Abortion vs. Miscarriage - A Response to "crowepps"

A commenter named "crowepps" left a comment on my Open Letter to Congresswoman Speier, and as both her comment and my response are lengthy, I figured it was better served by its own post than a long comment.

"crowepps" begins:

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

Technically, this is true. However, "miscarriage" is more often used in medical parlance to refer to a spontaneous abortion, as can be evidenced by the quote in my original post from the National Center for Biotechnology Information: "A miscarriage may also be called a 'spontaneous abortion.' This refers to naturally occurring events, not medical abortions or surgical abortions."

Here is the medical definition as doctors use the term from emedicinehealth.com "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."

emedicinehealth.com also has a definition for miscarriage: "A miscarriage (also termed spontaneous abortion) is any pregnancy that spontaneously ends before the fetus can survive."

So it seems, based on the above, that "miscarriage" and "spontaneous abortion" can be used interchangeably.

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".

I'm very sorry for the loss of your child.

My midwife referred to my experience as a "missed miscarriage," as did the OB who performed my D&C. Regardless as to what it was called on the official paperwork, that was not the terminology my care providers used.

I'm of the opinion that the medical terminology does need an update given the current negative connotations of "abortion." The last thing a mother who is losing a very much loved and wanted baby needs to hear is that she's having an "abortion," because that lumps her in with all the women who are voluntarily and deliberately throwing away the precious gift of a healthy baby.

"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.

Yes, that is exactly what I said in my open letter to Congresswomen Speier. Did you read the entire post?

As I said in my original post, D&Cs and D&Es are morally neutral as procedures. They have very legitimate uses, such as treating missed abortions (which I am assuming that both you, me, and Rep. Speier suffered). You will not, to my knowledge, find a single pro-lifer claiming otherwise.

Moreover, I had my D&C in a hospital, not an abortion facility. If they were the exact same procedure, why didn't the hospital just send me down the street to the "women's clinic" that did the exact same procedure on women with living, healthy babies? Why doesn't the hospital perform the procedure on women with living, healthy babies? Obviously, there is some difference, otherwise there would be no need for abortion facilities.
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.

You have been grotesquely misinformed.

If what you say is true, then prior to 1973 and the Roe v. Wade decision, having a D&C for a missed abortion or treatment for an ectopic pregnancy would have been illegal. However, this was not the case when elective abortion was illegal. In fact, every anti-abortion law in the United States prior to Roe v. Wade had a "life of the mother" exemption.

Let's use ectopic pregnancy as an example.

The Catholic Church acknowledges that ectopic pregnancies must be treated. Such treatment (i.e., removal of the section of the fallopian tube containing the baby) falls under the principle of double effect and is morally legitimate. Any treatment for a mother's life-threatening condition is legitimate as long as it does not directly target the baby (i.e., directly kill the baby); rather, the baby's death must be an unwanted and unintended (even if foreseen) side effect of the treatment.

Given that it was not illegal to treat ectopic pregnancies prior to Roe v. Wade, I don't see how you can make the argument that this would become illegal should Roe ever be overturned. If it's that much of a concern for you, then write your elected officials and ask them to make sure that any anti-abortion laws contain language specific to elective, induced abortion and specifically exclude spontaneous or missed abortion. Problem solved.

When Rep. Speier tries to imply that I deliberately and consciously murdered my child, it is offensive. I did not have an elective, induced abortion. I did not walk into an abortion facility and pay a medical practitioner to kill my child. Neither did she, by all accounts, and she has no right whatsoever to lump together abortion and miscarriage because she is essentially equating murder with natural death. I wouldn't walk up to someone whose grandmother passed away in her sleep and accuse him of murder any more than I would tell a person who smothered his elderly grandmother with a pillow that it was a good thing his grandma passed away naturally, and why don't we go ahead and ask the government to subsidize him?

crowepps, let me introduce you to someone.

This is my second child, Noel. This is the only picture I have of him or her, as this was the ultrasound that diagnosed my missed abortion:

When I look at this picture, I don't see "products of conception" or "medical waste" or a "missed abortion." I see my beloved child, who died after only six short weeks of life (approximately). [I might add that he or she was conceived at a time when my husband and I were trying to avoid pregnancy, as we were going through a period of unemployment and financial strain. However, his or her death devastated us. Although he or she was unplanned, he or she was very much loved, was very much wanted, and is very much missed. He or she also had a right to life from the moment he or she was conceived.]

He or she is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fargo, North Dakota. We had a graveside service and a memorial Mass said for him or her.

My child was a person, a human being, and the length of his or her natural lifespan does not change that, as much as Planned Parenthood would like to pretend otherwise.


  1. JoAnna, oh, that beautiful ultrasound and headstone took my breath away! God bless Baby Wahlund!

    And, your response was excellent. You know, I never understood why some of our more liberal friends cannot see a moral difference between an unborn child dying by natural causes or by unnatural (but willful) suction machines and knives. Makes no logical sense to me....

    1. Are you vegetarians? If not how is the life of a human fertilized egg or fetus so important but you eat an animal a day

  2. Thank you so much!

    I tried to obtain an ultrasound pic of my baby lost to miscarriage, but it was no longer in my file...

    wish I had the same tangible reminder you do, but baby lives in my heart and I cannot wait to meet him or her someday in heaven!

