Cross posted from BioEdge.
Children with special needs can be a great challenge to care for but a tragic story from Australia this week demonstrates that the search for the perfect child can have devastating consequences.
A hospital in Australia is making news for having killed the ‘wrong’ twin in a selective abortion. The mother of the two babies had wanted to abort the baby who doctors said had little chance to live. But now, both babies are dead.
The Herald Sun newspaper reports that the unnamed woman from Victoria had already named her unborn children when doctors told her one of the unborn babies had a congenital heart defect that would require years of operations, assuming the baby survived long enough to have them.
The mother decided to have an abortion, terminating the life of one of her unborn children and allowing the other baby to live.
The newspaper indicates an ultrasound technician checked on the healthy baby before the abortion and determined that the child was in a separate amniotic sac from its sibling. However, the abortion, which took place last Tuesday afternoon, went awry and the wrong baby was injected with drugs meant to end his or her life.
After the mother was informed of the error, doctors did an emergency Cesarean section and the sick unborn baby was killed in a three-hour operation, the newspaper indicates.
A friend of the mother told the newspaper she is having a difficult time following the error.
“She went to the hospital with two babies and now she has none. And she had the heartache of giving birth to her sick baby. She’s traumatized,’ she said. ‘The hospital said it had followed correct procedure, but how could this happen? The ultrasound clinician said she checked three times before the termination because she didn’t want to make a mistake.’
The newspaper indicates the family is considering legal action.
Ertelt goes on to relate the stories of other similar cases around the world.
The story graphically illustrates the grim reality of the ‘search and destroy’ approach to unborn babies with special needs. Such procedures are now very common although very few involve twins.
It is interesting that the killing of an ‘unwanted’ child with special needs in the womb is regarded as ‘normal’ whilst the killing of a ‘wanted’ normal child is seen as a tragedy and worthy of international news coverage.
And yet if the ‘abnormal’ baby had actually been born, doctors would presumably have done everything possible to provide what treatment or care they could.
Of course if the second ‘normal’ child had also been ‘unwanted’ then the story would not have warranted a mention. Abortion of ‘unwanted’ ‘normal’ babies takes place over 40 million times every year around the world.
The British Abortion Act 1967 currently allows abortion up until birth where there is a ‘substantial risk’ or a ‘serious handicap’ – so-called ground E – but this is currently interpreted very liberally indeed.
As I blogged previously, recently revealed statistics showed that between 2002 and 2010 there were 17,983 abortions in this category. The overwhelming majority of these were for conditions compatible with life outside the womb and 1,189 babies were aborted after 24 weeks, the accepted age of viability.
The 17,983 included 26 for babies with cleft lips or palates and another 27 with ‘congenital malformations of the ear, eye, face or neck’, which can include problems such as having glaucoma or being born with an ear missing.
Over the period 2002-2010 there were altogether 3,968 Down’s syndrome babies aborted and now 95% of all babies found to have Down’s syndrome before birth have their lives ended in this way.
Our society’s increasing obsession with celebrity status, physical perfection and high intelligence fuels the view that the lives of people with disabilities or genetic diseases are somehow less worth living.
By contrast the pro-life view is that the life of every human individual, regardless of its intelligence, beauty, state of health or degree of disability is infinitely precious. A just and caring society is one where the strong make sacrifices for the weak.
This story is a stark warning to recognise and resist the eugenic mindset. Our priorities should be to develop treatments and supportive measures for those with genetic disease; not to search them out and destroy them before birth.
Tragically, if this woman had not sought to intervene both her babies would probably still be alive, one needing further treatment and one not.
Cross posted from the Culture Vulture.
Okay, so Mike Sullivan alerted me to this most bizarre of stories which has just made the news headlines in the UK in the last 24 hours.
A British health watchdog has published a report recommending that women pregnant with multiple babies (i.e. two or more), should be warned about the health and psychological risks associated with aborting one or more of the babies, but the report does not suggest that the same warnings be given to women carrying only one child.
And just listen to the grounds they suggest for the warnings…
“The first guidance on multiple pregnancy from [the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice)] says that mothers-to-be should be given information on the “physical risks and psychological implications” of what is known as “selective fetal reduction” before their foetuses are screened for Down’s syndrome…
Nice’s guidance suggests that the procedure of aborting one of two or three fetuses is itself dangerous, and may later lead to emotional problems in both the mother and the remaining twin.”
Just consider the ramifications of what is being proposed here:
a. women should be warned before engaging in eugenic screening for Downs syndrome
b. women should be warned about the physical risks
c. women should be warned about the psychological risks
d. women should be warned about the emotional risks to the other children they have
So why is it that only women pregnant with multiple children should be warned about these risks when all of them apply just as much to women carrying only one child?
Not only is the fact that this report was released astounding in and of itself, but the fact that it excludes single child pregnancies is even more unbelievable.
One really has to wonder how long we can keep this macabre genie in the bottle, especially with the massive advances in science that are more and more showing the true reality of the humanity of the unborn child, as well as the serious risks posed to women who undergo the abortion procedure.
Cross posted from the Culture Vulture.
Owen Strachan has posted a great article on his blog about the discomfort that readers of the New York Times have expressed about an article which discussed the practice of aborting one twin in a multiple pregnancy situation (euphemistically known as ‘pregnancy reduction’).
