Cases Involving the Mother's Life

Be bold for life, brothers and sisters, in ALL circumstances! Even when it's difficult. The Church NEVER, under any circumstances, says [that abortion is] right, even for the mother's life. You mothers tell me, “I would die for my child. He's sick, let me take it, I would die for my child.” And yet the child in the womb you won't die for?... You all are liars when you say that.

-Bishop Basil (Essey) of the Anthiochian Orthodox Church of America

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My dear faithful: May God protect you and enlighten you. Never think of having an abortion in your life. Man and woman are both responsible for such an act. If you have done an abortion repent and shed tears and confess. Repent until your last breath. Always cry out: “Lord forgive me.” Cry out to God for His mercy! Do not ever think, “I am never going to have an abortion” because you never know what difficult situation your wife may be in when the doctor informs you “either you save your wife or the child”. Then you might come to a dilemma. What do you decide? Will you think for a minute that you have to choose to save your wife over your child? And then an abortion may be decided. But pray that God does not allow you to do such a sin. Seek God’s help in everything.

-Father Athanasios Mytilinaios (Greece)

Translated from Greek from and Orthodox Kypseli

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Abortion & the Mother’s Life 
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

A few years ago I was shocked to read in an Orthodox publication that the Orthodox Church condemns abortion “in all cases, except to save the life of the mother.” It was the sort of theological slipup anyone might have made, I suppose, but it was nonetheless a seriously defective statement of the teaching of the Orthodox Church.

A friend just sent me a statement from a rather famous conservative Episcopalian, a man of considerable learning and culture, who began by remarking on “the unholy alliance of abortion-on-demand and the feminization of God,” but continued in the very next sentence to announce that “No one, except fanatics and mechanists, would argue that abortion is in every case and without exception evil.” “In cases of violent sexual attack,” he wrote, “such as rape and incest, abortion is a permissible and ethical alternative. In cases of provable damage to the mother or the prospect [sic] of a monstrous birth, it is again a sane option.”

Well, quite simply, there are no cases in which the Orthodox Church—or the Roman Catholic Church, for that matter—condones abortion. (Nor did the Episcopal Church, in healthier times.) The act is murder, and it is always murder, and there are no circumstances, whatever, in which murder is a legitimate moral option. The deliberate, directly intended killing of an innocent life is a sin that screams to heaven for vengeance. Always, in all circumstances, and with no exceptions.

Inasmuch as abortion is the willful taking of the life of the unborn, we are not permitted to do it even to save the life of the mother. Indeed, we are never permitted to commit any sin, for whatever praiseworthy motive. In addition, it is hard to imagine any case in which the death of an unborn child, considered in itself, would save the life of the mother.

What the aforementioned article should have said is this: There are instances in which it is legitimate for an expectant mother to undergo certain medical or surgical procedures that will save her life, even if these procedures inevitably involve the death of her unborn child. In these cases it is not a question of intentionally aborting the child. They involve, rather, accepting the loss of the child as an unavoidable consequence of caring for the mother’s health.

The clearest and surest example is the ectopic pregnancy. As everyone knows, should the fetus become lodged in the oviduct or fallopian tube, its continued growth will result in the death of both child and mother. A normal and proper procedure in this case is the removal of the fallopian tube, from which the death of the unborn child inevitably follows. In this case the death of the child is not sought, nor is the mother’s life saved by the child’s dying.

This is not an abortion. Quite simply, the mother’s life is saved by the surgical removal of the oviduct, not by the death of her child. If this reasoning is too subtle for some American minds to follow, well, the available evidence suggests that just about any coherent thinking these days is too subtle for some American minds to follow.

A similar dilemma would arise in the case of an expectant mother diagnosed with uterine cancer. The death of the child obviously would result from the removal of the cancerous organ, but it is not the death of the child that is deliberately sought, nor is the mother’s life saved as a result of the child’s death. This is not an abortion in the sense used by moral theology; it is just a standard application of the ethical principle known as “double effect,” which is undoubtedly what the magazine in question, an Orthodox journal that takes its theology seriously, intended to say.

