Evan Grae Davis, Shadowlinefilms director has written and directed promotional and educational videos and video series along with producing and creating websites and various other communication tools for nearly 100 organizations during the past 18 years. The main focus of Shadow Line has been to denounce violence against women.
Their new project is called It’s a Girl!.
This documentary is a collection of interviews done in China and India, where boys are preferred over girls. The United Nations estimates as many as 200 million girls are missing in the world today because of this so-called “gendercide”.
Girls who survive infancy are often subject to neglect, and many grow up to face extreme violence and even death at the hands of their own husbands or other family members.
The war against girls is rooted in centuries-old tradition and sustained by deeply ingrained cultural dynamics which, in combination with government policies, accelerate the elimination of girls.
Shot on location in India and China, It’s a Girl! explores the issue. It asks why this is happening, and why so little is being done to save girls and women.
The film tells the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of women who suffer extreme dowry-related violence, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughters’ lives, and of other mothers who would kill for a son. Global experts and grassroots activists put the stories in context and advocate different paths towards change, while collectively lamenting the lack of any truly effective action against this injustice.
Currently in post-production, It’s a Girl! is scheduled for an early 2012 release.
Below is a link to the trailer. The content requires a very strong stomach to watch. But an even stronger to film and produce. Kudos to Mr. Davis for being so brave as not only to denounce, but also prove what sex-selection abortions are doing to Asia, and ultimately, what will happen to us because of this.
Advertising on alcohol products will now include warnings for pregnant women. According to the Herald, after recommendations from the Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Council on Food Regulation announced that they will include labelling on alcoholic drinks of risks that alcohol consumption poses to the development of the unborn of pregnant mothers.
The consumption of significant amounts of alcohol during pregnancy has long been known to be associated with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and the serious Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS involves a range of symptoms including structural brain damage, functional impairment of the brain, reduced birth weight, changes in facial features (see image below) and a range of other physical symptoms such as heart defects, skeletal joint problems and decreased ocular ability.
Even though there is disagreement on the level of allowed alcohol consumption, the British Department of health advocates for complete abstinence during pregnancy; particularly in the first trimester. Even with low consumption, dose-response relationships have been noted between alcohol consumption and fetal development (Day et al., 1994) and mental functioning (Goldschmidt et al., 1996).
Such a recommendation is commendable, however the entire issue again brings up the inconsistency of health advocates and organisations. It would seem that this is advocating mothers to make lifestyle changes and choices in the name of protecting the health and wellbeing of their unborn child, while at the same time also advocating for access to the most efficient methods of destroying and removing this unborn. The approach begs the question of how the public can take the stance of health advocates on the unborn’s seriously.
The position of health services hinges purely on whether or not the unborn is ultimately desired. If the position of health services of children or babies depended purely on whether or not their parents wanted them, then health services would be ignoring abandoned children, in fact they would be effectively advocating for their removal.
Even though any move towards protecting the lives of the unborn and their future development is a positive move, this again brings up inconsistency of the position of health advocates and their refusal to go as far as acknowledging the humanity of the unborn.
Cross posted from the Daily Mail.
The camera just loves little Taya Kennedy. Wide-eyed, cheeky, engaged; she brims with the confidence of a natural performer. It is little wonder that she has taken the child-modelling world by storm.
The fact that 14-month-old Taya also has Down’s Syndrome is quite incidental. She was selected, not to fulfil a quota, tick a box or adhere to the dictums of some politically-correct code of positive discrimination. Taya was picked because, quite simply, she is a star.
‘Taya is an incredibly photogenic, warm and smiley child, and that shines through in her photographs,’ says Alysia Lewis, owner of Urban Angels, the prestigious UK model agency that has signed her up.
‘We only open our books twice a year and select just a few new children each season.
‘The standard is high; the desire for places strong. Taya is one of 50 children we chose from 2,000 applicants.
‘That she has Down’s Syndrome did not enter the equation. We chose her because of her vibrancy and sense of fun. Not all children are comfortable in front of a lens and with a photographer looking at them — especially when they are so young. But Taya was so relaxed and happy. She was just what we were looking for.’
Retailers, including the Early Learning Centre and Mothercare, are already queuing up to feature the bright-eyed toddler in their advertising campaigns.
And Taya’s devoted mum, Gemma Andre, couldn’t be more proud.
‘I always believed my daughter was stunning but I thought, “I’m her mum. I’m biased,”’ she says.
‘When people say “poor you” I find it offensive and irritating,’ said Taya’s mother Gemma
‘When the agency rang me and said, “We want her on our books. She’s absolutely beautiful”, I was delighted.
