Fact-Checking Facebook: Pro-Life Doctors Say ‘Abortion Is Never Medically Necessary’

Based on a fact-check conducted by two activist abortionists, the social-media site said two videos posted by Live Action asserting abortion is medically unnecessary were false.

“The Pro-Life Reply to ‘Abortion Can Be Medically Necessary’” features neonatologist Dr. Kendra Kolb explaining the procedures that are necessary when a pregnant woman’s life is in danger and how they differ from abortion.
“The Pro-Life Reply to ‘Abortion Can Be Medically Necessary’” features neonatologist Dr. Kendra Kolb explaining the procedures that are necessary when a pregnant woman’s life is in danger and how they differ from abortion. (photo: Screenshot)

Pro-life doctors are speaking out in defense of the pro-life group Live Action after Facebook marked a claim, featured in two of the group’s videos, that “abortion is never medically necessary” as false.

However, the fact-check of the videos that Facebook relied on, in passing negative judgement on the accuracy of the Live Action videos, was conducted by two activist abortionists, Dr. Daniel Grossman of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health and Dr. Robyn Schickler with Physicians for Reproductive Health.

The first video, titled "Abortion is NEVER Medically Necessary," shows a speech on the topic from Live Action founder and president Lila Rose. The second video flagged as false by Facebook was called “The Pro-Life Reply to ‘Abortion Can Be Medically Necessary’” and features neonatologist Dr. Kendra Kolb explaining the procedures that are necessary when a pregnant woman’s life is in danger and how they differ from abortion.

Kolb emphasized in that video that “what women need to know is that even in the most high-risk pregnancies there is no medical reason why the life of the child must be directly and intentionally ended with an abortion procedure.”

“There are also times when it may be necessary to give a pregnant mother medical treatments which may, tragically, result in the loss of the baby. It is important to understand that these treatments are not abortions,” she added, citing treatments like chemotherapy that would result in a miscarriage.

Live Action’s Lila Rose explained why abortion is never medically necessary to save a woman’s life in a similar manner in the video that featured her speech for the Young America’s Foundation.

“The direct and intentional killing of a child in the womb is not medically necessary — it never has been; it never will be,” she emphasized. “Removing an ectopic pregnancy — that’s when a baby’s in the fallopian tube and they are going to die because you can’t grow there and the mother might die because that could rupture — removing that child is not to intentionally kill that child; that’s not an abortion procedure — that’s a medical procedure because that baby’s in a hostile environment and that mother’s life is in danger. And I wish we had the medical technology to still save that baby’s life, but that is not an abortion.”

The third-party fact-checker Health Feedback claimed that “Lila Rose redefines the meaning of abortion to exclude the cases when abortion is medically necessary in order to bolster her claim that ‘abortion is never medically necessary,’” in their explanation for rating her claim as” inaccurate.”

“Rose claims that treating an ectopic pregnancy is not an abortion, even though termination of the pregnancy is the result of the procedures that treat ectopic pregnancies,” the group said.

But Rose clearly defined abortion in her video as the “direct and intentional killing of an embryo, a fetus, a baby in the womb,” while the fact-checkers define abortion as a “procedure to end a pregnancy,” referring to that as the “medical definition.”


Philosophical and Definitional Differences

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, a pro-life physician and policy adviser for The Catholic Association, told the Register that this fact-check dispute arose because of philosophical and definitional differences regarding abortion. Christie is in complete agreement with Rose “that an abortion is never medically necessary” and referenced her own video on the topic.

“What happens is that we’re using different terms or we’re defining the terms differently on each side,” she explained “So when I say and when Lila Rose says abortion is not medically necessary, we’re talking about an actual abortion. So what’s the definition of an abortion? An abortion is the purposeful ending of a pregnancy by terminating the fetus’ life directly, right? But that’s not how the other side defines abortion.”

