Spontaneous abortion in humans

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A spontaneous abortion, often colloquially known as a miscarriage, is the death and expulsion of an embryo or fetus before it can survive independently.

A common fundamentalist argument against abortion is that each human being is granted a soul at the moment of conception, and that destroying that "soul" is equivalent to murder. Taking this logic further, the argument is that most methods of birth control are equivalent to mass murder with the exception of condoms or other barrier types.

Few conceptions lead to a baby[edit]

So basically what these anti-abortion people are telling us is that any woman who's had more than one period is a serial killer!Wikipedia
George Carlin[1]

However, there's some serious problems with the logic of ensoulation at the point of conception. The CDC as well as the March of Dimes and several fertility experts have conducted studies to see exactly how hard it is to carry a pregnancy to term. In general, less than 70% of all fertilized eggs will even implant into the mother's womb causing pregnancy to continue.[2] From there, there is a 25-50% chance of aborting before you even know you are pregnant. If, however, you make it to your first month, your odds go up to a 75% chance of carrying to term. So if you look at it from the fundamentalist point of view, all those little souls are being given a home, only to be miscarried before they even know they are alive.

Scientific research has compiled the following information about the rates of naturally aborted pregnancies in human beings (or, if you believe everything happens for a reason, pregnancies aborted by God himself).

This chart assumes that 200 eggs are in an environment with sperm nearby.[3]

Successfully fertilized 168 are successfully fertilised[note 1] 84% left alive
Successfully implanted in womb (1-2 weeks from fertilization) 138 68% left alive
Survive 4 weeks from fertilization 84 42% left alive
Survive to become a fetus (8-11 weeks from fertilization) 70 35% left alive
Survive to term and are born alive (38-42 weeks from fertilization) 62 31% born

Over several trials, this concludes that around 63% of all zygotes fail to be carried to term. There has been very little action by conservatives to defend against what must be an appalling source of infant death. God, it seems, is the one abortion doctor not subject to protest by the religious right.

Due to all those zygotes that get fertilized but fail to implant, women in Virginia will probably need to go to the sheriff's office to get their tampons examined, as the zygote now has the rights of an adult there.[4]


In El Salvador, if a woman miscarries, it is frequently assumed she deliberately induced an abortion or could have saved the baby. Women who did not know they were pregnant or who could not have prevented a miscarriage face long prison terms.[5][6]

The criminalization of miscarriages has already happened in the United States too. In a highly publicized case from Indiana, Purvi Patel, coming from a strict religiously conservative family that did not support premartial sex, had terminated her pregnancy herself, said she had a miscarriage, and was charged with both child neglect and "feticide", and was thus sentenced to 20 years in prison (later overturned by the court of appeals).[7] This marked the first time in the United States a woman had been sentenced for this sort of action. While the prosecutors found that she wanted to take illegal abortion drugs online, toxicologists couldn't find evidence in either Patel or in the fetus's body.

Indiana also has a record of criminalizing Bei Bei ShuaiWikipedia for a failed suicide that ended up killing the fetus. Lovely.[8]

Similarly, in 2011 and in Mississippi, Rennie Gibs (who was 16 at the time) had faced life in prison for murdering her fetus, though the charges were later dropped.[9] Prosectuors have found she had a habit of abusing cocaine. While there was cocaine in the fetus's system, there was no cocaine in the fetus's blood. Toxicologists found no evidence that the cocaine killed the fetus, however, and stated that the fetus was instead strangled by the umbilical cord.[10]

These sorts of cases are alarming as they stretch the definition of "feticide", initially as a way to protect pregnant women from having their fetus harmed by, say, abusive partners, to now mean any sort of attempt to terminate a pregnancy, including even harming (not killing) the fetus. Lawmakers have also stretched the definition of "chemical endangerment", originally meant to protect children from meth labs from parents, to include fetuses harmed by drugs. By criminalizing this sort of thing, intimidating women from seeking care, fetuses can and will be harmed; the anti-abortion movement therefore ends up hurting the very thing it aims to protect. Splendid.[note 2] Additionally, a disproportionate number of women that were prosecuted happen to be low-income and women of color (imagine that), contributing to the argument that the anti-abortion movement is classist as well as terribly dishonest and sneaky.

See also[edit]


  1. Sometimes, owing to genetic differences or other factors, the egg cell is not fertilised, despite being united with a sperm.
  2. And not at all surprising.