Twist and bend the truth to fit your views on abortion

I asked Pedro (not her real name) about her views on abortion the other day. She told me that she supports a woman’s right to choose and that she hopes women will have universal and affordable access to contraceptive medications and technologies. If women had as much as say in their reproductive rights as they should, abortion would be an incredibly rare thing. It would be a choice that women would not have to make. And that’s what puzzles me about anti-abortion (anti-choice) activists. They oppose abortion, but they don’t do anything to make unintended pregnancies a rarity. They stand at corners and protest (because they don’t pray, really), but they don’t talk to girls and young women about the many ways that they can prevent an unwanted/unintended pregnancy. Worse of all, they lie.

Before we go any further, I’m going to have to warn you that the blog post I am going to link to contains some very graphic images, so please exercise some caution if your computer is public or near susceptible persons. The blog post talks about a woman who died in 1989 as a result of sepsis (blood infection) after having an abortion. The main gist of the blog post is that women are dying by the bunches during abortions and that this one death is only the tip of the iceberg. Worst of all, they are using the pictures of the 18 year-old woman to further their agenda:

“Today, the pro-life group Life Dynamics, in cooperation with Operation Rescue and Priests for Life, will release autopsy photos of 18-yr-old Marla Cardamone, who died following a “safe and legal” abortion, along with her 17-to-19-wk-old preborn baby, Christopher Michael, whose photo will also be displayed.”

What’s even worse is that the young woman’s family apparently released the autopsy pictures to show the world “the reality of abortion.”

“The autopsy photos are published with the blessing and encouragement of Marla’s family, who want the world to know that supposedly “safe and legal” abortions kill mothers as well as their children.”

Here is the blog post.

But are women dying at an incredible rate while having abortions?

According to CDC:

“Deaths of women associated with complications from abortions for 2009 are being investigated under CDC’s Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System. In 2008, the most recent year for which data were available, 12 women were reported to have died as a result of complications from known legal induced abortions. No reported deaths were associated with known illegal induced abortions.”

Of course, surveillance systems don’t catch all cases of anything. But it is safe to say that there could be fifty times the reported number, and there would still not be as many deaths as deaths from childbirth. But anti-abortion/anti-choice activists won’t tell you this. They won’t tell you that sexual education is sorely lacking. (Guess what? Abstinence-only doesn’t work and is unethical.) They won’t tell you that millions of dollars and other resources are going into passing strict anti-abortion laws when the Supreme Court has already ruled abortion to be legal in this country. That is, anti-abortion/anti-choice activists know they will lose in the courts, but they’re still at it. They’re still at it instead of doing things that are proven to work: proper sexual education and access to contraceptives.

Worst of all, they’re using the same vile tactics that so many denialists use. In this case, it’s the autopsy pictures of a young woman who died from an unfortunate complication during an abortion, a medical procedure. Abortions are not without risk, but neither is childbirth. And there are over 47,000 women a year in the world who will tell you that they would rather have risked the slight possibility of sepsis and death at an American hospital than the incredibly high probability of death and disability from abortions by untrained medical personnel.

11 thoughts on “Twist and bend the truth to fit your views on abortion

  1. I see the “death in childbirth” stats you referenced used all the time in that way, but those are total pregnancy-related death stats, including up to a year after a pregnancy. They include induced abortions (where the data is collected), deaths from early miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and comorbidities, apparently including those from other primary causes complicated by pregnancy (H1N1). The stats are a better argument for contraception than abortion, but certain methods of contraception are known to increase risk of ectopic pregnancy and other dangerous conditions that fall under this pregnancy-related death umbrella. It makes the “death in childbirth” comparison to abortions deaths a lot more complicated.

    Collection of pregnancy-related death statistics is a lot better than abortion-related deaths, too, because most states include this data on death certificates now. Presumably, because of this better surveillance of pregnancy-related death, a large number of your (highly exaggerated, I agree) “…fifty times the reported number” of deaths from abortion are already included under the umbrella of what you refer to as “deaths from childbirth” statistics.

    I’ve never seen any good studies where research is done comparing the age/race/income/health demographics of women getting abortions to the same population experiencing complications from childbirth or continuing pregnancy beyond the point where abortions are most likely. I’m sure you’re right overall, that continued pregnancy/childbirth is more risky for that population in general. Yet, part of that would be due to the relatively long length of gestation being compared to a single surgical procedure (or at most, a single procedure with several possible follow-up procedures from complications).

    Just pointing these things out. No matter where you fall on the abortion issue, women definitely need safe access to all forms of healthcare. Maternity care in the US could be much improved, and so could abortion care. Tragically, the politics will continue to hinder these improvements, it seems.

  2. If you look around on the internet, you will find that Marla already had given birth to a baby. To me, as a parent, it is outrageous that the mother failed to provide her child with information about contraception and/or make an appointment with a woman’s health clinic where she could get that information and some effective contraception. She’s exorcizing her own demons.