‘I asked them if they were aware she had Down’s Syndrome. They said: “It’s immaterial. We’ve accepted her.” At that moment I burst into tears. I was overjoyed, not so much because Taya was going to be a model. More importantly, she had competed on equal terms with every other child and succeeded.
‘People can be really negative about children with Down’s. They say they can’t do this and won’t be able to achieve that. It’s incredibly frustrating. Someone said to me the other day: “I suppose she’ll never be able to live an independent life,” and I said, “Why on earth not?”
‘When people say “poor you” I find it offensive and irritating. The way I see it, some people cannot even have children and God has given me this special child.’
The story of Taya, her single-minded mum and proud father Robbie Kennedy is an uplifting one. Gemma, 29, a mortgage adviser with Santander, has never accepted that constraints must be imposed on her daughter because she has a disability.
She refuses to countenance the negative and believes that her only child is capable of achieving any dream, however elevated.
‘Already Taya attends a mainstream nursery,’ she says.
‘Her father and I want her to go to an ordinary school, too. After her birth, I was given a list of things she wouldn’t achieve; accomplishments she could never hope to master.
‘It was so dispiriting. I was told her teeth would not all develop. But already she has seven baby teeth. I was warned she would be slow to speak. But she already says “dad, mum, nana, cat and ta”.
‘So now I take no notice of what the experts say.
‘And I am determined Taya will have as many chances in life as any other child. I want her to go to dancing school. She loves music and has a sense of rhythm; she sways and claps her hands when I sing to her.
‘After her birth, I was given a list of things she wouldn’t achieve; accomplishments she could never hope to master. It was so dispiriting… Now I take no notice of what the experts say,’ said Gemma
‘I’m already saving for her to have driving lessons. I have a fund for her to go to university. I want to prove to Taya that any goal in life is attainable. It doesn’t matter that she has Down’s Syndrome. She can still achieve. I want her to be an inspiration to others.’
If Gemma sounds optimistic, it is because Taya has already defied so many of the experts’ other predictions about her future too.
‘I was told that children with Down’s Syndrome are not expected to walk until they are three to five years old,’ says Gemma.
‘But Taya is already standing. She is a strong little character and her physiotherapist has told me that she thinks she will be walking by Christmas.
‘Her muscle tone is excellent; just like a normal child’s. So it would be the best present I could have if Taya took her first steps on Christmas Day.’
Taya, however, has not surpassed such milestones by luck alone, for Gemma has exceptional reserves of grit and determination: ‘I’ve played games with her to develop her muscles; I do exercises with her. She stands on my knees and her little legs are firm. I’ve bought her a toy animal with a swivelling seat that bounces. She shrieks with laughter when she plays on it. She loves it and it also strengthens her legs.’
Gemma and Robbie have always refused to dwell on the limitations imposed by their daughter’s condition. Instead they have fostered her strengths.
Supported by her mum, Diane, 58, a social worker whose area of expertise is disabled children, Gemma has discovered that Taya responds well to visual stimulation.
‘She likes sensory toys: light tubes, bubbles, mirrors. She reacts positively when we mime to her, so the whole family is learning sign language.’
Taya was born in September 2010. Although the pregnancy was not planned, Gemma and her partner of three years Robbie, 23, who works in banking administration, were delighted. Gemma had been prudent with money. She owns two properties, one of them the pleasant detached house in Bradford that is her home.
‘I had no debts, a good job; I knew I could give our baby a good quality of life,’ she says.
Gemma decided against having any tests that would disclose whether her baby had Down’s. She knew they could increase the risk of miscarriage; besides, she and Robbie had resolved to love whatever child they were blessed with.
But looking back, she sometimes wonders if she intuitively might have known something might be wrong with her baby: ‘I remember thinking, “I haven’t drunk any alcohol, or smoked, or even been in an environment where there was smoke. I’ve taken the right nutritional supplements. If my baby is disabled it will not be my fault.’
Nonetheless, when she gave birth to her 5lb 3oz baby girl, she had no inkling that anything was wrong.
‘I remember thinking, “She has beautiful oval eyes. They look Oriental.” When Robbie cut the cord we both cried with happiness.’
Ten minutes later their joy was abruptly usurped by fear and anxiety.
‘She wakes up with a smile on her face and goes to sleep smiling,’ said Gemma of her baby daughter
‘A doctor told us, “I think she has Down’ s Syndrome” and then he just walked away.
‘From that moment I was mourning for the child I hadn’t had. We couldn’t help but selfishly wonder why this had happened to us. We weren’t prepared for it. We couldn’t celebrate. We felt numb and grief-stricken; just devastated.’
Bit by bit, the extent of Taya’s disabilities emerged.
‘Down’s Syndrome babies are born with very poor muscle tone. Taya was more floppy than a rag doll. It was as if she had no bones,’ recalls Gemma.
‘She had a single crease in her palm, a gap between her toes and a flat nose that signals sinus problems. She has deficiencies in her sight and hearing, her bowels and heart.
‘Tests showed her heart had two holes in it, but we were told not to worry, that she would be unaffected by the condition. All these things, we knew, were characteristic of Down’s children.
‘We didn’t know what to expect or hope for. We were literally sent home with a booklet. But from that moment I knew I had to fight Taya’s corner, to research everything I could about her condition and do all I could to ensure she would have every chance in life.’
She began by challenging the doctors who insisted she would be unable to breastfeed: ‘They dismissed the idea as soon as Taya was born. They said she could not suckle because Down’s children have over-sized tongues and weak jaw muscles.
‘But I was determined to prove them wrong. For a month I went to a breast-feeding class. I knew it would boost Taya’s weakened immune system if I fed her. It would also help with her speech because it would strengthen her jaw muscles. I wanted to do all I could to give her the best start. In the end I breastfed her for nine months.’
Taya, despite her disabilities, has a sunny disposition.
‘She wakes up with a smile on her face and goes to sleep smiling. She hardly ever cries,’ says her mum. ‘I was worried at first because she was so peaceful.’
And even when, aged two-and-a-half months, Taya was rushed into hospital for an emergency operation to repair the holes in her heart — she spent three days in intensive care, her condition critical — Gemma recalls that she was not only robust and quick to recover, but that her cheerfulness did not falter.
Taya has learned to pose for the camera. She beams on cue and is always alert and interested
‘With Taya you get the whole package: she has her difficulties, but she is clever, strong and she laughs all the time. She has such an expressive little face. People say, “Don’t you wish she was a normal child?” but without her disability she wouldn’t be Taya, so we wouldn’t change anything about her.’
Gemma is an unashamedly proud mum, and like any other she has taken photos of her baby and charted her development daily in video clips.
Taya, in turn, has learned to pose for the camera. She beams on cue and is always alert and interested. Even so, Gemma had never thought her little girl — beautiful though she is — could be a model.
It was her cousin Eletta, 30, who planted the seed in her mind. Eletta is raising five children, her own three and her nine-year-old twin brothers after her mother died in a car crash.
It was Eletta who proposed Gemma look at the Urban Angels’ website. She liked the ethos of the company, its ethnically-diverse range of models and its philosophy of inclusion. Its list of clients was impressive, too.
It provides children for advertising campaigns for a huge range of companies, from Burberry and Stella McCartney to The White Company and GAP, as well as Sainsbury’s, M&S, ASDA and H&M.
‘It would not have occurred to me to put Taya forward unless Eletta had suggested it,’ says Gemma.
‘But I decided to send a couple of pictures I’d taken on my iPhone. There was an application form to fill in, too. No one asked the question, “Is your child disabled?” So I didn’t mention it.
‘Soon afterwards, I got a call from a woman at the agency who said: “We loved your pictures. Could you come to Manchester with your daughter for a photo shoot?”
‘I thought we had nothing to lose. Mum said, “You should tell them Taya has Down’s”, but I decided not to. I didn’t want her to be chosen as the token disabled child. If she was going to be picked, then it had to be on her own merit.’
And it was quickly evident that Taya loved the camera. The pictures of her, mesmerised by bubbles, chuckling with glee, resplendent in a frothy white dress, are entrancing. I wonder if we will see her one day modelling on a catwalk?
Gemma laughs. ‘Taya is an amazing child,’ she says. ‘I suppose anything is possible.’
Last Thursday, British American author and journalist Christoper Hitchens died. Many will have known him for his high profile debates, books, essays and a career as journalist that lasted more than four decades.
What is less well known was his stance on abortion. While it is difficult to exactly explain his position, he was not pro-abortion, in small or large part due to his history, as he explained in his Vanity Fair column in 2003:
I was in my early teens when my mother told me that a predecessor fetus and a successor fetus had been surgically removed, thus making me an older brother rather than a forgotten whoosh….
And I’ve since become the father of several fetuses, three of which, or perhaps I had better say three of whom, became reasonably delightful children. There was a time, it seemed, when I couldn’t sneeze on a woman without becoming a potential father….
[A]t least once I found myself in a clinic while “products of conception” were efficiently vacuumed away. I can distinctly remember thinking, on the last such occasion, that under no persuasion of any kind would I ever allow myself to be present at such a moment again.
The lucky abortion survivor must at times have asked, “Why me?” and other times, “Why not me?” And Hitchens clearly felt bad about taking the lives of two of his own children.
