It’s So Personal: Anencephaly

A reader writes:

In August 1989, my then five-and-a half-month pregnant wife and I went in together for a routine sonogram at her OB's office. The sonogram showed that the fetus was Davinci

Immediately after the test we sat down with the OB in her office where she told us the reality of what we were facing. We scheduled a hospital visit for the next day. At the hospital they induced labor and the pregnancy was terminated. The baby was a little girl and she died during delivery. We were able to hold her for about an hour after the procedure. We named her and buried her.

It was a traumatic time and decision, but it was the right decision to make. How can you make a woman carry a baby to term when she know that the baby will die soon after it is delivered? Psychologically how much damage does that do to the mother and the family who cares for her?

Luckily for us, 14 months later we had a very healthy baby girl. A girl who is set to graduate from high school at the end of this week.

Over the past day, I have thought a lot about the OB who sat down with us almost 20 years ago and gave us the facts about what we were facing. The doctor was caring, empathetic, and honest. I'm going to contact the doctor who helped us in the next week just to say thanks for what she was able to do for us so long ago.

It’s So Personal: A Life Saved By Choice

A reader writes:

I know that you and many others do not approve of late-term abortions and those who perform them and I understand the reasons.  However, there is one aspect of this moral dilemma which I have not seen addressed by you or the media: the fact that clinics like Dr. Tiller's can help SAVE the lives of unborn children. Here is my best friend's story…

Davinci My friend "Katie" is pro-choice, and her husband "Rob" (raised Catholic) always considered himself pro-life.  They have two wonderful children, one of whom is a special needs child.  With all of the complications of raising their autistic daughter they decided against having a third.  But Mother Nature vetoed this decision and Katie became unexpectedly pregnant at the age of 39.  Though unplanned, there was no question they would keep the child. So they initially decided against any invasive screening.  However, due to her age and other factors, the doctors recommended extra testing.  And sure enough, one of the tests came back with measurements that indicated chromosomal issues and/or heart deformities.

It was then that the reality of their situation sunk in. Rob started seriously thinking about what their situation might be if they had another child with even bigger medical issues and perhaps Down syndrome.  So it was Rob who asked Katie whether they should get genetic testing.  She agreed.  In the meantime, Rob was experiencing ambivalence about the future and what the best choice might be.  Time became a factor; Katie was starting to show and was bonding with the baby, whatever its condition.  Rob, on the other hand, became more and more certain they couldn't handle another baby with severe health issues.

Katie and Rob started discussing the "what ifs".  What if it had Down's – keep it or not?  What if it didn't have Down's but major cardiac malformations – keep it or not?  All this they had to think through in a short amount of time while they waited for the genetic test results. They still were in an "acceptable" window to terminate.  Katie knew that if the fetus had any major issues, Rob wanted to abort.  She, the "pro choice" one, was not so sure.  Although the clock was ticking, they agreed to wait for the test results.

Finally, the genetic results were in.  No Down's, but other signs still suggested major heart issues were likely.  More specialists and testing to be done, but they would have to wait another few weeks, since the doctors had to see the heart performing on an ultrasound at a later stage of development.

It seemed like decision time. Rob wanted to terminate, Katie was unsure. They were in a bind -well into the second trimester at this point.  Katie knew that if she waited any longer her OB/GYN would not be able to terminate.  Katie was in anguish.  I can't tell you how many times we talked that week about what to do. Katie was on the verge of siding with Rob and scheduling an abortion.  She called up her OB about making an appointment.  Instead, her doctor gave her another option which Katie thought was off the table: waiting until they knew for sure.  If they still wanted to terminate, the OB knew a name of another doctor who would abort the child up until viability. 

Although to Katie it seemed more ethical to terminate earlier rather than later, there was still a possibility that the fetus was generally okay.  In her heart she knew she could live with a late abortion if the fetus would die eventually anyway, but she didn't know if she could live with the uncertainty of aborting a child which might have been healthy. So they agreed to wait.

