Sadly, some parents are told that their baby may not live for long after birth, or might not make it to birth at all. But those children, until such time as nature takes its course, are alive and kicking, and have the same right to life as every other child.
Recently huge media attention has been given to legalising abortion in Ireland for babies who have received a diagnosis of anencephaly, trisomy 13, or other conditions which may severely limit the life span of a child.
Research shows that 90% of Irish parents DO NOT abort their baby following a life-limiting diagnosis. Those parents have then been able to spend precious time with their children - both while the baby was in the womb, and then for hours, days and sometimes weeks and months and even years after birth. (1)
These children do not suffer in the womb or after birth - that is absolutely untrue, since palliative care manages discomfort or pain the baby may feel after birth. Before birth, baby is protected from any pain in the womb.
Most children diagnosed with these disorders live beyond birth - and some continue to astound their families and doctors. For example, 70% of babies with anencephaly live after birth, and 30% of chilren born with Trisomy 13 live for longer than a month. Children with life-limiting disorders have a right to their life, however short that life may be, and however severe their disability. You can see some of their beautiful stories below. (2,3,4)
In stark contrast to the Irish experience, in countries where abortion is legal, up to 95% of children with a life-limiting diagnosis are aborted. (5)
Parents in this situation deserve much more than our sympathy - they need us to put professional support systems in place. The Minister for Health must establish perinatal hospice services in Ireland as soon as possible. Irish medical care will prevent any suffering that parents fear their children might endure after birth. (6)
In contrast to the loving answer given by perintal hospice, abortion ends the life of these babies by lethal injection or worse.
‘Although we have a pro-life identity, we do not have the healthcare that supports parents and newborn babies who have complex needs’. The Irish Times, 21 April 2012
Jaquier M, Klein A, Boltshauser E. ‘Spontaneous pregnancy outcome after prenatal diagnosis of anencephaly.’ BJOG 2006; 113:951–953
Mitchel L. Zoler, ‘Trisomy 18 survival can exceed 1 year’, OB/GYN News, 1 March 2003
Mitchel L. Zoler, ‘Trisomy 13 survival can exceed 1 year’, OB/GYN News, 1 March 2003
Mansfi eld C, Hopfer S, Marteau TM. ‘Termination rates after prenatal diagnosis’. Prenatal Diagnosis, Sept 1999. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10521836
You may have read that most Irish women who are told their baby has been diagnosed with a serious or life-limiting abnormality go to the UK for an abortion. Figures as high as 80% have been suggesed repeatedly - on RTE's Prime Time and in the Irish Independent.
Official records from the British Department of Health show that estimation to be wildly incorrect.
There are approximately 700 diagnoses of serious or life-limiting abnormalities made each year in Ireland. Recently the Irish media claimed there were 1500, and that 80% of these babies are aborted - which would mean that 1200 abortions take place on Irish women in Britain every year under Ground E of the British Abortion Act - where there is a “substantial risk of the child being born seriously handicapped.”
That is not the case. In fact it is wildly incorrect - an overstatement by a factor of 20.
The records kept by the British Deptartment of Health not only record all Ground E abortions on Irish women, but also record the condition diagnosed, and separate out conditions such as anencephaly, Trisomy 18 (Edwards Syndrome), Patau's Syndrome etc.
As you can see from the Table released by the British Department of Health below, in 2011 a total of 51 abortions were carried out on Irish women for reasons of disability - including Down Syndrome, which is not a life-limiting abnormality at all.
In 2011, for example, 8 babies with anencephaly being carried by Irish women were aborted, 7 with Edwards Syndrome, and 7 with Patau's Syndrome. In 2010, the number was higher at 68 abortions; in 2009, it was lower at 42 abortions.
Clearly these figures are nowhere close to what is being claimed by abortion advocates. Only 61 of an estimated 700 pregnancies where the baby had a serious or life-limiting abnormality was aborted in 2011, for example.
The figures show that more than 90% of parents facing a diagnosis of terminal illness for their unborn baby go on to bring their babies to term. If we change the law, that figure will be upended, to reflect the British reality where up to 90% of children, even those with conditions such as Down Syndrome, are aborted. These babies, and their families, deserve better than abortion.
www.benotafraid.net (support group for parents with a poor prenatal diagnosis)
NEWS PIECES AND INTERVIEWS
John Paul Johnson lived for seventeen minutes after birth, surrounded by his family and those who loved him. He was theirs for a time: and every moment of his life in the womb and after birth was celebrated by his family. His mother, Clíona, talks about those precious moments with John Paul, and the love he brought to everyone.
Aileen from Kildare tells us about her daughter LillyAnn in a beautiful testimony
Dubliner Fiona was told her baby boy, Andrew, had anencephaly. He lived for 27 hours after birth.
Bryce Daniel's mother was advised to abort her son and was told he would not live long. Watch this moving video of their struggle and the story of a mum whose son was born with hydrocephalus
Eliot was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 while in the womb. Eliot was born with an undeveloped lung, a heart with a hole in it and DNA that placed faulty information into each and every cell of his body.
