American Medical Association (1971) On Abortion to Save a Woman’s Life

The following was said at an American Medical Association meeting way back in 1971. Keep in mind how much medicine has advanced in the past 40 years.

“Few abortions need to be performed [due to] organic disease in a well conducted contemporary practice if the traditional demand of hazard to life is followed. Cardiovascular disease, for example, has long been known to increase the risk of maternal health during pregnancy. Yet recent research has shown that nearly every pregnancy of a cardiac patient can be completed successfully with little risk of maternal health… A small number of pregnant patients with severe renal disease and decompensating renal failure seem truly threatened by pregnancy. Even in this instance, however, heroic measure such as the use of a dialysis unit may see these women through severe life-threatening episodes…Neurologic disease is an occasional indication for abortion. The patient with multiple sclerosis, for example, sometimes is, indeed, made worse by pregnancy. The effect in this instance is unpredictable, however, and the condition of some patients actually improves. The effect of pregnancy on epilepsy is equally uncertain pregnancy itself does not increase the risk of death for the pregnant women… Tuberculosis accounts for nearly all of the pulmonary conditions thought to indicate therapeutic abortion. But with the advance of drug therapy, abortion really seems necessary for this disease… Malignancy is occasionally an indication for legal abortion. There is little convincing evidence, however, that pregnancy in any way adversely affects the outcome of neoplastic disease. Even with cancers known to be endocrine dependent, such as cancer of the breast, the survival seems unaffected by pregnancy interruption.”

K. R. Niswander, “Indications and Contraindications,” Highlights from the 1971 AMA meeting in Abortion – a Legal Fact, Audio Digest, Obstetrics and Gynecology 17 (3 August 1971) quoted in Thomas W Hilgers and Dennis J Horan, editors Abortion and Social Justice (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1972) P 38 – 39 Also quoted in James Tunstead Burtechaell, C.S.C. Rachel Weeping: the Case against Abortion (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row Publishers, 1982)

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