After what seemed like a lifetime, they finally got the good news: a heart with no fatal malformations. It did have a minor defect, but it appeared operable without any long term complications. So they kept the pregnancy going. A few months later their daughter was born. After some surgery, she is now is a happy, healthy child.

Because Rob and Katie had the option of going to late-term abortionists like Tiller, they chose NOT to have an abortion. Without the ability to terminate after 18 weeks, they would have aborted much sooner, given the 90% chance of serious defects. But just knowing they had the option of waiting without limiting their choices allowed them to obtain the critical information. And that choice ended up saving their daughter.

It’s So Personal: What Do You Mean, Viable?

A reader writes:

My twins were delivered at 29 weeks and 3 days because I had severe Davinci high that there was a risk the boys’ oxygen supply would be cut off, leading to brain damage. 

So I had a C-section.  The boys were in the NICU for 9 weeks. Owen in particular had a hard time; he was on oxygen and IV for a long while, had a heart murmur, and aspirated his milk.  Retinopathy  affected both boys, so they both wear glasses and always will.  Oliver had surgery for a couple of hernias.  They are now three and speech delayed, so we're going through testing to determine if they're autistic.
 
The reason I give you a brief outline of my boys' birth and development is because they were born nearly six weeks after a fetus is considered “viable”.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t view my children as having been viable when they were born; I couldn’t feed them by mouth (the suck/swallow reflex doesn’t develop until at least 35 weeks), they couldn’t breathe on their own, their digestive systems didn't work properly, they couldn't regulate their body temperature (having no body fat), etc, etc.

In the abstract, I would say I am pro-choice, but an abortion was not something I could personally choose. I certainly treasure my children regardless of the challenges they continue to face.  But as your readers have demonstrated, abstract concepts become difficult to apply in the face of deeply personal circumstances.  One of the abstract concepts that is too often bandied about is the idea that at a certain number of weeks a fetus is suddenly viable. But my 29-week babies were not viable at all without massive medical intervention.  Regardless of its gestational age, a fetus that is faceless or only has a brain stem is clearly not capable of sustaining life.  So why do the number of weeks that have passed since conception determine whether the pregnancy can be terminated or not?
 
There are no legal limits on abortion in Canada.  The law that governed abortion was overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1988 and nothing has taken its place.  I personally think that’s a shame, because I’d like to see a public discussion of what we as a nation think is appropriate with respect to abortion and I’d like to see some guidelines in place.  Having said that, abortion rates have been steadily declining in Canada and are now lower than the U.S. (97,254 abortions in 2005 compared with births of 364,085), so maybe we are doing something right. 

It seems to me that rigid formulas determining what options are available based solely on gestational age totally miss the point – you can’t just plug the data into a flowchart and ascertain the appropriate outcome.  This is personal, and the best system is one that assists mothers in coming to the decision that’s right for them.

It’s So Personal: A Round-Up

Many readers have asked us to compile the various late term abortion testimonials we published this week (which are only a fraction of the ones we've received). Here they are, in chronological order:

Fetus It's So Personal
It's So Personal, Ctd
The Catholic Mother
The Trauma
A Doctor's View (reader reaction)
A Target Of Terror
The Regret
Not Knowing For Sure
When Principle Meets Reality
Serial Abortions (reader reaction)
Preparing For The Worst
An Unforgiving Family (reader reaction)
The Guilt
Holding On
The Gay Fathers
What Guilt?
Ectopic "Miscarriage"

Still more to come. (And maybe a bound collection? We're actively thinking of it, prompted by many reader requests. But this should be a useful link for now.)

It’s So Personal: Ectopic “Miscarriage”

A reader writes:

My heart goes out to the Davinci pregnancies don't last. They aren't in the uterus. They simply don't go to term, except in extremely rare and bizarre cases. You have one choice: seek treatment immediately. Or wait for a natural miscarriage and risk major abdominal surgery, infection, infertility, and death. The baby will not live regardless.

