It’s So Personal

May 31 2009 @ 11:42pm

A reader writes:

The murder of George Tiller reminds me of something about abortion that none of the advocates on either side get — it's intensely personal. My brother and his wife's first child, a Views_of_a_Foetus_in_the_Womb_detail girl, was diagnosed with hypoplastic left ventrical with an atrial complication. Look up the statistics, they are grim. They found the diagnosis at 18 weeks during the initial sonogram, almost at the cutoff point where most doctors not working in Kansas will perform abortions. (The nurse doing the sonogram blanched when she saw the abnormality, panicked and immediately called the doctor in to look.) So imagine the scenario. My brother and his wife have almost no information about the disease their firstborn child has other than the terrible mortality rates and the thought of having to bring a baby to term that will need three heart surgeries before her sixth birthday, each one of which could kill her. Or the baby could die in the womb. What do they do? The choice is unimaginable, and they have only a few weeks to decide. Only Kansas will allow doctors to abort fetuses after 20 weeks.

I guess my point is this… my brother and his wife chose to bring their daughter to term, though she died three days after being born, never being able to come off the heart-and-lung machine after her first surgery. But they considered having the abortion.

And if they took longer than two weeks to decide, George Tiller may have been the one performing the procedure. It's easy to take sides on abortion in the abstract because we only think of healthy babies. It's much harder when the decision is sitting in your living room in the form of a fetus with an 80+ percent fatal heart defect. Would George Tiller have been a monster if he aborted my niece? Or would he have saved my brother and his wife sixteen weeks of agony and the searing torture of handing their three-day-old child to doctors for open-heart surgery, knowing there was an 80% chance that was the last time they would see her alive?

I'm not making Tiller out to be a saint — he's not. I'm just saying that he was engaged in a legal, and sometimes helpful, practice and was murdered for it. There should be no rejoicing in his death.