Pro-life Candidates Don’t Allow Exceptions for the Life of a Mother?

Earlier tonight, David Frum tweeted an Associated Press report that says Rick Perry and other GOP candidates oppose abortion even in cases in which the life of the mother is at risk. This claim sounded incorrect when I first read it. After doing some digging around, it looks like the AP has made an error that needs to be corrected. Here’s the relevant portion from the report:

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry on Tuesday said he had strengthened his opposition to abortion and now opposes the procedure even in the case of rape, incest or when the woman’s life would be at risk…

Perry signed the Personhood USA pledge, which states “abortion and the intentional killing of an innocent human being are always wrong and should be prohibited.” Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania also signed the pledge.

Paul signed the pledge but with a footnote to emphasize his libertarian beliefs.

The AP’s reporting on the “life of the mother” exception appears to depend entirely upon the contents of the Personhood USA pledge which Perry and several other candidates signed. If so, the AP has misrepresented the pledge. A careful reading shows that the pledge does in fact allow an exception for the life of the mother. Here’s the relevant section:

I recognize that in cases where a mother’s life is at risk, every effort should be made to save the baby’s life as well; leaving the death of an innocent child as an unintended tragedy rather than an intentional killing.

This passage contemplates the possibility that an unborn child might die as a result of an attempt to save the mother’s life. The loss of unborn life in such a case would be permitted as long as the loss is an unintended consequence of trying to save the mother’s life. In other words, the pledge opposes abortion except in cases in which it is required to save the life of the mother. This is slipshod reporting, and it feeds into an unhelpful narrative that paints pro-lifers as dangerous extremists. The Associated Press needs to issue a correction.


  • yankeegospelgirl

    “The loss of unborn life in such a case would be permitted as long as the loss is an unintended consequence of trying to save the mother’s life. In other words, the pledge opposes abortion except in cases in which it is required to save the life of the mother.”

    Wait a minute. This is inconsistent. It can’t be both an unintended consequence and an action that is required. Which is it?

    I think the pledge seems to be saying that you should never actively kill the baby. It seems to be saying “If somehow the baby dies for other medical reasons besides being murdered, that’s a tragedy, but we will not condone any other kind of death.”

    I don’t consider people who don’t allow for the life of the mother exception to be “extremists.” It’s like the Joker in _The Dark Knight_. “You’re gonna have to play my little game. You have to choose which one to save.” Well, we don’t have to play the Joker’s game.

    • Christiane

      YGG, what about cases where the mother and the baby are going to die if no medical intervention takes place?
      In such cases, if the mother’s death is imminent, and the baby is not yet ‘viable’ outside of the womb . . . what do you think should be done?
      Should doctors walk away, and let both perish?

      Or, should doctors medicallyintervene to save the life of the mother, on which the baby depends, at the risk of losing the baby in the process? (The death of the baby not being what is sought) ??

      These are important considerations for Southern Baptist people. Those of my own faith have no problem saving the life of the mother, with the loss of the infant, AS LONG AS the death of the infant was not the primary goal sought by the medical intervention.

      Truth is, some politicians have made some extreme statements . . . the public is confused on where evangelical Christians stand. It would good to clear up what is considered ‘acceptable’, as a vote for an evangelical Christian would affect public policy possibly, and people WANT to know for sure what they are supporting.

      • yankeegospelgirl

        Are you talking about things like high blood pressure cases? I believe the mother should be nursed through and observed, and as soon as the baby is viable, it should be delivered via C-section. But the baby should not be delivered if it isn’t viable—that’s directly killing the child.

        If both mother and child are lost, it will not be through any action on the doctor’s part. It should not be a cause for guilt in the same way that directly taking a human life is a cause for guilt.

        Murder is never an option.

  • Andrew

    I don’t think ‘abortion’ is the right word to use in such cases. Abortion implies that the intent was to end the life of the baby. We want to emphasize that we are for the mother’s life too, and we recognize the difficulties that sometimes arise. While we may lose a baby in an attempt to save a mother, intentionally killing the baby opens up a back door to abortion on demand thinking. I like YGG’s Joker analogy. Let’s not play the game of the pro choice camp. They have defined the terms of the conversation for far too long.

    • yankeegospelgirl

      But we have to be concrete. We have to define exactly what “losing a baby in an attempt to save a mother” means. Does it mean deliberately inducing labor when we know the child isn’t viable? Does it mean aborting it even though you don’t want to?

      Just because you didn’t originally want to kill the child doesn’t make it not wrong to do so.

  • Christiane

    So here is the dilemma that needs to be clarified to the voting public:

    IF a mother is in imminent danger of death (needs ER care
    and she may lose her unborn non-viable early pregnancy baby, if doctors operate to save her life,

    what position do Republican conservatives take on this?????

    I think that without full clarification, many people will not understand, and will reject anything that looks ‘extreme’.

    Now, as to what the ‘ethics’ are, what the ‘theology’ teaches, what laws are going to be proposed to change current medical practices,
    I think it is the responsibility of Republican conservatives to CALMLY try to find consensus and then CLEARLY state where they stand, for the sake of voting people.

    • yankeegospelgirl

      If you could kill one baby to keep the Joker from blowing up the whole world (including the baby), would you do it?

      (Hint: I hope the answer is no.)

      I swear ethics has gone to the dogs. Wake me up when you’ve thought it through.

  • kevin s.

    The AP wanted to smear pro-lifers, so it did. The end.

    That said, conservatives presidential candidates need to learn to frame this issue in terms of the Constitution. Was Roe v. Wade rightly decided? None of the candidates thinks so.

    I want the candidate who has the will to appoint conservative judges and the political savvy to get them confirmed. Say what you will about GWB, but he nailed it w/r/t the Supreme Court.

    If a candidate happens to be super-rigid on the abortion issue, that’s fine, but irrelevant. Controlling the judiciary is far more important.

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