She explained that another layer of confusion comes from the fact that in medicine the word “abortion” is not used the way it’s used colloquially. For example, when a woman miscarries, that’s called a “spontaneous abortion,” but most people don’t think of miscarriages as abortions.

Christie said that when a woman’s life is in danger due to her pregnancy, “there’s two ways to terminate a pregnancy: by killing the child and taking the dead body out of the mother’s body or by delivering the child alive.”

“There’s a definitional problem, and then there’s also a philosophy problem,” Christie added of the disagreement over the necessity of abortion. “They’re saying — because they have no problem with killing the baby — they don’t think there’s an ethical issue to directly kill the child; then they’re lumping everything [together], so when they say ‘abortion’ they mean any intervention in a pregnancy that results in a dead child, but that’s not how regular people think about abortion. Abortion really is the direct [killing]: You kill a child, and then you remove it.”

Christie is not alone in her assessment of the situation. The 2012 Dublin Declaration on Maternal Healthcare, signed by more than 1,000 physicians, states that, “as experienced practitioners and researchers in obstetrics and gynaecology, we affirm that direct abortion — the purposeful destruction of the unborn child — is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman. We uphold that there is a fundamental difference between abortion and necessary medical treatments that are carried out to save the life of the mother, even if such treatment results in the loss of life of her unborn child.”


‘Previable Separations’

Dr. Donna Harrison, a physician and executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), defended Rose’s claim and said there is a big difference between an abortion and an early delivery to save the life of the mother.

They did not cite even one example where an abortion, the intentional killing of a living child in utero, would be superior to delivering that child,” she said of the abortionists who fact-checked the videos. “The two Live Action videos state that there will be cases when a child is delivered too early to survive outside of the womb in order to save a mother’s life. There is a very big difference between previable separations and elective abortion. In these situations where a mother and her fetus must be separated in order to save the life of the mother we would try to optimize the conditions of the separation so that the fetus has the best possibility to live.” 

“There are cases when the baby will not survive the separation due to gestational age,” she acknowledged. “We call these previable separations. These separations are done with the intent to save both if possible, but at least to save the life of one. Previable separations are not the same as elective abortions.” 

Harrison made the same philosophical distinction that Christie did regarding the intent of an abortion versus the intent of an early delivery.

“The intent of an abortion was made very clear at the Supreme Court hearings over the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban,” she said. “The abortionists argued that the product the abortionist is paid to produce is a dead baby, and that is what distinguishes a delivery from an abortion. The intent of a delivery is to produce, if possible, both a live baby and live mom. The intent of an abortion is to produce a dead baby.”


‘Shutting Down the Debate’

Facebook and Health Feedback did not return the Register’s requests for comment regarding the fact-check. Facebook’s website explains that “if a fact-checker rates content as false, it will appear lower in News Feed. This significantly reduces the number of people who see it.”

Lila Rose told the Register via email that Live Action is “currently looking into all legal options.”

“Facebook chose to take action against us based upon the opinion of two abortion activists, meanwhile ignoring the thousands of OB-GYNs who agree with our position: that abortion is never medically necessary,” she emphasized. “The article written by the abortionists also included misrepresentations of mine and Live Action's statements and inaccurate information about abortion. When Facebook justifies their damaging actions using abortion activists and unfairly suppresses our voice, they are essentially shutting down the debate over our nation's greatest human-rights crisis."

The fact-check conducted in part by Grossman did not disclose the fact that Live Action has targeted him in the past over his push for at-home abortion. It also did not mention that he serves as a board member of the abortion advocacy group NARAL and has worked as a Planned Parenthood consultant.

Rose said that Live Action has asked Facebook to “remedy the situation through four actions: Removing both penalties from our accounts, sending an updated notification to the followers that received an alert from FB about the fact-check explaining Facebook’s error, significantly reforming their ‘fact-check’ process, and publicly apologizing to Live Action. The company has yet to do so.”

Lauretta Brown is the Register’s Washington-based staff writer.