Paris Tassin was advised to abort her baby girl but she choose life. See her audition on American Idol
Don and Shawna Albright discuss the series of events that took them from being told to terminate a pregnancy to finding the one surgeon in the world who could fix their unborn daughter's heart defects. Called one of the most complex heart repairs ever, Frank Hanley MD, and his team at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital repaired a series of heart defects that other doctors said would impossible to fix. Kennadee Albright now has a fully repaired heart, and celebrated her 1st birthday on on 21 May 2011.
Without saying a word, Lacey Buchanan tells the story of their love for Christian and the joy he brings to their lives and to the many others he encounters. Using cards and music she says it all beautifully in this must-watch video.
Psychological trauma following abortion appears to be least when the pregnancy is early, when there is no maternal ambiguity about the decision and when the child was most definitely not wanted.
Conversely psychological trauma is most marked with late, wanted pregnancies.
As abortions for congenital abnormality usually occur in pregnancies that are both late and wanted, it is not surprising therefore that psychological morbidity is considerable.
Psychological morbidity following termination of pregnancy for fetal disability is prevalent and persistent (1,2) and associated with long-lasting consequences for a substantial number of women (3).
Rather than leading to psychological well-being, termination of pregnancy for fetal disability is an emotionally traumatic major life event which leads to severe posttraumatic stress response and intense grief reactions that are still detectable some years later (4).
People do not easily ‘get over it’ although proper support during the loss can lessen psychological morbidity (5). In fact women who terminate pregnancies for fetal anomalies experience grief as intense as those who experience spontaneous perinatal loss with approximately a fifth developing major depression and/or requiring psychiatric intervention (6).
Their families are also not immune with even very young children and those sheltered from knowledge of the event showing reactions to their parents’ distress and maternal absence (7).
Some may experience an acute grief reaction or be plagued by guilt and fear that can precipitate marital breakdown. Additionally, there is a risk that through striving to eradicate congenital disability, a community risks promoting a cult of perfectionism that may have discriminatory effects on disabled people (8).
By contrast, current data on children and families affected by disabilities indicate that disability does not preclude a satisfying life. Many problems attributed to the existence of a disability actually stem from inadequate social arrangements that public health professionals should work to change (9).
This, along with the psychological morbidity often accompanying abortion for fetal disability has led many to conclude that abortion for even severe fetal disability, as well as taking the life of a disabled person, is also worse for the parents and families concerned.
This is underlined by a case report in which a mother, against advice, chose to carry an eventually stillborn baby with anencephaly to term. It was found afterwards that she was ‘managing well and was more emotionally stable than the majority of women who underwent termination on genetic grounds’ (10).
Janet Goodall, a paediatrician with a lifetime’s experience of caring of severely disabled children, describes the ‘pearl effect’.
‘In a culture that views success and failure in materialistic terms, many perceive disabled children as an extra burden.
But paradoxically, divorce rates and unhappiness are no more common in the families of disabled children than in those with healthy children.
Like the grit in the oyster that causes a pearl to form, caring for a child with special needs often strengthens relational bonds and encourages spiritual growth.
As the agony of Gethsemane led to resurrection life, so the reciprocal love between the disabled child and his parents and the care shown by professionals, families and churches can act as a catalyst for maturity and stability.’(11)
The Christian ethic, which calls the strong to make sacrifices for the weak, following Christ’s own example to us, leads to a strengthening of family and society, by combating discrimination and strengthening human virtues of patience, perseverance and altruism.
Davies V et al. Psychological outcome in women undergoingtermination of pregnancy for ultrasound-detected fetal anomaly in the first andsecond trimesters: a pilot study. Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol 2005;25(4):389-92(April)
Kersting A et al. Grief after termination of pregnancydue to fetal malformation. J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol 2004;25(2):163-9(June)
Korenromp MJ et al. Long-term psychological consequences of pregnancytermination for fetal abnormality: a cross-sectional study. Prenat Diagn 2005Mar;25(3):253-60
Kersting A et al. Trauma and grief 2-7 years aftertermination of pregnancy because of fetal anomalies–a pilot study. JPsychosom Obstet Gynaecol 2005;26(1):9-14 (March)
Geerinck-Vercammen CR, Kanhai HH. Coping with terminationof pregnancy for fetal abnormality in a supportive environment. PrenatDiagn 2003;23(7):543-8 (July)
Zeanah CH et al. Do women grieve after terminatingpregnancies because of fetal anomalies? A controlled investigation. ObstetGynecol 1993;82(2):270-5 (August)
Furlong RM, Black RB. Pregnancy termination for geneticindications: the impact on families. Soc Work Health Care 1984;10(1):17-34(Autumn)
Chandler M, Smith A. Prenatal screening and women’sperception of infant disability: a Sophie’s Choice for every mother. NursInq 1998;5(2):71-6 (June)
Asch A. Prenatal diagnosis and selective abortion: achallenge to practice and policy. Am J Public Health 1999;89(11):1649-57(November)
Watkins D. An alternative to termination of pregnancy. Practitioner 1989;233(1472):990,992 (8 July)
Goodall J. The Pearl effect. Triple Helix 2003;10-11(Winter)
Thank you to Dr. Peter Saunders, a doctor and the CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, a British organization with 4,500 doctors and 1,000 medical students as members, for the above information on abortion for life-limiting abnormalities.