These experiences gave him pause to reconsider the gravity of abortion, writing:
In the brisk paragraphs above, you will note that I have semiconsciously employed the terms “birthplace,” “grave,” and “conceivable.” This idiom of this argument is basic and elemental. It’s about the essentials. Thus, the justification proposed by the “right” for its intrusiveness is that the fetus is also an autonomous individual, and that society cannot decently permit one body (or soul) to be owned or disposed of by another….
There was a time when the feminist movement replied to this with militant indignation. What “individual”? What “person”? The most famous title of the period – Our Bodies, Ourselves – captures the tone to perfection. If we need to remove an appendix or a tumor from our own personal spaces, then it’s nobody else’s g**d*** business. I used to cringe when I heard this, not so much because in the moral sense fetuses aren’t to be compared to appendixes, let alone tumors, but because it is obvious nonsense from the biological and embryological points of view. Babies come from where they come from.
The diagram of a vacuum-suction abortion in Our Bodies, Ourselves gave the female anatomy in some detail but showed only a void inside the uterus. This perhaps unintended concession to queasiness has since become more noticeable as a consequence of advances in embryology, and by the simple experience of the enhanced sonogram. Women who have gazed at the early heartbeat inside themselves now have some difficulty, shall we say, in ranking the experience with the planned excision of a polyp….
That the most partially formed human embryo is both human and alive has now been confirmed, in an especially vivid sense, by the new debate over stem-cell research and the bioethics of cloning. If an ailing or elderly person can be granted a new lease on life by a transfusion of this cellular material, then it is obviously not random organic matter. The original embryonic “blastocyst” may be a clump of 64 to 200 cells that is only five days old. But all of us began our important careers in that form, and every needful encoding for life is already present in the apparently inchoate. We are the first generation to have to confront this as a certain knowledge.
Cross posted from LifeNews with additional comments from ProLife NZ.
The most comprehensive review to date into the link between abortion and mental health problems has confirmed that women who have an unwanted pregnancy are at an increased risk of experiencing mental health problems after an abortion (See NZ Herald, Guardian and BBC).
More significantly it reveals that 98% of all abortions carried out in New Zealand are technically illegal.
This new Review by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC) shows that abortion does not improve mental health outcomes for women with unplanned pregnancies, despite approximately 98% of the abortions being carried out in this country each year on mental health grounds.
This means that doctors who authorise abortions in order to protect a woman’s mental health are doing it on the basis of a false belief not supported by the medical evidence. In other words the vast majority of abortions in this country are technically illegal.
Otherwise the report confirms earlier conclusions that negative attitudes towards abortion, pressure from a partner to have an abortion and negative reactions to the abortion including grief or doubt, may have a negative impact on mental health after abortion.
Controversially it also claims that the risk of mental health problems after abortion is not any greater than the risk after birth but that both life events are nevertheless associated with an increase in mental health problems.
However the strength of evidence for the claim that abortion poses no greater risk to mental health than childbirth is weak as the report itself admits:
‘The evidence for this section of the review was generally rated as poor or very poor…These factors limit the interpretation of the results.’
This main conclusion of the report is what most media coverage (including the NZ Herald) has picked up, even though it is based on only four studies (Cougle, Steinberg, Fergusson, Gilchrist), two of which were judged as ‘fair’ and the author of the only one judged ‘very good’ (New Zealander, Professor David Fergusson) has a new paper in press which he claims shows a link between abortion and mental health problems in unwanted pregnancies which is not there for unwanted pregnancies carried to term.
He summarises this as follows:
‘The implications of this analysis are inescapable: despite the claims made in previous reviews about the absence of association between abortion and mental health, when data are pooled across studies there is consistent evidence suggesting that women having abortions are at modestly increased risks of mental health problems when compared with women coming to term with unplanned/unwanted pregnancies… While it remains possible that these findings reflect methodological problems of sample selection, residual confounding and investigator bias these considerations do not justify the strong conclusion that there is no evidence to support the view that abortion has adverse mental health consequences. It is our view that the scientifically appropriate and cautious assessment is that: there is currently suggestive evidence indicating that abortion is associated with modest increases in risks of common mental disorders. However to confirm this conclusion requires further and better research which addresses issue of measurement, confounding and investigator bias. A detailed paper describing these findings is currently under review.’
There are some strong messages to take home for those offering counselling and support to women with unplanned pregnancies.
First, women with unplanned pregnancies need to know that abortion will not reduce their risks of mental health problems relative to giving birth.
Second, those who have a past history of mental health problems, who believe that abortion is wrong, who are being put under pressure by their partners or who are experiencing other stressful life events, are at risk of increased rates of post-abortion mental health problems.
The first response to an unplanned pregnancy should therefore not be abortion but, as the review rightly recommends, proper support and care for women.
The government should make the provision of fully independent counselling for all women with an unplanned pregnancy a key priority, in order that they can have access to support and counselling that is not linked to abortion provision.
On Thursday Batman star Christian Bale was physically attacked by guards while attempting to visit embattled Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng.
Bale had traveled nine hours from a film premiere in Beijing to visit Guangcheng, a blind lawyer who has vocally opposed China’s one-child policy and worked for years to expose forced abortions and sterilization of Chinese women. Several weeks ago, rumors of Guangcheng’s death surfaced, and only very recently was he sighted alive.
Guangcheng spent four years in prison, where he was reportedly starved, tortured, and denied medical care. He is now under house arrest in the small village where Bale attempted to visit him.
“What I really wanted to do was to meet the man, shake his hand and say what an inspiration he is,” said Bale.
According to CNN, Bale is not the only potential visitor who has been forcibly turned away from visiting the 40-year-old Guangcheng, where he is confined to a home with his wife, daughter, and mother.
“I’m not brave doing this,” Bale told CNN. “The local people who are standing up to the authorities, who are visiting Chen and his family and getting beaten or detained, I want to support them.”
Bale first learned of Guangcheng’s legal work advocating for families who had been victimized by China’s official family planning policy when he was in the country last year shooting Flowers of War. He decided to do something dramatic when he visited again for the premiere.
Apparently, Bale was unaware of a possible connection between a studio he worked for and the Chinese government:
Bale appeared a little surprised to learn that Relativity Media, which produced his 2010 Oscar-winning “The Fighter” and recently filmed a comedy in Linyi, was accused by activists of cozying up to the same officials who ordered Chen’s detention and torture. The studio has issued a statement denying the allegation.
The Chinese government also was a partial financier of Bale’s latest film.
In a video interview with CNN, Bale described his treatment at the hands of unidentified guards blocking the entrance to Guangcheng’s village. “They definitely wanted to try and hold me on the spot,” he said. He explained that the guards seemed particularly interested in their cameras, and that he believed they intended to keep Bale and those with him from revealing to the world “how vile the treatment of this wonderful man is.”
Once they had “struggled free” and made it back to the van, “It wasn’t over… They pursued us for many miles. What were they gonna do? What was their plan if they were to catch us? And you have to remember that throughout all of this, these… thugs do not identify themselves whatsoever.”
Bale went on to describe what motivated him to attempt the dangerous visit. “I was inspired by the man himself. This is a blind human rights lawyer. He taught himself to read at the age of 24… It’s amazing that a superpower like China is actually terrified of this man…”
The actor was careful to distance himself from any of his colleagues on the newly released film Flowers of War. “I did not mention that I would be doing this to any of my fellow filmmakers,” he explained. “It’s not for me to pull them into an issue that I care deeply about. That’s their choice.”
Approximately 39.5% of China’s population is officially subject to the one-child policy, although in practice it is not strictly limited to urban families and has been linked to technically illegal acts such as forced abortions, forced sterilization, sex-selective abortion favoring males, and female infanticide.
Cross posted from LiveAction with additional comments from ProLife NZ. For more information on the situation in China visit Women’s Rights Without Frontiers.
Giving a clear and factual view of the pro-life position on abortion is a big part of ProLife NZ’s work on campuses throughout New Zealand. We are frequently part of one-on-one discussions with friends, classmates and other students who provide us with many questions on the pro-life position on abortion.
To help out our members with these discussions, over the last couple of months we have been releasing our Abortion and Human Rights Frequently Asked Question series onto our YouTube channel. The videos feature bioethics and life issues speaker Brendan Malone answering everyday questions on abortion. These have proven to be a great hit.
Today we bring you the final video in this series – the full length HD version of the talk that Brendan gave to a group of students at the University of Auckland.
It is a thorough introduction to abortion and human rights and an excellent refresher of key prolife points for those familiar with the core ideas that underlie a prolife approach to abortion. It is also an excellent summary of prolife thinking for those who may not be familiar with key prolife ideas or misunderstand the prolife position on abortion.
Make sure to check it out and if you agree that it is as excellent as we think it is, show it to your friends and post it to your Facebook wall.
To embed the video on your Facebook wall, copy the following link and paste it as a status update.
To visit our YouTube channel, click here.
Okay, so last week I responded to the opinionated rantings of opinion columnist Richard Boock, who decided that he’d weigh into the issue of abortion and prenatal screening with the rather intelligent gem of an allegation that people who hold to a pro-life ethic are “bat-shit crazy”.
Gee, thanks for that intellectual gem Richard.
