Abortion to save the mother’s life

Between 1967 and 1990, only 151 abortions have been carried out to save the mother's life, a figure amounting to 0.004% of all abortions. (Dr Michael Jarmulowicz, cited in The Physical and Psycho-Social effects of Abortion on Women: A Report by the Commission of Inquiry into the Operation and Consequences of The Abortion Act, June 1994 p. 5)

In 1992, a group of Ireland's top gynaecologists wrote: "We affirm that there are no medical circumstances justifying direct abortion, that is, no circumstances in which the life of a mother may only be saved by directly terminating the life of her unborn child." (John Bonner, Eamon O'Dwyer, David Jenkins, Kieran O'Driscoll, Julia Vaughan, 'Statement by Obstetricians', The Irish Times 1 April 1992)

When Dublin's National Maternity Hospital (where 10% of all births in Ireland occurred) investigated the 21 deaths of pregnant women there between 1970-1979, they found that not a single one of those deaths could have been avoided by abortion. (Irish Medical Journal 1982 vol. 75, pp. 304-306)

Ireland, a country where the unborn child is constitutionally protected, has the lowest maternal death rate in the world. The UK, where abortion is available practically on demand, has over five times Ireland's maternal death rate. (World Health Organisation: maternal deaths, three-year average)

Developments in medicine mean that the 'abortion to save the mother's life' argument is becoming harder and harder to justify. It is now possible for women with heart defects to carry a baby to term with expert help and life-threatening conditions such as cancer can often be treated without harming the unborn child. Women facing difficult pregnancies have a right to the best available medical support.

Direct abortion is the deliberate killing of an unborn child. Treatment to save the life of the mother that results in the death of the child as an expected but not intended side effect is not a direct abortion, e.g. in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. In this situation, the baby begins to develop in the woman's fallopian tube and has to be removed or the tube will rupture and cause the death of the woman. This involves the unavoidable death of the unborn baby but the aim of the operation is to save the mother not to kill the baby.