The Invisible Dead
The grisly truth about the Super Bowl abortion ad.
Also in Slate, Jason Fagone explains the real meaning of the pro-life Tim Tebow commercial.
And that's just the U.S. number. In less developed countries, studies have found higher rates of perinatal death. In Thailand, a 2006 review of 103 abrupted pregnancies showed a rate of 16 percent. In Sudan, an analysis of more than 1,000 cases from 1997-2003 yielded a rate of 20 percent. In Tunisia, a 2005 review of 45 cases indicated a rate of 38 percent.
If you see no moral difference between an early fetus and a late fetus or baby, you can argue that any perinatal death rate short of 100 percent is better than preemptive abortion. But what about the women who carry abrupted pregnancies? For them, the potential complications include internal bleeding, hemorrhagic shock, kidney damage, embolisms, and heart failure. The Thai study reported hemorrhagic shock in 19 percent of women with abrupted pregnancies. In Burkina Faso, a 2003 review of 177 abrupted pregnancies reported a maternal death rate of 4 percent. In Pakistan, a 2009 review of 106 cases found a maternal death rate of 5 percent. By some estimates, placental abruption causes 6 percent of all maternal deaths.
I can't tell you what drugs Pam Tebow was given or how severe her abruption was. I sent her a query through Focus on the Family three days ago and haven't heard back. But remember, she was doing missionary work in the Philippines. The perinatal and maternal death rates from abruption in her area were probably closer to the rates in Pakistan or Burkina Faso than to the U.S. rate. She and her son are with us today not just because of courage but because of luck.
And don't forget her age. Pam entered the University of Florida at 17 and graduated in 1971. That would make her about 37 years old in 1987, when she developed her abruption. She and her husband were literally praying for another baby. In that situation, at that age, carrying a compromised pregnancy to term carries an additional risk: that you'll lose not just this baby but the ability to conceive another. That's a further reason why a doctor might recommend abortion—or why a woman might choose it.
Pro-lifers have always struggled with the invisibility of unborn life: millions of babies aborted every year, concealed in wombs behind closed doors. How do you open the world's eyes to what it can't see? In Tim Tebow, they see the invisible made visible: a child who has lived to tell his story because an abortion didn't happen. "If his mother had followed her doctor's advice," notes LifeSiteNews, "he would be just another abortion statistic."
But what's true of abortion is also true of pregnancy complications. If Pam Tebow's abruption had taken a different turn, her son would be just another perinatal mortality statistic, and she might be just another maternal mortality statistic. And you would know nothing of her story, just as you know nothing of the women who have died carrying pregnancies like hers.
And what do you know of the women who chose to abort in similar circumstances? You never saw their tears for the life lost. You never heard their prayers for another chance. Maybe you've seen them rocking their babies or laughing with their toddlers. But did you make the connection? Do you know their stories? Is Pam Tebow's choice the only way to celebrate life and family?
Pam made a brave choice, and she has raised a fine son. Celebrate his life. But celebrate her luck, too—and say a prayer for all the women and babies who didn't make the cut. Human Nature's latest short takes on the news, via Twitter:
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.
Photograph of Tim Tebow by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.