  3. And yes Leila...the difference they claim to "not see" is so huge!

    It is the differnce between a poor child being accidentally hit by a car in the street while crossing with his mother and a mother PURPOSEFULLY THROWING her child into the path of an oncoming car.

    I dare any pro-choicer to claim there is no difference.

  4. Ugh. I had a miscarriage too (and a D&C afterward) and I too am so, excuse my french, pissed off, that abortion advocates act like its the same thing. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together should realize it is completely different.

    I read a few books about dealing with grief after a pregnancy loss, and it really, really bothered me that they included women who'd had abortions as part of this group who lost a pregnancy. Hello! They didn't lose it, they threw it away like a piece of trash. Women who have miscarriages, who would have fought tooth and nail to keep their babies, do not deserve to be lumped in with women who (for whatever reason) willingly ended their pregnancies.

  5. These are great posts, JoAnna. I've all but given up wasting my breath trying to explain things to pro-choicers and I know I shouldn't. I don't even post certain things on FB, because I know the people that need to read it won't bother.

  6. Living for the Lord,

    My midwife gave me that picture after the ultrasound, and she said, "You probably don't want this right now, but someday you'll be glad to have it." She was so right and I am very grateful to her.

  7. JoAnna, you said: "Why doesn't the hospital perform the procedure on women with living, healthy babies? Obviously, there is some difference, otherwise there would be no need for abortion facilities."

    First, you meant "fetuses" not babies. Please use the correct terminology. Secondly, the difference is political, not medical.

    Finally, you know that Crowepps is right, you said it yourself when you said "Technically, this is true." Yes. The law is technical, and details are important. Definitions of words are especially important.

    I understand that you believe that terminating a pregnancy is wrong under certain circumstances. Most certainly is would be wrong for you. But you are not able to speak for all people, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. What you are saying will be just the right advice for some people, but not all people. Legislation needs to work for all people, just like a bridge needs to work for all traffic loads, not just the average. (Yes, my profession is technical design and analysis). Legislation is just too unwieldy to cover difficult and personal medical decisions.

    Whatever your thoughts are the rights of a fetus, the scope of decisions on this matter that you have a moral right to make is limited to yourself. Even if Government did have right to make this call for all women, it would be a very difficult, technical piece of legislation that would fail because it could not cater for all situations. Such legislation would cost women's lives, make no mistake.

    The argument between pro-choice and pro-life is uninteresting to me because it is ultimately futile in practical terms. If women are to have safe, appropriate care then the government needs to let people get on with it, and not interfere with heavy-handed legislation.

  8. That's great that you saw a baby when you looked at your ultrasound. My sister, who's pregnant right now, sees a baby when she looks at her ultrasounds. Me, I didn't want to be pregnant, so when I looked at my 9-week ultrasound, I saw a blurry thing that looked like a lumpy kidney bean. I felt regret that my birth control had failed, and that my boyfriend and I were both broke and heading off to different grad schools, but I didn't feel regret about getting the abortion itself. Rather I felt grateful and relieved that I didn't have to be pregnant and give birth when I really didn't want to, and wasn't ready to.

    It is your attachment to the baby-to-be that causes you to regard your potential human being as a "baby" rather than a "fetus." And that's understandable. But your personal feelings about your own fetus have no relevance to any other pregnant women. Only the eager anticipation of a woman who's ready to become a mother can transform a fetus into an unborn baby.

  9. here's a comment I left over at Simcha's blog to give one reason why miscarriage is different than abortion....

    A reason why a miscarriage is very different than an abortion is biology…how long does an abortion take? A few hours? or less? but a miscarriage is slow- and ‘better’ for the woman’s body. It is sadly nature taking its course.
    I had a miscarriage when the baby was 20 weeks. The baby was dead for a week before I knew. Then, I waited for a few days before I went in the hospital for the labor. So- I was spiritually and mentally ready (as I could be). My body was prepared hormone-wise instead of the shocking biological change that is abortion. I also didn’t have any sharp instruments to injure me as I had the miscarriage. Women are sad after a miscarriage, but they do not have an increased statistical likelihood of clinical depression or suicide like after abortion.

    So- even without thinking the baby is a baby, a miscarriage is very different than abortion.

  10. Priest's Wife - I'm so sorry for your loss.

    My early miscarriage (5w5d) was actually over pretty quickly. I started cramping and spotting, and soon after we arrived at the ER I started bleeding heavily.

    My first miscarriage was similar to yours -- the baby died in utero at 8 weeks and I had no idea until I went in for a routine prenatal at 12 weeks, and my midwife couldn't find the baby's heartbeat. Then I had to wait 3 days for the D&C (I had to go in for a pre-op physical).

  11. I am terribly sorry for peoples lives being disrupted by unwanted pregnancies. If you have that opinion of fetuses, sometimes referred to as human beings, then please, have your tubes tied. If you can't take time out of your busy life to treat someone who had no say in their being here with any more compassion than that, please don't flatter yourself into thinking you would be a good mother. You wouldn't.

  12. crowepps is apparently burning in Hell for all eternity now according to the dictates of your lovely God. Cheers!

    1. Actually, no, that is not "a dictate of my lovely God." I'm so glad I could clear up that misinformation for you!

  13. Needed to read this post today, thank you.


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