- Pregnancy-induced hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Breast cancer or other cancers
These words strike fear into the hearts of pregnant women with these conditions. How extensive is the cancer? What will the diabetes do to my baby? Will my health or my baby’s health be jeopardized? Will I live or die? Will my baby live or die?
Abortion advocates play on emotions in these situations to press the “need” for abortion. They argue that protection of the woman’s “health” takes precedence over the life of her unborn baby. She can always have other children later, they reason, and she must think of the effect this illness will have on the rest of the family.
A distinction must be made between pregnancies which could endanger the health of the mother, such as hypertension, diabetes, epilepsy, or cancer, and those which endanger the life of the mother, such as uterine cancer.
The Handbook of Obstetrics and Gynecology defines a high-risk pregnancy as “one that imposes a definite or probable increased hazard to the life or health of the mother or offspring. The risk may be due to maternal or fetal problems or to treatment of these problems.”1 These identified medical conditions affecting pregnancy may have mandated ending the pregnancy at one time in history. However, with current medical care, technology, and prenatal care, these conditions are now manageable.
High-risk pregnancies are most commonly associated with, but not limited to:
- Pregnancy-induced hypertension [high blood pressure], which complicates “about 5 to 7 percent of pregnancies in otherwise normal women …. The major maternal hazard is that of eclampsia or gran mal seizures, resulting from profound cerebral effects of the disease.”2
With regard to high blood pressure during pregnancy, Scott and Worley write in their chapter on “Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy” that, “With proper management PIH [pregnancy-induced hypertension] can often be ameliorated and eclampsia [seizures] largely, if not entirely, prevented.”7 These conditions generally only occur in the third trimester of pregnancy. As current medical knowledge and technology improve, rarely must a pregnancy be ended to save the mother’s life.
- Diabetes, which affects an estimated 2 to 5 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S.3
Of diabetes, Benson writes that “…maternal death is rare with modern treatment…”8 William Spellacy writes that, “Today, by using [the information that is available], women with diabetes mellitus can expect normal pregnancy outcomes.”9
- Epilepsy, which complicates approximately 0. 15 percent of pregnancies.4
Danforth’s Obstetrics and Gynecology states, regarding epilepsy, that, “Status epilepticus in pregnancy … is fortunately uncommon, occurring in less than 1 percent of epileptic pregnancies. It is not an indication for pregnancy termination…”10 Benson writes in Handbook of Obstetrics and Gynecology that “therapeutic abortion is not medically indicated for epilepsy, because this disorder may or may not constitute a problem during pregnancy.” 11
- Cancer, whose occurrence in pregnancy, according to a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine, is “between 0.07 and 0.1 percent.” The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine study by Saunders and Baum states that breast cancer is the “second commonest malignancy seen during pregnancy (cervical being commonest) – occurring in between 10 and 39 per 100,000 pregnancies.”6
Regarding treatment of cancer during pregnancy, “Significant advances have been made with current chemotherapeutic agents in increasing longevity and improving survival. Cures and long-term remissions are obtained in diseases that previously were untreatable.”12 The Archives of Internal Medicine report goes on to say that, while there is increased risk of spontaneous abortion and major birth defects when chemotherapy is used during the first trimester, “such a risk is not apparent beyond the first trimester.”13
Cancer of the uterus during pregnancy poses the greatest threat to the life of the mother; removal of the uterus is usually recommended. In these cases the baby dies as an indirect result of procedures performed to save the mother’s life.
Breast cancer presents special difficulties, but early diagnosis is again the key according to Drs. William Creasman and Philip Di Saia, oncologists writing in a 1993 publication, Clinical Gynecologic Oncology. “The best evidence indicates that pregnancy does not augment the rate of growth or distant spread of breast cancer and that abortion for women with breast cancer does not improve the prognosis…Therapeutic abortion has not been found to increase survival, and the presence of a fetus does not compromise proper therapy in early stages.”14 They go on to note that other reports agree that termination of pregnancy has no effect on patient survival.15 A study in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine reports that “it appears that subsequent pregnancies after treatment for breast cancer may actually improve the patient’s chance of long-term survival.”16
You can read the true story of Joyce Maguire, an expectant mother diagnosed with breast cancer. “Termination of the pregnancy” was mentioned by the physician, but the couple never considered it.
1. Benson, Ralph C., M.D., Handbook of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Lange Medical Publications, Los Altos, CA; 1983, p.99.
2. Danforth, David, Danforth’s Obstetrics and Gynecology, 6th edition, J.B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, PA; 1990, p.411.
3. Knuppel et al., Hospital Medicine, “The Pregnant Patient with Medical Disease,” Vol.23, No.3, March 1987.
4. Danforth, P. 126.
5. Archives of Internal Medicine, March 1992, Vol. 152, p.573.
6. Saunders and Baum, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Vol. 86, March 1993, p. 162.
7. Danforth, p.411.
8. Benson, p.365.
9. Danforth, p.403.
10. Danforth, pp, 514-515.
11. Benson, p.360.
12. Zemlickis et al., Archives of Internal Medicine, March 1992, Vol. 152, p.573.
13. lbid, p.576.
14. Creasman, William T., M.D. and Philip J. DiSaia, M.D., Clinical Gynecologic Oncology, Mosby-Year Book, Inc., St. Louis, MO; 1993, p.567-570.
16. Saunders and Baum, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, March 1993, Vol. 86, p. 162.