Where there is a real medical threat to the life of the mother, she should be afforded all necessary medical care, even if this unintentionally compromises the life of the unborn child, provided that every effort is made to preserve the life of that child.
Ireland is one of the safest places in the world for pregnant women. The 2005 report on Maternal Health produced by the WHO, UNICEF and the World Bank confirms Ireland as having the lowest maternal mortality rate in the world. The WHO consistently places Ireland in the top five countries for women’s safety in pregnancy, out of 171 countries surveyed. This has been the case for the past 25 years and without abortion.
Therefore, Doctors for Life Ireland holds that introducing abortion even on restrictive grounds is not necessary to protect the life of pregnant women in Ireland. Rather what is needed is for the appropriate training bodies to produce clinical guidelines on the management of high-risk pregnancies that keep up to date with current medical evidence and support good obstetric practice.
On occasions delivery may have to be induced at a gestation where the baby is unlikely to survive. This is not abortion, but appropriate medical treatment where the intention is to preserve the life of both the mother and her baby if possible.“Treatment to save the mother’s life,” including premature delivery, if that is indicated, is not “abortion to save the mother’s life.” We are treating two patients, the mother and the baby, and every reasonable attempt to save the baby’s life is also a part of our medical intervention. We acknowledge that, in some such instances, the baby would be too premature to survive.
In practice on these occasions, most doctors would consult another colleague when making these difficult decisions. These medical emergencies arise most commonly in the management of severe pre-eclampsia, where it may be necessary to deliver the baby early in order to cure the condition. Obstetricians are always weighing up the balance between maximising the potential for both patients, the pregnant woman and her unborn baby. For example, if a pregnant woman presents at 24 weeks with severe pre-eclampsia, the ultimate goal of treatment is to deliver the baby. But initially, treatment entails controlling her blood pressure and monitoring clinical symptoms and biochemical parameters to assess the severity and progression of the disease whilst simultaneously monitoring the unborn baby and giving the mother steroids in an effort to mature the baby's lungs to improve the baby's chance of survival once delivered.
In a medical emergency (e.g. bleeding from a placental abruption or placenta praevia) where the pregnant women presents with life-threatening haemorrhage, immediate delivery is required to save the life of the mother primarily, but every effort is made to save the baby as well. Obviously, in these situations quick decisions are necessary and it would not be pragmatic to have to wait the approval of another doctor.