Article Response by: Scott Windsor
Yes, you read it correctly! There was an article recently published (February 23, 2012) in the Journal of Medical Ethics (JME) which is entitled: "After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?" The logic, or really the lack thereof, is based in their belief that many abortions (reality is very few of the overall picture) occur because of a detected abnormality in the unborn child. Quoting the article:
Such an issue arises, for example, when an abnormality has not been detected during pregnancy or occurs during delivery. Perinatal asphyxia, for instance, may cause severe brain damage and result in severe mental and/or physical impairments comparable with those for which a woman could request an abortion. Moreover, abnormalities are not always, or cannot always be, diagnosed through prenatal screening even if they have a genetic origin. This is more likely to happen when the disease is not hereditary but is the result of genetic mutations occurring in the gametes of a healthy parent. One example is the case of Treacher-Collins syndrome (TCS), a condition that affects 1 in every 10 000 births causing facial deformity and related physiological failures, in particular potentially life-threatening respiratory problems. Usually those affected by TCS are not mentally impaired and they are therefore fully aware of their condition, of being different from other people and of all the problems their pathology entails. Many parents would choose to have an abortion if they find out, through genetic prenatal testing, that their fetus is affected by TCS. However, genetic prenatal tests for TCS are usually taken only if there is a family history of the disease. Sometimes, though, the disease is caused by a gene mutation that intervenes in the gametes of a healthy member of the couple. Moreover, tests for TCS are quite expensive and it takes several weeks to get the result. Considering that it is a very rare pathology, we can understand why women are not usually tested for this disorder.
A serious philosophical problem arises when the same conditions that would have justified abortion become known after birth. In such cases, we need to assess facts in order to decide whether the same arguments that apply to killing a human fetus can also be consistently applied to killing a newborn human.
First off, it is not moral to kill ANY innocent human being! The child, whether pre-born or born, is still a human being who has done nothing to merit the death sentence. When mother and father conceive a child, they have not done so alone - for they are willing participants in God's gift to mankind - they cooperate in procreation of a new human being. While it may be difficult to understand God's Will all the time, especially in the case of birth defects which are the result of a genetic disorder, we are not called to sit in God's Judgment Seat and decide if an innocent life should be destroyed, whether still in the womb or postpartum. Once LIFE begins it should be allowed to take the natural course - God's Will - until it passes away naturally.
|Down Syndrome (CDC picture)|
For some "birth defects" life is not very long, for others it can last decades. The article goes on to justify abortion in the cases of Down Syndrome. They rationalize that if the parents had known their child would be born with Down Syndrome, they would likely opt for an abortion. Why? Because it is difficult to care for a child with Down Syndrome? Because children with Down Syndrome often have other health concerns and mental retardation? Certainly it is difficult to deal with this disease, but it is not impossible! We are never given more than we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13) and if a parent feels tempted to kill their child, whether preborn or born, let them know that God will also provide you with the means to withstand the temptation (ibid). Will your journey through this life be "easier" if you kill your child? Perhaps, but murder is still murder and a serious offense against God and mankind.
I have to add, for 23 years I taught gymnastics and was involved most of those years with Special Olympics, including having the honor to coach the Arizona State Special Olympics Champion for 3 of those years, and that child had Down Syndrome! She was very special in my life and I will always remember her fondly. Her parents chose LIFE and received many blessings for it, and I too was blessed by their decision.
One positive aspect of this article can be the fact that they level the playing field a bit more! They are not differentiating between a child within the womb and a child who was just born - IF it has some sort of anomaly. Therefore our argument against abortion can hold more weight too! If it is immoral to kill a child who has been born - then by the logic put forth by this article in the JME would make it just as immoral to kill a child who has not yet been born! The scary side of this is if they can actually convince parents and "doctors"(1) to kill a child who has been born, we open ourselves up to even more horrendousness being supported by "doctors" who promise to "give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion." (2)
I submit it is just as immoral to kill the unborn as it is to kill the born. A new human being begins life at conception, not at birth. EVERY abortion prevents a human heart from beating. It must be recognized, regardless of the medical rationalizations presented here, that nearly half the pregnancies in the United States are "unintended" and forty percent of those end in abortion. (3) In the period between 1973 and 2008 nearly 50 million "legal" abortions occurred." (ibid). So to attempt to rationalize "after birth abortion" for medical reasons and base that upon alleged medical reasons for having abortions would be opening us up to far more atrocities regarding our children.
|My daugher, Julianne. 1988-2011.|
I also speak as one who is the father of a child who was born with numerous medical issues. We were confronted by the medical staff at the hospital who organized a meeting with us, our pediatrician, other family members and priests from our parish - and we had to come to a decision to allow our daughter to continue struggling or we could have ended her life then and there. In essence, we were given the option to have an "after birth abortion" 23 years ago! Granted, at the time it would have been quite simple - she was on life-support equipment and would not have survived without it at that point. No one in that room would have faulted my wife and I if we had chose "the easy way out." Both of us saw it as just that - and we didn't have to go home and think about it, we chose LIFE for our daughter! Was it an easy life for her or us? By no means! We struggled through cancer, paralysis, heart conditions, pulmonary conditions, a brain tumor, ventilators, breathing machines, wheelchairs, numerous surgeries - but my daughter LIVED for 22 years! She entered eternity on February 6, 2011. I would not trade any of the trials and tribulations we went through at the cost of not having her for all those years! She was, and remains, a blessing to our lives.
So, in answer to the question asked in this article, "Why should the baby live?" I have to respond that ALL life is precious! Whether you are called to have perfect babies, or if your child has some sort of challenge, it is NOT your call to end the life of that child.
(1) I quote "doctors" because any "doctor" who would do this goes directly against the Hippocratic Oath each doctor takes.
(2) Hippocratic Oath: http://www.doctorslounge.com/oath.htm
(3) Guttmacher Institute: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html
Down Syndrome image from Center for Disease Control website: