“Second-trimester abortions must remain legal because, until a child is viable outside the womb, these decisions belong with the mother….We made sure our son was not born only to suffer. He died in a warm and loving place, inside me….My little boy partially dissolved into me, and I like to think his soul is in his sister.” — Judy NiCastro, “My Abortion at 23 Weeks,” New York Times, 6/20/13
“The Nicastros felt it would be a nightmare to hear their son gasping for air and in pain, so they did what they thought was the responsible thing—they let a doctor inject poison into the baby’s heart and kill him.” — Matthew Hennessey, First Things, 7/2/13
If I can have my child “dissolved” into me for a fetal anomaly, am I entitled to have him “dissolved” after birth if he later develops a severe medical condition? No, of course. But is that because of respect for life, or because “dissolution” out in the open is in bad taste? I’m beginning to wonder what the results would be if someone ran a poll about that.
The older I get, the less patience I have with eugenic abortion. I cannot accept it. It’s another paving stone on the path that has led since 1973 to tens of millions of abortions in the United States. One decision at a time, one choice at a time, one fetal anomaly after another, and here we are.
No one knows exactly how many children were selected for abortion by their heartbroken parents and “compassionate” physicians on the grounds of congenital deformities. My own state doesn’t keep track. I think it’s worth knowing, without personally identifying information, what kinds of anomalies are driving parents to choose abortion. I should say “mothers,” not “parents.” For all the nonsense about between-a-woman-and-her-family-and-her-trusted-health-care-provider, the right to abortion under Roe v. Wade belongs 100% to the mother.
Ms. NiCastro in her Times article (linked above) wrote why she didn’t postpone her abortion until the third trimester, when her sick unborn son’s twin was less likely to be damaged unintentionally: because abortion in her state was illegal after 24 weeks, according to her doctor. That settled the matter. She does not mention if her doctor was willing to refer her to a physician who openly and legally performs later-term abortions in other states – Leroy Carhart, for instance. The laws in some states permit abortion until birth. New Hampshire’s one of them, and the Division of Public Health doesn’t want to know if anyone’s actually doing late-term abortions here. No stats are collected.
The NiCastros were in a devastating situation, to be sure. NiCastro speaks of “expelling” the fetus. That’s giving “birth” to a dead child. Truly devastating. How much more devastating would it have been if the pregnancy had been farther along? The baby would have been just as dead, but much harder to write off as having “partially dissolved into me.” (The twin survived, thanks be to God, and the NiCastros are overjoyed to have her, according to the Times essay.)
NiCastro wrote her account after the Gosnell trial. One of the things that trial got into the public record is that there is nothing pretty or delicate about post-20-week abortions. “Dissolving” doesn’t play a role. Recent laws and bills seeking to bar post-20-week abortions are basically Gosnell-prevention laws. That worries NiCastro, and so she’s doing what every woman concerned about abortion should be doing: telling her story.
Eugenic abortion, one of the twentieth century’s most ghastly ideas, is back with a vengeance. It’s in the hands of mothers, not people in white coats, so I’m supposed to accept it as a means of alleviating suffering, and — worse yet — a means of assuring women’s autonomy. As when I hear every other argument in favor of mercy killing, something nags at me: whose suffering are we talking about here? My loved one’s, or my own?
And what am I supposed to do with a loved one who develops a terrible condition after birth? Granted, Roe gives me no autonomy over keeping my life free of disabled family members (or keeping them free of me). In Roe’s shadow, though, I wonder how many of us see people with chronic medical problems and think it sure would have been better if he’d never been born.
I was diagnosed with a seizure disorder at age 30, with no prior family or personal history of such a condition. It’s a life-changing diagnosis. Even so, I have been seizure-free for a couple of decades now with appropriate medication. Treatment modalities have come a long way since the days when people with epilepsy were institutionalized and subject to sterilization so they wouldn’t reproduce others like them. Given what was understood about epilepsy when I was born half a century ago, would some white-coated professional back then have recommended writing me off, if prenatal diagnosis had been available? (Now that would have gotten Mom’s Irish up.)
I have a friend whose son has autism. My friend supports autism research but has no use for the best-known autism charity. I asked him why, and he told me the outfit is way too fond of prenatal diagnosis, which he fears will lead to a “search-and-destroy” mission. That phenomenon is already manifesting itself with Down’s Syndrome, where some reports indicate that 90% of children diagnosed prenatally with the condition are aborted.
Are these hard cases? Sure. Was the NiCastro family faced with a terrible situation? Yes. But what makes these hard cases?
One of Roe’s dirty little secrets is that in this country, the definition of a hard-case pregnancy lies with only one person: the mother. A physician — or any other health care provider — can counsel until she’s blue in the face, but the only person who can legally make the call about aborting for fetal anomalies is the mother.
Mothers might be more likely to choose life in those situations if they were assured of adequate support and resources from the community. But a community with fewer people with disabilities won’t consider such support to be a priority. And so the vicious circle stays vicious. Organizations like CareNet that do offer practical help (with support from many individual people) face outright opposition from abortion advocates, in fact. I saw that for myself in 2012 when the New Hampshire House passed a resolution in praise of pregnancy care centers, over the vociferous objections of New Hampshire’s abortion providers.
NiCastro has the guts to come out and tell her story. I hope families who have welcomed children with anomalies will tell their stories as well. Knowing that the child one is carrying will have a permanent medical issue is heartbreaking. Choosing life anyway is story that needs telling. Give the New York Times something new to publish. Give me a guest post. Failing to tell the life-affirming stories will keep eugenic abortion going.