by Naomi Wick
Navigating the world post-Roe looks different for a lot of people. For some, there’s little or no change in the day-to-day activities of life. For activists involved in the abortion debate, the decision has elicited either joy or anger: pro-lifers celebrated the news, while pro-choicers took to the streets in protest. For some, however, a post-Roe world means rebooking physician appointments after the pharmacy denies standard medications, even for those who are not pregnant.
While the statement “Abortion is Healthcare” may be dubious, there’s no doubt that prescription drugs such as methotrexate, when used to treat illness, are healthcare. Amidst many states enacting laws against chemical abortion pills, some of the chemicals that factor into ending the life of a prenatal child are lifesaving for treating certain illnesses. Mifepristone, or RU486, is one of the key players in a non-surgical (chemical) abortion, while is deadly for preborn babies, it is useful in treatment for Cushing’s syndrome. For people with Cushing’s syndrome, RU486 is used to reduce cortisol production. If left untreated, people with Cushing’s syndrome or disease face a myriad of symptoms, some of which can lead to additional lasting health problems. Methotrexate is an anti-rheumatic drug that is used to treat an assortment of ailments, from Rheumatoid Arthritis to certain types of cancer. Chemotherapy is, by definition, an umbrella term that describes drug treatment to kill cancerous or otherwise harmful cells in the body. There’s an assortment of drugs used for this treatment plan, and all of them can be harmful to a preborn child if the mother undergoes treatment during her pregnancy. However, their use may still be permissible; according to the ethical criteria of the principle of double effect, if the intention behind the treatment is to save the mother’s life, then even though her child may be harmed in the process, the primary good effect of saving the life of the mother outweighs the unintended harm to her child.
In other words: under the Consistent Life Ethic, all human lives are equally precious. As human beings, the preborn should be protected — but a preborn child’s protection from harm should not impose a death sentence upon their mother. With that foundational understanding, the principle of double effect justifies any medical treatment that targets a physical disease or illness threatening the life of the mother, even if it might result in the loss of a pregnancy.
Doctors don’t approach prescription medicines lightly, and they factor in a combination of lifestyle and possible side effects for their patients. Even still, some patients in conservative states say that their doctors are choosing not to prescribe medications that may potentially harm a preborn child, even if the patient is not pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant. There must be solutions to these new predicaments; for example, instead of patients showing up to the pharmacy only to be declined necessary prescriptions, office managers should make time to call the patients that may be affected by new regulations before the patients take the time and energy to visit the pharmacy. People living with chronic illnesses don’t always have the flexibility to go back and forth between doctors' offices, pharmacists, insurance companies, and back to the doctor again to troubleshoot medication disruptions. As pro-lifers, we have to be compassionate to these struggles as we seek to build a world beyond Roe, where both the born and preborn are protected. Women who use these medicines to lead healthy lives should have full support from their physicians. Patients — specifically those suffering from invisible illnesses — have long since needed to be their own advocates. This is the undue burden, the excess effort in achieving fair and uncompromised healthcare to lead long, healthy lives. What would the world look like if pregnant women didn’t have to consider the stigma of seeking treatment for their medical conditions? What would the world look like if pregnant women had full support from their doctors and specialists, from their churches, community, family, friends?
The loss of a preborn baby is always a tragedy, whether accidental or intentional. That being said, a woman facing significant medical challenges needs and deserves support and understanding from those around her. Following criteria of the principle of double effect, it is permissible for a pregnant woman to undergo chemotherapy, or medication for Cushing’s Syndrome, or treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Lay aside from the ever-present fear mongering from pro-abortion media sources that claim pro-life people only care about babies before they are born, and let’s truly “love them both.”