An interesting discussion was sparked on talkback this morning as it was revealed the mother of a 5-year-old girl with Spina Bifida is attempting to claim from ACC. The reason? The mother had had an anatomy scan at 20 weeks and the pointers that suggested Spina Bifida were passed over by the radiographer. Had she known her daughter had Spina Bifida, she would have aborted her.
It raised an interesting discussion, because it seemed, many of the callers believed that it would be perfectly fine to choose to abort the baby if he or she was found to have an anomaly (either physical or intellectual impairments or life-limiting conditions).
And I wondered why, so many of us trick ourselves into believing that it is okay to dispose of pre-born babies that just don’t make our high expectations for perfection. If a pre-born child was very much wanted and loved (not that being wanted and loved should be the criteria for why it is wrong to abort in these instances anyway), in the weeks prior to his or her parents finding out that there was something amiss, how does it all change so quickly? How does the worth of a child depend on its being ‘perfect’ in the eyes of its parents? Why does the baby so joyfully carried in the weeks prior, all of a sudden become a pregnancy to be terminated?
I suspect that at the very heart of people’s willingness to accept abortion after adverse pre-natal diagnosis is fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of how life might be with this child in it. Fear of suffering (both the child’s and their own).
Nothing is more powerful than a personal testimony, and there were a few of them. But the most striking one was of a lady whose three-year-old daughter had been diagnosed in utero with a life-limiting condition which would see her born dead, or, if she survived a “bean bag baby”. While pregnant the mother would go in for a scan every fortnight, and every fortnight she would be advised to have a “termination”. Even though this mother thought that the right thing to do was to have the termination, she couldn’t, and so she didn’t. Her little girl was born perfect. The doctors had been wrong.
The question needs to be asked by people who believe that it is okay to abort a baby for a fetal anomaly, how many “perfect” babies get misdiagnosed in-utero and are then subsequently aborted by their distraught parents? Because it does happen, and the doctors know it happens. Will this knowledge change their opinion of the rightness of offering abortion for fetal anomalies?
It takes great courage for parents to continue their pregnancy after being given what can be at times devestating news. It is even more difficult when they choose to continue the pregnancy but the medical professionals keep offering terminations. Sometimes, parents who choose to continue giving life to their child are rewarded with a complete misdiagnosis, and they have the perfect baby that they had dreamed of. Others learn to live a different life than they expected, but one that is often filled with great joy and love. Sometimes parents need to say goodbye to their precious child at birth, but they do so knowing that they did not end his or her life prematurely.
Pre-natal screening should be used positively, to care for both patients – mother and baby. Screening should acknowledge the sanctity of the pre-born child’s life. It’s worth should not hinge on whether he or she is perfect. Because of society’s hang up on “quality of life”, screening is unfortunatly all too often used to search and destroy, and this is a travesty for families and society.
Anyone in New Zealand needing support after an adverse diagnosis can call Family Life Pregnancy Centre 0800 367 5433
You make many valid points in this article, but when you say people without genetic differences are perfect (implying those with a genetic difference are not perfect) you actually make an argument for your component. My oldest child was born ‘perfect’ as you say and he has ADHD, Celiac Disease, and, most likely some sensory issues we are working on getting diagnosed. My 2nd child, again ‘perfect’, has no genetic differences, but her attitude and behavior are absolutely exhausting. My youngest child was born with Down Syndrome. She’s my easiest child thus far. She has some minor health concerns including a physical delay, but she’s sharp as a tack! All of my kids are perfect in their own unique way 🙂
Kim, thank you for your response. I do apologise if it came across implying that children who do not appear perfect at birth are imperfect in any way. That certainly was not my intention. When writing about this topic I usually write “supposedly perfect” or similar to qualify the statement. Unfortunately I did not this time. I too have a boy supposedly born “perfect” who has ADHD. The night I wrote this he was running around screaming and carrying on, when he should have been tucked up in bed (it had been one of those days). We certainly do not know what the future will bring, or who this little person is when we carry them in our womb, or hold them in our arms for the first time. We do not know how they will impact our lives, either positively or negatively. What we do know is that we love them and try to do our best for them. What would the mother who has sparked this discussion have done if her child had been born supposedly perfect, only to find out later that the child had some condition which would be render her in some way less “perfect” in the mother’s eyes? I guess she would be an advocate for involuntary euthanasia – where we kill of those whom we do not want to care for. Thank you for being such an awesome mum to your three beautiful (I am sure) children.
Just managed to make myself read this-couldn’t face it initially as I’ve seen this so often before. You’d think you’d get used to it but I find now I have to steel myself to actually read the stuff. The poor Child. Where is the legal system in this? Who is representing the child? Where is CYFs now? Come on people-this is serious psychological abuse of a child! And it all boils down to fear, ignorance, myths, assumptions……all that societal prejudice disabled people face and now we have the technology- they face it prenatally. Shame on humanity.