Unfortunately, however, given a chance to correct its earlier slip, the magazine compounded the difficulty by asserting that “the Church teaches that the mother must be saved.” No, strictly speaking, this is not true either; such a very tough medical decision is normally a matter of the mother’s choice, and I am familiar with no teaching of the Orthodox Church that would oblige a mother’s conscience to value her own life over her child’s. The mother’s life is not intrinsically of greater value than the child’s, and every mother known to me, if the choice were ineluctable, would value her child’s life above her own.

It is interesting to observe that the Roman Catholic Church recently honored with canonical beatification a woman who died in 1962 in consequence of choosing not to undergo the surgical procedure just mentioned. Even though she knew that it would result in her death, Gianna Molla​ carried her baby to term and then died a week later. Her little girl grew up and was on hand in St. Peter’s Square to see her mother raised to the dignity of the altar.

article source:
Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

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Are There Rare Cases When an Abortion Is Justified? 
The Official Position Statement of 
the Association of Pro-Life Physicians

We find it extremely unfortunate that many pro-lifers have regarded the health of the mother to be a consideration in whether or not she should have the right to terminate the life of her pre-born baby. Politicians who herald the title “pro-life” on the campaign trail frequently tout this health exception, as well as exceptions for rape and incest, as pragmatic compromises that will not offend political moderates and not alienate the pro-life community. We do not consider this compromise consistent with pro-life Hippocratic principles at all. To intentionally kill or condone the intentional killing of one innocent human being precludes one from being considered “pro-life” at all. A murderer of one person is not any less a murderer if he allows thousands to live, nor if he saves thousands from dying!

Most of what passes as a therapeutic, or medically-necessary abortion, is not necessary at all to save the mother’s life. For example, if a mother has breast cancer and requires immediate chemotherapy to survive that can kill the baby, the physician will frequently recommend a therapeutic abortion. Another example: if a mother has life-threatening seizures that can only be controlled by medication that will kill or severely deform her unborn child, the physician will frequently prescribe a therapeutic abortion. In both of these cases, the abortion is not necessary to protect the mother’s health. The necessary medication may injure or kill the pre-born child, but this is no justification for intentionally killing the child.

Let us illustrate this principle further: if a rescuer is venturing into a burning vehicle to try to save its injured occupants, and is only able to save one of the two occupants, is it justifiable for him to then take out his gun and shoot the occupant he was unable to save? Of course not! Intentionally killing those you were not able to save is never justified in healthcare. We have the technology and expertise to provide quality healthcare to a pregnant woman without intentionally killing her unborn baby, regardless of the severity of her disease.

We are convinced that much of the pressure physicians place upon ailing women to get a therapeutic abortion is due to fear of malpractice suits. Two female patients have reported to me that physicians unduly pressured them into getting an abortion because their contraception failed and they conceived at the same time that they were taking a medication that could be very injurious to an unborn child. The motive for prescribing an abortion in such cases is not compassion, but completely selfish. The potential of a malformed or mentally retarded child does not ever justify killing the child, malpractice threats notwithstanding. It is always wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being, even if you are going to get sued if you let them live.

As we now carefully consider a scenario when the mother’s life would be truly threatened by her pregnancy, let us remind ourselves of our two basic premises: human life begins at fertilization, and it is absolutely wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings. We must stand true to these foundational principles through every emotional appeal and in every tragic scenario if we are to have any principles at all for which to stand.


The abortion exception for the life of the mother is the exception that most commonly seduces the sincere pro-lifer. The scenario in which this exception is most frequently packaged is an ectopic pregnancy, which is when the embryo attaches somewhere inside the mother’s body in a place other than the inner lining of the uterus. It is argued that in an ectopic pregnancy, an abortion must be performed in order to save the mother’s life.

