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