An Open Letter to Congresswoman Jackie Speier

Dear Congresswoman Speier:

First of all, I'm very sorry for your loss.

Your recent comments on the House floor and in this Huffington Post article inspired me to write the following. I wanted to send it to you directly, but your form on only allows your constituents to contact you, so this will have to do. I doubt you will ever see it, but I feel it's important to put this information out there anyway.

You said the following in the HuffPo article linked above:

You admit guilt, but for me there was no guilt, only the pain of a pregnancy that did not work. The fetus had slipped from my uterus into my vagina and could not survive. To stave off a life-threatening infection and to keep the possibility of a future birth alive, I had what’s called dilation and evacuation or “d & e.” But for people, particularly my colleagues who don’t want Planned Parenthood to be funded, I simply had an abortion.

I don't know the particulars of your pregnancy in question because you have not made them public, but let me share an experience I had in December of 2006.

When I had my first prenatal appointment in my second pregnancy, my midwife did an ultrasound because I was 12 weeks along and she couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat via Doppler. The ultrasound revealed that the baby had stopped developing at around 8 weeks, and there was no heartbeat. My midwife and an OB recommended that I have a D&C, since it’d been nearly 4 weeks since the baby’s death and nothing had happened naturally. I agreed and had the D&C a few days later.

That was not an induced abortion. That was a missed miscarriage.

From the sounds of it, what you had was also not an abortion. It was a miscarriage.

An abortion kills a baby who is alive prior to the procedure (and dead after it). The procedure itself is what kills the baby. In fact, the intention of the procedure is to kill the baby. If the baby lives, the procedure failed. (If the aim of the procedure was to treat a disease or a condition, and not directly kill the baby, then that is also not an abortion; it is an example of the principle of double effect, even if the baby's death is an unintended [if forseen] side effect of the procedure.)

A D&E or D&C for a missed miscarriage removes the body of a baby who died PRIOR to the procedure. In other words, the procedure did not kill the baby; the baby died of natural causes.

If you baby was dead prior to the D&E, then you had a miscarriage and a subsequent surgical procedure to remove the baby’s body from your body. If your baby was alive and well prior to the D&E, then you had an induced abortion.

If the baby had actually left your uterus, it's extremely unlikely that s/he was still alive at the time of your D&E. If that's the case, you did not have an abortion. You had a D&E after a miscarriage.

I have never met, either online or in person, a pro-life individual who would claim that the D&E or D&C prodcedures in and of themselves are moral evils. Such surgical procedures are morally neutral. They have very legitimate uses, such as to remove the body of a baby who died of natural causes from the body of his or her mother, or to remove extraneous placental tissue after childbirth or miscarriage. The procedures are only immoral when they are used to kill a living unborn child.

I can understand your confusion, as a miscarriage is often called a "spontaneous abortion" in medical terminology. However, as the National Center for Biotechnology Information states, "A miscarriage may also be called a 'spontaneous abortion.' This refers to naturally occurring events, not medical abortions or surgical abortions." (emphasis mine)

You should figure out the difference between an abortion and a miscarriage before you speak on this issue again, because all you’re doing is confusing the issue and making false claims against the pro-life movement.

Edit: This post spawned several replies, many of which I devoted to entire posts of their own:

Abortion vs. Miscarriage: A Response to crowepps

Replies to "Mary" and "SallyStrange"

Another Reply to Mary


  1. Love this. Very well put. I had to have a D&C after my first miscarriage, but the baby was definitely not alive.

    People love to use these types of arguments to blur the debate and further complicate things, when the fact is that the majority of abortions are for convenience reasons, not rape, medical reasons, or anything else.

  2. Thank you for sharing. BTW you CAN contact Ms Speier you need only find the zip code for her district and make up any address. I know this b/c I do it.

  3. I realize that, Anonymous, but I feel that would be unfair to her legitimate constituents.

  4. Polite and professional letter with all the right information - kudos to you!

    This type of obfuscation is a tool of the evil one to make otherwise good people stay silent about abortion in the name of being "kind and compassionate."

  5. The difference between 'abortion' and 'miscarriage' is that the first is a medical term and the second is a layman's term.

    Here is the medical definition as doctors use the term from "Abortion: In medicine, an abortion is the premature exit of the products of conception (the fetus, fetal membranes, and placenta) from the uterus. It is the loss of a pregnancy and does not refer to why that pregnancy was lost.

    A spontaneous abortion is the same as a miscarriage. The miscarriage of 3 or more consecutive pregnancies is termed habitual abortion."

