Thursday, August 18, 2011

One Example of Why Roe v. Wade Stinks

A couple of days ago I ran across this piece by Thomas Peters, the blogger more commonly known as The American Papist. Tom read an article in New York Times Magazine the other day called The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy, and it made his blood boil. The article is about how some couples, after conceiving multiple children through various fertility treatments, decide that they can't care for so many babies and therefore they must get rid of some of them. Tom lamented the fact that we have reached a point in our society in which children have become disposable. If having more than one baby at a time doesn't suit us, that's OK; we can just kill off some. We make lame excuses like, "I'll be a better mom if I have only one child now instead of two," or that if we get rid of the extra babies, then at least we can ensure that one will be healthy. Roe v. Wade has eroded our morals to the point that what I want is so important that I can do anything I want in order to get it--even killing my own preborn child.

Let me pause here, just so we're all on the same page. Killing an innocent human being is NEVER okay, EVER. Abortion is ALWAYS wrong. Period. I understand that pregnancy can be scary and difficult. Women abort for many different reasons--sometimes they are coerced and even forced by others, often they are frightened young teenagers who honestly don't know what else to do. Sometimes a woman has been raped and feels that carrying the resulting baby to term will prolong and magnify the trauma that they've already endured. This is why it is SO important to do everything we can to help women in difficult situations, and why we need places like Mary's Shelter and Paul Stefan Home and Birthright. Sometimes women abort (and "reduce," assuming the stories in the NYT article are true), I'm sorry to say, for purely selfish reasons. Call me judgmental if you must. God knows I'm not perfect, and I've made a lot of mistakes in my life; and if you have had an abortion or pregnancy reduction or you're staunchly pro choice and support Planned Parenthood, I do not think you are a bad person. No, I've never had an abortion and all three of my pregnancies have been relatively easy, and I've never struggled with infertility, but I do know right from wrong--and I am one hundred per cent, uncompromisingly prolife; no ifs, ands, or buts.

Yesterday I decided to read the article that made Thomas Peters so upset, and frankly, I wish I hadn't. It made me sick to my stomach. It's a seven-page chronicle of woman after woman who, after having spent thousands of dollars for various fertility treatments and procedures, found that the two or three or four babies they were carrying was too many, and decided to "reduce" their pregnancies in order to only give birth to only one child. The reasoning for these decisions varied: There were too many risks in carrying multiples, and killing one or two would at least give the survivor a better quality of life. They just couldn't deal with more than one. They thought they would be better mothers if they only had to care for one child. (As if killing off some of our children makes us better parents. Besides, the number of children you have doesn't determine whether you're a good or bad parent. I know plenty of good parents with seven, eight, nine children; and I also know many good parents who have only one.) According to the article, in the past, doctors would very often reduce multiple pregnancies down to twins, and now some are beginning to reduce them even more; including from twins down to a single fetus. (Ever notice that if a baby is wanted, he's a "baby," and if he's not wanted, he's a "fetus?" Kinda makes the killing of them seem less personal, doesn't it?)

Tom (or "T.P." as I sometimes like to call him) gives several quotes from the article that he finds especially disturbing; I won't rehash those here, but I encourage you to read what he has to say. I also ran across this post at "Christopher's Apologies" blog that expresses many of the same concerns Tom and I are feeling, and a few more that Tom doesn't mention; you should check that one out, too.

There were a few stories in this article that especially saddened me, including this one about Shelby:

After she and her husband tried for three years to get pregnant, they went to a fertility doctor near their home in Savannah, Ga. He put Shelby, then 30, on fertility drugs, and when that didn’t work, he ramped things up with injections. By then, her husband, a 33-year-old Army officer, had been deployed to Iraq. He left behind three vials of sperm, and she was artificially inseminated. “You do weird things when mortars are flying at your husband’s head,” she said. She soon found out she was carrying triplets. Frantic, she yelled at the doctor: “This is not an option for us! I want only one!”

Her fertility specialist referred her to a doctor in Atlanta who did reductions. But when Shelby called, the office manager told her that she would have to pay extra for temporary staff to assist with the procedure, because the regular staff refused to reduce pregnancies below twins. She contacted three more doctors, and in each case was told: not below two. “It was horrible,” she says. “I felt like the pregnancy was a monster, and I just wanted it out, but because we tried for so long, abortion wasn’t an option. My No. 1 priority was to be the best mom I could be, but how was I supposed to juggle two newborns or two screaming infants while my husband was away being shot at? We don’t have family just sitting around waiting to get called to help me with a baby.”

Eventually, she heard about Evans and flew to New York for the procedure. “I said, ‘You choose whoever is going to be safe and healthy,’ ” she says. “I didn’t give him any other criteria. I didn’t choose gender. None of that was up for grabs, because I had to make it as ethically O.K. for me as I could. But I wanted only one.”

She paid $6,500 for the reduction and left Evans’s office incredibly relieved. “I went out on that street with my mother and jumped up and down saying: ‘I’m pregnant! I’m pregnant!’ And then I went and bought baby clothes for the first time.”

