I am a Christian, and I believe that all human life has intrinsic value from the very moment of conception. Therefore, I believe that abortion is the intentional destruction of human life no matter what stage the pregnancy is in. As an opponent of abortion, I engage in many discussions and debates on the subject. The pro-abortion crowd has many different arguments they use to try and win people to their side. One of their lesser used arguments that has proven difficult for me to rebut effectively is that of ectopic pregnancy. When I first encountered this argument I had no idea what it was, so I did some research on it. After researching it I was still a bit lost on how to address it in an abortion debate, so I looked into what well-known pro-life groups might have to say about it. During my searching it has become evident that I am not alone in having a hard time addressing ectopic pregnancy from a pro-life perspective.
What is ectopic pregnancy? It occurs whenever an embryo (fertilized egg) attaches anywhere besides the wall of the uterus. About 97% of all ectopic pregnancies take place within a fallopian tube. The fallopian tubes are not designed to accommodate the healthy development of a baby. This, of course, is a dangerous event and is not in keeping with a healthy pregnancy for either the mother or the baby. A tubal rupture, or another type of hemorrhage, could cause the mother to lose a vital amount of blood. What can a pregnant mother do in such a situation? Well, the thoughts vary.
One option is to simply wait a while, roughly half of all ectopic pregnancies resolve themselves. However, if the ectopic pregnancy does not resolve itself the most common method used to force a resolution is a drug called methotrexate. This drug targets, and kills, specific cells that help makeup the embryo. Thus, bringing the human life to an unnatural end. This method also commonly results in scarring of the area the embryo attached to. This scarring raises the chances of another ectopic pregnancy occurring in the future.
Another method of dealing with ectopic pregnancies is surgical in nature. It involves cutting along the area the embryo has attached to, scooping out the embryo and thereby destroying it. This method also causes scarring that increases the chances of another ectopic pregnancy occurring in the future.
A common Catholic belief is that the area where the embryo has attached itself, such as an ovary or fallopian tube, be removed altogether. This is to avoid killing the embryo directly. The reason Catholics believe this changes the meaning of the procedure is because the doctor’s intention is now to remove damaged tissue, rather than destroy the embryo. Another factor is that the doctor is choosing to operate on a part of the mother’s body and not the embryo. The removal of the area is seen as a curative act necessary for the mother, the death of the embryo is then relegated to a consequence. However, I see a contradiction here because the doctor would not be removing the area if it weren’t for the embryo. The doctor also is doing this with the knowledge that the embryo will die due to the area being removed. I certainly understand that this point can be argued either way. However, in the end I believe this should be a last resort, if it is something a woman wishes to entertain at all.
The best chance of the embryo surviving and the mother continuing with a healthy pregnancy appears to rest with having a transplant performed. It is my understanding, of information gathered by Bill Fortenberry, that hundreds of ectopic pregnancies have been saved by transplanting the embryo to the uterus. This is a surgical procedure that has a reasonable chance of successfully saving the life of the embryo as well as the mother. If the transplant is unsuccessful and the embryo dies, at least the mother’s conscience will be clear with the knowledge she did everything she possibly could to save her baby. To me, this is clearly the best option on the table as it is an undeniable attempt to save both lives.
There is no denying that experiencing an ectopic pregnancy can be scary for the mother. Both because it is dangerous for her and because the chances of her little one making it out alive are dramatically reduced. I know that some folks don’t like the idea of the mother waiting a while to see what happens, they believe this is an unnecessary risk. However, if human life begins at conception, then why wouldn’t the mother risk waiting to see if she miscarries naturally? Why would she intentionally destroy the life of her child when, if she had waiting another week, it might have happened naturally? This is why I recommend waiting as long as is practical. When it becomes evident that the ectopic pregnancy will not resolve itself, then I believe the next step is to attempt transplanting the embryo to the uterus. The embryo is not likely to survive, but a transplant is the most effective option for preserving both the life of the mother and her baby. If the embryo does not survive, at least all was done to try and save it. As pro-lifers, that should be our goal, right? Doing all we can to preserve human life?
Whether you agree or disagree, please let me know in the comments section and explain why. Perhaps you see something in all of this that I do not.