No, Joe Walsh: Women Do Not Have Nine Lives

Cross-posted with permission from On The Issues Magazine.

Congressman Joe Walsh says abortions never save women’s lives.

He’s wrong. Here’s one story out of many:

This happened in 1989. Very publicly.

Nancy Klein, a pregnant Long Island woman rendered comatose by a car accident, was finally given an abortion, woke up, and once again was able to recognize her husband Martin and her daughter Arielle, four.

I, along with another abortion rights activist—Bill Baird—joined forces with Nancy Klein’s husband to make this happen.

Klein’s husband wanted her to have an abortion because, based on medical advice, he firmly believed that continuing the pregnancy would kill her. The people I call the “antis” (they are not “pro” anything except controlling women’s bodies) took Martin Klein to three courts and the state supreme court to stop the abortion by fighting his petition for guardianship of his wife.

I can still see the pain in this accountant-husband’s eyes as he fought for his wife’s life against strangers who placed themselves as “guardian ad litem” for the fetus.

So here we are in 2012, and people like Joe Walsh are still spewing dangerous misinformation about women’s bodies. If Mitt Romney is elected, it won’t be 1989 in this country. It will be 1971, before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal nationally. It will be very much like the year I opened one of the first abortion clinics in the country, in Queens, New York—a state ahead of the curve in reproductive rights. The first patient who came to Choices, my clinic, came from New Jersey because abortion was illegal in that state. If Mitt Romney gets his Personhood Amendment passed, abortion will be illegal in every state.

Women are not cats. They do not have nine lives. And the one life a woman does have could very easily be lost if she does not have an abortion when she needs one. Cancer, severe renal and heart disease, and severe diabetes are all pre-pregnancy conditions that can threaten a woman’s life, requiring her to have an abortion if she becomes pregnant. Now, that decision is a hard choice. Under President Romney, there would be no choice.

Since the nuance of medical literature is clearly beyond Walsh and his ilk, I’ll describe another situation in which, indeed, women do die when abortion is unavailable to them.

Even with the “modern technology” to which Walsh alludes.

Ectopic pregnancy is a complicated condition in which the embryo implants outside the uterus. With rare exceptions, ectopic pregnancies are not viable. They are also very dangerous for a woman, since internal hemorrhaging, a life-threatening complication, can occur. Ectopic pregnancy is a potential medical emergency and, if not treated properly, can lead to death.

I hope these facts help women see the truth. So remember your family values, Walsh, Todd Akin, and friends: the life and health of women is the fulcrum around which the family and society turn. A woman’s life is a human life and one that must be honored. A woman’s choice is hers alone and one that must be protected.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

For more information or to schedule an interview with contact

  • nidawi

    (I apologize for cross-posting, but I want to add my story to this article to make sure people realize that there are a variety of situations in which a pregnancy can go very wrong)


    Right here, yup, I’m one of those rare late term abortion to preserve my own life cases that these politicians like to pretend don’t exist. I have a blood disorder which caused severe pregnancy complications early on, including severe growth restriction. And at 24 weeks, I developed severe pre-eclampsia which meant that labor had to be induced despite the fact that the baby was not developed enough to live outside of the womb. My blood pressure was skyrocketing, and if the doctors had chosen to “wait it out”, I could have started having seziures, a stroke, basically all my organs would have started shutting down. Due to their ability to act quickly and decisively, the doctors saved my life and allowed for me to try again in the future. It infuriates me that women such as myself are not important enough for politicians to  consider when pushing these crazy anti-choice agendas. I have to keep repeating my story again and again and hope that some people finally start to realize that not all pregnancies are rainbows and flowers and happy endings. Yes, modern medical science is pretty advanced, but I learned through this experience that there is still so much that we don’t know and so much that we still can’t fix. Pregnancy is still a very dangerous condition and I was lucky to live through it. 

  • give-em-hell-mary

    Joe Walsh should be hounded 24/7 as a deadbeat dad/looksist playboy wife-dumper/mother-killer.  Men who oppose maternal life-saving abortions, contraception and sterilization seem to always fall into one of two categories:  they are either pedophile priests or deadbeat dads/looksist playboy wife-dumpers (Newt Gingrich, Randall Terry).  Eric Prince of Blackwater should be in jail today for legally, deliberately murdering his first cheated-on brood mare with additional cancer-causing pregnancies after she barely survived breast cancer triggered by their first daughter.  Prince “thanked” her by banging their nanny ho as she battled recurring cancer.  Brazen Prince then hid the fired-for-adultery nanny ho at Blackwater Headquarters, and even paraded the hugely preggers mistress at his wife’s funeral! 

