The March 4 letter, "How can abortionists live without a heart?" referred to abortions performed later in pregnancy. There are many different reasons later pregnancy terminations are performed.

Abortions can address severe maternal health concerns or fetal abnormalities incompatible with life outside of pregnancy. As an example, a pregnant woman with a severe infection of the uterus may be very ill. The only treatment is to induce labor. In the early third trimester, the newborn is less likely to survive. In this example, physicians would evaluate the baby at birth to determine if interventions (intubation, intravenous fluids, medications, imaging) would be effective in the baby. These interventions isolate the newborn from her parents and can be painful and not beneficial. If intervention is not taken, those moments after birth are the time for the parents to hold and look at and say goodbye to their child. This is not infanticide or "post-birth abortion." To refer to it as that is disrespectful to the women who experience this.

These are heartbreaking situations. There are many other scenarios to consider, and all involve complex decision-making that should be between the patient and her physician.

Dr. Judith Johnson