Pro-life doctors are emphasizing the difference between abortion and miscarriage after some media commentators and outlets claimed that a former reality TV star, Jessa (Duggar) Seewald, had an abortion.
“In a move meant to manipulate the public, abortion proponents have attempted to equivocate miscarriage and abortion,” Dr. Christina Francis, board member and CEO-elect of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), told Our Sunday Visitor. “This is not only false but it also exploits the heartache that so many women and families have experienced through the loss of a child.”
Jessa, best known for being a part of the Duggar family and starring in the TLC series “19 Kids and Counting,” recently shared that she suffered from a missed miscarriage over the holidays. In an 18-minute YouTube video published Feb. 24, the 30-year-old revealed that she underwent a D&C (dilation and curettage) — a procedure used both in abortion and after miscarriages.
In response, some media outlets accused Jessa, who is pro-life, of having an abortion.
“While the surgical procedures used to treat miscarriage are also used to perform an induced abortion, there is a major difference. In miscarriage management, the procedures empty the uterus when the fetus or embryo has already passed away of natural causes, while in an induced abortion, the procedure is used to deliberately end the life of a living human being in the womb,” Francis said. “Conflating the two is like saying that cremating a dead body is the same as burning someone alive.
The definition of ‘abortion’
Several life-affirming obstetrician-gynecologists emphasized to Our Sunday Visitor that the definition of abortion includes the intent.
“An abortion is the primary and direct intention to kill a living fetus in the womb of its mother through surgical or medical means,” Dr. John Bruchalski, the author of “Two Patients: My Conversion from Abortion to Life-Affirming Medicine,” told Our Sunday Visitor. “Successful abortion means [a] dead fetus.”
Bruchalski, who once performed abortions and is the founder of Divine Mercy Care, a nonprofit to advance pro-life health care, and Tepeyac OB/GYN, a pro-life faith-based obstetrics and gynecology practice, stressed that the baby is already dead when a procedure is used in a miscarriage.
Francis also addressed the role of intent in abortion.
“AAPLOG defines elective abortion in the same way that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other medical professional organizations define it: an intervention to end a pregnancy such that it does not result in a live birth,” she said. “Notably, the fact that it’s not intended to end in a live birth means that it intentionally ends the life of the human embryo or fetus.”
Dr. Ingrid Skop, senior fellow and director of medical affairs for Charlotte Lozier Institute, said that she has witnessed thousands of patients suffer from miscarriages during her 30 years of practicing as an OB-GYN.
“I’ve walked with many women through this scenario, and it always hurts,” she said, adding that she herself has experienced a miscarriage. “It hurts. It’s painful.”
“Equating that situation … with an induced abortion — which is where an external action has been taken with the intent of ending that unborn child’s life — that’s a very dishonest comparison to make,” Skop commented.
She pointed out that the medical community and society define abortion in different ways.
“The medical word ‘abortion’ describes any pregnancy loss in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy,” Skop explained. In other words, terms including “spontaneous abortion,” “incomplete abortion,” and “missed abortion,” describe a natural loss, she said.
But, with today’s terminology, abortion and miscarriage should never be equated, Skop said. Women experience them very differently, she added, even while acknowledging that many women also grieve after abortion.
“The cause of the loss in one case was out of the control of anyone, and in the other case, it was directly caused by the action of someone,” she said. “Just because the procedures are the same, there’s no reason for there to be confusion about the circumstances, because the circumstances are clearly different in the two situations.”
In a follow-up comment pinned to her video, Jessa urged that the D&C procedure did not end the life of her baby, who had already died.
“The ultrasound revealed that I had a missed miscarriage,” she wrote. “My baby’s heart had stopped beating 3 weeks before I had a D&C.”
Jessa, a Christian, challenged abortion as the ending of an unborn baby’s life by citing the Bible.
“Each person is created ‘in the image of God’ (Gen 1:27), and to purposefully destroy a baby in the womb is an affront to the God who created that life,” she said. “There’s a world of difference between someone dying and someone being killed.”
“To equate one to the other — and to a mother grieving the loss of her baby no less — is severely distasteful,” she concluded. “There is a world of difference between a mortician and a murderer. Even a child understands the difference between the two.”
Katie Yoder is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.