But for some reason Boock has decided to revisit the issue of abortion and prenatal screening in his opinion column again this week (struggling for copy much?) – perhaps he thought that the best way to get out of last week’s hole he dug for himself was to keep digging?
Maybe he should rename his column ‘An Auckland Nek Minuute’?
Let’s explore what Boock has brought to the table this week…
“I was reminding myself the other day of that old Evelyn Hall quote; you know the one: “I may disapprove of what you say but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” Can’t say I feel quite as passionate as all that but you get the gist of it. The free and unfettered exchange of views, the right to speak up for what we believe in, the power to disagree; it’s a quality that defines our community as progressive. It’s something that makes us collectively stronger.”
So when you called pro-lifers ‘bat-shit crazy’ last week, what you were really trying to say is that you’re a tolerant and open-minded person who loves a reasoned and intellectual discussion?
“Last week’s blog on allowing women the right to abortion on demand only underlined that strength for me. Whatever the view, one point became clear: we need to talk more about these things.”
Exactly why do we need to talk more about having abortion-on-demand in NZ Richard?
Is it because ALRANZ have told you that we should be talking more about it?
“Yes, I called some pro-lifers bat-shit crazy, which may or may not have been a shade intemperate (a quick scan of the feedback doesn’t exactly contradict the claim).”
Time for an honesty break Richard, you didn’t just call ‘some’ pro-lifers bat-shit crazy, you actually suggested that a large percentage of us are Chiroptera fecal matter crazy, let me remind you of your own exact words from last week: “…how bat-shit crazy so many of them are…”.
“…no, I’ve never heard of a eugenics programme based on free and individual choice.”
Okay Richard, now you’re really showing that don’t actually understand what eugenics actually is.
You seem to be assuming that because someone freely choose to engage in a eugenic act, that this doesn’t actually make the act eugenic in nature any longer.
Eugenics isn’t just about government enforced breeding/killing/segregation programs, instead its about acting/treating someone according to their genetics. In this case people with the genetic variation of Down syndrome are being targeted, and then killed en masse purely because of their genetic traits.
That’s why screening and abortion people with Down syndrome is eugenic in nature.
You also seem to have completely missed the fact that aborting people with Down syndrome doesn’t actually offer them their ‘free and individual choice’ as human beings at all – perhaps if you put yourself in their shoes for just a moment you’d see that they aren’t actually getting any say in the matter at all, instead they’re having abortion forced on them.
“No, that 90% of women who test positive for a Down syndrome pregnancy choose to abort isn’t proof of eugenics. It’s merely proof that 90% of the women who make a free and independent decision choose the same option. It’s not the same thing.”
Except for the rather glaring fact that these 90% of human beings are being aborted because their genetic traits are deemed to be undesirable.
If 90% of unborn human beings were aborted because they were Maori, wouldn’t we call that racism?
And if 90% of unborn human beings were aborted because they were female, wouldn’t we call that gender discrimination?
So tell me again why we wouldn’t call the aborting of 90% of unborn human beings because of their genetic traits eugenic?
“I’d like to add something else, too. If 90% of those women who test positive choose freely to make the same decision, despite not previously knowing each other and coming from diverse cultural and belief backgrounds, then by definition 90% of those in the hot-seat completely and utterly disagree with the pro-life lobby. Translated? We’re talking about a tiny minority of people attempting to foist their moral values on others. They don’t like that women are choosing.”
Okay, first things first…
Perhaps a large percentage of that 90% are actually being pressured into their decision to abort by circumstances, or a lack of informed consent, or by unreasonable fear about the unknowns of living with Down syndrome, or because the medical establishment isn’t providing proper support to these women?
Secondly, so what if 90% of people are doing something – heck, even if 100% of people are doing something it doesn’t automatically make what they are doing ethically right.
I’m surprised that you’re even embarking on such an unintelligent logical fallacy (‘we must be right, because lots of people agree with us’).
I guess the fact that the majority of Germans did nothing to oppose Hitler and the Nazis must actually mean that anyone opposing Hitler and the Nazis was nothing more than a tiny minority trying to foist their moral values on others.
And you speak as if your position on this matter is somehow objectively neutral, but in actual fact what you want is your moral views foisted on people like me, who disagree with you, as well as those human beings with Down syndrome, who will never actually get the chance to tell you to your face what they think of prenatal screening, because they’re part of the 90% who have your morals foisted on them on a regular basis.
“And I was wrong to call some pro-lifers bat-shit crazy. That was unfair. What I really meant was that some of their opinions are bat-shit crazy.
And I stand by that.”
