, so it must be removed to save the life of the mother. It's better that one should live instead of both dying as a result of this condition.

There are a few other problems that can cause difficulties for the mother but not severe enough to cause her to die. Conditions such as Toxemia (swelling, elevated blood pressure), Placenta Previa (placenta covers all or part of the cervix), and Placental Abruption (placenta detaches from uterine wall) occur occasionally, but the mother can be treated and, if need be, the delivery can be attempted earlier than normal.

When someone brings up the "health of the mother" exception, ask them to specify what they mean. More often than not, they will just say vaguely "when the woman's health is in danger." That's when it can be explained about ectopic pregnancy and also the other conditions that can be treated. If they bring up the general descriptions of health that are in Doe v. Bolton, then those can be easily refuted. Most of those health exceptions given in that case are a just a convenient reason not to have the child. In the woman's mind they may be legitimate, but she must be shown that her reason doesn't justify killing a baby. Then the shift can be made to the discussion of the nature of the unborn and what really is the result of an abortion. Also, an argument could be made that the health exceptions given in Doe v. Bolton are some of the same reasons not to have an abortion. For instance, many women have gone through great psychological, emotional, and physical stress from having an abortion, either at that time or years later.

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doe_v._Bolton




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