I had an ectopic pregnancy scare in January. (It turned out to be a run-of-the mill none-ectopic miscarriage.) My doctor didn't hesitate to tell me to take a chemotherapy drug that ends the pregnancy. But she didn't use the word "abortion." No obstetrician would consider ending an ectopic pregnancy an abortion. No pro-life obstetrician would refuse to treat one and send you off to Planned Parenthood. They would consider it a medical necessity — a treatment of a life-threatening illness.

Ectopic pregnancies are extremely common, and I've known pro-life woman who have had them and had them treated without hypocrisy. It would sicken me if a woman was that twisted about abortion rights that she would risk death to save a six-week old fetus that CANNOT be saved.

My advice to this woman: next time you have an ectopic pregnancy, tell your family that you are having a miscarriage. That's the truth. But don't expect them to feel for you. Women who have miscarriages are the great silent minority in America. It's not acknowledged. Many people don't understand why I sank into a deep depression after mine. To many pro-life advocates it's only a baby if it's aborted by man. If God aborts it, they simply don't care. If you want evidence of this, try to find one song about the loss of a child by miscarriage. There's exactly one — a country song – and many radio stations BANNED it because it smacked too much of abortion. The twisted irony astounds me.

It’s So Personal: What Guilt?

A reader writes:

I cannot help but think you are cherry-picking your printed stories, highlighting those who have had enormous difficulty with abortion, simply because you yourself have difficulty with abortion.  
 
Here is my own story. I got pregnant when I was 22 by my then-fiance (now husband).  I was, at that time, not ready to be a parent.  I certainly could have done it, but I wasn't personally ready. And to me, if Davinci I'm not ready to have a child, I should not have one.  Children are a big responsibility – not one that one should assume just because they got unlucky one night.
 
After I took the store-bought test, I immediately scheduled an abortion (which was a trick, since I had no privacy at work).  First, I called a place I whose ad appeared to be offering abortions ("Pregnant?  Don't want to be?  Call us").  I didn't know about fake pro-life pressure clinics at that time (aka "crisis pregnancy centers").  They didn't tell me their agenda, just scheduled me for an appointment. But I could tell something was weird, so I canceled it.  I only later discovered that they put out misleading ads to trick women.  I think trying to trick desperate, pregnant women is about as shady as one can get.

My fiance drove me to the hospital on the day of the abortion. I was quickly examined, then given an ultrasound to make sure I was really pregnant. Unlike your previous reader, who felt that someone should have forced upon him some kind of waiting period or something, I think such measures are both disingenuous and disrespectful.  Obviously waiting 24 hours would not have magically made him a better person, dedicated to his girlfriend's welfare and desireous of a child.  It's not the state's job or the clinic's job to make him do whatever he now thinks is the right thing.

I chose to have a medication abortion (as opposed to surgery). At that time, methotrexate was used.  Medication abortions are basically an induced miscarriage.  A lot of the "orientation" that the kindly woman in the conference room gave me consisted of explaining to me how this could hurt a LOT and I could bleed a LOT.  It's essentially a lesser form of labor, and can be scary if you are not prepared.  For me, it definitely was very painful.  BUT – I have since gone through labor twice, and I can safely say that labor is MUCH worse.  I am always bemused when people say "abortion is painful and bloody" to deter abortion.  Like birth is somehow not painful and bloody?  

Since then I've been fine. A few nostalgic moments.  I've never cried about it.  I am not sad about it. It was the right decision.  Life goes on.  People do not tend to spend the rest of their lives wallowing in guilt and misery because they terminated a pregnancy.  They go to school, they fall in love, they get married, they have children.  One out of every three women in America has had or will have an abortion at some point.  The stories of ongoing misery that you are choosing to print are the extreme outliers.

We do not cherry-pick these emails. This thread began by dealing with late term abortions, and why they occur. And we did our very best to provide the broadest range of experiences and viewpoints we could.