OK. This woman knew that there would be a good chance that she would conceive multiples, but when she found out she was carrying three babies, she YELLED at the doctor that this wasn't an option. And abortion was out of the question? What did she think she was doing when she killed two of the three babies in her womb? An appendectomy? And when she finally had only one baby left alive, THAT'S when she decided she was PREGNANT?? Shelby is quoted as saying, "I wanted to make it as ethically O.K. for me as I could." I think this statement speaks volumes: This woman knows what she did was wrong, and feels the need to justify her actions.

And the article goes on to say this: "Today, her daughter is 2½ years old. Shelby intends to tell her about the reduction someday, to teach her that women have choices, even if they’re sometimes difficult."

Shelby may be in for a surprise. Her surviving daughter might not take too kindly to the fact that her mother decided that her two siblings were unworthy of life. It could just as easily have been her.

And this (emphasis mine):

Many studies show the vast majority of patients abort fetuses after prenatal tests reveal genetic conditions like Down syndrome that are not life-threatening. What drives that decision is not just concern over the quality of life for the future child but also the emotional, financial or social difficulty for parents of having a child with extra needs. As with reducing two healthy fetuses to one, the underlying premise is the same: this is not what I want for my life.

That was the thinking of Dr. Naomi Bloomfield, an obstetrician near Albany who found out she was pregnant with twins when her first child was not quite a year old. “I couldn’t have imagined reducing twins for nonmedical reasons,” she said, “but I had an amnio and would have had an abortion if I found out that one of the babies had an anomaly, even if it wasn’t life-threatening. I didn’t want to raise a handicapped child. Some people would call that selfish, but I wouldn’t. Parents who abort for an anomaly just don’t want that life for themselves, and it’s their prerogative to fashion their lives how they want. Is terminating two to one really any different morally?” "

I'm sorry, Dr. Bloomfield, but killing a child with an "anomaly" because you just don't want to deal with it IS selfish. Don't pretend it isn't. As for your second point--that reducing a multiple pregnancy to a singleton is the same ethically as aborting a baby with a defect--you're absolutely right. They're both equally reprehensible.

...people may judge two-to-one reductions more harshly because the fertility treatment that yielded the pregnancy significantly increased the chance of multiples. “People may think, You brought this about yourself, so you should be willing to take some of the risk,” [Professor Bonnie] Steinbock says.

Women who reduce to singletons sometimes think the same thing. “Most of the two-to-one patients have gone to incredible lengths to get pregnant,” Donna Steinberg, a clinical psychologist in Manhattan who specializes in counseling infertility patients, says. “They’ve paid a lot of money and put their bodies through tremendous stress, and they’ve gotten what they wanted — and now they’re going to reduce? Outsiders think, How is that possible? And that’s also where the patients’ guilt comes from.”

I'm not against fertility treatments, not at all. I've watched friends struggle with infertility. I've prayed and cried with them as they endured one fertility treatment after another with no results. I've rejoiced when they finally conceived, prayed with them through difficult pregnancies, and rejoiced again when their children were born. (And I'm not going to get into the ethics of this versus that type of treatment here; that's a can of worms I'm not ready to open just now.)

But here's the thing. If a woman seeks any type of fertility treatment, and conceives more children than she really wants, then yes, some people will judge her if she decides to eliminate some of them. But her guilt doesn't just come from what outsiders think and say. I feel certain that some, if not most, of it comes from her own conscience.

This is the legacy of Roe v. Wade. Only thirty-eight years ago the United Sates Supreme Court decided that children in their mothers' wombs were not persons. We've been brainwashed into thinking that until children are born, as T.P. points out, they just don't matter. But deep down, we know they do. Why else would we encourage pregnant women not to smoke, drink, or use drugs, and to eat well and get plenty of rest and exercise and take their prenatal vitamins? Because the babies who are growing in their wombs are people who need to be nurtured and cared for, and it starts as soon as they are conceived. And no, I do not judge the character of a person based on whether they are pro-life or pro-choice, or whether they've had an abortion or a pregnancy reduction. Heck, there was a time in my life (and I think I've said this before) when I would have been more than willing to drive you to the nearest Planned Parenthood if you wanted to get an abortion. The fact is, we've all been duped, and we need to wake up and stop this grave injustice called "choice."

I want to share one more thing I found today, from Janet Morana, who is the executive director of Priests for Life and co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. Janet sympathizes with the fears these women are facing because she is the mother of twins. She understands how overwhelmed and frightened a woman can be when she finds out she is carrying more than one child. In an article she wrote for National Review, she talks about the panic she felt when she learned she was having twins, and about how she made a conscious decision to face her fears and do the best she could. It wasn't easy, but she says if one of the twins had been aborted, her family would have missed out on all the joys that come with having twins. She concludes the article with this:

"I propose that all of us — the medical profession as well as society at large — make a collective decision to fight the fear. Let’s not abandon these women in the cynical belief that there’s not enough support for all of them."

One day Roe v. Wade will be overturned, and God willing, abortions and pregnancy reductions will be a thing of the past. In the meantime we must continue to stand up for all unborn babies, and do all we can to help their mothers overcome their fears.

UPDATE: As soon as I published this post I found this at Catholic Online, by Jennifer Hartline of "My Chocolate Heart" blog. Read it. It seems a lot of people are just as outraged as I am.

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