by Lauren Pope
Like Jessa Duggar, I had a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure performed after a missed miscarriage. And — despite misleading headlines to the contrary — neither of us had an abortion.
Giving headline writers and journalists the benefit of the doubt, I will concede that the medical system labels miscarriages as “spontaneous abortions” in medical billing. However, this formulation becomes stretched when your body fails to “spontaneously” expel your deceased child. In order to prevent infection, sometimes medical induction is necessary. This is why someone might plausibly say that a D&C in this situation is an “induced abortion”; it is, technically, the induced expulsion of the already-deceased child. Is that the same as having an elective D&C abortion, where the child’s life is intentionally ended? No, of course not.
Semantic games serve only to obscure the truth. There is no ethical concern with doing a D&C following fetal demise, because there is no life to save except the mother’s. The child, tragically, has already died. Removing their body — and the rest of the associated products of conception — from the womb is no more ethically fraught than having to remove uterine fibroids or a too-attached placenta following a delivery.
A D&C procedure, in and of itself, is morally neutral. It becomes problematic only when it is used as a tool of violent destruction. Elective abortion involves the intentional snuffing out of a unique human life. A D&C used to kill a preborn human is very different from a D&C used to remove an already dead body.
The online discourse surrounding Jessa Duggar’s miscarriage has become even more toxic by the insistence that having a D&C following fetal demise is somehow illegal. Let me be clear about this: such a procedure is legal in all 50 states, without exception. Lying to women that they may be unable to access proper miscarriage care is heinous. It could potentially cause a woman to neglect seeking medical care during a life-threatening emergency because she believes that doing so might be a criminal offense.
Conflating miscarriages and abortions also results in those of us who’ve sadly experienced miscarriages having to return to that trauma and defend ourselves against false accusations of hypocrisy. It hurts.
Recognizing the humanity of an unborn child does not mean sacrificing the humanity of the person carrying her. We can recognize the tragic necessity of medically or surgically managing miscarriage without supporting abortion on demand. The conflation of the two is a deliberate political strategy to frighten women and pregnant people into supporting abortion, and it should be called out as such. Jessa Duggar didn’t have an abortion. She had a miscarriage. Shame on those who would try to make her feel worse because of her politics during such a trying time.