A reader writes:
While I've always considered myself a pro-life conservative, I do admit to having mixed feelings about abortion. I've been following your series on late-term abortion for the past several days, and I thought I'd pass on our story.
About 5 years ago, after a lot of effort, my wife got pregnant with our second child. We did the regular genetic screening (I can't recall the name of the test, but it was just a simple blood test). It came back positive for Down's Syndrome, but only at a slightly higher risk. Our OB/Gyn said the odds for someone my wife's age (27) to have a Down's baby were about 1 in 10,000. The positive test result put the odds closer to 1 in 150. He recommended we go to a doctor who specialized in high-risk pregnancies to confirm there was no problem. She was 5 months along at the time.
During the additional testing, we had an ultrasound done with an amazingly high-tech machine. During the scan we kept asking the tech if she saw anything, but she kept telling us she wasn't legally allowed to say one way or the other. We sat quietly until the end of the test, at which point the tech turned to us and said, "Well, I'm going to be honest with you, because it's the only way I know how to be. I see some problems with the head."
I could hear my wife's breathing quicken, and my hands started to shake uncontrollably. The doctor came in and said he saw holoprosencephaly, which, as we learned, essentially means that the brain did not divide into two hemispheres. In fact, although we were 19 weeks along, the brain had stopped developing at 11 weeks.
He recommended a second scan with a different doctor. That doctor verified what the first doctor said, but his diagnosis was even worse. Not only had the brain stopped developing, but our daughter had a malformed heart, her bones were horribly misshapen, and her face consisted of just a hole where her nose should be. (He showed us a picture of her hand; around the middle of the fingers, the bones turned to the side at almost a 90 degree angle.) The doctor maintained that even if she were born alive, she would immediately die because she wouldn't have the brain function to work her lungs. "Birth defects don't get any more serious than this," he said.
All three doctors involved recommended abortion. It didn't take us long to agree. All I could think about was trying to tell my wife, "You need to carry this baby another 3 months, and, assuming she doesn't die in the womb and put your life in danger, you can deliver a horribly deformed child that will die immediately." Even though my wife's health was not in immediate danger, the psychological damage of this (for both of us) would have been devastating.
We went ahead with the abortion. It was a two day procedure, and truly the most horrible days of our lives. I have no delusions about what we did, and to this day I'm aware that we chose to abort a baby we tried so hard to have. At the same time, I thank God every day that we live in a country where we could do it.
Anyway, thanks for letting me get this off my chest. It's something I long to talk about, but it doesn't exactly come up in regular social circles.