And there you go – Boock starts by claiming that he is interested in a reasoned intelligent debate about these issues, but then ends his column with cheap insults that add absolutely nothing to this discussion, and only serve to actually close down reasoned and intelligent dialogue about an important bioethical matter.
Keep digging Richard, keep digging, eventually you’ll find your way to China, and your staunch commitment to abortion will be well received there.
When prenatal diagnosis brings bad news about their child, parents deserve a real choice of paths. Happily, there is a beautiful option available.
This article from Auckland journalist Carolyn Moynihan, writing for Mercatornet.com, looks at the amazing work that is being done by the perinatal hospice movement.
For those wanting to know about options for New Zealanders, there is a perinatal hospice operating in Wanganui that is run by Catherine Bronnimann. If you are interested in finding out more about the hospice, would like to refer a friend to them or offer your support, please get in contact with us and we can put you in touch with Catherine.
In a Melbourne maternity hospital last month a very shocking event occurred. A healthy, 32-week-old, wanted, unborn child was killed by a lethal injection when the sonographer performing the procedure mistook the child for its unhealthy twin. When the mistake was realised, the mother had an emergency caesarean section and the sick child was also terminated, according to news reports. The whole tragic episode left the mother traumatised and everybody involved distraught.
And yet, on the face of it this was an entirely avoidable tragedy. The sick baby had been diagnosed with a severe heart defect that would probably lead to its death soon after birth, but that in itself would not pose a danger to the other twin or the mother. A specialist consulted by MercatorNet said that if there was a risk for some other reason, at 32 weeks these babies could have been delivered, with a 99 per cent chance of survival for the healthy baby in intensive care, while nature took its course for the sick baby. An abortion was recommended, it appears, because that is the standard medical approach after such a diagnosis, even in a single pregnancy.
“This story is sad on so many levels. There could have been a better way,” says Amy Kuebelbeck, an award-winning American journalist whose third child had a similar diagnosis and who has written about her experience in a well-received book, Waiting With Gabriel. The “way” she is talking about is that of perinatal hospice, a model of support pioneered by another American, Dr Byron Calhoun, currently vice-chair of the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at West Virginia University-Charleston.
Perinatal (meaning, around the time of birth) hospice brings the principles of hospice care to those families who, as a result of prenatal testing, receive the heartbreaking news that their baby has a terminal condition. For those wishing to continue their pregnancy, embracing whatever life their baby may have, it provides a “hospice in the womb”. This includes planning the baby’s birth and looking into the question of whether medical treatment might be warranted, as well as more traditional hospice and palliative care at home after birth if the baby lives beyond the first few minutes or hours.
Palliative care teams can involve obstetricians, perinatalogists, nurses, neonatologists, social workers, clergy, genetic counsellors, midwives and therapists. So far, there are around 90 programmes based more or less on this approach in the United States and a handful in other countries. Not all are in hospitals.
Kuebelbeck and her husband did not have that support system available back in 1999 when they discovered, 25 weeks into her pregnancy, that Gabriel had a very severe, incurable heart condition. What they did have was their own instinct to “protect our baby until he was born and then protect him afterwards with comfort and love”, and a “marvellous” nurse who supported them all the way. And that was enough.
“All it takes is one person,” she says. “Ideally, you would have a multi-disciplinary team, an existing programme and protocol, and I hope that more hospitals will provide all that, but, in the meantime, if someone comes to them tomorrow with such a diagnosis, any healthcare professional can walk with the family in this way, and it’s a rational, healing, therapeutic, beautiful path.”
The voices of more than 100 mothers and fathers interviewed for a recent book that Kuebelbeck co-authored with psychologist Deborah Davis, concur. In, A Gift of Time: Continuing Your Pregnancy When Your Baby’s Life Is Expected to Be Brief, they talk about their suffering, yes, but also about the consolation of becoming a real parent to their baby during the months or weeks of pregnancy, the joy of actually meeting their child and holding him or her, however briefly, and the peace of knowing that they did the right thing. Here are just three of them:
“We made it a point to talk to our child as much as possible. We never missed a chance to tell him we loved him. One of my favourite memories of pregnancy is having my husband kiss my belly every night and tell the baby goodnight and ‘I love you’. A lot of love came from having this child. He showed us the true meaning of love.” ~ Donna
“Anouk was alive! It was our biggest fear that she wouldn’t survive the birth, and once we saw that she was breathing, we were in seventh heaven. We were grateful and so happy for every moment she was alive. Although I clearly knew that she was going to die, I was so happy. Joy filled the room around us, joy and peace…” ~ Monika
“If we had decided to terminate the pregnancy I would have dealt with pain, suffering, loss, and regret. By carrying Brayden until natural death I was able to love him longer, give him everything I could, and there is zero regret. You cannot avoid the pain, suffering, and loss either way.” ~ Camille
(This is a book to make you weep and rejoice by turns, but overwhelmingly the tone is serene and life-affirming rather than mournful or morbid.)