What is rarely realized is that there are several cases in the medical literature where abdominal ectopic pregnancies have survived! There are no cases of ectopic pregnancies in a fallopian tube surviving, but several large studies have confirmed that time and patience will allow for spontaneous regression of the tubal ectopic pregnancy the vast majority of the time. So chemical or surgical removal of an ectopic pregnancy is not always necessary to save the mother’s life after all.

However, if through careful follow-up it is determined that the ectopic pregnancy does not spontaneously resolve and the mother’s symptoms worsen, surgery may become necessary to save the mother’s life. The procedure to remove the ectopic pregnancy may not kill the unborn child at all, because the unborn child has likely already deceased by the time surgery becomes necessary. But even if not, the procedure is necessary to save the mother’s life, and the death of the unborn baby is unavoidable and unintentional.

A chemical abortion with a medicine called methotrexate is often recommended by physicians to patients with early tubal ectopic pregnancies, when the baby may still be alive, to decrease the chances of a surgical alternative being necessary later, but we have found this to be an unnecessary risk to human life. We offer the following true case to demonstrate this point.

One patient was diagnosed with a tubal ectopic pregnancy by her obstetrician, and he informed her that they were fortunate to have made the diagnosis early and that she should have a methotrexate abortion. The patient was pro-life, and did not want to take the medicine, but the physician insisted. The baby was not going to survive, he argued, and a chemical abortion now could prevent the need for a surgical procedure later. The chemical abortion would lessen her chances of a rupture of her fallopian tube and subsequent life-threatening hemorrhage. The chemical abortion was also better at preserving future fertility than surgical removal of the ectopic pregnancy later. Feeling like she had no other reasonable alternative, she took the methotrexate.

However, there was a complication. Two weeks later, she still had vaginal bleeding and pelvic discomfort. A repeat ultrasound confirmed the physician’s worst fears: his patient was pregnant with twins – one in the fallopian tube, and one in the uterus! He missed the uterine pregnancy in his ultrasound examination, and that baby was dying from his prescription.

Holding off surgery and watchful waiting in this case might have resulted in spontaneous resolution of the tubal pregnancy or would have required surgical removal of the tubal pregnancy when the embryo was likely to be dead, but in both cases the uterine pregnancy would probably have survived. Unfortunately, the chemical abortion killed both babies, much to the dismay of this young pro-life woman.

It is only ethical to remove the tubal pregnancy if spontaneous resolution does not occur after watchful waiting and if the physician is 100% certain that there are no twins. At this point, the embryo in the fallopian tube is likely to be dead and, even if not, the death is unavoidable and unintentional, and the procedure is necessary to save the life of the mother.

In conclusion, there are no occasions in which the intentional killing of the pre-born child is justified. Scientific fact and divine law are clear: life begins at conception, and there are no exceptions to the prohibition of intentionally killing an innocent human being. We must stand true to these foundational principles through every emotional appeal and in every tragic scenario if we are to have any principles at all for which to stand.

The Association of Pro-Life Physicians
5063 Dresden Court, Zanesville, Ohio 43701

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The Choice for Life

Once in a while we read a mass media story that instills hope in our minds for the future of our society. This is one such story that every mother-to-be must read. The choice for life for a healthy pregnant woman is much easier than the decision made by the protagonist of this story. In the end, cancer took a human life at the time that our Creator allowed; in the process, a baby came to life because of her mother’s choice for life. Ms. Crimm traded her earthly life so that her baby can live; she said no to abortion, even when the majority of pro-lifers would have deemed abortion as an acceptable avenue. We are of the prayerful belief that our Lord and Savior and His Most Holy Mother’s intercessions have granted Ms. Crimm her rightful place among His angels and saints. May her memory be eternal!  -editor of Orthodox Heritage

Stacie Crimm called her brother with astonishing news. “You’re not going to believe this,” she said. She laughed and cried all at once that day in March as she explained that five pregnancy tests showed she would be having a child. It was a joyous surprise at age 41 but even more so because she’d been told she would never be able to get pregnant, said her brother, Ray Phillips.

