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Aborting Imperfection

Modern technology brings diagnoses earlier–even in the womb. In the U.S., that means that 90% of children with Down’s Syndrom are aborted thanks to amniocentesis. In this UK example, a child diagnosed via ultrasound with Spina Bifida was aborted [WARNING: this is very disturbing]. His mother’s experience is what follows:

Yet if making that choice was hard, the physical ordeal was only just beginning. At 18 weeks pregnant, I was too far gone for a surgical termination and would have to go through a labour and delivery, under the care of midwives at our local hospital.

The first step was to take the drug Mifepristone to block progesterone, a hormone vital to pregnancy. I swallowed the pill in a side room on the labour ward ā€” the same room where Iā€™d given birth to our younger daughter two years previously.

Over the two days that followed, I fought the urge to put my hands on my stomach when I felt the baby move. Knowing that he was slowly dying inside me was the very definition of hell.

After two days, I returned to the same room to take a second drug to induce labour.

What followed were the worst 16 hours of my life. They passed in a morphine-induced haze, but there was no dulling what was happening.

My baby was being forced into the world long before he could survive in it, and it felt unnatural ā€” completely at odds with my instincts as a mother. My body seemed to be doing all it could to hold onto him, and the labour went on and on.

At one point, in the grips of what felt like a panic attack, I became hysterical. Gasping for breath and screaming, I demanded that Andrew tell me why we were doing this and why it was the right thing for our son.

What follows is her husband’s, her doctor’s, her family’s rationalization for aborting a baby that would have a difficult life.

Reading this sickens me. My own son was born severely premature and ended up with the diagnosis of autism. He was on medications, oxygen, etc. when he came home from the hospital four months later after surgeries and fears including blindness, palsy, mental retardation. We didn’t know what we’d end up with. For that matter, we still don’t know our son’s ultimate path.

You might think that makes me condemn this family for their decision to abort their baby. No. I’m too crushed to cast stones.

Their decision to abort is utterly, completely, and frightfully hopeless. There is no room for God. There is no room for hope. There is no room for the expansion of human frailty. And by frailty, I’m not talking about the disabled child, I’m talking about the parents–their selfishness, weakness, limitations of spirit. By aborting him, they’ll never fully know what they’re capable of as people.

I think about my own walk–parenting my son. The limitations, I can assure you, are mine, not his. My humor, my patience, my vision, my work-ethic are non-stop challenged and unfortunately, I fall short embarrassingly often.

Just when I think I’m going to lose it, there’s a break-through. I’ve had to expand beyond my pathetic, small, inwardness. My judgmental nature? Well, it’s still there, but the wings have been clipped. Cavalier condemnation, so easy for someone who has had the bramble-free path, that’s gone by the wayside, mostly. Thankfully.

My son loves professional wrestling. This family who aborted their son–what loves did they extinguish? What unique personality and hopes and dreams were killed when he died? And really, who are they to decide that this child’s future, as different as their own might be, is unworthy?

Parents who are able-bodied and minded project their own expectations for life on a disabled child. And while all parents do that with all their children, kids turn out to be their own people. They end up having their own hopes, dreams and ideas. The same is true for a disabled child.

How is it fair to take away that will from a child?

When we get pregnant, as ironic as it is, we relinquish control over our own lives and submit to the hopes and desires of this other life force. We spend the rest of our days negotiating this paradox. We expand our own world by making room for another person’s world. And we often do that by pruning parts of our world that we thought we needed to survive. We die a little so another can live and in the process, we live more.

As this family sees their able-bodied children grow up, they’ll see the fallacy of their thinking. I hope. It might be painful to see. Still, in front of them, if they have the eyes to see, they’ll witness a unique being straining to be his or her own person. They’ll realize how little control they have. They’ll realize that their own decision at the start most certainly began something that is now not theirs.

And for all their careful planning and protection, tragedy will strike. Evil befalls us all.

In some ways, I think abortion, just like the technology that prompted this family to abort their child, foists the illusion of control over life. As if by aborting the baby, the parent now has perfect control over her life. Life will be good, easier, better, more pleasant…guaranteed.

What if one of their children becomes paralyzed in a car accident (heaven forbid), for example? Is this child better off dead? And what do they tell this survivor about the worth and meaning of his life? How about people who sacrifice a limb for their brothers on the battlefield? Another meaningless life? How about the elderly parent with full faculties but incapacitated due to ALS or some other degenerative disease?

What life is worth living and who gets to decide this for someone else? Do these parents feel comfortable with their children making the decision to “abort” them when they reach an age where they’re no longer deemed useful…to the children? Maybe their children will project their ideas about living with deafness or blindness or incontinence or immobility or pain or paralysis and decide, prematurely, to end mom or dad’s life. Is their reasoning any different?

This callous disregard for the imperfect life rests on the premise that there’s a perfect life. Anyone who has done much living knows that’s not true. There are many shades of gray on the scale of life and value.

That’s why life, all life, must be honored and protected. That’s why we’re so careful about meting out justice. Life is valuable. To snuff it out is to end a potentiality and no one can know where a life will go or what an individual’s purpose on this earth is.

The family that aborted their eighteen-week gestated baby were surrounded by friends, family, doctors who all advised them to abort. This wasn’t just an individual or family decision, it was a societal one.

What have we become that this decision was encouraged?

That’s a question for another post. Today, it’s enough to grieve for the life of a boy with Spina Bifada who was killed inside the womb “for his own good.” It is a tragedy of epic and personal proportions. Who knows who the world is missing because he’s not here.

George. His name is George.

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