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No, Miscarriage and Abortion Are Not the Same

Women’s lives are at stake when the abortion industry tells women they can’t get medical care for pregnancy complications.
Denise Harle
Written by
Pro-life advocates rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court

Miscarriage is tragic. Abortion is tragic. But they are not the same.

Any obstetrician knows this. Every abortionist knows this. Each woman who has suffered a miscarriage knows this, too. But that doesn’t seem to be stopping abortion activists from trying to confuse and scare women needing routine care when they lose their babies in a miscarriage.

The latest round of science denial and intentional misinformation comes in the form of an attack on a grieving mother who just lost her baby a few weeks into the pregnancy. Jessa Duggar Seewald, known from her days on the TLC reality shows 19 Kids and Counting and Counting On, revealed on Feb. 24 that she recently suffered a miscarriage. Devastated, Jessa recounted her reaction when she saw the telltale sign of bleeding, followed by grave news from the doctor: “At that moment I was just in complete shock. I didn’t have words. I just immediately started crying.”

As a mother of four living children, Jessa felt the excruciating pain of knowing that her unborn child had died. She has announced she’ll be taking a break from social media to focus on healing from that heartbreaking loss.

In response, pro-abortion activists seized the opportunity to spread the lie that Jessa had an “abortion” and berate her for holding pro-life beliefs. Some have rightly taken issue with one particularly rude and hurtful tweet that mocked the grieving mother and claimed that “a member of one of the most famous vocally anti-abortion families. . . admit[ted] she got an abortion….”

Fact check: wrong.

Here’s the truth: A medical procedure called dilation and curettage (commonly referred to as “D&C”) involves a physician using surgical instruments to remove contents from a woman’s uterus. D&C may be required after a healthy live birth if parts of the placenta remain inside—as happened after one of Jessa’s prior pregnancies (and with my own mom after she gave birth to me). It may be used after a miscarriage to remove retained parts of, or the whole, deceased baby to ensure that infection doesn’t develop in the mother’s uterus, potentially leading to sepsis.

And, in a very different context from the joys of childbirth or the grief of pregnancy loss, D&C is frequently used to perform an abortion and thereby kill, then extract, an unborn child who moments before was healthy and alive inside his or her mother’s pregnant womb.

These are not all the same thing, and the use of the D&C method does not turn the undesirable passing of a baby through miscarriage into the direct and intentional death of a living baby. As Jessa put it, “Women have D&Cs for many reasons, not all of which involve the killing of a living human being.” The same goes for medications used for miscarriage management that are also used in abortions.

Planned Parenthood knows this, hosting on its own website a separate page describing the spontaneous death of the “embryo or fetus” that occurs in a miscarriage. Miscarriage is not a procedure. Only treatment after the fact may be, which Planned Parenthood also admits: “Treatments for miscarriage include medicines or procedures that are very similar to those used for abortion.”

And yet the messaging from the abortion industry, amplified by pro-abortion media, has been that doctors can’t possibly know the difference between a dead or live unborn child. If so, they missed some key takeaways in their obstetrical training. The critical difference between a miscarriage and an abortion is perhaps why 86% of obstetricians do not perform abortions.

Even Scientific American has spread this false information about science and medicine, claiming that doctors might be confused about whether they are performing an abortion and thus could deny women needed care. Curiously, news reports of confusion seem to be coming overwhelmingly from abortion advocates.

The claim is bogus as a matter of law, too. As one research paper following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision reversing Roe v. Wade explained in detail, every state law permits treatment for miscarriage: “A straightforward reading of laws restricting abortion of a living fetus provide clear evidence that treatment of miscarriage is not prohibited by law (as the intent is to remove a deceased fetus).”

Or, in Jessa’s poignant words, “There’s a world of difference between someone dying and someone being killed.”

The propaganda needs to stop. Women’s lives are at stake when the abortion industry tells women they can’t get medical care for pregnancy complications. And mothers’ dignity is at stake when abortion misinformation slanders their pain.

Denise Harle
Denise Harle
Senior Counsel
Denise Harle serves as senior counsel on the Center for Life at Alliance Defending Freedom.