    I’m glad you survived, and I know of several women who’ve died from childbirth complications in the Washington, DC area.  A former co-worker with Marfan’s Syndrome was advised to avoid pregnancy because of her weakened heart.  My best friend died from a pregnancy-weaponized face cancer that took 15 years to finally kill her.  Meanwhile, her husband, who bullied her into the pregnancy, absconded to other states with their new daughter.

    Is there some why to bring attempted murder-by-fetus charges against Joe Walsh and RCC clergy?

  • liberaldem

    Thanks for sharing your own experience. We simply cannot tell these stories too often. As you eloquently said, not all pregnancies have happy endings.  Women need to be have the freedom to get unbiased, sound medical advice so that they, and only they, make the decisions that can save their lives.

  • divine-oubliette

    Remember that these same people think pregnancy is a mere inconvience!


    Someone needs to remind them that pregnancy is an inhereetly life threatening state of being, even when a owmenis in the best of health pregnancy can still maim or kill her.

        Normal, frequent or expectable temporary side effects of pregnancy:

            exhaustion (weariness common from first weeks)
            altered appetite and senses of taste and smell
            nausea and vomiting (50% of women, first trimester)
            heartburn and indigestion
            weight gain
            dizziness and light-headedness
            bloating, swelling, fluid retention
            abdominal cramps
            yeast infections
            congested, bloody nose
            acne and mild skin disorders
            skin discoloration (chloasma, face and abdomen)
            mild to severe backache and strain
            increased headaches
            difficulty sleeping, and discomfort while sleeping
            increased urination and incontinence
            bleeding gums
            breast pain and discharge
            swelling of joints, leg cramps, joint pain
            difficulty sitting, standing in later pregnancy
            inability to take regular medications
            shortness of breath
            higher blood pressure
            hair loss
            tendency to anemia
            curtailment of ability to participate in some sports and activities
            infection including from serious and potentially fatal disease
            (pregnant women are immune suppressed compared with non-pregnant women, and
            are more susceptible to fungal and certain other diseases)
            extreme pain on delivery
            hormonal mood changes, including normal post-partum depression
            continued post-partum exhaustion and recovery period (exacerbated if a c-section — major surgery — is required, sometimes taking up to a full year to fully recover)

        Normal, expectable, or frequent PERMANENT side effects of pregnancy:

            stretch marks (worse in younger women)
            loose skin
            permanent weight gain or redistribution
            abdominal and vaginal muscle weakness
            pelvic floor disorder (occurring in as many as 35% of middle-aged former child-bearers and 50% of elderly former child-bearers, associated with urinary and rectal incontinence, discomfort and reduced quality of life)
            changes to breasts
            varicose veins
            scarring from episiotomy or c-section
            other permanent aesthetic changes to the body (all of these are downplayed by women, because the culture values youth and beauty)
            increased proclivity for hemmorhoids
            loss of dental and bone calcium (cavities and osteoporosis)

        Occasional complications and side effects:

            spousal/partner abuse
            hyperemesis gravidarum
            temporary and permanent injury to back
            severe scarring requiring later surgery (especially after additional pregnancies)
            dropped (prolapsed) uterus (especially after additional pregnancies, and other pelvic floor weaknesses — 11% of women, including cystocele, rectocele, and enterocele)
            pre-eclampsia (edema and hypertension, the most common complication of pregnancy, associated with eclampsia, and affecting 7 – 10% of pregnancies)
            eclampsia (convulsions, coma during pregnancy or labor, high risk of death)
            gestational diabetes
            placenta previa
            anemia (which can be life-threatening)
            thrombocytopenic purpura
            severe cramping
            embolism (blood clots)
            medical disability requiring full bed rest (frequently ordered during part of many pregnancies varying from days to months for health of either mother or baby)
            diastasis recti, also torn abdominal muscles
            mitral valve stenosis (most common cardiac complication)
            serious infection and disease (e.g. increased risk of tuberculosis)
            hormonal imbalance
            ectopic pregnancy (risk of death)
            broken bones (ribcage, “tail bone”)
            hemorrhage and
            numerous other complications of delivery
            refractory gastroesophageal reflux disease
            aggravation of pre-pregnancy diseases and conditions (e.g. epilepsy is present in .5% of pregnant women, and the pregnancy alters drug metabolism and treatment prospects all the while it increases the number and frequency of seizures)
            severe post-partum depression and psychosis
            research now indicates a possible link between ovarian cancer and female fertility treatments, including “egg harvesting” from infertile women and donors
            research also now indicates correlations between lower breast cancer survival rates and proximity in time to onset of cancer of last pregnancy
            research also indicates a correlation between having six or more pregnancies and a risk of coronary and cardiovascular disease

