Sunday, August 12, 2007

Not incubators

In 2004, a woman's heart condition worsened during pregnancy. Not only was this not picked up till she was 21 weeks pregnant, what followed was horrific

The woman's family complained after the 2004 deaths, saying she wanted a termination due to her heart condition but was advised the health risk of her pregnancy was small or that it was too late for a legal termination.
Our abortion law may not have much going for it, but it has no time limits for legal abortion. The criteria for an abortion at 28 weeks are exactly the same as the criteria at 8 weeks. The relevant critera in this case is section (1)(a) of the Crimes Act:
That the continuance of the pregnancy would result in serious danger (not being danger normally attendant upon childbirth) to the life, or to the physical or mental health, of the woman or girl

Since the woman died four hours after the baby was stillborn by c-section I think we can be fairly sure that the pregnancy did result in serious danger to her life.


  1. FYI - my bias is pro-life (or anti-abortion/choice if you prefer to refer to me that way), but I was surprised that this woman wasn't given better cardiac care. I was also surprised that an abortion wasn't performed. Whilst I am anti-abortion, it is usually very obtainable in the NZ health care system.

  2. Hang on, are you saying that it is acceptable to value two different lives, and say that one is more valuable? That it is acceptable to take a life to save another when that life you are taking is completely inocent?
    This sets a very dangerous precident

  3. Nick C - if you're really shocked that there are people out there who believe women have a right to choose whether or not to continue their pregnancies then you need to get out more.

  4. Maia: I know there are plenty of women who want abortion on demand. That is beside the point.

  5. I'm going to regret asking but what is the point?

  6. Anonymous2:18 pm

    Nick C it seems to me that you are yourself valuing one life above another, by putting the foetus first and labelling it "completely inocent." (sic)

    In fact a foetus is not actually a life. It has the potential to be a life. That may seem like nit-picking, but the real and actual life of a woman is a different thing from the potential life of a foetus she is carrying. I write this as someone with a foetus inside me right now. If I had to choose between my life or the life I carry I would choose mine. If my partner had to choose because I was incapacitated I would expect him to make the same choice as me. I am real, I am here, I am alive, I am a person.

  7. Anon: I'm saying that the two lives are equal, and that it would set a dangerous precient to choose between one life or another. instead you should let nature run it's course, if the mother dies and the baby lives then so be it, at least we can say that we havent interveaned by deliberatly killing.

    As for your point that a foetus is not alive, at what point would you say does it go from mearly being a potential life to a live human being? Surely you have seen ultrasound images of a baby in the womb before.

    By the way, congrats on being pregnant.

  8. Anonymous10:24 am

    nick C, I am pregnant, not stupid. I am far too familiar with the frequent pro-life/anti-choice ratholes that people like you try to tempt people like me down, and I'm not going to go there.

    Anthrax is "natural", arsenic too. If you are so in love with not intervening in the "natural" lives of people then I expect you to stop using the internet, stop brushing your teeth, and pursue your own food from the wild rather than going to the shops. Get back to me when you start showing some consistency and realise how anti-woman it is to restrict your preference for the "natural" approach to medical procedures that you will never even have to consider, as a man.

  9. Pregnant Anon:

    I'm pro-life, a woman and I have four kids and (ergo) four pregnancies (all of which were high risk btw).

    My arguments for pro-life range from the religious (I'm Catholic) to the secular philosophical and scientific. Obviously it's meaningless and annoying to try to justify a pro-life position that is religious to someone who is not also Catholic/Christian.

    But there are consistent non-religious arguments, that whilst you may disagree with, don't suck either. They are basically summed up as "How do you define the beginning of personhood?".

    You say that a fetus isn't "life", this is a statement of fact that can be logically examined and rationally debated. What is life? Rather than bore you with a long description I'll just refer to the wikipedia definition:

    Of course, you may have a different definition, but the scientific one is pretty much accepted.

    It's also pretty obvious that a fetus is classified as "life" under that definition. Obviously a fetus can not reproduce, however we don't decide that a 2 year old girl is not alive since she too is unable to reproduce.

    Perhaps you have changed your mind and agree that the fetus is life, but that the mother's life outweighs that of the fetus? The mother is an autonomous person, individual and fully grown.

    True. However we wouldn't class our hypothetical 2 year old girl as a lesser person because she isn't fully grown or fully autonomous (she has unfulfilled potential and requires constant care).

    Perhaps you would claim that a fetus requires the body of the mother? An unfair demand when the mother does not want it. Suppose we look once again at our hypothetical girl and go back in time to her at 1 month old. Trust me, newborns place a far greater demand on a mother than when a fetus.

    True, this care and attention can be stopped and the baby given away. However I've yet to find a stable person (other than Peter Singer) who is prepared to allow infanticide. Abortion ends a life. Adoption obviously does not.

