Thursday, April 28, 2011

Stunning but True

I wasn’t sure what to say or how to react.

We hadn’t seen in each in well over ten years when I bumped into her at the hospital. So the talk naturally gravitated to our children. Hers are older and are already having children of their own. However, her youngest had just lost her baby five months or so into the pregnancy.

“How awful,” I replied. “You must have been devastated.”

“Well,” she said, “if the baby had been born, the doctors said she would not have lived long and would have needed to be on a feeding tube. So they decided to have a medical abortion.”

“Oh,” I replied.

“We called a priest to baptize the baby,” she continued, “but he refused to do it. That’s the kind of thing that turns people off to the Church.”

She must have sensed from my blank look and silence that I was stunned by what she had told me.

“I guess you can see both sides of it,” she said and decided it would probably be better to change the subject

I was indeed stunned because she and her family are well meaning people whom I thought should know better that we do not put children, babies or the unborn “ out of their misery” because of their disabilities. Instead I was brought face to face with a reality of life in our society - some ninety percent of unborn children diagnosed in utero with down syndrome, spina bifida, hemophilia or cleft palate are aborted in the United States and Europe. We might not want to frame it this way, but we are deciding that only perfect little babies should be allowed to live.

In India and China, much the same dynamic is taking place. For several decades now it has been a common practice for couples to abort unborn female babies. These sex selective abortions reflect the strong cultural preference for sons. It is creating a widening disparity between the number of men and women in those countries meaning that very many men will never be able to marry and raise a family.

The reality of sex selective abortions puts the lie to the claim that abortion is a woman’s rights issue. If women who behave rarely make history, we can be sure that women who are aborted never make history.

Arizona recently passed a law prohibiting abortion based on a fetus’s race or sex, reflecting the growing number of immigrants from countries where these practices are common. It would have been interesting if they had also criminalized abortions against unborn children diagnosed with disabilities. The law might not have passed as easily, but it would have sparked an interesting debate and made it much harder for the pro-abortion lobby to deny that they are interested in purifying American society from “undesirables.”

I don’t want to sound insensitive to couples who receive the news that their unborn child has been diagnosed with Down Syndrome or spina bifida. It must be heart wrenching. However, they deserve better advise from their doctors than to terminate the pregnancy. They deserve more options than abortion and the physical, emotional and spiritual toll it takes on couples. And they deserve to have their unborn child treated with the same dignity and care as the healthy unborn child of the fair skinned couple in the next room.

Today is the feast day of Saint Gianna Molla. When pregnant with her fourth child, she learned that she had a fibroma. Rather than undergoing a hysterectomy which would have resulted in the death of her unborn child, she chose to have the fibroma removed. After the surgery she continued to experience intense pain which she suffered bravely until her daughter was born on April 21, 1962. Gianna Molla died seven days later. She was recognized by all who knew her to be a woman of tremedous courage and faith, and was canonized as a saint by the Church in 2004. May she and so many other women who have foregone treatment to spare the lives of their unborn children be an example to us of the dignity of all human life.

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