        Less common (but serious) complications:

            peripartum cardiomyopathy
            cardiopulmonary arrest
            magnesium toxicity
            severe hypoxemia/acidosis
            massive embolism
            increased intracranial pressure, brainstem infarction
            molar pregnancy, gestational trophoblastic disease (like a pregnancy-induced cancer)
            malignant arrhythmia
            circulatory collapse
            placental abruption
            obstetric fistula

        More permanent side effects:

            future infertility
            permanent disability

        In addition, there’s the risk of losing one’s job and, by extension, home; pregnancy/childbirth triggering traumatic experiences due to rape, molestation, or partner/spousal abuse; body or gender dysphoria; missing or dropping out of school; the potential trauma of choosing adoption; suffering from pregnancy related job discrimination; the economic toll of pregnancy and raising a child; and not being able to continue taking important medications or exacerbating pre-existing conditions.

        Here’s some statistics:

            358,000 people die annually from pregnancy related complications.
            20% of people who die during pregnancy are murder victims.
            The risk of maternal mortality is highest for adolescents under 15 years old.
            Complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among adolescents in most developing countries.
            A person’s lifetime risk of maternal death – the probability that a 15-year-old will eventually die from a maternal cause – is 1 in 4300 in developed countries, versus 1 in 120 in developing countries.
            A pregnant person has a 35.6% greater risk of being a victim of violence than a non-pregnant person. The estimated prevalence of violence against people during pregnancy ranges from four percent to eight percent.
            40% of all pregnant people have some complications during pregnancy or childbirth. About 15% have complications that are potentially life-threatening.

    So in case that wasn’t clear: pregnancy is always life threatening and NEVER merely an “inconvenience”.


    An abortion can save a women’s life! And preserve her for the sake of her family, how many women have died from pregnancy related conditions and left their childrne and husband’s behind? Aboritons are life saving medical procedures!


  • give-em-hell-mary

    Democratic candidates should discuss typical and complicated labor and disabled offspring medical costs not covered by insurance.  Working women living on $15,000-$50,000 incomes with worthless or no health insurance coverage cannot afford $10,000-100,000 deliveries, follow-up repair surgeries and $3.5 million dollar Down Syndrome infants, especially when these catastrophes repulse their spouses into divorces.  Most women spend half their income just on housing.  Skipping Starbucks won’t make such pregnancies magically affordable.

  • jruwaldt

    What’s with the “ho?” Was she promiscuous? Not that it matters. First you’re criticizing Prince, which I applaud. Then you’re mocking his mistress, which I do not applaud. This sounds like the typical practice of blaming the mistress for the husband’s affair. Turning the focus on her tends to weaken your criticism of Prince.

  • ljean8080

    Down Syndrome infants,Mary?


  • jennifer-starr

    While I can’t speak for Mary, I believe that in the case of Down Syndrome the decision of what to do with a pregnancy belongs in the hands of the woman who’s actually pregnant, her doctors, and whomever else she chooses to include.  That being said, however, I fail to see what this has to do with the subject of the article, which is pregnancy complications that actually  threaten a woman’s life.  You did read that, right? 

  • ljean8080

    WHO costs 3.5 million.maybe over their lifetime it could amount to that.

  • colleen

    of course she’s off topic.  Look at her dangling that ‘Down Syndrome kids are cheap’ obnoxious thread derailer out there. We wouldn’t want an open discussion about how Republican legislators are eager to mandate an increase in the maternal mortality rates.

  • crowepps

    The fact that you haven’t personally known the parents of a Down Syndrome child willing to share the reality of their expenses with you doesn’t mean it is or isn’t true.  It’s difficult to find any objective information on the matter because the issue is so controversial.  The internet is crammed with websites maintained by people who want to use Downs children as ‘evidence’ that their political position is correct, who have rafts of slanted information one way or the other, complete with ‘objective research’ by ideologues or the religiously motivated who designed their ‘study’ so they would get the results they already believed proper.  Personally, I think it depends on the individual circumstances of the individual parents, and isn’t the business of anyone else.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    Regarding each pregnancy and suspected birth defects, all women should be free to decide and safely follow through on what works for their own health, temperament, employment, free time, finances and family and outside support.  We don’t need one-size-fits-all laws from ljean8080, the wife-dumping GOP or the child-raping RCC.

  • arachne646

    What public health qualifications does Congressman Joe Walsh think he has that he is able to opine about the modern scientific breakthroughs that supposedly banished the scourges of maternal morbidity and mortality that puts the US so far down the healthcare demographics of the world? Other developed countries feel for the women of the United States as they battle political and religious ideological brick walls in their repeated struggles for healthcare for themselves and their families–we have your backs!