Saturday, April 16, 2005

On the use of Human Shields

Uncommon Misconception is one woman's tragic story of the prenatal diagnosis and abortion of her son, Thomas.

Julia's pain is very real, as is the pain of women in similar situations. What compounds the tragedy is that her family's pain is being used to promote abortion as palliative care.

Julia's unborn son, Thomas, was diagnosed in-utero with arthrogryposis. A baby with arthrogryposis has severe muscle contractions, causing truly tragic deformity. Julia underwent amniocentesis to try to determine the cause of the arthrogryposis. But the amnio came back normal, meaning they didn't know why Thomas had arthrogryposis. Julia's testing also indicated that Thomas had cleft palate and swelling of the skull, which indicated a more severe prognosis. (Note: Each link in the proceeding paragraph leads to a different arthrogryposis site.)

As Julie tells her story:

Even the best case scenario was abominable.. Thomas would lead a very short life of only a few years at the very most. During those years he would be in constant pain from the ceaseless, charley-horse-type cramps that would rack his body. He would undergo numerous, largely ineffective surgeries, just to stay alive. He would never be able to walk or stand; never grasp anything, never be able to hold himself upright. He wouldn’t even be able to suck his own thumb for comfort. And this was only if we were lucky. The more likely scenarios tended toward fetal death and serious health complications for me.

Julie and her husband chose abortion. Julie rhapsodizes about how caring everybody was during the induction abortion that ended her son's life. And I have no doubt that in her case, she was indeed surrounded by people moved by her plight. She's one of the lucky ones.

Julia struggled with the pain of her son's short life, and concluded, "Through him, I’ve grown closer to God, who understands what it is to sacrifice your only begotten son in the name of mercy."

I won't address the theological ramifications of comparing abortion with the crucifixion. But I will address what abortion advocates fail to address: The sad fact that the best they can offer women like Julia is a nice, sanitary way to kill their children.

What abortion advocates have done with Julie is abominable. They are using her, and women like her, as human shields.

There are three important responses to this appalling exploitation:

1. It's cruel to offer only two choices: abortion or futile and intrusive care. It's especially cruel when there is a third, life-affirming option: perinatal hospice. Whose needs are being addressed when women are given a dreadful Sophie's Choice scenario, and placed in that situation needlessly, when a loving and compassionate alternative is available?

2. Women who get a prenatal diagnosis are routinely given unrealistically grim prognoses. This is so well documented that even Senator Ted Kennedy, a great proponent of abortion, has co-sponsored the Brownback-Kennedy Prenatally Diagnosed Condition Awareness Act to ensure that families are given accurate and up-to-date information, not frightened and intimidated into unwanted abortions.

3. Even if the legislature would concede that in Julia's case, an abortion was justifiable, Julia hardly constitutes, as she calls herself, "the face of late-term abortion." Even Ron Fitzsimmons, head of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, called upon the prochoice movement to stop lying about the reasons women undergo late abortions. This page pulls together a lot of prochoice research on why women undergo late abortions.

Only two percent (2%) said "a fetal problem was diagnosed late in pregnancy," compared to 71% who responded "did not recognize that she was pregnant or misjudged gestation," 48% who said "found it hard to make arrangements," and 33% who said "was afraid to tell her partner or parents." The report did not indicate that any of the 420 late abortions were performed because of maternal health problems. ["Why Do Women Have Abortions?," Family Planning Perspectives, July/August 1988.]

But it boils down to this: Cases in which the mother sought a late abortion because of a fetal anomaly amount to 2% of late abortions. And remember, "fetal anomaly" is a broad category that includes everything from a fetal condition like anenecephaly to conditions like Down Syndrome -- hardly a fate worse than death -- to simple cleft palate. It also includes mere suspicion of a fetal abnormality. So putting Julia behind the microphone and presenting her as "the face of late-term abortion" is a bald-faced lie. And if late abortion is really something society can get behind, why aren't abortion advocates putting forth more typical cases? (For more on this theme, see Late Abortion Lies: They're Only Done for Health Reasons.)

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