Interestingly, while this practice is just making the mainstream media now, it isn’t actually something new and it has been going on (even here in NZ) for many years.
Here’s what Owen had to say…
Those who read about the New York Times magazine story on “pregnancy reductions” (a euphemism for the abortion of one or more gestating babies) on this and other blogs might find this graphic from the NYT interesting.
It’s a bit hard to make out (click here for the link to the graphic), but it shows that a majority of commenters on the Times‘s website found the story hard to bear. The commenters are undoubtedly from a wide range of backgrounds, but the range of responses recorded to the left show a profound discomfort with the practice of “reducing” twins from a mother’s womb. This response is heartening. Part of comprehending the world aright is being unsettled by ghastly things.
Also worth noting: 21 people responded by noting that they are twins and “couldn’t imagine life without their twin.” I can scarcely imagine what it would be like to bear the continual memory of a child aborted in the womb, let alone to be visibly reminded of this abortion on a daily basis by the presence of the living twin. In the smile, the childish ebullience, the sleeping face of one’s child, one would always see the frail image of another, departed brother or sister. This sounds like the subject material of a particularly dark work of fiction, but it is not. It is the reality for a growing numbers of dads and moms.
Ghosts are not real, but they can almost be real.
I am reminded of the chilling scene from The Pianist when, awaiting deportation to Treblinka, a mother wails, for hours and hours, “Why did I do it?” She had smothered her baby to avoid being discovered by Nazi guards and was haunted to the point of insanity by her decision. I think modern parents choosing “pregnancy reduction” may face such realities…
Thanks to the Culture Vulture for this great commentary from Slate…
What’s worse than an abortion? Half an abortion.
It sounds like a bad joke. But it’s real. According to Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, demand is rising for “reduction” procedures in which a woman carrying twins keeps one and has the other aborted. Since twin pregnancies are generally safe, these abortions are largely elective.
Across the pro-choice blogosphere, including Slate, the article has provoked discomfort. RH Reality Check, a website dedicated to abortion rights, ran an item voicing qualms with one woman’s reduction decision. Jezebel, another pro-choice site, acknowledged the “complicated ethics” of reduction. Frances Kissling, a longtime reproductive rights leader, wrote a Washington Post essay asking whether women should forgo fertility treatment rather than risk a twin pregnancy they’d end up half-aborting.
In comments on these articles, pro-choice readers express similar misgivings. “Even as a woman who has terminated a pregnancy, I totally understand the author’s apprehension … something about it just doesn’t feel right,” says a Slate reader. A commenter at Jezebel writes that “if I were put in the position and decided to/needed to abort a single fetus, I could. But if I knew that I was keeping the baby and it turned out to be twins, I don’t think I could have a reduction.”
To pro-lifers and hardcore pro-choicers, this queasiness seems odd. After all, a reduction is an abortion. If anything, reduction should be less problematic than ordinary abortion, since one life is deliberately being spared. Why, then, does reduction unsettle so many pro-choicers?
For some, the issue seems to be a consumer mentality in assisted reproduction. For others, it’s the deliberateness of getting pregnant, especially by IVF, without being prepared to accept the consequences. But the main problem with reduction is that it breaches a wall at the center of pro-choice psychology. It exposes the equality between the offspring we raise and the offspring we abort.
Look up any abortion-related item in Jezebel, and you’ll see the developing human referred to as a fetus or pregnancy. But when the same entity appears in a non-abortion item, it gets an upgrade. A blood test could help “women who are concerned that they may be carrying a child with Down’s Syndrome.” A TV character wonders whether she’s “capable of carrying a child to term.” Nuclear radiation in Japan “may put unborn children at risk.”
This bifurcated mindset permeates pro-choice thinking. Embryos fertilized for procreation are embryos; embryos cloned for research are “activated eggs.” A fetus you want is a baby; a fetus you don’t want is a pregnancy. Under federal law, anyone who injures or kills a “child in utero” during a violent crime gets the same punishment as if he had injured or killed “the unborn child’s mother,” but no such penalty applies to “an abortion for which the consent of the pregnant woman … has been obtained.”
Reduction destroys this distinction. It combines, in a single pregnancy, a wanted and an unwanted fetus. In the case of identical twins, even their genomes are indistinguishable. You can’t pretend that one is precious and the other is just tissue. You’re killing the same creature to which you’re dedicating your life.
Sophie’s Choice is a common theme in abortion decisions. To give your existing kids the attention and resources they’ll need, you have to terminate your fetus. This rationale fits the pro-choice calculus that born children are worth more than unborn ones. But in the case of reduction, the child for whom you’re reserving attention and resources is equally unborn. She is, and will always be, a living reminder of what you exterminated.
This is what tortures pro-choicers. “I just couldn’t sleep at night knowing that I terminated my daughter’s perfectly healthy twin brother,” says a commenter in the Times story. A Jezebel reader worries about “all the poor surviving twins who will one day find out that their other is missing.” Another Jezebel reader writes:
I’d have a much easier time aborting a single baby or both twins than doing a reduction. When you reduce, the remaining twin will remain a persistent reminder of the unborn child. I think that, more than anything would make killing that fetus feel like killing another human, even though it wasn’t fully developed. It would feel that way because you would have a living copy of the person you killed.
That’s the anguish of reduction: watching the fetus you spared become what its twin will never be. And knowing that the only difference between them was your will.