Thirty years ago maternity specialists were still awakening to the needs of mothers whose babies were stillborn or died soon after birth, but already a new need was growing among parents with a prenatal diagnosis of some fatal defect in their unborn child. The rapid growth of prenatal diagnostic technology over the past two decades far outstripped the ability to care for these families. Legalised abortion provided what seems to be a rational, humane response: bring forward the inevitable death, spare the mother the added grief of actually giving birth only to have the baby die, and let the family get on with their life, perhaps with the next pregnancy.
No doubt this was the recommended course for most, if not all the parents who speak to us in A Gift of Time. Some felt fully supported in their decision to continue their pregnancy, but others felt strongly pressured to terminate and one said she felt “abandoned” once she decided to continue. “Physicians are trained todo something,” says Kuebelbeck. “Termination feels like doing something. They are trying to save their patients from emotional pain, which is a noble motivation, but it doesn’t acknowledge the pain — lasting pain — that can come from termination. And it doesn’t acknowledge the beauty and healing that can come from continuing the pregnancy and embracing this little life.”
Even family and friends can fail to understand these things and add to the pressure to abort.
And yet there is no scientific evidence to support the presumption that terminating such a pregnancy is easier on the mother psychologically. On the contrary, as Kuebelbeck notes on the perinatal hospice website she runs, research to date suggests that women who terminate for fetal anomalies experience grief as intense as that of parents experiencing the spontaneous death of a baby. A recent study found that 14 months after the termination, nearly 17 per cent of women were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder such as post-traumatic stress, anxiety or depression.
As for physical risks, in most cases fetal anomalies pose no greater risk to the mother than the normal risks of pregnancy. Abortion, on the other hand, has risks of its own, which increase as the pregnancy progresses. Where the baby’s condition poses a direct threat to the woman’s life, maternal-fetal medicine specialists are trained to try and save both patients. If necessary for the mother’s sake, the baby can be delivered prematurely and still be given comfort and treated with respect. Calhoun, who has documented outcomes for his perinatal hospice patients in two studies, reports that, out of a total of 61 patients, there were no maternal deaths or harm to the mother’s health.
An important consideration for fully informed consent by the parents is knowledge of what is involved in later — and, as the Melbourne disaster illustrates, sometimes very late — abortions. Methods include dismemberment in utero, and lethal injections to the heart — sometimes in combination with the outrageous partial-birth abortion method which the baby is removed mostly intact except for the head. It was this barbaric practice, which came to light in the mid-1990s, that spurred Calhoun on in his efforts to provide something better for these babies and their parents.
Ah, but won’t the baby suffer more from prolonging its life? Naturally, this is a major concern for parents, but many life-limiting conditions are not inherently uncomfortable for the baby. (Elle reports in A Gift of Time how she would wake up in the morning feeling her baby as a heavy “lump” inside her, a sign she was curled up and deeply asleep. “I loved knowing that she was happy and safe inside,” she says.) If pain is a possibility it can be treated effectively, and it may be avoided altogether by careful decisions about medical interventions at birth. Enveloping the baby with comfort and love may often be enough.
In any case, says Kuebelbeck, when parents hear about perinatal hospice “they instantly get it, they recognise that’s the sort of help they need.” For their sakes, and although she has two teenage daughters and a day job, she accepts any opportunity to “evangelise” about this model of care. It has become a passion. Through writing and speaking engagements (MercatorNet interviewed her after she spoke at a conference in New Zealand) she encourages “a movement that is kind of bubbling up from parents who needed this support and didn’t have it, but who are trying to pay it forward and make things better for people coming after them.”
Calhoun’s published studies show that as many as 75-80 per cent of families will choose a perinatal hospice programme if it is offered them. But convincing healthcare providers that it is worthwhile is another story. In an article in the Linacre Quarterly last year he wrote that “healthcare providers as a group, unless trained otherwise, seem to be more in favour of termination than either the public or pregnant women. Some providers may wonder why resources should be wasted on a fetal demise. However, if patients are to be offered true choices and exercise autonomy, then real options need to be given.”
As Kuebelbeck puts it, “If you’re only given one choice, mathematically it’s not a choice.”
And the choice she believes most mothers and fathers in this situation will want to make is the one that honours their baby’s life and their capacity to love their child. “They just want to be parents.”
Amy Kuebelbeck lives in St Paul, Minnesota and can be contacted through perinatalhospice.org
Waiting with Gabriel is available through Amazon.com.