Monday, May 13, 2013

Is treating an ectopic equivalent to murder?


A few days after I had surgery with Olivia, I was researching ectopic pregnancy blogs and came across this one:

[WARNING: if you have had an ectopic, this might be the worst blog to read. So you may just want to stay away.]

For the rest of you, you can absolutely read . . . but I'll sum up the big points:

-Treating an ectopic with surgery or methotrexate before the tube has ruptured, or the baby has already clearly died is morally the same as a regular abortion. Heck -- it's morally the same as if I had brutally murdered Maddy, my 4-year-old (according to this blogger.)

- Watch and wait is the best approach, because even if your tube ruptures, you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than by dying of tubal rupture. Hence, tubal rupture is really no big deal.

- The Bible is VERY clear on what to do in these situations. According to this blogger, there is no gray area in the Bible.

As you can understand, this post made me very upset -- especially because it appears to be written by a very popular blogger. And I'm afraid that someone might believe that EVERY Christian pro-lifer believes this.

A year down the road, I thought I'd try reading this again -- to see if I could take it from a more intellectual level now that the emotions aren't as prevalent. I saw there was a follow up post, as well, which made me hopeful.

But I was wrong. And I ended up feeling like my blood was boiling, I was so upset.

Here is the follow up:

Here is one quote:
We would personally pursue any treatment for both the mother and the baby that would treat both as viable patients, even if it only gave the baby infinitesimally small odds of survival. We seek to preserve both lives no matter how feeble our efforts are instead of self-consciously ending one life.  At the present, this might mean no more than waiting for surgery until we had an indication that the child had died – a ruptured tube and/or internal bleeding would be a very good sign that it was time to proceed. In the near future, we might have more and better options.

And another:

Lastly, if you have suffered an ectopic pregnancy in the past and dealt with it by terminating the pregnancy, please understand, I didn’t research and write my post to make you feel guilty about the past.  We have all made poor choices, often under poor advice with the best intentions. If a decision is made in ignorance on our part on the bad or immoral advice of a doctor then the doctor will stand before God for the advice he or she gave. This is why we are warned to “let not many of you become teachers for teachers have a stricter judgment.”

But we are still accountable for our decision, and because all of our decisions are inescapably moral – Christ said you are either with me or against me -there is no neutrality in life.  If any of us makes a decision that is sinful- and preemptively taking an innocent human life is a sin – we must repent.  After all, if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I read Ryan both articles last night just to make sure my outrage at these blogs were justified.

I think he may have been more outraged than I was.

And since I can no longer comment on the original blog -- here is my response.

Dear Kim,

I absolutely believe that you have the best of intentions in both of your posts. However, I must say that I thoroughly disagree with many of your conclusions. Not only do I disagree, I find them downright hurtful.
First, a little about me. I've been a Christian since I was 3 years old. I went to a conservative Bible school, where I double-majored in Bible and Theology.  I've always been pro-life, through and through. I believe that life begins at conception.

My mom was a great example to me. She has spent years as a volunteer for crisis pregnancy groups. I've researched abortion, and the effects it had on women.

I also had an ectopic pregnancy last year.  
No, let me clarify that.  
My daughter, Olivia Joy, died because she implanted in my tube. (Yes, she was a baby. Not just a pregnancy.)
I understand your wanting to figure out the ethics of ectopic. It really is the dark horse in the pro-life world. The one time when things really do kinda seem gray, and the decision is not as black and white (at least, not for most of us.) I understand you wanting to figure it out beforehand -- and not in the throes of having an ectopic yourself.

I get it.

But I cannot understand how you wield the tone you do, with the conclusions you reach.

Perhaps it is the non-chalant way you handle a tube rupture. (The way you throw around statistics like "a person is 3x more likely to die from a lighting strike than from a tubal rupture" as though the whole idea of actual danger seems silly to you.)

I suppose you feel safe in those statistics. And I can't blame you. I don't necessarily go around worrying about getting struck by lighting.
But perhaps because I find myself on the unfortunate end of ectopic statistics, that I don't feel so safe.