But even as she shopped for clothes for the child she longed to hold in her arms, she knew something was not right. She sent 159 text messages about her pregnancy to her brother in the months that followed. Many were joyful but then the bone-chilling messages came in during the predawn hours. She said severe headaches and double vision tortured her while tremors wracked her entire body.

“I’m worried about this baby,” she texted.

“I hope I live long enough to have this baby,” said another message. “Bubba, if anything happens to me, you take this child.”

Initially, she and her brother used the Internet to try to diagnose her illness. The single mother-to-be had been exposed to mold while she was remodeling her home and her symptoms seemed to match up to mold exposure. At her family’s encouragement, she visited a number of doctors. In July, a CT scan revealed that she had head and neck cancer.

Now she had to choose between her life and her baby’s life. Phillips said she agonized only for a while before deciding against taking potentially life-saving chemotherapy in hopes that she would soon hold a healthy baby in her arms.

The Turning Point

Crimm collapsed at her home in Ryan and was rushed to OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City on August 16th. Doctors said that the invasive tumor had begun wrapping around the brain stem, slowly squeezing the life out of Crimm. But on a beautiful sunny morning two days later, Crimm felt good enough to sit on the edge of her hospital bed to visit with her brother. He returned to his medical equipment business in Edmond with a lighter heart.

At noon, the baby’s heart rate plummeted. Then Crimm’s heart stopped 90 minutes later. With “code blue” issued, doctors and nurses rushed to resuscitate her and decided it was best to take the 2-pound, 1-ounce baby, Dottie Mae, by C-section.

Phillips raced back to the hospital, where the baby was in neonatal intensive care and the mother was in intensive care in a separate building. “Sister was dying right there. She was gasping,” he said. “The human body fights death.”

A Mother’s Will

Crimm’s will was so strong she got off the ventilator and was no longer under sedation after several days. “There was still a lot of hope at that point,” said Jennifer Phillips, Ray Phillips’ wife.

Doctors told the family that a treatment plan developed for Crimm could offer a small chance of surviving the aggressive cancer.

“The cancer was such that it had crossed one of her eyes and it had destroyed the muscle behind her eye. It paralyzed her throat. When she did talk, she was hard to understand. As far as her mind, she was there,” Ray Phillips said.

But Crimm’s improvement was short-lived. She often fell unconscious and hadn’t been able to sign Dottie’s birth certificate. Phillips gained guardianship because she frequently told him that if she didn’t survive, she wanted him and his wife to raise the baby with the four children they already had at home.

“I think she’s a miracle. I just want to do right by her and do what Stacie asked,” Jennifer Phillips said.

A Nurse’s Determination

On Sept. 8th, Crimm stopped breathing and once again was resuscitated. Hospital doctors and nurses warned the family that she likely was dying.

“Her heart had stopped. She quit breathing. She was technically dead, and then they brought her back,” said Ray Phillips.

But she had not yet held the baby whose life she had chosen above her own. She’d never touched the golden fluff of fuzz framing her baby Dottie’s angelic face. Never counted those fingers as tiny and perfect as a doll’s. Never looked into those dark blue eyes. But a quiet yet determined nurse and mother, Agi Beo, couldn’t bear to think of Crimm’s emotional pain.

“She was in the last stage with the brain tumor. And she never got to see the baby,” Beo said. “This baby was everything she had in this world.”

With Crimm’s death imminent, Beo worked with nurse Jetsy Jacob to step up their questioning of the family, healthcare professionals and disease experts about Crimm’s condition, including her staph infection. They talked to Neoflight, the medical center’s neonatal transport team, about using a capsule-like ICU to safely move Dottie.

When his sister regained consciousness later that day, Phillips asked what she thought about possibly seeing Dottie. Crimm’s eyes popped open and she raised her hands as if to ask where was her child. Nurses wheeled Dottie down the hallway to her mother moments later. Phillips said doctors, nurses and others clad in protective gear gathered as nurses carefully lifted the baby from the incubator under her mother’s watchful eye.

