Doctors told Lucy her unborn son, Tommy, was “incompatible with life.” A prenatal diagnosis indicated little Tommy suffered from Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards’ syndrome: a chromosomal condition that can result in abnormal development and birth defects impacting internal organs. So Lucy did what many women do, and followed her doctor’s advice to abort her baby.
It didn’t take long for her to experience regret.
“One week after Tommy’s abortion I was struggling for closure,” Lucy told me. “One minute you’re pregnant, and the next minute you’re not, and there’s nothing to show for it. I have never held nor seen my baby other than the memories of a child waving his arms for a sonogram.”
Tommy didn’t have a birth certificate, a baptism, or a funeral.
“He had been disposed of as part of ‘medical waste,’” Lucy said, “and the world will never know of his existence other than in his mother’s heart. He was a non-event.”
Death Is Better than Suffering?
While I can understand mothers’ pain and confusion, I never could understand the justification for easy access to late-term abortion. People will say things like, “My child would have suffered,” or “My baby would be born with problems,” and that reasoning never made much sense to me. Essentially, they’re saying, “My child will suffer, so I will kill him or her in the womb. It’s the compassionate thing to do.” That is what society often tells them.
No one makes this decision lightly. Few things are as heart-wrenching as preparing for the birth of a new baby and getting the grim news of an adverse diagnosis. I’m not writing this to blame or judge anyone who has been in this situation. But the fact that we’re justifying the abortion of viable unborn babies brings us across a line we should have never crossed.
Real compassion means supporting parents who make the difficult decision to accept their babies as they are, and to love them when they’re born. Even if they have a short time on this earth, every child deserves to experience love.
For several years now, I have worked with couples who were prompted to abort because of an adverse prenatal diagnosis. From the moment they’re delivered the news, they’re pressured to abort. They don’t even have time to process the situation, to work through their confusion, shock, and despair before they’re told that ending the pregnancy is the compassionate thing to do.
Pressuring Parents Into a Life-Altering Decision
Medical professionals are sadly adept at pushing parents toward abortion. Some lay guilt trips on would-be parents for even considering bringing their pregnancies to term, framing it as a selfish decision. Abortion is the compassionate thing to do, they insist.
Often, that pressure is coupled with doctors pushing parents to make a decision quickly, without giving them the time to think through their options or find alternative support. In the end, many parents are left feeling like they didn’t have any other choice.
It’s no secret that there can be errors in diagnosis. Couples who have been told their child is “incompatible with life” have gone on to have healthy children, and many who have chosen life have experienced the peace and joy of sharing whatever time God allows them to have with their children.
“I think of her all the time,” said one woman I worked with, recalling the baby girl she opted to abort on the advice of her doctors. “People who give birth, and then their child dies, can speak of their baby freely and remember their child lovingly. They have a peace and are grateful for what little time they had. We are always filled with guilt knowing we caved in to the pressures and abandoned our baby … Everyone tries to make this seem normal, but there is nothing normal about taking the life of your own child.”
How Far We’ve Fallen in So Short a Time
Here in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pressing for legislation to make late-term abortion legal and untouchable all nine months of pregnancy, for any reason. Cuomo, an abortion enthusiast, makes the emotionally manipulative argument that parents who receive adverse diagnoses shouldn’t have to travel to another state to “terminate” a pregnancy. It’s another burden in an already taxing situation, the argument goes.
What these masters of false compassion don’t mention is that late-term abortions have inherent risks to the life of the mother as well. They don’t tell couples that there are wonderful organizations that exist to help people just like them work through adverse diagnoses. They don’t mention the feelings of grief and devastation afterward. Instead, they insist aborting the baby is simply “the right thing to do.”
Decades ago, before the passage of Roe vs. Wade, we were assured legalization wasn’t the first tentative step down a slippery moral slope. We were assured abortion would only be performed in life or death situations, for the health of the mother. Little by little, however, our collective moral conscience was eroded by gradual steps to expand access to abortion, with each increasingly permissive piece of legislation bringing us to the brink of birth.
Make no mistake about it: late-term abortion is not compassionate. It is the killing of viable unborn children. No one is “incompatible with life” until they die. A baby’s life may be short or difficult. We may be challenged to grow in love as we care for a sick child. But to argue that the killing of unborn babies spares the suffering of both child and mother is a huge lie, a reassuring lie we tell ourselves when we don’t want to think about our cultural disregard for life.