    • You’re making quite a lot of assumptions about her and her mother. How do you know that she wasn’t using some form of birth control? Many women get pregnant using condoms and, less often, with other types of birth control. If she had a child before then she must have had contact with an ob/gyn or midwife at some point who would/should have talked to her about contraception. Fact is, access and perfect use is a challenge for many, even with the information.

      You can’t just assume that it’s her mother’s fault she got pregnant.

      • I don’t think I am making assumptions about the young woman, or her mother. The fact is she was a eighteen-year-old unwed mother, who, according to the multiple posts that the mother has put on the internet, was undergoing psychiatric care for a mood disorder. She was under a physician’s care and was prescribed Tegretol (an anticonvulsant also used as adjunct therapy for bi polar disorders), which is classified by the FDA as a Pregnancy Class D Drug:

        Are there specific concerns about Tegretol® and pregnancy?

        “If you are planning on becoming pregnant, notify your healthcare provider so that he/she can best manage your medications. People living with bipolar disorder who wish to become pregnant face important decisions. It is important to discuss the risks and benefits of treatment with your doctor and caregivers.

        Carbamazepine has been associated with and increased risk of defects of the head and face, fingernails, and developmental delay. There may be precautions to decrease the risk of these effects. Discontinuing mood stabilizer medications during pregnancy has been associated with a significant increase in symptom relapse.”

        She, of course, was counseled about effective non-hormonal birth control (condoms, IUD, diaphragm with spermicidal jelly, diaphragm and a condom) after she gave birth,
        and possibly referred to a woman’s health clinic, and she was, of course, cautioned about the risks to the fetus if she got pregnant.

        Her abortion took place ~ 17-19 weeks gestation at a major medical center in Pittsburgh…close to her home, not in a Red State. There was no problem accessing effective birth control or an abortion at an earlier stage of pregnancy.

        There was a settlement of the lawsuit that Marla’s parents instituted against the hospital and against several doctors, which now leaves the parents free to put their own spin on the circumstances of her death. The hospital and the doctors (“abortionists” according to Marla’s mother), cannot defend themselves, because of patient confidentiality.

        What kind of parent would request pictures of her naked dead daughter taken during the autopsy and then release those pictures to a pro-life, anti-abortion group for use on the internet and for use in printed brochures? The mother’s interviews are available on YouTube, where she shows those pictures of her naked dead daughter and she claims that those are the pictures she uses “to remember her daughter”.

        I stand by my previous statement. She’s exorcizing her own demons.

        • The reality of it is, the risk she admitted herself to was, the very same risk of getting an IV in a field environment.
          Occasionally, such things go sideways and an infection ensues.
          Well, we either abandon *all* medicine or we judge, then accept certain risks.
          Considering the really austere environments I worked under, I’ll consider her argument on it’s merit, zero.
          I’ll equate her argument with equality with a conifer. I’ll await the confier’s response.

        • Well, I was simply responding to this: “the mother failed to provide her child with information about contraception and/or make an appointment with a woman’s health clinic where she could get that information and some effective contraception.”

          Her mother’s public behavior after the fact is, to me, a different issue than whether or not it was her fault that the girl didn’t have effective contraception to begin with. On the other points, I agree with you, the photo sharing is gruesome.

    • I’d forgotten the tetanus plot drivel. Indeed, were such a plot to exist, it would amount to the singularly most ineffective plot in the history of the entire universe!

      That said, I could see those who are against population growth making one valid complaint against vaccines, for those have increased human life expectancy and also have lowered child mortality.
      Strangely though, such people tend to be progressives and highly pro-vaccination.

  3. Well, let’s do it their way:
    “bacteremia was associated with 40% of 2,403 reported extractions”

    Or, we could present one case of fatal sepsis caused by a dental procedure, but again, ignore the reality of the fact that infections are higher in those untreated for dental issues than those who are treated for dental issues.

    Perhaps instead, we should demand a law be written that those who reject modern science and medicine, those who reject evidence based practice, those who reject reality should be refused any form of medical care for the remainder of their short lives.

    • But that would be unethical, and it would be playing their game. Seriously, though, I really feel bad for the family. They have been sold the idea that they need to violate their daughter’s privacy in such a horrible way, and for what? It’s not going to change anything. SCOTUS already ruled. Even with the current make-up of the court, they’re not likely to reverse that decision. And, if they do, there are plenty of places in the country that will continue to allow legal abortions. (Flight fares are cheap nowadays.)

      If I were a son of a bitch with no heart, I’d contact the parents and ask them if they told their daughter all they could or all they knew about contraception. I’d put it on them for not taking care of their child. But you know I’m not that kind of person.

      • True enough. Hopefully, my venting of spleen may educate someone who misses the point otherwise.
        Especially since the article said the opposite of what the quotation would mislead someone into believing at face value.

        I can be a royal SOB with no heart, if confronted by such a person in person and they are spouting off their ignorant views. Some things do set me off and lead into a confrontation, which tends to end badly for the ignorant, though I end up being considered a bit of an ogre.
        But, I’m a lot like an ogre. I’m smelly and make people cry.*

        *Those with kids may remember that movie line.

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