Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Saturday, February 08, 2014

I fully support a parent's right to choose whether to bring a child into the world

and it's stories like this that reiterate to me why. Some people reduce the abortion debate into a black and white issue, good vs. evil, etc., etc. Some people are supposedly so concerned about the life of the child yet the quality of that life is often ignored. I don't think the decision to end that life is ever really that easy. I've known two women in particular who went through abortions, where I was with them right afterwards. One was told not to have the child based on her own health and the damage it could do to her. One did have a major health issue with her heart and blood pressure but I don't think that was part of the decision so much as the fact she was at a point in her life where she would not have been able to support a child, and she was neither maternal nor particularly stable emotionally. Neither made the decision lightly. Both cried afterwards. Both had the relationships they were in fall apart. The latter even named her foetus and marked it's death for years. I've never been in a position to have to consider the decision myself, but each of them, and their experiences, affected my feelings on abortion. While I do recognise that the foetus is alive, I don't believe that it has a preeminent place above the mother's life. I don't think women who have suffered from rape or incest should be forced to have a child resulting from that. And I think the best persons to decide whether they can take up the challenge of a severely affected child are the parents. And yes, I think the father should be involved, but that in the end no woman should be pressured or required to have a baby she doesn't want. Does that mean I always agree with that decision? No. But it's not my decision to make, or my consequences to live with. Does that mean that I think all foetuses with medical conditions should be aborted? Of course not. I work in a hospital that every day treats children with various congenital disorders, making strides to help them live life to the fullest. But not every person is up to the challenge of raising such a child, and in some cases, such as the one below, the quality of life is minimal, because the situation is so severe. I once stumbled across a blog of a man in Malaysia whose wife and he were travelling to Australia to obtain an abortion unavailable to them in their home country. The reason? Ancephaly--the baby was missing most of her brain, and if she even made it to term, she would likely live only a few days. They believed it was kinder to end the pregnancy, and I agree, not that it matters if I do or not. But that one blog post haunted me in terms of just how difficult and what lengths they had to go to to ensure what they thought was best for their child. The options available should be weighed, but in the end, the decision to carry to term or abort should be between the parents and their medical team, not legislators or screaming protesters shouting 'baby-killer!' It is the parents who must live with either decision. And while, yes, adoption is an option, the pool of people wanting to adopt children with severe medical challenges and who are capable of dealing with them as well is small.

Abortion is a messy and complex issue, and I think this writer did an excellent job of conveying the difficulty of the decision, and I think in the end she and the father made an important choice that was best for the child. It's well worth a read, wherever you fall in the abortion debate. My heart goes out for those who must make this sort of choice, who grieve for what was lost, but in the end, make a decision based on love as well as logic.

A Peaceful Death: Aborting my son was not about when life begins, but how to end it humanely. By Phoebe Day Danziger
My story is not unique—I am part of a group of 20-odd other mothers who have also terminated pregnancies for medical reasons, and many of us have shared remarkably similar reflections and perspectives—and yet there is not an easy language for situations like ours. These types of late-term abortions for medical reasons occupy an uneasy place in the mainstream dialogue about abortion. Opponents of abortion may argue that terminating my pregnancy violated our baby’s human rights and that if anything, we should have continued the pregnancy and opted for palliative care at birth. The more surprising and hurtful responses, however, have been from people like my staunchly pro-choice friend who told me that she was jarred by my use of the word son to describe our fetus, as though the moral basis for abortion depends on denying the fetus any semblance of humanity, no matter how close it is to the point of viability, no matter how the woman herself chooses to define her relationship to the fetus. I’m not sure I explicitly thought of our fetus as our son until the day of that ultrasound, but after entering a situation in which we had to consider medical decisions that included imagining our long-shot, best-case scenario as trying to get our little boy through a year or two of preschool before getting a kidney transplant and starting on lifelong immunosuppressive drug therapy, there was no way to think of him otherwise.

Why does any of this matter right now? In recent months, there has been high-profile legislation across the country seeking to ban abortion after 20 weeks or earlier. This is precisely the point at which many fetal anomalies are diagnosed in a pregnancy. My own state, Michigan, recently passed a bill prohibiting insurers from providing coverage for pregnancy termination, with no exceptions for circumstances like fetal anomalies or rape, unless women have purchased a special policy in advance, as though this is a situation anyone would anticipate and plan for. The rhetoric surrounding abortion focuses primarily on the question of when life begins—is the fetus a baby at six weeks? 12? 20?—and whether women have the right to make choices about their pregnant bodies. In our case, abortion was a parenting decision—the most important and powerful one I have yet to make. This might not be comfortable or convenient for the pro-choice narrative, but it’s the truth. Some aspects of abortion might rightfully be best considered in the context of when life begins, but in situations like ours, the most salient fact was how and when life should end.

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