    I too had the experience of having my fetus stop developing without a spontaneous abortion starting ; the correct medical term for this condition is EITHER "missed pregnancy" OR "missed abortion".

    "D&C abortion" is the name of the medical procedure which removes the remains of the placenta and dead fetus to prevent infection and allow another attempt at pregnancy. It is done with the exact same equipment and in the exact same manner as a 'birth control' abortion because there are not two separate, different names for the procedure depending on whether the fetus is dead or alive, or depending on the motives of the women having the procedure.

    Medicine uses only one term for this procedure in all of the circumstances in which it may be used, and so laws that forbid doctors to do "abortions" are going to ban precisely the procedure I had and the women here had and Rep. Speier had and leave all of those women at risk of infection and infertility. Those laws will also ban the 60,000 abortions every year which remove ectopic pregnancies and condemn those women to die.

  6. Hi Joanna! This is a great letter! This might be obvious and something you already thought of, but maybe you could print this out and mail it to her office. What she is saying is ridiculous, and she needs to be corrected!

  7. Hi Joanna,

    PLEASE don't "correct" the congresswoman's terminology and get it wrong in the process.

    As crowepps explained, the term abortion just means a termination, and when applied to a pregnancy includes miscarriages. It is also a term used to apply to computer programs and military and engineering processes and manouvres , and means to terminate the activity. The word does not mean what you think it means. I can understand what you are trying to say, but you are not saying it.

    But also, and I'm Catholic too, what other women do that does not affect me or mine is really none of my business. I do not see why you think it is your business, or especially why you think it is the business of the government.

  8. Mary,

    I replied via new post; see my post on 3/21/11.

    However, I have a similar request for you, since you are so exacting in regards to terminology.

    Please identify yourself as a "dissenting Catholic" or "former Catholic" or "Catholic in name only," since you do not submit to the teachings of your faith.

    It's very confusing for a society at large to see two people that identify as Catholic (e.g., you and me) but with polar opposite beliefs when it comes to issues such as killing innocent human beings. There are faithful Catholics, who believe that abortion is wrong and thus submit to the teachings of the Church in that regard; and there are dissenting Catholics, like yourself, who do the opposite. They should not be lumped together under the umbrella term "Catholic" because it causes both confusion and scandal.


  9. Thanks, JoAnna I've responded to you there too. How unspeakably arrogant of you to tell me not to call myself Catholic. Do you really think that all the Catholics in the world agree on everything?

    You are wrong on the source of our disagreement. We are at polar opposite views on where our right to our religion begins and ends.

    And precisely with what teachings do you think I dissent, or not submit to? Use quotes from what I have written, because I think you are responding to a figment of your imagination.

    If you want to avoid scandal in the Catholic church, then become active in cleaning up the mess caused by protecting and enabling pedophile priests. The hierarchy needs to get its act together on this one, else the church is doomed. At the moment Cardinal Law is being protected by the Vatican, instead of facing secular authorities in the US. *This* is a scandal, not whatever you might imagine my beliefs to be.

  10. Your comment went it spam again; sorry about the delay in releasing it.

    How unspeakably arrogant of you to tell me not to call myself Catholic.

    No, Mary, I did not say that. You need to read what I actually said, not what you think I said.

    I asked you to call yourself a "dissenting Catholic." You are Catholic by virtue of your baptism and nothing can change that; however, you are not faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church, so to call yourself merely a "Catholic" is sloppy. It lumps you in with the Catholics who do take their faith seriously, and do believe that the Catholic Church has the fullness of Truth.

    Here is where you dissent, Mary. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being." (CCC 2258, emphasis mine)

    "Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life" (CCC 2270).

    All of your comments have disputed the above.

    I'm not surprised you brought up the priest scandal; it's Anderson's Law.

    I absolutely agree that the scandal is atrocious and needs to be rectified in every way possible, including criminal prosecution by legal authorities. However, the immorality of members of the Catholic Church in no way affects the Truth taught by the church nor does it change the fact that procured abortion is an intrinsic, moral evil.

    Also, you need to read up on Cardinal Law's situation, as you've been misinformed. From Wikipedia:

    "In December 2002, Cardinal Law left Boston. It is often alleged that he left just hours before state troopers arrived with subpoenas seeking his grand jury testimony; however, he had previously given evidence before two grand juries and been fully investigated by the state attorney general and the 5 district attorneys in the counties in which the Archdiocese operates. When the state attorney general issued his report entitled Child Sexual Abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston (July 23, 2003) he severely criticised Law but he did not allege that Law had tried to evade investigation and he did state that Law had not broken any laws."


Please be respectful and courteous, and I will reciprocate.

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