When my wife gives birth to our fourth child this year, he will need open heart surgeries as soon as he’s physically able. His heart isn’t like everyone else’s. The aorta and pulmonary artery are connected to the wrong ventricles. On top of that, there’s a hole in the wall separating the ventricles. He cannot survive with the current setup.
My wife and I have always been pro-life. She dealt with abortion advice as a teenager, when doctors told her she was too young to have our first son. That was easy advice to dismiss, even for a pair of teens who knew nothing. But this time was different. The question wasn’t whether we were ready to be parents. This time, the question was whether we wanted our next child to suffer—even if he survives at all.
Our Doctor Gave Us Exactly the Information We Needed
We live in Orange County, California. Despite our state’s reputation as hard-left, we live in one of California’s few bastions of conservatism. There are still liberal elements here, as there are everywhere. As the doctor described our baby’s condition and started running down the risks and challenges that lay ahead for us and our son, I braced myself. I knew our doctor would pressure us to have an abortion.
Except, she didn’t. She didn’t tell us not to have one, either.
She laid out the situation kindly and factually, even drawing pictures of our son’s rare condition so we could better understand what he’s facing. Her physician’s smile told of hope for life, while not hinting at any opposition if we chose a different path. In fact, her only mention of abortion came when she told us the deadline to decide based upon California’s 24-week law.
I could sense no bias one way or another, and I was watching very closely. I don’t believe she could read our thoughts on the matter; I didn’t even have to glance at my wife to know there wasn’t a decision to be made. As far as I could tell, it was the most caring yet utterly neutral presentation of gut-wrenching news I’d ever seen delivered.
Then, she said something that astounded me. “Whatever decision you make will be the right one because it comes from love.”
Medical Neutrality Is Pro-Life
I’ve written countless articles about the pro-life movement and against the idea of “reproductive rights.” I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m an activist. There are plenty of people who work much harder than I do who deserve that title. But I write what I can. This is the first time I’ve written from personal experience, and it’s the most important perspective I’ve ever held.
If all doctors presented the facts the way our doctor did, fewer preborn children would be killed. Of this, I’m certain.
As a bystander, I’ve tried to think of ways to convince more doctors to be pro-life. It seemed the easiest way to prevent birth defect-motivated abortions was to have more doctors promote the concept of life to their patients. We know that Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion medical organizations push their agenda. Why shouldn’t we get more doctors to push ours?
Doctors Shouldn’t Push An Agenda—They Should Present the Truth
I was wrong. After experiencing it firsthand, I now realize that the way our doctor laid out the facts is the best way to save lives.
It’s very likely that another couple in our situation, hearing the exact same description, may choose to abort. In America, they have that right.
However, I no longer believe that someone willing to abort their preborn child because of this type of birth defect would be swayed by a pro-life message from their doctor. For it to happen would require the doctor to give false hope, or to sugarcoat the future potential hardships.
If pro-life medical professionals start using lies the way that pro-choice medical professionals often do, we will not save more lives. In fact, we could end up causing more abortions because of the lost trust associated with the lies.
This Battle Must Be Won in the Culture, Not the Doctor’s Office
What would happen if pro-life doctors convinced their patients to have children with birth defects by lying or even stretching the truth? Journalists would write about “religious fanatical doctors” spreading falsehoods to help the “anti-abortion movement.” Our attempts to save lives could result in more people discarding the advice of their doctors, because of fear that their doctors are lying.
This isn’t a medical issue. It’s not a political issue, either. Situations like ours are purely cultural. We believe that every life is sacred. If we can make more people believe this, the number of abortions due to birth defects will go down. Pro-life doctors can’t sell their agenda to those predisposed to a pro-choice ideology, any more than a pro-choice doctor could have convinced us to have an abortion. As for the political battle, that can only effectively prevent frivolous abortions-on-demand. Our situation is far from frivolous.
We need doctors who present the facts as the facts. Politicizing birth defect abortions in either direction only antagonizes those of the opposite perspective. This is a battle that will be won on the cultural battleground. These are decisions that must come from love.