Perhaps because I am the one who had to drive myself and my then 3-year-old to my parents while internally bleeding and vomiting from the pain. Perhaps because it was my dad (the physician's assistant) who I saw who looked scared while he carried me from car to car, and wheelchair to hospital room because I could no longer stand. Perhaps because I was the one whose husband broke down in tears at work after getting the call from me. Apparently I sounded like I was dying -- and as he drove to the hospital, he was trying to figure out how to say good-bye to his wife of 5 years and the mom to his preschooler.

Perhaps because I am the one left with the grief. The what-ifs. The devastation an ectopic can have. I am the one left with a damaged tube, and a higher incidence of another ectopic. I am left with the terror of getting pregnant again. Perhaps because I have lots of friends who have been through ectopics -- many treated before rupture, and many treated after. Maybe because I actually have friends who very literally almost died from the "watch and wait' approach.

Perhaps for all those reasons, I come to very different conclusions than you.

First, you claim that a tube must rupture, the mom be in immediate danger, or the baby must clearly die.

My questions is -- besides the tubal rupture -- how exactly do you know when the time to treat is? How can you tell a baby has died when there was no heartbeat to stop? (Besides, we would all argue that life happens before the heart even forms.) How can you qualify life when the hcg is bouncing up and down? How can you tell when most ectopic babies can't be seen on ultrasound until the tube has rupture? 

I know that my baby died before I was in surgery because my doctor told me know life could withstand all that blood. I know that because Olivia had already passed, you (nor the Bible) find any fault with me. But you do find fault with my friends. You have called them murderers. And not just you -- you have claimed that God calls them murderers.

I read in your comments that you had a stillbirth. I am absolutely so very sorry for the death of your child. I have several friends who have suffered the death of a child through stillbirth, and I can only imagine your (and their) heartache.
But imagine for me, if you will, meeting with some of your baby loss friends, and telling them that God -- and the Bible -- called them murderers because their bodies were unable to keep the baby safe.

To say such a thing would be absolutely heinous.

And to say such a thing to women who had NO CONTROL over where their babies implanted, whose bodies were unable to provide a safe place for baby to grow, is equally heinous.

Do I believe that every ectopic needs to be dealt with the very moment that it is suspected? No. Do I believe that women should be able to get a second opinion in most cases. Yes. Do I think doctors need to be super careful in diagnosis. Yes. (Although you need to understand that diagnosing an ectopic is very difficult.) In a future pregnancy, would I personally wait until the ectopic was absolutely confirmed before I took any action. Yes.

But I do not judge those who have made different decisions as making a poor decision. And not just a poor decision, but a sinful one that necessitates God's forgiveness and mercy.

You argue that the word "abortion" was chosen for you by the medical community, and that you had no choice but to use it for accuracy. That's hogwash. You know, as a writer, that you choose every word very carefully. Word choice is everything. You chose that term.

But let's just stick to your argument. I'm assuming you know that the medical community also refers to miscarriage as an abortion, or spontaneous abortion. If you were to write a post on those who have suffered miscarriage, would you wield the big "A" word with so much authority then? 
You and a few commenters mentioned that doctors need to find other ways of dealing with an ectopic. I don't disagree. I would love for doctors to find a way to move a baby from a tube to healthy uterus. But just because we WANT them to figure out how to do it, doesn't mean they can. Just because we demand, doesn't mean they can supply.

We demand the cure for cancer. We demand the obliteration of AIDS. We demand that doctors figure out how to prevent SIDS. 

W can demand all we want. And while we hope and pray that in the future these demands will actually accomplish something, we are still stuck in today. What choices do mothers with an ectopic pregnancy have today? 

Methotrexrate. Surgery. Or watch and wait. 
You seem convinced that there is only one way to treat an ectopic biblically. And I would argue otherwise. Actually, I would argue that the Bible doesn't specifically address ectopic. That God says all life is important. And that we are to treat all life reverently. But that doesn't mean we have to go to all costs to save a life.

Just like the Bible doesn't cover when a person should pull life-support from someone who is beyond human healing -- it doesn't cover how and when to treat an ectopic.  

My hope in writing is that you will reconsider your tone. You'll reconsider your word choices. And you'll consider the 1 in 50 women who face the very real physical threat and devastating choices you seems so blissfully safe from.




1 comment:

  1. What an ugly thing tow rite. I'm so glad you refuted it!