    Therefore we end up discussing the rights of the life of the mother and fetus in regards to how they impinge on one another. Unlike a newborn, the mother can not just hand off care to another. By protecting the life of the fetus you are directly forcing the mother to remain pregnant.

    My position (and here we enter opinion rather than fact) is that the rights of the fetus to continue living outweighs the woman being forced to remain pregnant. Why? Because pregnancy is temporary, death is permanent.

    Assuming that sex was consensual the mother chose an act that may create another individual human being. Therefore the onus is on the mother to be responsible to that dependent fetus until such time as the person can be given away.

    When it comes to rape I feel that the pregnancy should go ahead and the mother should have one on one psychological support. But I see how this is very controversial.

    As to the possibility of a pregnancy causing the death of the mother, then all attempts to save the mother must be performed. If, indirectly this causes the death of the fetus, then that is a tragic outcome, but IMO, not unethical.

    As to nick c, the "innocence" of any life is irrelevant, likewise the "natural" quality.

  10. Anonymous5:41 pm

    Muerk, you are lucky that you have had four pregnancies and all of them have succeeded, especially in high risk circumstances. My personal life experiences in regard to pregnancy have only strengthened my opinion that a woman should have the right to choose for two particular reasons:

    1. Pregnancy is not easy, it is incredibly demanding on the body, the mind, and the emotions. As such I don't think it is right to force a woman to go through it if she does not want to. Sure children may be more demanding than pregnancy, but that's another rathole. The issue here is whether a woman should have the right to terminate her pregnancy. After all, whether we live under pro-life or pro-choice laws, the father is not forced to do anything at all during the pregnancy (and the first thing I noticed about your comment was the absence of any mention of responsiblity that the father must take). You point out that pregnancy is temporary and death permanent, which is rather melodramatic. The state of pregnancy may be temporary but its effects can be permanent, not just physically but also mentally and emotionally. In fact I would argue that most women are changed forever by their experiences of pregnancy. And some women do die as a result of a pregnancy, which is what this post was about in the first place.

    2. I do disagree with you on the issue of a foetus being life. I have expelled from my body, with much discomfort and sadness and no willingness at all, a collection of cells that you would call a life. That experience has only underscored to me that life does not begin at conception - what I miscarried was not a life, it was the potential for life, and a potential I sorely wish had been realised.

    The thought that while I carry this current foetus some would put my actual life second to its potential is frankly chilling.

  11. Anon: You are absolutely right, pregnancy is not easy or risk free (or fair). I don't claim that being pro-life does not have it's very hard cases. It's a matter of negotiating between two persons' rights IMO.

    Whilst I have (thankfully) never had the sorrow of a miscarriage, I've come very close and I've seen ultrasound scans of my last boy at only 6 weeks. His heart was beating, legs and arms moving. You too are a mere collection of cells (a greater number obviously). But there is no arbitrary point where 2 seconds before you weren't "life" yet still existed somehow, and then magically you were.

    The reason I didn't mention fathers is that this is already covered under NZ law. Fathers are forced to pay money towards their child. I have no problem with that. The division of labour in a pregnancy is not divided up equally between the parents.

    On a side note... I think there are competing philosophical issues in this debate. One of the things that strikes me is that part of this debate is about humanity's ability to control our self and our environment to be free from risk. In the west, death is seen as an abnormality, a failure of safety or medicine or regulations.

    So, for example, people fret about terrorism in the US, yet people die from poverty-related reasons at a far greater rate. We want safe cars, but then we go scuba diving or mountain climbing for fun.

    This isn't deeply related to abortion, just me thinking randomly really. I just think we have odd ideas about death.

  12. Anonymous5:29 pm

    muerk I think we have reached a kind of detente on this, but I did want to note that I had a scan, of my current pregnancy, at 8 weeks and it looked absolutely nothing whatsoever like a baby or a human being, it was just three loosely connected blobs. No arms and legs, no kicking or waving. Which is not to say that an embryo doesn't exhibit those features at that stage, but certainly average scanning technology (from what I have seen of the scans of others as well) tends not to show it, so your 6 week scan must have been quite exceptional?

    On the other stuff I think we are going to have to agree to disagree. You and I have actually had this fight before, in other forums, and I respect your views even though I vehemently disagree. Nick C on the other hand...

  13. Anonymous1:02 pm

    Muerck and Nick C, fully agree with you guys! Well said and very true!

    Quentin (Napier)

  14. Anonymous1:04 pm

    Hey Maia,

    I noticed your post in support of the beast who threw her baby in the toilet rubbish bin.
    What are your views on euthanasia, and on anyone else that you don't like or can't be bothered with?