Think About It: Death by ignorance

“While Jakob and his mother Holly, struggled with exceptional complications of a premature birth, the strength of Jakob’s heartbeat provided critical time for doctors to deliver vital care, saving Holly’s life.”

The picture with the obituary in the Seattle Times was fuzzy. I studied it closely for a time until I saw at last the tiny hand touching the finger of one adult and being touched by the slightly bigger finger of another.

The picture and the obituary tell in a few words the story of love during a difficult pregnancy and premature birth that was life-threatening to mom and baby. Jakob was honored from the beginning of their awareness of him, his six months in mom and their final five days holding him in their arms. He left with them a gripping understanding of the importance of Jakob’s short time with them.

The sharing was beautiful and generous of his parents who let us into their grace and sorrow and showed us how nature has more than one path.

We cannot know from the brief announcement what the medical circumstances of this family’s pregnancy was. We can know they did their best with the help of doctors who tried to save both.

Nature’s way not always the best outcome

Several medical centers in Seattle have programs for “high-risk” mothers-to-be or said another way high risk pregnancies. A woman may be determined high-risk because she is older than 30 and having her first baby. She may have had prior births through cesarean section (C-section) or have other medical conditions which could complicate her pregnancy or prior delivery complications in earlier pregnancies or all the above.

Medical science has advanced the safety of pregnancies and deliveries and most pregnancies result in healthy babies. Complications happen and the medical community will intervene if the woman has access to reproductive care.

We should be long past believing that pioneer women delivered babies and went into the fields the next day. Some did and survived. Some died. Some died early in pregnancy or during delivery from unstoppable hemorrhaging or after delivery from a deadly fever.

Those pregnancy complications or the threat of them can and do occur today.

Yet, because the procedure may result in aborting the embryo or fetus in early stage, some states are banning all abortions including those resulting from incest, rape and those performed to save the life and/or future fertility of a pregnant woman.

Unintended consequences

How do we explain to a civilized world that a traumatic pregnancy due to its inception or saving the life or fertility of the mother is insufficient reason to terminate an embryo or developing fetus?

Proponents of a total ban on abortion claim otherwise abortion is available on-demand as an option up to 36 weeks. Former President Trump made such a claim in a 2016 debate with his opponent Hilary Clinton.

The notion is absurd, if not demonic, to expect a woman would demand her healthy womb kicking baby be killed, let alone first finding a state, pregnancy center or health care provider to do it.

Some will say it is murder of a person who cannot defend themselves, but they do not say how they can condone abuse by punishing the victim or the death of woman who may be the mother of other children who need her.

For facts sake, states who have laws permitting abortions typically allow abortions up to the fetus’s viability outside the womb about 22-24 weeks. Washington state requires a physician to determine viability.

I cannot help but believe it is ignorance comforted by broad generalizations related to the sanctity of life and the belief that pregnancy is so natural as not to have complications.

The strict laws are naïve in requiring a woman to have her body investigated if she has what is medically referred to as a spontaneous abortion or one brought on by nature alone. The end of those pregnancies is readily handled by a surgical procedure to remove any tissue remains that could result in infection.

Some natural abortions result in excessive bleeding in which the physician must intervene to stop what could be life-threatening hemorrhaging.

The law can also require that a woman and her physician must be investigated while she endures the pain and possible complications which include death through rupture and infection of an ectopic pregnancy.

Do lawmakers not know that pregnancy can occur outside the walls of the uterus? I think not, or it would be a clear exception. But unlike them, I believe we should not allow women to die early in a life-threatening complication of pregnancy when fetus is not viable outside the uterus.

But it is a choice so we must be sure that all the Jakobs and their mothers should have access to skilled medical care that is possible to keep mom, baby and the pregnancy alive until baby is viable outside the womb.

A better way

Our state legislators recognized the threat to women of failure to receive needed care when in 2021 Washington state passed Senate Bill 5140 that prohibits hospitals and other health care entities from restricting medical treatment of patients with pregnancy complications.

The law was passed in recognition of the growing dominance of Catholic operated medical systems who prioritize religious doctrine over treatment.

As hopeful as that action is, we are in jeopardy of electing enough ignorant men who are excited by exercising control over women’s reproductive lives and Catholics to change federal law governing the bodies of women.

I have concluded that men who are not able to be pregnant should not make laws about women who are unless they have specialized medical training that informs them of the physiology of pregnancy beyond intercourse.

Reasonable human limitations can and should be put on abortion services. We can form a civilized response that recognizes varying religious or philosophical beliefs of most people. Couples who knowingly risk pregnancy in unprotected intercourse because “she can always have an abortion” are irresponsible but they should not be the reason for prohibiting reproductive care for all.

Remember on election day that lawmakers who take control of another’s body and property through laws born out of ignorance are as irresponsible.

Bertha Cooper, a featured columnist in the Sequim Gazette, spent her career years in health care administration, program development and consultation and it the author of the award-winning “Women, We’re Only Old Once.” Cooper and her husband have lived in Sequim more than 20 years. Reach her at