They placed the baby on her mother’s chest. Mother and child gazed into each other’s eyes for several minutes. She smiled at the baby who at last lay in her arms. No one said a word. No one had a dry eye. Stacie Crimm died three days later.

Last week, Ray Phillips fulfilled his last promise to his sister. Healthy, 5-pound Dottie went home to live with Ray and Jennifer Phillips and her four new siblings.

by Sonya Colberg, from “The Oklahoma” October 16, 2011
reprinted in Orthodox Heritage, Nov./Dec. 2011, volume 9, issue 11-12, pages 6-7 (

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Idaho Teen Sacrifices Her Life to Deliver Her Son

Jenni Lake, an Idaho teen who stopped her cancer treatments to avoid aborting her pregnancy, died 12 days after she gave birth to a baby boy she named Chad Michael. She passed away on Nov. 21, with no regrets about the decision to choose her son's life over her own, and to risk everything she'd hoped for in the new hope that he might be healthy. This is her story.

Jenni Lake was diagnosed with cancer when she was 16 years old. Lake was a sophomore at Pocatello High School when she began to get painful migraines. After visiting her family doctor, she traveled to Salt Lake City for an MRI. There, a scan revealed a two-centimeter mass nestled in her brain. Lake's biopsy revealed stage three astrocytoma, a form of cancer centered in the brain and spinal cord that is almost always fatal. She had three tumors in her brain and three on her spine. Chemo and radiation treatments had to begin immediately.
Even with the intensive treatments, doctor told her she had about a 30 percent chance of living two years. Lake was also told that even if the cancer treatments worked, she would be left infertile. When they told her she might not be able to have kids, she got upset, Lake's mother Diana Phillips said. Her father Mike, however, noted that when doctors told her the slim odds of surviving, she was calm. She didn't break down and cry or anything, he said.

Jenni Lake began receiving cancer treatment in 2009.  In 2010, her tumors were shrinking significantly, and it seemed, to Lake's family, as though the Idaho teen might just pull through.  Then the stomach cramps began, and vomiting, and the headaches returned. A visit to the local hospital confirmed that the 17-year-old was pregnant. 

Jenni Lake was faced with a tremendous decision. Her oncologist told her that the cancer treatments keeping her alive could not be given to a pregnant woman without damaging or killing the fetus. She had two options: get an abortion and continue being treated for cancer, or keep her pregnancy and prepare to die. Her family believed that since the tumors had already starting to shrink, and the baby was ten weeks old, she had a strong chance of carrying the baby to term and then starting the cancer treatment again. So Jenni Lake chose option two, and paid for it with her life. 

At the end of her pregnancy, Lake weighed only 108 pounds. Her cancer had come back with a vengeance in the many months since she stopped treatment, and she had already begun to reconcile herself to death. "I'm done," Lake told her nurse just before delivering a healthy baby boy, whom she named Chad Michael. "I did what I was supposed to do. My baby is going to get here safe." Jenni Lake died on Nov. 21, 2011, shortly before Thanksgiving Day. She was not yet 18 years old.

In the month since her death, Jenni Lake's family and friends continue to insist that her legacy is not one of tragedy, but of heroic sacrifice. And that is the legacy they will be passing on to her son Chad. "I want him to know everything about her, and what she did", Phillips told CBS. As Jenni Lake began to fade away, the returning astrocytoma ravaging her body and making her weaker by the day, family members report that she never showed any regret for her decision. Nor did her vision, sometimes a casualty of the final stages, fade in the final days of her illness. When Jenni Lake's baby son was placed beside her for the last time, her father says she smiled at Chad Michael, her pride and joy, the reason she was about to die. "I can kind of see him," she told her father. It would be the last words she ever said.

By Melanie Jones, International Business Times, December 28, 2011
reprinted in Orthodox Heritage, Jan./Feb. 2012, volume 10, issue 01-02, page 21 (