The idea of a total ban on all abortions makes some people uncomfortable. After all, we’ve been told for years that there are situations in which abortion, though a poor choice, is the best option. That, however, is untrue. Abortion always claims a human person’s life, and therefore is never an appropriate choice.

The "big lie" theory says if an untrue statement is repeated often enough, the people will start to accept it as truth. Such is the case with the erroneous mantra that abortion must be permitted in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity and threat to the mother’s life.

Rape and incest

Rape and incest are similar in the sense that both are criminal acts. In our system of justice, we punish the criminal. We do not punish the victim, nor do we punish the criminal’s children. We are told, however, that if pregnancy occurs as a result of rape or incest, offering the victim an abortion is the compassionate thing to do. No woman should be "forced to carry that monster’s child," we are told.

The trauma of sexual assault is very real, and there is no intention here to downplay that. Abortion carries its own variety of trauma, however; women — even those who were victims of sexual assault — have reported years of physical, emotional and psychological difficulty following their abortions. Abortion did not solve their problem; it merely created additional ones.

There is also the very important fact that abortion takes the life of a living human being. The circumstances of conception may have been criminal, but the life of the newly-created human being is just as valuable as any other person’s. We do not put criminals’ innocent children to death in our culture; it simply isn’t done. It should not be done in this situation, either.

See also "Abortion — NOT Even When the Pregnancy is the Result of a Rape?" at http://www.all.org/upload/2010/02/23/1014.pdf and "Abortion — NOT Even When the Pregnancy is the Result of Incest?" at http://www.all.org/upload/2010/02/23/1012.pdf

Fetal abnormality

Expectant parents can treat a diagnosis of fetal deformity or other form of birth defect almost as if it were death itself. It is not a physical death, but a death of hopes and dreams. Visions of a "normal" childhood — playing games, going to school, growing up and starting families of their own — vanish in a flash. Parents in this moment of despair are often told they should simply go ahead and terminate the pregnancy and get on with their lives.

The first problem here is that medical opinions can be just that — opinions. There are countless cases of parents who permitted their children to live and found out at birth that the experts were wrong. Also, imagine the horror of the parents who abort their child, only to see that they had destroyed a perfect baby. That is simply too difficult to comprehend.

Abortions in case of fetal abnormality, however, are just like all other abortions. They take the lives of innocent human beings. Abortions in these cases raise frightening prospects, for if it is all right to kill a disabled person in the womb, could it one day be considered permissible to kill a disabled infant? A disabled adult? The answer is clearly "no" in those cases; why is there any question when the victim is a child in the womb?

See also "Abortion — NOT Even When the Child Might Have a Disability?" at http://www.all.org/upload/2010/02/23/1011.pdf

The mother’s life

This excuse for allowing abortion sounds reasonable. If the pregnancy is threatening the mother’s life, it would seem that lethal force — an abortion — would be a permissible form of self-defense. The child is not really "attacking" the other, but his presence puts her at risk. It sounds like a good argument, but it simply isn’t true.

Hundreds of doctors have a signed a statement that puts the situation in perspective. The statement reads, "There is never a situation in the law or in the ethical practice of medicine where a preborn child’s life need be intentionally destroyed by procured abortion for the purpose of saving the life of the mother. A physician must do everything possible to save the lives of both of his patients, mother and child. He must never intend the death of either."

A tubal (or ectopic) pregnancy, for instance, can indeed be life-threatening. But the treatment, even if it is fatal to the child, is not a "procured abortion." The doctor wants to save the baby, but knows that is unlikely. The baby’s death is an unintended consequence of the physician’s effort to save the mother. There are similar cases involving the treatment of cancer in which the baby’s death can be an unintended consequence. But again, these are medical treatments, not abortion.

It is important to distinguish between direct abortion, which is the intentional and willed destruction of a preborn child, and a legitimate treatment a pregnant mother may choose to save her life. Operations that are performed to save the life of the mother-such as the removal of a cancerous uterus or an ectopic pregnancy that poses the threat of imminent death-are considered indirect abortions.

They are justified under a concept called the "principle of double effect." Under this principle, the death of the child is an unintended effect of an operation independently justified by the necessity of saving the mother’s life.

Essentially, both mother and child should be treated as patients. A doctor should try to protect both. However, in the course of treating a woman, if her child dies, that is not considered abortion.

"Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal disease such as cancer or leukemia, and if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save the life of the mother."

-Alan Guttmacher, former Planned Parenthood president

"There are no conceivable clinical situations today where abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother. In fact, if her health is threatened and an abortion is performed, the abortion increases risks the mother will incur regarding her health."

-Dr. Bernard Nathanson, American Bioethics Advisory Commission

There is only one purpose for abortion — ending the life of the child. The "life of the mother" situation for abortion is simply bogus.

See also "Abortion — NOT Even When the Pregnancy Threatens the Life of the Mother?" at http://www.all.org/upload/2010/02/23/1013.pdf