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Doctors Should Be Feeling Compassion For Sick Babies, Not Disdain


Federal Judge Tanya Walton Pratt has finally scheduled a hearing for June 14 to consider a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood filed last month. It seeks to ban Indiana’s new abortion law, House Bill 1337, from going into effect on July 1. The law prohibits discriminatory abortions for sex, race, and disability.

Some have charged that this is politics masquerading as medicine, an intrusion of the state into the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship. But it isn’t. In fact, HB 1337 has primarily exposed the pro-choice movement’s reliance upon discrimination and, more deeply, uncovered the disfigured ethic of modern medicine.

Doctors now are even publicly expressing their commitment to the pro-choice movement. They are decrying new restrictions of “freedom” for their patients that prevent them from eliminating some children in the womb—especially the disabled babies, the sick children they diagnose.

We Need Doctors We Can Trust

Indianapolis OB-GYN Katherine McHugh articulated this perspective after this law passed. Her response to HB 1337 in The Washington Post should be considered the archetypal response of the modern, pro-choice physician who finds the option of aborting babies with genetic abnormalities both (1) a moral good and (2) a medical necessity.

Her article is worth a closer look, because McHugh’s response actually revealed the adverse effects abortion has on the practice of medicine. While she and others claim this law will force them to ignore their medical training, ironically, the very opposite is true.

First, we must admire every doctor who is burdened with the responsibility of delivering devastating diagnoses to his or her patients. One can only imagine the depth and weight of such a duty. As McHugh acknowledges from the outset of her article: “I am never prepared to deliver the news that that a pregnancy is abnormal.” We have to admire her honesty.

She even expresses her willingness to persevere through complications for her patients who choose not to abort their sick children. Indeed, this is admirable, and we ought to commend her for supporting those parents, as well as caring for her young, sick patients.

This kind of courage and strength endows the physician with a peculiar honor, one we should acknowledge and respect. Many of us, or our children, will likely be in need of a doctor’s unconditional care. We will need one we can count on to protect us, to bear with our physical infirmities.

It’s Not Okay to Kill Instead of Help Sick People

But I fear this hope is deteriorating under the esteem of the “abortion ethic,” for throughout McHugh’s article she makes it clear that, as a doctor, she will freely abandon her medical obligations toward the truly sick, as long as the parent of the one who is ill expresses some form of emotion turmoil.

Since when did abortion become an essential means of alleviating emotional suffering?

Her abandonment is justified because she believes this law’s restriction on abortions, specifically those that target genetic anomalies, will “make her patients suffer.” She strikes this chord from beginning to end. According to McHugh, “The law doesn’t save babies, it just forces a horrific fate onto both mother and child…this law forces me to ignore my medical training and stand idly by while my patients suffer.”

Since when did abortion become an essential means of alleviating emotional suffering? McHugh implies some correlation between the two, despite the fact that there is no conclusive, scientific evidence that proves abortion actually relieves emotional turmoil. In fact, there is sound research to the contrary. She also completely disregards the blessing that often arises for many through the heavy burdens of bearing children with disabilities.

Of course, there’s no doubt that emotional trauma is real for mothers, fathers, partners, and families who receive these devastating diagnoses. But one still must wonder: “What does a mother’s emotional suffering have to do with McHugh practicing medicine?”

Moving Science from Objective to Subjective Work

By definition, “medicine” is “the science or practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease.” As a medical doctor, therefore, McHugh’s responsibilities are limited to science, to practicing medicine, as she claims in her article. Specifically, as an obstetrician and gynecologist, she is an expert on the profound and awe-inspiring process of childbirth and the female reproductive organs.

Instead of taking an unconditional stance to care for the truly sick patient, she submits to the emotional pain of the healthy mother.

Thus, in the case of a healthy, pregnant woman whose child was just diagnosed with a fatal or severe illness, where should the full force of McHugh’s medical prowess be directed? Who is experiencing, or will experience, the kind of suffering McHugh is responsible for treating (i.e. disease, injury, etc.)?

Amazingly, instead of taking an unconditional stance to care for the truly sick patient, she submits to the emotional pain of the healthy mother. While she encourages killing disabled children, as an “ethical, safe, and appropriate” surgical procedure for parents who “can’t handle” the horror of their baby’s disability, she also medicates and cares for the sick babies whose parents can. In other words: the mother dictates McHugh’s medical decisions.

Could a pediatrician work under such terms? No way. Well, not yet, at least.

McHugh, therefore, reveals that she embraces two irreconcilable, contradictory beliefs, not only about the nature of human life, but about sickness and health, about medicine. Eschewing logic, McHugh bows to the secular superstition where the emotive “choice” of a mother can either breathe a spirit of life and dignity into a fetus, or render a sick child a disposable parasite. Truth dictates that we can’t have it both ways. The child is either one or the other, no matter how the mother feels about it.

Using Technology to Kill, Not Heal

Sadly, McHugh’s apathy for the sick grows deeper when she admits that she and her colleagues are now questioning whether they “should even offer prenatal screening now that there’s no legal choice to end a pregnancy because of the results.” How much do doctors have to despise their sick patients to altogether disregard their diagnoses and future treatment?

If today the family gets to decide whether having a disabled child is ‘right for them,’ tomorrow, it will be society.

Given the advent of fetal surgery—which proves the viability of the infant’s patient-hood—this makes her comments all the more chilling. The reluctance to offer diagnostic services suggests that, for McHugh and others, the scientific advancements in prenatal genetic testing have been primarily utilized for purposes other than treating the diagnosed. In the sober eye, these purposes appear far more eugenic than medical.

For, according to McHugh, “Scientific advances can detect abnormalities with increasing accuracy, allowing families to decide whether having a child with a disability is right for them.” Eugenics blossoms out of this kind of indifference to human dignity and health. If today the family gets to decide whether having a disabled child is “right for them,” tomorrow, it will be society.

Shouldn’t doctors rise above “family politics,” in principle? Should they not be solidly secured in the sixth article of the Hippocratic Oath: “Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. Above all, I must not play at God”? Therefore, although McHugh claims she is driven by “science and research—not politics,” given that many of her medical decisions are subjected to emotion and her sympathies lie with “eugenic-compassion,” we now see that her claims are utterly vacuous.

Killing Children and Medicine

Because of abortion, pro-choice OB-GYNs have injected superstition and the seeds of eugenicide into their medical practice. Clearly, Indiana’s new law is not going to force McHugh, or any other pro-choice doctor, to “ignore [their] medical training.” She, and others, have already done so without it.

Sick children should not have to prematurely meet their demise through icy, steel utensils or lethal injection.

Sick children should not have to prematurely meet their demise through icy, steel utensils or lethal injection. As a little boy or girl rests in the womb of his or her mother, no disease or disability can tear away their sacred, human dignity. Justice demands that a warm, human embrace meet these little ones upon their birth—dead or alive. Justice demands that virtue conquer the stench of death and disease. Justice demands that the sick receive care from their physicians, not neglect.

Thus, I urge Judge Patton to consider these issues carefully. Especially, I urge our pro-choice OB-GYNs to consider where their concern is for the youngest and the sickest among us? If pro-choice physicians continue to adopt this tortured ethic, they will not only continue to exterminate human life, they will take an active role in killing their own, honorable vocation of medicine.